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

Promoting Buddhism through Culture and the Arts - Why Beauty Matters  

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.

Related Articles

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Islam will Dominate - The Islamic Threat to Buddhism

Muslims massacre Buddhists in Burma (Myanmar)

Buddhism and Islam - Resources

No such thing as Tibetan Buddhism?

From Buddhism beyond the nation state by Richard Payne  

"...Reflecting on the problematic organizational hierarchy of contemporary Buddhist studies, which employs regional categories based on the ‘area studies’ model subdivided further into national categories, David Gray (University of Santa Clara) questions the category Tibetan Buddhism. In his essay “How Tibetan is Tibetan Buddhism? On the Applicability of a National Designation for a Transnational Tradition,” he points out that today there is no Tibet to which this label can refer. Additionally, arguably the majority of practitioners of “Tibetan” Buddhism neither are ethnic Tibetans, nor do they speak or read Tibetan. More significantly, while Tibetans considered themselves Buddhists and had a sense of Tibet as a distinct geo-political category, “they simply did not conceive of their tradition in nationalistic terms.” Since there is no equivalent for “Tibetan Buddhism” in premodern Buddhist literature from Tibet, Gray suggests “Vajrayāna.” This is itself an emic category (rdo rje theg pa), and also identifies a form of Buddhism that stretches across many national boundaries. Thus, it allows for further designation as needed, but without precluding meaningful comparisons. For example Kūkai and Tshong Khapa can be juxtaposed as Vajrayāna teachers, rather than separated as Japanese and Tibetan respectively.

Anya Bernstein (University of Michigan) further examines the way in which Buddhist social identities can be both formed by and recognized in terms of lineage and reincarnation, rather than nationality or ethnicity. In her essay “Indigenous Cosmopolitans: Mobility, Authority and Cultural Politics in Buryat Buddhism,” she focuses on two ethnically Tibetan monks from the (new) Drepung Monastery, who are recognized by Buryat Mongolians as having Buryat “roots.” The first is a reincarnated Buryat lama who had gone to Tibet in the late 1920s and died while incarcerated by the Chinese. He reincarnated in a Tibetan expatriate family in Nepal, and is now a member of the Drepung monastery. The second was the disciple of a Buryat monk. Both lineage and reincarnation serve to establish connections with the Buryat Buddhist community on bases distinct from nationality or ethnicity...."

"...As organizing principles, lineage and reincarnation can work across ethnicity and nationality. “Tibetan Buddhism” is neither emic to premodern Tibet, nor does it identify a presently existing nation-state, nor were the forms of Buddhism called “Tibetan” ever delimited by either ethnic or national boundaries. The mythology of Buddhism as a peaceful bridge between India and China ignores the important roles played by other groups that were the links between the two. The Buddhist civilization that spread across Asia brought new crops and new technologies. The categories that have long served to organize Buddhist studies have been largely based on nation-states, giving us such familiar categories as Chinese Buddhism, Thai Buddhism, Korean Buddhism, or Tibetan Buddhism. The recent work by these scholars and others reveal that such categories are problematic. While there may be particular research programs for which they are appropriate, they cannot simply be presumed and used by default..."

Read the full article


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Faces of the Buddha by Sandhya Regmi

Sandhya Regmi explains her fascination with painting faces of the Buddha in this article at Republica 

"Despite being a Hindu throughout my life, I have a very high regard for Buddha and Buddhism. I regard Buddhism as the highest pedestal of all other existing religions and philosophies in the world, because Buddha was always humble even after his ‘Enlightenment’.

He conveyed to his disciples and followers that he was no God, no teacher, no preacher, and asked them never to worship him as the Almighty, but rather to follow the path of ‘Dharma’ and ‘Sangha’.

I love this philosophy to the utmost. With the exception of Buddhism, other religions such as Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam believe in a Creator, the Almighty Lord positioned and crowned high in Heaven, and the concept of ‘Heaven’ and ‘Hell’.

In these religions, the human beings on Earth are behind a ‘Laxman Rekha’, a concrete and unbreakable barrier between ‘Man’ and ‘God’. In Buddhism, there is no such term as ‘Heaven’, ‘Hell’, ‘Man’ and ‘God’.

