Monday, 30 December 2013

Purifying the Past with Vajrasattva, the New Year Buddha

The night before

followed by...

...the morning after

That's what many of us say on the first of January - and it isn't just about the after effects of New Year's Eve.

Never, ever, again!

New Year is the traditional time for kicking old harmful habits, and resolving to stop causing further hurt to ourselves and others.

A fresh start


The Vajrasattva visualisation and meditation gives us a fresh start by purifying harmful, negative tendencies and states of mind.

The practice consists of visualising Buddha Vajrasattva (small - about 6 inches tall - not full-sized like a human) above the crown of our heads. He doesn't come from anywhere in particular, he just appears. We believe he is there but don't need detailed visualisations.

Vajrasattva purification relies upon the four opponent powers, which are...

1) Reliance
2) Regret
3) Opponent force
4) Promise

Vajrasattva is the Buddha of Purification.

Reliance helps pacify and weaken negative karma, it involves going for refuge and developing a mind of boddhichitta .

Any negative actions we have committed in the past were either towards objects of refuge, or towards sentient beings.

Negative actions against objects of refuge are purified by going for refuge. We go for refuge to Vajrasattva, regarding him as the synthesis of all objects of refuge.

Negative actions against sentient beings are purified by developing bodhicitta. We think of all living beings as precious and dedicate ourselves to their welfare, and to abandoning causing them suffering. We may wish to visualise that we are surrounded by all living beings and they are also purifying by relying on Vajrasattva.

Caring for all living beings

We develop a sincere regret for all the harmful actions that we have performed against sentient beings. Regret is not the same as guilt. Guilt is a negative state of mind that increases confusion and self-hatred. It leads nowhere and functions only to weaken our will.

Regret, on the other hand, is an admission of our mistakes coupled with a positive intention to learn from them by not repeating them. In other words, we are performing a tantric transmutation by transforming our negative history into our future spiritual path.

Opponent force
The mantra is the opponent force that purifies the actual negativities. We can mentally or audibly recite the long or short mantras. When we are reciting we are requesting Vajrasattva to purify us.

We visualise a moon cushion at Vajrasattva's heart on which is the white letter HUM. Standing around this are the letters of the mantra. From the mantra white light rays and white nectar pour down and purify us from top to bottom, pushing out negativities. All dirty substances leave by lower orifices.

Negative karma leaves as dirty liquid. Mental and physical sicknesses leave as pus, blood, worms and other creepy-crawlies.

Then we feel completely clean, our body is just pure white light.

If we have a particular problem, we visualise that problem being expelled.

The fourth opponent power is the power of promise to gradually abandon harmful actions. We can't purify without making a promise to refrain. Promise purifies the tendency to repeat bad habits which harm ourselves and others. Promise plants the seeds of new tendencies which destroy old tendencies.

At this point we make a realistic promise to avoid negative actions. We don't make promises we can't keep, but make a determination to overcome all negative actions eventually.

Finally, Vajrasattva dissolves into us, and our body, speech and mind become inseparable from Vajrasattva.

We then dedicate the merit we have accumulated by practising the Vajrasattva purification to the happiness of all sentient beings.

12 steps
Although we may joke about the after-effects of New Year's Parties, for some people alcohol is a year-long nightmare. The Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program requires alcoholics to acknowledge they are helpless against their addiction until they go for refuge to a Higher Power.

For Buddhists, Vajrasattva is such a Higher Power who can help to break addicitions to alcohol, drugs, food etc

Wishing all sentient beings


Vajrasattva Mantra Song and Video

Buddhist Christmas

Buddhist Candlemas

Buddhist Halloween

Seasonal Festivals



Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Can Buddhists Celebrate Christmas?

Buddhist Christmas

Bah Humbug!

Other non-Christian religions can get a bit uptight about Christmas, but Buddhism is fairly laid back.

A few years ago the city of Birmingham renamed Christmas to 'Winterval' as a result of protests by non-Christian faith communities, but as far as I'm aware it wasn't the Buddhists who were complaining. 

Of course, there are aspects of Christmas which a Buddhist might have reservations about - rampant consumerism and so on, but these are the same excesses that are often denounced by Christians who complain that in recent years the spiritual aspects of Christmas have been replaced by a credit card orgy.

But in general Buddhists are quite happy with Christmas and have no hangups about hanging up Christmas decorations and enlightening Christmas trees.

Presents under the Bodhi Tree

In the Simpsons episode She of Little Faith , where Lisa converts to Buddhism, Reverend Lovejoy tries to dissuade her by saying that she can't celebrate Christmas because "Santa doesn't leave presents under the Bodhi tree". Richard Gere puts things right by explaining that Buddhists believe that those religions that are founded on Love and Compassion are valid spiritual paths.

So you can eat your Christmas cake and still be a Buddhist, though of course you can never finally have the cake whether you eat it or not (all cakes are compound phenomena and thus subject to impermanence).

Excessive consumption of Christmas cake may also promote the realisation that there is no inherent difference between an object of attachment and an object of aversion. ("Can't you manage just one more slice? Look here's a nice piece with extra thick icing... What's the matter, aren't you feeling well?")

