Thursday, September 27, 2007

Buddhist Scrolls

The British Library has discovered sensational manuscript fragments the potential significance of which for Buddhist scholars is comparable to that of the Dead Sea Scrolls for Christianity and Judaism.

The manuscripts, birchbark scrolls that looked like "badly rolled-up cigars" when first shown to the Library, are believed to be the earliest surviving Buddhist texts. "These will allow scholars to get nearer to what Buddha said than ever before," said Graham Shaw, deputy director of the Library's Oriental and India Office Collections. They date from the end of the 1st century AD or the beginning of the 2nd century AD. Buddha, who inspired disciples to spread his teachings, died in 486 BC. "With these", said Mr. Shaw, "we're within 500 to 600 years of his death." Apart from bringing scholars closer to the original language of Buddha, this could corroborate the authenticity of teachings and sermons recounted in later texts.

The manuscripts include 60 fragments, ranging from Buddha's sermons to poems and treatises on the psychology of perception. Seen in a new light, their value is "incalculable", Mr. Shaw said. "How would you put a value on the Dead Sea Scrolls?" Years of study lie ahead before the text can be deciphered, analysed and compared with existing texts. The fragments include tales told on the banks of Lake Anavatapta at an assembly of the Buddha and his disciples.

Buddhists believe in reincarnation and each explains his deeds in a former life and how they influenced this one.

Just getting a peek at the text proved difficult. Those involved had to uncurl the "cigars" whose fragility was a conservator's nightmare. Mr, Shaw said: "It is fiendishly brittle material. The first question was, 'will these ever unroll or will they simply crumble into many pieces?' "There have been reports in old excavations of things like this having been found and the moment they were touched literally crumbled to dust." "We put them in a bell jar overnight and allowed them to be slowly moistened. Then one of our conservators used tweezers and began unrolling, and another applied more moisture, without saturating it." Mr. Shaw stated that the exact origin of the scrolls is unknown beyond the fact that they were probably found in Afghanistan in earthenware jars. These, too, may be original pieces, but tests have yet to be conducted on them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Eightfold Path To Enlightenment

The Four Harmonious Brothers

Long ago in the dense jungle near Kashi (Varanasi) lived a grouse, a hare, a monkey and an elephant. They dwelt together in peace and harmony. Wishing to know which among them was the eldest so that they might accord each other appropriate respect, the grouse asked each of them to tell how they first remembered seeing a particular tree. The elephant and the monkey recalled seeing it when it was the same size as themselves, the rabbit had drunk dew drops off it when it had but two leaves, while the bird said that he had eaten some seeds and that the tree had sprouted from his droppings. Discovering their proper order of seniority in this way they went about with the monkey riding on the elephant's back, the hare on its shoulders and the grouse perched on top of the hare.

They decided to enter the path of virtue by observing the five basic moral deeds, avoiding: killing, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, lying and taking intoxicants. Having made these the basis of their own conduct, they set out to teach them to the other animals in the forest. The resulting harmony brought great peace and prosperity to the kingdom.

One day, the king and queen and their ministers asked a clairvoyant hermit to tell them the cause of their good fortune. He explained that it was because of the animals' good conduct. When they expressed a wish to see the animals, the hermit told them it was unnecessary for they could achieve the same by following the same precepts. This they did and the kingdom enjoyed great wealth and prosperity. Subsequently they were reborn as gods..

Bush Announces Tighter Sanctions on Myanmar

NEW YORK, Sept. 25 — President Bush announced today that the United States was taking a series of steps to tighten economic sanctions on Myanmar’s leaders and their backers and would impose a visa ban on the leaders and their families.

Mr. Bush, who has spoken out frequently on Myanmar, was addressing the opening day of the United Nations General Assembly here in New York. His remarks coincided with the eighth day of peaceful antigovernment protests in Myanmar, led by Buddhist monks in the main city of Yangon and in other cities. “Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma where a military junta has imposed a 19-year reign of fear,” said Mr. Bush, using the former name of the country. The protests in Myanmar are taking place under the shadow of the possibility of a violent crackdown. In 1988, some 3,000 people were killed when the military crushed larger pro-democracy protests. Although some reports have said that truckloads of soldiers moved into position at one point during the protests in Yangon today, the day’s protests have dispersed without incident.