Everyone is equal. In sharp contrast to other religions, even an ordinary man can, in his course of life, attain ‘Enlightenment’ and become a Buddha.

My love, passion, respect, and dedication to Buddha and Buddhism inspired me to paint and spread the Buddha’s message through paintings entitled Faces of Buddha and Reincarnation of Buddha. My seventh solo painting exhibition was recently accomplished under the aforementioned themes at National Art Council, Babarmahal, Kathmandu.

While painting portraits of Buddha, I visualized the elements of Buddha in each individual. It is just a matter of degree. Given that Buddha is a union of a particular state of mind and of action, each individual is capable of adjusting the extent of Buddha in him/her.

Buddhism is a fusion of religion and philosophy. Buddhism is a religion to the extent that it is characterized by devotional practices and ritual devotion to the Buddha or Buddhahood. However, it neither involves belief in a creator God who has control over human destiny, nor seeks to define itself by reference to a religious belief. In addition, Buddhism has been described as a philosophy, a way of life, a code of ethics, and science of mind..."  full article

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Pali, the sacred language of early Buddhism, is being revived in India

Pali Texts

From The Times of India by Mihir Bhanage

Students help revive ancient Pali language

"Slowly but steadily Pali, the Buddhist language of communication, is catching the fancy of students and young professionals in the city.

Students and teachers at the Pune University are trying their best to sustain and revive this language that has long gone out of popular usage.
Dharmvir Barsole, who learned the language at the University and is now teaching it there, is happy by the growing interest in the subject. "Though initially there was very little awareness about the language but people's perspective is changing and more and more of them are taking it up now. Also the knowledge of Pali is essential for the students of Buddhist scriptures."
Elaborating on the same Yogesh Ovhal, a diploma student said, "It is easier to understand the Buddhist scripture if one knows Pali and hence I plan to study this language as much as I can...."  Read it all 




Friday, 13 September 2013

Delhi gang rape: Is Buddhism Opposed to Self-Defense?

Delhi Rapists

By M. Sophia Newman in Religious Dispatches

"Twenty years after the murder of Mia Zapata inspired a self-defense movement in Seattle, Indians are responding to a widely-reported gang-rape case in Delhi by joining similar violence prevention courses. Only they’re doing so over the advice of religious opponents, who echo a famous Indian guru: the Buddha.

On July 7, 1993, Mia Zapata, lead singer for up-and-coming Seattle band The Gits, left a bar to walk home alone at 2 A.M. She never arrived. At 3:20, a prostitute found her body in an alley, raped, beaten, and strangled to death.

Two decades later on December 16, 2012, after boarding a minibus in Delhi, India, Jyoti Singh Pandey didn’t make it home either. On the bus, thugs gang-raped and beat her, then dumped her on the roadside. Pandey died thirteen days later.

Both murders were watershed events in national debates on violence against women. Zapata’s friends and fellow musicians collaborated to open Home Alive, a non-profit that taught people how to resist violent attacks, while the Pandey case has not only prompted massive protests across India, but a strong interest in violence prevention as well.

In the Pandey case, however, one leader spoke against self-defense. Amid calls for stiffer penalties for rape, religious teacher Asaram Bapu proposed a different deterrent: “The girl should have taken God's name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said, 'I consider you my brother'…Then the misconduct wouldn't have happened.” Bapu later flatly blamed Pandey for her own rape, a sentiment with which some government officials agreed.

Twenty-five centuries earlier, in a scripture called the Kakacupama Sutta, the Buddha had also advised passivity: “Even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered, even at that, would not be doing my bidding.” Centuries later, the renowned Tibetan master Shantideva advised gratitude towards abusers, saying karma obligates Buddhists to take responsibility for their behavior:

    Those who hurt me are impelled by my actions…. It is I alone who harm them, and they are my benefactors. Oh wicked mind, why do you misconstrue this and become angry?

Both verses echo the concept of “non-self,” the Buddhist teaching that interconnection is so deep that there is no unchanging identity to any living being. The term alone appears to contradict self-defense; Buddhists commonly say the idea compels a conflict-averse attitude.