Was Jesus a Buddhist?
Many Buddhists believe that Jesus was a High Bodhisatva or manifestation of Enlightened Mind. There is also some evidence that in the 'lost years' Jesus travelled to the East and studied Buddhism - certainly you can't get any more Buddhist than the traditional Christmas message of 'Peace on Earth - Goodwill to All'. And who exactly were the Wise Men and where did they originate? Were they Buddhists?

A Buddhist Christmas Carol

Dickens' well-loved story A Christmas Carol sometimes upsets the more fundamentalist Christian evangelicals with its 'ghosts' (to an evangelical all such spirits are apparitions of Satan). But from a Buddhist perspective the story makes perfect sense:

Chains of attachment to money-boxes

Marley's miserliness has resulted in him becoming a Preta (ghost) after death. His attachment in life was to money, and in the Preta realm his attachment manifests as fetters to chains of money-boxes, keys, ledgers and heavy purses. 

In order to help purify his karma, Marley sets out to warn Scrooge that the same destiny awaits him. Marley is assisted in his task by two peaceful Buddhas (Christmas Past and Christmas Present - Buddhas can manifest in any form that is beneficial to sentient beings), and one wrathful Buddha ('Ghost of the Future!' I fear you more than any spectre I have seen'). 

Buddhas can appear in any beneficial form

The Buddhas take Scrooge through a sort of mini-Bardo experience, where he reviews his life from the perspective of what he has done to others, or not done for others, rather than what he has done for himself. He awakens into a state of mind transformed by compassion and generosity.

Ho Ho Ho ... Hotei! The Buddhist Santa Claus

I'm a mince pie junkie, so when it comes to the the annual Christmas Battle of the Bulge, I've long ago taken Langri Tangpa's advice and adopted the practice of 'accepting defeat and offering the victory'.

Unfortunately, this does have a slight problem with the self-generation visualisations. Most of the Buddhas are portrayed as young, slender and sitting upright, which means that those of us with a more Homeric appearance (in the Simpsonian sense) need rather vivid imaginations to 'bring the result into the path'.

So I was quite pleased when I discovered a Buddha with whom I could easily identify - Buddha Hotei - a manifestation of Buddha Maitreya with an amply proportioned physique (The Wikipedia article rather unkindly calls him 'fat').

Buddha Hotei is very popular in China and Japan. He's often portrayed sitting in a semi-reclining posture and laughing uproariously, while distributing presents to children out of an inexhaustible sack. The similarities with Santa are quite intriguing, see Hotei_1, Hotei_2,
Hotei 3

The winter solstice

Of course the origins of Christmas long pre-date Christianity. The majority of the world's religions originated in relatively low latitudes (around 30°N) where the difference in day length between Summer and Winter is not particularly noticeable. However, for us folks who live further from the equator, the long dark nights and short dull days of midwinter are definitely a big psychological issue. That is why the Winter solstice has always been of such importance to Northern Europeans. It symbolises, if not the rebirth, at least the conception of the new year. In the Celtic calendar Imbolc (Candlemas) was the actual birth of the New Year, with the appearance of the first lambs and green shoots.

The early church failed to suppress the solstice celebrations and instead adopted them (much as they planted churches on pagan sacred sites), overlaying the scarcely concealed Druidic symbolism with Christian attributes. There is actually no historical evidence that Jesus was born on the 25th December.

The Celtic annual cycle of Imbolc, Halloween and Winter Solstice offers a rich source of symbolism and analogy for the process of rebirth, life, death, bardo and conception that would not be as apparent in traditional Buddhist countries, which are mostly at lower latitudes. So it is likely that as Buddhism continues to spread in the Anglo-Celtic cultural areas, it will adopt some of the Winter Solstice customs. There is no reason for in not to do so, for it is often remarked that unlike most other religions, Buddhism is not tied to a particular culture. 

Because of its strong philosophical foundations, Buddhism is universal.   It is effective for any sentient being, anywhere, any time.

Christmas Eve at Vajralama Center Seattle

- Sean Robsville

Read more at Buddhist Philosophy


Related articles:

Buddhist New Year

Buddhist Halloween

Buddhist Candlemas

Celtic Buddhism - Buddhism in pre-Christian Britain

Why Beauty Matters - Spiritual Art versus the Cult of Ugliness

Cauldron, Chalice and Grail Symbolism in Buddhism and Celtic Wicca

Buddhist origins of Christianity

Numinous Symbolism - Pagan, Buddhist and Christian

Evolution is no Threat to Buddhism

C J Jung, Buddhism, Tantra and Alchemy

Friday, 22 November 2013

Militant Buddhist extremists threaten to destroy the Western way of life

Militant Buddhist Extremist

"WASHINGTON—In a 45-minute video posted on Tibetan websites Thursday, Tsuglag Rinpoche, leader of the Buddhist extremist group Kammaṭṭhāna, threatened to soon inflict a wave of peace and tranquility on the West.

Speaking in front of a nondescript altar surrounded by candles, burning sticks of incense, and a small golden statue of the Buddha, Rinpoche did not specify when or where an assault of profound inner stillness would occur, but stated in no uncertain terms that the fundamentalist Buddhist cell plans to target all Western suffering.