Since 1988, Myanmar has become the focus of international condemnation for its abuses of human and political rights and its treatment of the pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest in Yangon for 12 of the past 18 years.

His Holiness supports call for democracy in Burma

Dharamshala, 24 September, TibetNet:
His Holiness the Dalai Lama conveys his sincere appreciation and admiration to the large number of fellow Buddhists monks for advocating democracy and freedom in Burma.

In his message on 23 September, His Holiness said, "I extend my support and solidarity with the recent peaceful movement for democracy in Burma." "I fully support their call for freedom and democracy and take this opportunity to appeal to freedom-loving people all over the world to support such non-violent movements," His Holiness added.

His Holiness further said, "As a Buddist monk, I am appealing to the members of the military regime who believe in Buddhism to act in accordance with the sacred dharma in the spirit of compassion and non-violence."

"I pray for the success of this peaceful movement and the early release of fellow Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi." His Holiness further said.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Burma - Non-Violent Protests Led By Buddhist Monks

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AS-231-2007 September 23, 2007
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The protests that began in Burma during August to voice public frustration and discontent over sharp price rises have in the last week fast accelerated--under the guidance of the Buddhist clergy, the Sangha--towards an uprising to end the country's military dictatorship.

The monks leading the latest events have declared the formal "overturning of the alms bowl" boycott of the military regime successfully completed--it must be initiated within a three days--and have called upon the monkhood to implement the boycott in accordance with its disciplinary code until lifted. This means a total ban on all religious activities relating to the military government: no donations, no preaching, no funeral rites, nothing.

Meanwhile, members of the public have come out in increasing numbers, despite attempts by some in the Sangha to discourage them for their own safety, to support openly the monks' demonstrations. In recent days monks in main cities walking through flooded streets chanting verses to spread loving kindness (metta), have been joined by human chains on either side of the road, and elsewhere around the country by crowds of delighted onlookers. In the ancient city of Amarapura around one thousand were met by elderly citizens who tearfully paid their respects and called upon them to lead them out from the poverty and misery induced by the nation's "bad kings"--a reference to one of the five enemies against which refuge is sought when paying religious homage.

The monks are being joined by more and more prominent persons from other walks of life. The famous comedian Zarganar is reported as saying that the entertainment industry should also back the protests. Important writers have joined his call. And on September 22 hundreds marched to the front of the house of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy leader who has been under house arrest since 2003, where she was able to come outside the gate and speak briefly to at least one monk. A monks' group has in a statement of September 21 also urged all citizens, including farmers, workers, soldiers and civil servants to join in a new phase of protest beginning from 1pm on September 24.

For the first time since over two decades ago, the cry of "our aim!" is being heard on the streets of Burma. Whatever happens next, the facade of national and religious unity that the regime has sought to build up over the past two decades, since last cracking down on protests by monks in 1990, has come crashing down. Seventeen years of reorganisation, repression and manipulation have utterly failed. Neither it nor its supporters and apologists can go on pretending that it has any legitimacy upon which to take a place at the world table, or speak with any sincerity or authority on behalf of the population that it has utterly impoverished and degraded for so many years, and is utterly sick and tired of it.

In view of the recent dramatic developments in Burma, the Asian Human Rights Commission again calls on the international community to recognise the significance of what is happening there today, and lend meaningful support-- not mealy-mouthed words--to the aspirations of its people for real, lasting change. To do so now will be of benefit not only to the people of Burma but also to people throughout Southeast Asia, the wider region and indeed the entire world.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


The symbol Om, Ohm or Aum is believed
to be the sound that was
spoken to create the universe and life.
It is made up of three separate sounds, and saying these together
makes Om the ultimate mantra.
Saying the three sounds together in the right way
helps to awaken the inner self, the atman,
which is a spark from the divine Brahman.
When said in this way, Om is called Pranava,
the sacred sound (sacred humming).
It is the representation of Brahman,
who is unreachable and unknowable.
By using the symbol (or saying the word),
Hindus can approach Brahman in
both the mystical and earth-bound planes.
The symbol has huge significance in Hindu life,
appearing everywhere – on temples,
on amulets worn by almost everyone
and even painted onto the tongue
of newborns using honey, to welcome them into life.