Indeed, the teachings appear to advocate a willful lowering of defenses at the moment of attack. Interconnection with all beings could seem to frown upon punching specific beings in the face. Yet Bapu’s comments invited outrage. Would contemporary observers have treated an ancient version of his words any differently?

Religious scholar Erin Epperson thinks not. She was studying Tibetan Buddhism in India in December 2012, and recalls large protests even in McLeod Ganj, a tiny hill-station in the Himalayas. She later assisted self-defense courses in Delhi, using curricula from a martial arts academy she attends in Chicago. Demand for classes jumped dramatically after the Pandey murder, a situation which Nancy Lanoue, the Chicago school’s founder, compared to America in 1993: “When the Mia Zapata murder occurred… self-defense was getting attention from many folks who usually ignored it.”

Lanoue (who, like Epperson, is versed in Buddhist philosophy), sees a distinction between self-defense and violence. She refers to an “ethic of least harm,” which means “using the least force possible to preserve my physical, mental and emotional safety.” Epperson says pacifism can amount to complicity: “Letting someone do violence to you is also not a non-violent approach...”   Read it all



Staten Island's Congregation Om Shalom blends Judaism with yoga, meditation, Buddhism and Hinduism

From  SILive

By Maura Grunlund/Staten Island Advance 

"STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Sam Steinberg, newly ordained as Rabbi Samtosha and guided by an image of G-d as Stevie Nicks in purple robes, is developing a new synagogue in St. George that will blend Judaism with yoga, meditation, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Rabbi Samtosha, whose religious name means “contentment” in Sanskrit, is forming Congregation Om Shalom, a name that incorporates a yoga chanting sound; the logo is the Star of David with the symbol of Om in the middle. The first service of what the rabbi describes as “Jewish fusion” is planned for Rosh Hashanah, with the observance beginning the night before, on Sept. 4; the rabbi, who was ordained on June 27, is negotiating to rent space at Brighton Heights Reformed Church.

The synagogue where Joanie Sobsey of Dongan Hills — the rabbi’s significant other, and a yoga instructor and nurse practitioner — will serve as spiritual director, is welcoming to people of all faiths and lifestyles. The rabbi, who is divorced with two adult children, and Ms. Sobsey met on and have been together for more than eight years. She works for Teen Rap at Staten Island University Hospital.

“My girlfriend once asked me what is my image of G-d,” the rabbi said. “My image is Stevie Nicks onstage in purple robes. Maybe three times a year when I’m praying I get so connected, tears come to my eyes — and that’s when I’m praying to Stevie.”

As part of his course study at the Rabbinical Seminary International in Manhattan, Rabbi Samtosha read the holy books of all the major religions; he feels that incorporating aspects of all faiths helps to reduce or eliminate animosity between various religions and factions within religions.

“I want anyone looking for spirituality to come to us,” said the rabbi, who is a teacher with the Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) program and the son of Holocaust survivors Alex Steinberg and the former Helen Klaczko Steinberg.

“We are open to everyone, Jews, non-Jews, atheists, agnostics, interfaith couples, LGBT,” added the rabbi, whose brother is Lev Raphael, the author of books about the children of Holocaust survivors and his experiences as a gay Jew... "   Read it all 

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Buddhism may improve relations between the two Koreas

From the Global Post  

Buddhist exchanges pick up pace with easing of inter-Korean tensions

SEOUL, Aug. 19 (Yonhap) -- Exchanges between South and North Korean Buddhist organizations have picked up pace on easing tensions on the peninsula that could lead to greater social and cultural interactions between the two nations, sources here said Monday.

The Jogye Order, the largest Buddhist sect in South Korea, said its members met with their counterparts from the North's Buddhist Federation in the Chinese city of Shenyang on Sunday and Monday. It said the meeting was approved in advance by Seoul's Ministry of Unification, which has authority over all cross-border exchanges.

A source said that the meeting centered on issues such as how best to offer humanitarian assistance to people hurt by recent floods that ravaged the impoverished country.