“In the name of the Great Teacher, we will stop at nothing to unleash a firestorm of empathy, compassion, and true selflessness upon the West,” said Rinpoche, adding that all enemies of a freely flowing, unfettered state of mind will be “besieged with pure, everlasting happiness.” “No city will be spared from spiritual harmony. We will bring about the end to all Western pain and anxiety, to all destructive cravings, to all greed, delusion, and misplaced desire. Indeed, we will bring the entire United States to its knees in deep meditation.”...    Read it all

Friday, 4 October 2013

Gruesome Tantric Visualizations Transform and Purify Negativities

Vajrayogini with chopper and blood offering

Have you ever wondered what those skullcups, severed heads and other body parts that you see in tantric art represent? 

Tantric Arrangement of Body Parts

The Dorje Shugden admin team explain:

"...Therefore, corresponding to the amount of obstacles that need to be removed, the actual visualization becomes particularly graphic. However, one should dwell on its true and subtle meaning and not on its apparently aggressive language that appears vicious, until the meanings are revealed. It follows that if the negative karma that blocks one’s practice is forceful, then the puja to counter it has to be equally intense.

The practitioner approaches the recitation of the kawang by visualizing the Three Poisons – Ignorance, Hatred and Desire which altogether encompass a myriad of other poisons such as delusions, negative karma, habituations and so forth. These negative elements are visualized in the form of a very large man or a woman. Then as the visualization continues, a dakini who is an emanation of Vajrayogini appears and she wields a cemetery chopper to slay that being who is the personification of our negativities. Then, she takes her chopper and slices the body in such a way that uncovers the inner organs.

First, she drains the blood into an offering vessel. Then, she cuts out the organs of the five senses – the tongue, nose, ears, eyes and heart and arranges them neatly into a skullcup thus resembling a grisly floral arrangement. Then, she pulls the bones out, arranges them into a vessel and burns the bones like stacks of incense sticks. Next, she extracts the human fat from the corpse and pours it into bowl, inserts a wick made of the human hair and lights it. Then she collects the rest of the bodily fluids like the bile, urine and so forth into an offering vessel. Then, she chops the flesh and mixes it with barley flour and places it into another vessel as food. Finally, she pulls the thighbones, cleans it and fashions it into a trumpet before placing it into a vessel as well.

While appearing grotesque at first, this part of the visualization is indeed a beautiful and meaningful gesture of transforming what is foul and turning them into sublime offerings. The blood represents the Water offering, the arrangement of sense organs represent the Flower offering, the crushed bones represent the Incense offering, the human fat set alight represents the Light offering, the bile and urine are transformed to represent the Perfume offering, the human flesh becomes the Food offering and finally the thigh bone becomes a trumpet to represent the Music offering..."

Related Articles
Alchemical Symbolism, Imagery and Visualizations in Tantric Buddhism

C J Jung, Buddhism, Tantra and Alchemy

Cauldron, Chalice and Grail Symbolism in Buddhism and Celtic Wicca

Honoring the Feminine in Buddhism

Numinous Symbolism - Pagan, Buddhist and Christian

Buddhism, Shamanism and the use of Psychedelics

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Buddhism and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

In Aeon Magazine, Matt Bieber describes how he treated his OCD by using the calming and benevolent rituals of Buddhism to replace the painful compulsive rituals of OCD:

"My OCD had been creating vivid, painful rituals for years. So could Buddhist ritual give me a means to fight back?"

"Our society likes to portray obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as a cute quirk, a goofy, if irritating, eccentricity. It is not. For the person undergoing OCD experience, it is a form of mental terrorism.

This terrorism takes the form of what psychologists call ‘intrusive thoughts’ — unwanted, painful thoughts or images that invade one’s consciousness, triggering profound fear and anxiety...."

"...These rituals can take many forms. For some people, it’s the stuff you see on TV — repeatedly checking to see if the door’s locked, counting the letters in words until a particular total is reached, avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk. I’ve experienced some of this, but for me, invitations to ritualise tend to be more purely mental — to ruminate endlessly, to replay anxiety-producing scenarios until I find a way to view them that will dissipate my anxiety (which, of course, never happens). The common thread are the rituals, the promise that there’s something repetitive and formalised that I can do to make things feel better..."

"...Some rituals are designed to help us ‘keep ourselves together’. Others are designed to help us fall apart. OCD rituals are the former, and so are many religious rituals. But Buddhist meditation offers a radical alternative..."

"...Unlike OCD, or the rituals of my evangelical childhood, Buddhist rituals work not because they teach us how to stay together, but because they show us how to fall apart.

"...Because the solid ego is a fiction, it requires constant maintenance. We are constantly filtering our experience — excluding information, repressing our feelings, and ignoring our deep connections with other people — in order to defend and perpetuate a narrow understanding of ourselves. In other words, we’re constantly deceiving ourselves about who and what we are.

Why, you might ask, would anyone engage in this kind of self-deception? The contemporary Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said that we are afraid of what we know to be true: that when we look to the centre of our own being, we won’t find anything to hold on to. In his words, we’re afraid that we don’t exist..."