Buddha Thought

"That which causes the stupidity and delusion of man is love and the desires." "Man having many faults, if he does not repent, but allows his heart to be at rest, sins will rush upon him like water to the sea. When vice has thus become more powerful it is still harder than before to abandon it. If a bad man becomes sensible of his faults, abandons them and acts virtuously, his sin will day by day diminish and be destroyed, till he obtains full enlightenment." - Buddha

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Who Was The Buddha? Part 8

When Buddha was about eighty, a blacksmith named Cuanda gave him a meal that caused him to become ill. Buddha forced himself to travel to Kushinagara, and laid down on his right side to rest in a grove of shala trees. As a crowd of followers gathered, the trees sprouted blossoms and showered them on Buddha. Buddha told Ananda, "I am old and my journey is near its end. My body is like a worn-out cart held together only by the help of leather straps." Three times, Buddha asked the people if they had any questions, but they all remained silent. Finally Buddha said, "Everything that has been created is subject to decay and death. Everything is transitory. Work out your own salvation with diligence. After passing through several states of meditation, the Buddha died, reaching Parinirvana (the cessation of perception and sensation).

Friday, September 21, 2007

Who Was The Buddha? Part 7

"To satisfy the necessities of life is not evil," the Buddha said. "To keep the body in good health is a duty, for otherwise we shall not be able to trim the lamp of wisdom and keep our mind strong and clear." Buddha then taught them the Dharma, which consisted of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The five holy men and others soon joined Buddha, accompanying him everywhere. As more joined, Buddha organized the Sangha, a community of bhikkus (dedicated monks and later nuns). The Sangha preserved the Dharma, and allowed bhikkus to concentrate on the goal of Nirvana. On raining seasons they would settle in Viharas (resting places in cave dwellings). Upasaka, followers who believed in Buddha's teachings, but could not follow the stict rule of the Sangha, were taught to follow the Five Precepts. Buddha returned to his birthplace in Kapilavastu, and his father was mortified to see his son begging for food. Buddha kissed his father's foot and said, "You belong to a noble line of kings. But I belong to the lineage of buddhas, and thousands of those have lived on alms." King Shuddhadana then remembered the Brahmin's prophesy and reconciled with his son. Buddha's wife, son, and cousin (Ananda) later joined the Sangha.

Who Was The Buddha? Part 6

Buddha went to the city of Sarnath and found the previous five holy men that deserted him earlier at a deer park. When they saw Buddha this time, they realized that he had risen to a higher state of holiness. The Buddha began teaching them what he had learned. He drew a circle in the ground with rice grains, representing the wheel of life that went on for existence after existence. This preaching was called his Deer Park Sermon, or "Setting in Motion the Wheel of Doctrine." Siddhartha revealed that he had become the Buddha, and described the pleasure that he had first known as a prince, and the life of severe asceticism that he had practiced. Neither of these was the true path to Nirvana. The true path was the Middle Way, which keeps aloof from both extremes.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Who Was The Buddha? Part 5