"The two sides also exchanged views on holding a memorial tea ceremony for the deceased at a temple in Mount Myohyang in November," he added. The mountain has one of the best scenic vistas in the North and has many historic Buddhist temples... Read more

Monday, 9 September 2013

Say your virtual prayers

From Global Times
By By Zhang Yiwei

"Staring at your computer screen, you click on the offering you want to make - will it be a bouquet of flowers, or a more expensive gold ingot? More importantly, which Buddha are you worshipping today?

After you have dispensed with the pleasantries, you can also note down your wishes or cherished scriptures, click submit, and in theory, Buddha will feel your sincerity.

Buddhism has gone online, with "virtual temples" now open for business. These "temples" are equipped with everything you would expect from a normal temple, including chanting, blessings, sacrifices and confessions, to name a few services, but aside from doubts over whether the click of a mouse is a genuine form of worship, there are concerns about whether they exist to make a profit, given the existence of donation buttons. Not to mention the fact that these temples present an ideal way to commit fraud.

Real worship?
A lay-Buddhist monk from Jiangsu Province, whose monastic name is Yihong, launched an online temple in 2006 in conjunction with a Buddhist website.

Yihong's site is split into various sections; each dedicated to a particular service, and on each section thousands of prayers have been left by Net users. Yihong told the Global Times that he launched the temple to help Buddhists maintain their faith, and that the Internet was the best way to do this.

"It's a way to remind people to practice their beliefs more often in their daily lives, as the Internet is easily accessible," Yihong said. "It can also help to build and strengthen one's faith."

However, Yihong does stress that the online temple can't replace real-world temples. "The real treasures of Buddhism are located in temples, not on the Internet," he said, noting that the key elements of the religion, namely Buddha, Buddhist sutras and monks, are in temples, and Buddhists need to show respect to them by visiting temples.

Despite Yihong's desire to reinforce worship in traditional temples, some Buddhists have simply replaced physical temples with an online version.

A 31-year-old Buddhist with the Web name Qingjing Suiyuan, who often prays online, said that he doesn't think praying online is connected with laziness. He said that people live fast-paced city lifestyles, and that the online prayers will be heard by Buddha as long as the prayers are sincere.

In contrast, another Buddhist, surnamed Liu, who has been studying Buddhism for more than ten years, said she believes that conducting rituals online will never replace visiting real temples. "Learning the knowledge of Buddhism through face-to-face communication with Buddhist masters is a totally different experience from just reading materials on the Web," she said. "Also, temples have had the role of enlightening people, as far back as ancient times," Liu said. "They are located in places distant from the secular world and try to purify visitors' minds and make them treasure the rituals. Praying at home just weakens people's respect for the solemnity of the act..."   Full article

...and other Buddhist geeks...

From Buddha as Scientist, Entrepreneur & Self-Improvement Guru by Michael Schulson  


"The political satirist Tom Lehrer says that his genre became obsolete when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. I’m afraid I had a similar reaction when I first heard of Buddhist Geeks, a conference organizer and “cloud-based sangha” designed to facilitate “conversations on the convergence of Buddhism, technology, and global culture.” In other words, the devotees of some of the most distracting, mindfulness-destroying, desire-driven innovations in the history of our culture were now plotting to disrupt Buddhism. Any commentary, honestly, seemed obsolete.

As a service to readers, though, I decided to withhold judgment and plunge into the most recent Buddhist Geeks annual conference, which was held in Boulder, Colorado last month—and, until last Sunday, stored in a virtual forum by the good folks over at Tricycle magazine. After watching talks about “mindful media,” “upgrading the mental operating system,” and the links between Spiderman and Buddhist teachers, among other topics, I can offer four general truths—none of them especially noble—about the emerging realm of Buddhist geekhood.

1) Buddhist geeks really are quite geeky. They make a lot of Star Trek references, and love to cite neuroscience research, most of it about the effects of meditation on the brain. Less superficially, they embody the geek’s dream that everything can be solved with hard work and intellect. Above all, the Buddhist Geeks talks I watched were deeply practical, with little emphasis on escaping the cycle of suffering and rebirth, and much more emphasis on using Buddhism to relax the mind and channel entrepreneurial energies... "   Read it all  



Helping others does you good.

Buddha taught that one of the best ways to improve our own mental state is to help others. (See Bodhisattva vows - an antidote to depression and mental illness) 

Now a scientific study has proved him right.