Related Article

Can You Trust Your Mind? Does Your Brain Deceive You?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Process and Emptiness: Whitehead and Buddhism.

Process and Emptiness: A Comparison of Whitehead’s Process Philosophy and Mahayana Buddhist Philosophy  by Thomas J. McFarlane

"It is my hope that this paper will foster deeper understanding of both Whitehead’s process philosophy and Buddhist teachings, and help all sentient beings in their creative advance toward Buddhahood."

ABSTRACT: Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy is compared with Mahayana Buddhist philosophy. After briefly introducing the philosophies of Whitehead and Buddhism, some similarities between them are examined. The primary areas of convergence are

(1) Impermanence and process as fundamental aspects of reality

(2) The emptiness and lack of substance of things

(3) The relational and dependent nature of things

(4) The notion of ignorance and mistaken perception

(5) The possibility of freedom from ignorance and mistaken perception

(6) The emphasis on subjective and experiential aspects of reality

(7) The fundamental limitations of language and philosophical systems in characterizing reality. The paper concludes with a discussion of an important distinguishing feature of Buddhist philosophy, namely, its dialectical method of criticism.

Read it all here

For general background see Buddhist Philosophy

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Buddhist jihad? The Navy Yard and Kenya Mall shootings, Pakistan church massacre and Boko Haram attack.

Aaron Alexis

The past week has seen four tragic massacres:

The Navy Yard shootingthe Kenya Mall torture, murder and mutilation, the Pakistani Church bloodbath and the Boko Haram anti-Christian pogrom.

Regrettably, anti-Buddhist propagandists are trying to link these together as religiously motivated terrorist attacks in an attempt at guilt by association in order to smear Buddhism

The influential Roman Catholic writer George Neumayr wrote:

"Joseph Ratzinger called popular versions of Buddhism “autoerotic spirituality” that offer “transcendence without imposing concrete religious obligations.” He boldly predicted that “Buddhism would replace Marxism as the church’s biggest foe by 2000.” He was wrong on that score — Islam proved the bigger threat by that year — but he had a point: as a more cushy false religion than Islam, Buddhism was sure to snatch more western souls over time.

In Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II said that “Buddhism is in large measure an atheistic system” and tends to make people indifferent, not holy.

“The ‘enlightenment’ experienced by Buddha comes down to the conviction that the world is bad, that it is the source of evil and of suffering for man. To liberate oneself from this evil, one must free oneself from this world, necessitating a break with the ties that join us to external realities existing in our human nature, in our psyche, in our bodies,” he said. “The more we are liberated from these ties, the more we become indifferent to what is in the world, and the more we are freed from suffering, from the evil that has its source in the world. Do we draw near to God in this way? This is not mentioned in the ‘enlightenment’ conveyed by Buddha.”

So what does any of this have to do with Aaron Alexis? More than one might think. CNN, among other media outlets, expressed shock that a Buddhist like Alexis could be responsible for the Navy Yard massacre. “When I learned he was a practicing Buddhist, when I learned he spent so much time vacationing in Thailand, it was not the profile of who I expect to pick up a weapon and kill 12,” offered CNN host Ashleigh Banfield. Fellow anchor Chris Cuomo chipped in that “You know, it is a very defined philosophy. And being someone who has a violent tendency and appetites does not square with the philosophy involved there.”

Their prattle assumed that Buddhism is a religion of peace and rationality. But if one follows the argument of John Paul II that it violates human nature and denies God, one can see that it is really not.

While far less flagrantly violent than Islam, Buddhism is plenty capable of more subtle forms of it. What other religion, for example, produces monks who set themselves on fire? A religion that permits self-immolation is not a religion of peace.

Besides ignoring the violent strands of Buddhism in Thailand — where clashes with Muslims occur regularly — Banfield, in clinging to her Oprah-like understanding of it, failed to engage the solipsistic and negative character of the religion, which would appeal to a self-centered fiend like Alexis." 

In seeking to conflate Buddhism with terrorism, Mr Neumayr has ignored the following facts.

(1)  Alexis was a paranoid schizophrenic ('self-centered fiend' in Mr Mr Neumayr's diagnosis) before he came into contact with Buddhism,  whereas jihadist terrorists become mentally ill as a result of their religion.

(2) It is likely that Alexis had turned to Buddhism in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to control his paranoia demons, whereas jihadists are drawn to their religion as a divinely legitimized outlet for their aggression and lust.

(3)  His actions go completely against the tenets of Buddhism, which forbid killing.  In contrast, the Jihadists were acting in total accord with their religion, which encourages and rewards the murder of infidels.

(4)  Alexis was a complete loner, acting in isolation with no support or encouragement from any part of the Buddhist community.  The jihadists, in contrast, acted as organized gangs having wide and deep support among their faith community.

(5) Alexis shot randomly, whereas the Kenyan, Pakistani and Boko Haram attacks were all aimed specifically at at non-Muslims.

(6) Alexis' aim was simply to kill, whereas jihadists usually seek to mutilate, humiliate and degrade their victims before they kill them, often by sexual violation.

(7)  Buddhism has no use for terrorism, whereas Jihadism can't survive without it.  Jihadism is so morally repulsive and intellectually moribund that it cannot compete for followers in a free marketplace of ideas, but must eliminate its competitors and retain its adherents by intimidation, thuggery and outright terrorism.  

Although outwardly Jihadism gives the impression of being a hard, aggressive, macho warrior-cult; this bullying belligerance and bluster is a sign of weakness rather than strength. Jihadists show by their behavior that they are insecure in their beliefs, probably because subconsciously they suspect that their cult is nothing more than a scam founded by a child-molesting confidence trickster. Anything that activates these repressed doubts, including the mere existence of competing religions, will provoke murderous rage.

On the other hand, Buddhism has a system of ethics based on compassion for all sentient beings, it is founded on a secure rational philosophy, and is well able to compete in the modern global intellectual marketplace.  

Buddhism and mental illness
The lesson for Buddhist sangha from the Navy Yard shootings is that extremely disturbed people may from time to time turn up at Buddhist meditation meetings seeking help with psychological problems, which are so severe that they can only be treated medically.   

Meditation is very effective for some mental disorders, such as depression, but it cannot overcome severe disruptions of brain biochemistry, anymore than it could counteract the symptoms of drunkenness in someone who had just downed a bottle of whisky.

The brain is an organ which has evolved to project a deluded view of the world onto the mind, and when its biochemistry malfunctions, that view becomes even more deluded.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Apoha and the creation of meaning by exclusion of contraries, by Maciej Zieba

Exclusion and negation:
Stencil 'form and ground' 
are interchangeable and 
convey the same information

The Mind knows about phenomena, including those of its own imagination.  This 'aboutness' is central to the Buddhist view of mind.  

But immediately after knowing about an experience, the mind tries to slot the observed phenomena into categories, by matching them to 'universals' or 'universal forms'.  

So if I see a pair of new shoes in a cardboard container, which has a bottom and four sides, I will immediately fit both left and right shoes into the general category of shoe, and their cardboard container into the general category of box.    But where and how do these 'universal forms' of shoe and box exist?  Do they exist as some Platonic Form in an external realm of ideas, or are they purely projections of our own minds?

And what about intermediate forms? If you cut the sides of a wooden box down a millimeter at a time, at some stage it will become a tray. So does the wooden structure then disengage with the universal form of box and engage with the universal form of tray?   Similarly, you can chop bits off and add bits to a shoe to turn it into a boot or sandal.  But if you do this gradually, when does one type of footwear come into existence and the other cease?

Those western philosophical traditions derived from Plato claim that the universal forms of shoe, box and tray do have some real, independent existence, whereas Buddhist philosophy says that the universal forms have their origin within the mind, which projects them onto the external world.  

Moreover, some Buddhists would claim that universals derive their existence by mental exclusion. In other words, the universal of shoe is derived by excluding everything that is non-shoe.   Bizarre though this mechanism of double negation (known as 'Apoha') may seem at first sight, it is surprisingly algorithmically efficient, allowing a universal to be derived in around 20 logical steps. 

It is taxonomically efficient to define a class in terms of the few major criteria that exclude non-members, thus allowing one to ignore the myriad minor forms of variability with the class.  

Apoha is explained in this article by  Maciej Stanisław Ziêba from the Universal Encyclopedia of Philosophy
"APOHA (Sanskrit—exclusion; properly speaking, anyapoha—exclusion of another [meaning] or anyapohavada—the doctrine of the exclusion of another)—a technical term of Buddhist philosophy to designate a theory of meaning.

As a consequence of the acceptance of the theory of non-persistence (anityata) and non-substantiality (anatman), Buddhist logicians rejected the possibility of any general concepts arising which would grasp external reality which changes from moment to moment (ksanikatva) and is unrepeatable (lacking similarities).

Generalization (the creation of a universal) is a process that makes mental images distant from perceptions (which grasp individual beings) and which leads to non-reality; concepts are therefore illusory. Words refer to concepts and have no real relation to things, nor do they carry any content that could apply to things. A universal (a general concept) arises by a distinction of an object from among objects different from it. The meaning of a word may therefore be only an exclusion of contraries, e.g., the meaning of the word “cow” is “non-non-cow” (the exclusion of non-cow).

Dignaga (c. 480–540) first introduced this theory, and Dharmakirti developed it. Under the influence of a critique of realistic Brahman schools (especially nyaya, mimansa, and the school of grammarians) the theory developed in two directions: Shantaraksita (725–788) emphasized the positive aspect (the meaning of a word is a positive but illusory mental image), and Dharmottara (c. 750–810) emphasized the negative aspect (the meaning of a word is a negative, and a universal is a negative designation of a difference). This second interpretation was accepted as final by the opponents of apoha. A discussion between the proponents and the opponents of apoha continued at least until the mid twelfth century.

To explain how apoha functioned, Shantaraksita and Kamalashila used a distinction between two kinds of negation; of names (limiting, paryudasa) and of propositions (excluding, prasajyapratisedha). The law of the double negative held only when there were two negations of the same type, while apoha applied at the same time to both types. Contemporary logicians are greatly interested in this approach and the particular analyses associated with it.