From The Telegraph By Nick Collins, Science Correspondent 

"Volunteering may improve your health, according to a new study which found that those who do it live longer and are more satisfied with their lives.    People who volunteer report having lower levels of depression and higher levels of well-being than average, while some research suggests it promotes a longer and healthier life.

A review of 40 academic papers on the subject by University of Exeter researchers found that volunteers are a fifth less likely to die within the next four to seven years than average.

Across the studies volunteers had lower self-rated levels of depression and higher levels of well-being and life satisfaction, although this has not been confirmed in trials.

It is thought that volunteering can be good for the physical health of older people in particular, by encouraging them to stay active and spend more time out of the house.

Volunteers often explain their motives in terms of wanting to "give something back" to their community, but without receiving anything in return the reported improvements in quality of life are harder to explain, experts said... "  Full article

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Sunday, 8 September 2013

A Charity Aims to Bring Buddhist Studies Into the Modern World

From the New York Times

"HONG KONG — Robert Y.C. Ho, a scion of a historic Hong Kong family, is the chairman of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, which supports study in the fields of Buddhism, Chinese art and culture. The charity is named after Mr. Ho’s father, who founded it in 2005.

It has given endowments for Buddhist programs at Harvard University, Stanford University and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. In May, it gave a $1.9 million grant to the American Council of Learned Societies for the research and teaching of Buddhist studies."

"...Buddhist studies are usually associated with history. How do you make them relevant to today?

Generally speaking, Buddhist studies in higher institutions have been archaic and old-fashioned, in the sense that it’s mostly text-based, where we have scholars who are experts in Pali, Sanskrit, classical Chinese, Japanese, old languages. They read these texts and they talk about them. A lot of time, it’s not really related to what happens in the real world.

But a lot of younger scholars are pushing into new areas, like studying about Buddhism and politics, Buddhism and the environment, conflict resolution, Buddhism and psychology, things like that, and how they manifest in the world. Most of our grants are geared toward the area, which is Buddhism in the contemporary world. This is the area we want to push, to advance the field, to make it relevant to the contemporary audiences... Full article

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Alcoholics Anonymous: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps

From Speaking Tree by Sanchit Jain 

For some addicts, hitting bottom and having a spiritual awakening are the first steps along the path of recovery. That's why Alcoholics Anonymous, the oldest and largest of the twelve-step groups, calls itself a spiritual—rather than a religious—program.

Founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson, a New York stock market analyst, and Dr. Bob Smith, an Akron, Ohio, physician, AA is a fellowship of alcoholics who decided to "turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him."

Local AA groups reflect the culture from which they arise, which is why some of these gatherings have an evangelical Christian feel. Many AA meetings, for example, end with the Lord's prayer.

So it's no surprise that a small but growing number of drunks and drug addicts have gone their own way—creating a grassroots network of support groups that use meditation and Buddhist teachings to overcome addiction.

"The Buddha said craving is the cause of suffering," said Kevin Griffin, the cofounder of the Buddhist Recovery Network. "And what is addiction but craving run rampant?"

Buddhism suggests the Noble Eightfold Path, which seeks to cultivate wisdom, ethical conduct, and mental development as a way out of our suffering. The eight steps along this path are: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration..."   Full article  

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Boy George: Buddhism has kept me sober



Boy George: Buddhism has kept me sober

From  Contactmusic  

"Boy George has credited his new-found belief in Buddhism for helping him stay sober and clean of drugs.

Boy George says Buddhism has helped him stay sober.

The 'Do You Really Want to Hurt Me' hitmaker has struggled with drug addiction throughout his life but he claims his recent commitment to the Eastern religion - which aims to end followers' suffering through the elimination of ignorance and desire - has stopped him from relapsing.

Quizzed on whether he misses drugs, the 52-year-old musician said: ''No. No. I really took that to the ultimate conclusion. The last time I was out doing what we call 'research' I was thoroughly miserable but I couldn't stop myself. This is the curse of being an addict - you do something that's thoroughly unpleasant and you keep doing it. The difference between now and then is I know I'm an addict now..."   Full article

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