Although it is rather popular to call apoha “Buddhist nominalism”, this theory is neither ontological nominalism nor semantic nominalism. The thesis that the individual is the objection of verbal congnition is also rejected, as is the thesis that the conditions of truth can be formulated in terms of the immediate relations between a word and a thing. Apoha is rather a kind of conceptualism where the truth (agreement with reality) of concepts and words is purely illusory.

E. Frauwallner, Beiträge zur Apohalehre, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, 37–44 (1930–1937); T. Stcherbatsky, Buddhist Logic, Le 1932; A. Kunst, Probleme der Buddhistischen Logik in der Darstellung des Tattvasamgraha (Zagadnienia logiki buddyjskiej wg Tattvasagrahy-Siatnerakszty [Problems of Buddhist logic according to Tattvasagraha-Shatnerakshti], Kr 1939; K. Kunjunni Raja, Indian Theories of Meaning, Adyar 1963, Madras 1969²; A. Akamatsu, Évolution de la théorie de l’apoha: L’Apohaprakarana de Jnanaśrimitra, P 1979; Analytical Philosophy in Comparative Perspective, Dor 1985; Buddhist Logic and Epistemology, Dor 1986; M. St. Zięba, Teoria znaczenia jako wykluczenia innych znaczeń (anyapohavada) w ujęciu Śantaraksity i Kamalaśili [Theory of meaning as the exclusion of other meanings ((anyapohavada) in the thought of Shantaraksita i Kamalashila], Lb 1987 (mpsKUL)."   -  Original article

TIP - If some aspects of Buddhist beliefs seem unfamiliar, obscure, or confusing, then bear in mind that Buddhism is a process philosophy.   Difficult aspects of Buddhism often become much clearer when viewed from a process perspective.

See also Apoha, Universals in Buddhist Logic, Stencils and the Game of Twenty Questions

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Buddhists are coming!

From Pantheos by Paul Louis Metzger 

"...Many Buddhists as well as Evangelicals may be surprised that an Evangelical like myself would be glad the Buddhists are here. The history between our movements in the States has been fraught with difficulties in that we are often on opposite ends of the culture war spectrum (Kyogen alluded to these tensions when he introduced me). Then there is the traditional Evangelical claim that “Jesus is the only way,” a view I hold. So, why would I say I am glad the Buddhists are here?

Many traditional Evangelicals may think that the only reason I could and should be glad that Buddhists are here is so that I can share the good news of Jesus Christ with them. While that is one of the reasons for my being glad the Buddhists are here, it is certainly not the only reason; nor does it overshadow all the others. Other reasons include the following: the Zen Buddhists whom I know and with whom I work are making a great impact in the community. Among other things, they are revitalizing an urban space, partnering with the neighborhood, a local high school and civic leaders, removing invasive species, and building community gardens. Moreover, their presence allows us Evangelicals the opportunity to address Christian wrongs committed against other religious traditions by being hospitable and neighborly, correcting misperceptions and misdeeds. Whether or not we Christians convert anyone to Christ, we need to demonstrate that we have been converted to Christ by being hospitable to our “religious other” neighbors. Last but certainly not least, it gives us the opportunity as diverse religious neighbors and friends to work together to cultivate the common good for years to come. In other words, we have the opportunity to revitalize our urban community together..."   Read it all 

Related Article

The Future of Buddhism in the West: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

How Does Steve Jobs Movie Handle Apple Founder's Buddhism?

From  Charisma news

"Jobs is a biographical movie based on the life of technological icon and founder of Apple Computers Steve Jobs. Spanning from 1971 to 2001, with Ashton Kutcher playing the title role, Jobs tries to show the passion and motivation behind the complex innovator...

...Factually, Jobs isn’t entirely accurate, but it properly portrays Steve Jobs' unstoppable drive and unprecedented passion for quality. The movie lacks a certain amount of emotion and heart until its final moments. However, much of this is due to the fact that Jobs led a complicated, nontransformational life until his recent death. Instead of having a large fictitious character arc, Jobs shows both the inspiring aspects and destructive elements of the inventor's life. It also leaves the final judgment up to viewers.

Jobs has a mixed pagan worldview. Though Steve Jobs was a Buddhist in real life, this is ignored for the most part in the movie and only hints at New Age Hinduism in his early years. Still, most of the movie is pagan...."  Read it all

Related article

The dumbing down of computer literacy and decline of programming in education

Friday, 20 September 2013

National Prestige and Soft Power Politics in Buddha's Birthplace

By Ilaria Maria Sala in The Wall Street Journal

"The plain of Terai, a poor agricultural land crossed by holy rivers, straddles the border between Nepal and India. Its sweltering summers see temperatures climb above 100 degrees, but this parched terrain might be on the verge of tumultuous changes. On the Nepali side is the small city of Lumbini, which, after long neglect, is now at the center of great power politics.

This is where the Lord Buddha was born, about 2,500 years ago, under a bodhi tree at the bend of a small creek. His mother, a Hindu princess called Maya, was traveling to her parental home in Kapilavastu when her labor started, and all her entourage could do was stop and arrange a place for her to give birth under the tree, near a pool of water..."

"...The U.N. involvement means a lot of emphasis is given to representing Buddhist nations: On one side of the canal, every country that follows the Theravadha ("Small Vehicle") tradition of Buddhism—such as Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Thailand—has, or will have, a temple. The other side is reserved for the countries following the Mahayana tradition ("Greater Vehicle"), like China, Japan, Korea and Mongolia. It translates into a hodgepodge of styles and many replicas of famous buildings. Burma has built a concrete Shwedagon Pagoda; China, a smaller version of the Forbidden City. So far only about a dozen of the foreseen 42 buildings have been erected. One of the problems has been the lack of cash: The finished project should cost about $64 million in total, but not all contributing Buddhist countries see this as a priority.

Enter the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), a well-funded Chinese association headed by a rather mysterious figure, Linus Xiao Wunan. A Buddhist and a Chinese Communist Party member, he wants to see a whole Peace City built here and a tower called "Lumbini Cloud."

"..."APECF is part of the grander strategy of increasing China's soft power," Mr. Xiao says, "but we are independent, and the Lumbini development project is our own idea."

Still, China is also getting busy building an international airport here, with direct flights from major Chinese cities, as well as restaurants and hotels to cater to the devout masses.

The U.N. is also still involved: Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General and himself a Buddhist, has often mentioned the need to develop Lumbini, and those in the know say that the push comes from Mr. Ban's mother, a fervent Buddhist. At least one Korean sect, called Chhoge, has been received by Mr. Dahal for this very reason, and according to Nepali newspaper reports Mr. Dahal has signed an MOU with it, too.

"Our plans are not incompatible," says Mr. Xiao in Beijing. "This is going to be for the whole Buddhist world. To those who find it too striking, I say: At the beginning nobody liked the Pyramid at the Louvre."

India, once more, is left looking uneasily as China expands its influence in its backyard, tapping into the soft-power potential of Buddhism, and an air of Buddhist Great Game can be felt in what was until now the sleepy, holy site of Buddha's birth."    Read it all


Maoists block Indian channels over Buddha row

By Utpal Parashar, Hindustan Times 

"Indian entertainment channels remained blocked in Nepal on Friday following a protest call by a Maoist faction over Zee TV claiming Buddha was born in Nepal.

The All Nepal Revolutionary Cine Worker Association, which is associated with Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, had urged cable operators to block all Indian channels for 24 hours starting 8:00 am on Friday.

Protesting against Zee TV’s claim in its serial ‘Buddha’ that the founder of Buddhism was born in India, the association has also called for an indefinite ban on the channel.

“If we self-respecting Nepalis don’t oppose such naked Indian expansionism then it could threaten our national honour and dignity,” the association stated in a release.

Though nearly two dozen entertainment channels remained off air other Indian channels based on news, movies, music and religious discourse were not blocked despite the demand by the Maoist faction.

The first episode of the serial ‘Buddha’ telecast on Sunday was blocked across Nepal by over 300 cable operators for fears of hurting sentiments of millions of Nepali viewers.

In its website promoting the serial Zee TV had claimed Buddha was born in India. Actor Kabir Bedi who is part of the serial had also made the same mistake in a promotional programme.

Historical records state Buddha was born in Lumbini located in the Terai plains of southern Nepal. Even UNESCO has accepted this fact while granting world heritage site status to Lumbini.

Following widespread outrage in Nepal through social media platforms, both the channel and Bedi accepted their mistake and apologized. But the storm has refused to die down in Nepal..."

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Jihadists plotting more attacks on Buddhists

Attacks planned on Tibetan Buddhists in India

By Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times     

"Alarmed by revelations of Indian Mujahedeen founder Yasin Bhatkal, the Himachal Police has written to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) seeking details of interrogation records regarding suspected threat to Tibetan spiritual leaders Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhist settlements.

The state police move came following reports that Dharamsala, the exile home of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, was on the radar of Bhatkal.

The intelligence agencies suspected that Indian Mujahedeen group’s operations head Yasin Bhatkal had planned to recce Dharamsala after serial blast that rocked Buddhist pilgrim’s site in Gaya in July this year. There are reports that Bhatkal had sent two of his close aides to Dharamsala for recce as it was the potential target of the Indian Mujahedeen to take revenge against Buddhists for committing atrocities on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

“There are varied and unconfirmed reports about Bhatkal’s plan to visit Dharamsala. We have written to NIA seeking more details about Bhatkal’s plans,” deputy inspector general of police, intelligence and security, Abhishekh Trivedi told the Hindustan Times.

“So far, we don’t have any specific input about Bhatkal’s plans to visit Dharamsala,” he added.

It was in July last week after the blasts in Bodh Gaya that the NIA had alerted the Himachal Pradesh police about possible attacks on Buddhist population and monasteries across the state by the Islamic militant group Indian Mujahedeen...."  Full article  

Meanwhile, security at Bodh Gaya is stepped up following Jihadist bomb blasts

From The Press Trust of India  

"Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, on Friday, assured Buddhist leaders that strict security measures have been taken to prevent a repeat of the July serial blasts at Bodh Gaya. "The serial bomb blasts in the holy shrine and in Bodh Gaya on July 7 left us aghast. Nobody had ever imagined that somebody will attack a place known for giving a message of peace to the world," Kumar told a congregation of over 200 Buddhists from 39 countries at the Budha Smriti Park here. "That was a warning. We took the incident very seriously and have taken security measures so that such things do not happen in future," Kumar said at the conclave being attended by Buddhists from US, Russia, Australia, UK, Japan, Thailand, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan and Germany.

Read more 

...and Jihadist Mullahs incite their followers to destroy the ancient Buddhist heritage of Pakistan

From the Express Tribune by Fazal Khaliq

"...Dr Shah Nazar Khan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s director of archaeology, says locals are primarily to blame for the decay. Sadly, apart from the defacing, some locals even throw garbage on the art.
“It is high time to educate people about the historical and cultural importance, so that locals can also take part in the preservation efforts,” says Dr Khan. “The statues should be removed and shifted to a museum, if possible, and all these sites fully documented.”
Faizur Rehman, curator in the Swat museum, believes that more effort than just maintenance. “The government should purchase all the lands of the rock carvings and hire 24-hour guards.” Rehman states firmly. “This is the only way to protect and preserve the heritage.”   Full article

See   No future for Buddhism in an Islamized World

Modern Buddhist Art: Bodhisattva Guanyin Emerald Jade Carving

From China Daily 

"An unfinished statue of Guanyin (a Bodhisattva with 1,000 hands and 1,000 eyes in Buddhism) by famous Taiwan sculptor Hong Fushou was purchased at 230 million yuan ($37 million) at a jade carving auction during the 2013 Yunnan Cultural Industries Expo, becoming the highest bid of the auction.

As a highlight of the expo, the auction, held on Aug 13, displayed works by noted jade carving masters from Yunnan and outside. Besides the Guanyin statue, the starting prices of all lots were over 100,000 yuan. Among them, works by Hong Fushou were over 1 million yuan.

Ms.Ding successfully won the bid of three lots, totaling 1.81 million yuan. She said that she is a fan of sculptor Ge Donghui and has followed him for more than 10 years. Mr.An from Macao owns an investment company and bought the Guanyin statue. "It is 10 million lower than the expected price. I've paid attention to this work for many years. The material is very good, called ‘emperor of the emerald' in the profession. It has huge collection potential," he said.

Hong, the sculptor of the work, also indicated that the emerald is rare. He had to make it into a perfect piece.

The auction turnover rate was nearly 90 percent, demonstrating the huge room for appreciation of high-end jade carvings and a strong demand."

Related Article

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Monday, 16 September 2013

Existential Fears of Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Myanmar fueled by Organization of Islamic Cooperation

By Shenali D Waduge at Lankaweb  

"A specter is haunting Sri Lanka. The specter of the country being overrun by Muslims. That something so unpleasant might happen in Sri Lanka virtually unopposed and unresisted by those who have been elected to power exclusively by the urban and rural Buddhist vote explains to a great extent the despair and sense of betrayal of Buddhism and the national interest by the powers that be which in turn is manifesting in the forms of suspicion and distancing between the two communities i.e. Buddhist and Islamic, in this country.

Thanks to Muslim obduracy and incursions into traditional Buddhist space through increasing construction of Mosques in sacred Buddhist citadels such as Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Mihintale, Mahiyangana and in numbers totally disproportionate to the actual numbers of believers in Islam, use of loudspeakers at Mosques in every nook and corner of the country blaring shrieking sounds in Arabic five times a day totally oblivious to the violation of the fundamental right to silence of every citizen, and the nuisance and disturbance it is causing to the vast majority of the people who wish to live in peace amidst a quiet and serene environment, brutal killing of cattle and other animals and display of slaughtered animal carcasses on main and side roads, irrespective of the disgust it is causing to the majority of the public weaned on principles of non-killing and compassion towards animals, animal sacrifice a practice repugnant to Buddhists and condemned by the Buddha,opposition to the continuation of the historic identity of Sri Lanka as a Buddhist country, and promotion of the alien Arabic culture through unacceptable dress codes, food habits, arrogant behaviour and flaunting of wealth by members of this minority group in pre-dominant and traditional Buddhist areas of the country, have awakened the sleeping Sinhala Buddhists to the threat posed to their very survival in the country both in the short and the long term.

This fear is also spreading right across Buddhist Asia in varying degrees..."     Read it all 

Buddhists worried by Organization of Islamic Cooperation imperialism in Burma


Fear of OIC supremacist imperialism grows in Burma (Myanmar)

The OIC is a sinister Islamic Supremacist Organization dedicated to imposing Islam on the entire world.  "One has only to examine the flag and the logo of the OIC to realize its ambition. A crescent moon encompasses the entire globe. The earth rests on a sea of green, the color of Islam, with the Kaa’ba in the center of the globe."  

The petrodollar-funded OIC was originally called the  Organisation of Islamic Conference, but has recently renamed itself the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Not only is the OIC dedicated to the subversion and overthrow of Western civilization, it is also undermining other civilizations as well. The OIC's recent activities in Burma are giving increasing cause for concern.

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