One day, Siddhartha realized that his years of penance only weakened his body, and he could not continue to meditate properly. When he stepped into the river to bathe, he was too weak to get out, and the trees lowered their branches to help him. In that instant, a milk-maid named Nandabala came and offered a bowl of milk and rice, which Siddhartha accepted. The five holy men left Siddhartha after witnessing this. Refreshed by the meal, Siddhartha sat down under a fig tree (often refered to as the Bo tree, or Tree of Enlightenment) and resolved to find out an answer to life and suffering. While meditating, Mara (an evil god) sent his three sons and daughters to tempt Siddhartha with thirst, lust, discontent, and distractions of pleasure. Siddhartha, unswayed, entered a deep meditation, and recalled all his previous rebirths, gained knowledge of the cycle of births and deaths, and with certainty, cast off the ignorance and passion of his ego which bound him to the world. Thereupon, Siddhartha had attained enlightenment and became the Buddha (enlightened one). His own desire and suffering were over and, as the Buddha, he experienced Nirvana... "There is a sphere which is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air...which is neither this world nor the other world, neither sun nor moon. I deny that it is coming or going, enduring, death or birth. It is only the end of suffering." Instead of casting off his body and his existence, however, Buddha made a great act of self-sacrifice. He turned back, determined to share his enlightement with others so that all living souls could end the cycles of their own rebirth and suffering.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Who Was The Buddha? Part 4

Siddhartha then wandered through northeastern India, sought out holy men, and learned about Samsara (reincarnation), Karma, and Moksha. Attracted to the ideas of Moksha, Siddhartha settled on the bank of Nairanjana River, and adopted a life of extreme self-denial and penances, meditating constantly. After six years of eating and drinking only enough to stay alive, his body was emaciated, and he was very weak. Five other holy men joined him, hoping to learn from his example.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Who Was The Buddha? Part 3

At age 29, Siddhartha asked his charioteer, Channa, to take him out of the city two times without the consent of the king. During these two trips, Siddhartha saw "Four Sights" that changed his life. On the first trip, he saw old age, sickness, and death. The second trip, he saw a wandering holy man, an ascetic, with no possessions. Siddhartha started questioning the holy man, who had a shaved head, wore only a ragged yellow robe, and carried a walking-staff. The man said, "I am... terrified by birth and death and therefore have adopted a homeless life to win salvation... I search for the most blessed state in which suffering, old age, and death are unknown." That night, Siddhartha silently kissed his sleeping wife and son, and ordered Channa to drive him out to the forest. At the edge of the forest, Siddhartha took off his jeweled sword, and cut off his hair and beard. He then took off all his princely garments and put on a yellow robe of a holy man. He then ordered Channa to take his possessions back to his father.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Who Was The Buddha? Part 2

Later when Queen Maya was going to her father's home to prepare for the birth, she stepped off her chariot in the Lumbini Gardens and held the branch of a sal tree to rest. In that instant, Siddhartha emerged from her right side without any help. The infant walked seven steps each in four directions of the compass, and lotus flowers sprouted from where his foot touched the earth. Then the infant said, "No further births have I to endure, for this is my last body. Now shall I destroy and pluck out by the roots the sorrow that is caused by birth and death." Seven days later Queen Maya died. Mahaprajapati, Maya's sister, looked after Siddhartha. King Shuddhodana shielded Siddhartha from all kinds of suffering and hardship. When Siddhartha was about 20, he married Yasodhara, daughter of one of the King's ministers, and one year later they had a child named Rahula (meaning "fetter" or "impediment").

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Who Was The Buddha? Part 1

Siddhartha (Buddha) was born around 563 B.C.E. in the town of Kapilavastu (located in today's Nepal). Siddhartha's parents were King Shuddhodana and Queen Maya, who ruled the Sakyas. His history is a miraculous one... One night, Queen Maya dreamed that an elephant with six tusks, carrying a lotus flower in its trunk, touched her right side. At that moment her son was conceived. Brahmins (learned men) came and interpreted the dream. The child would be either the greatest king in the world or the greatest ascetic (a holy man who practices self-denial). The future child would be named Siddhartha, which means "he whose aim is accomplished."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

There are countless stories in the Buddhist scriptures about the expression of limitless compassion. None expresses this better than the following story from the Zen tradition.

Once there was a simple Buddhist monk by the name of Ryokan who lived in perpetual retreat in a small hut at the base of a mountain. One evening a thief broke into his hut only to discover it was empty. Ryokan returned and caught him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift." The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away. Ryokan sat naked looking at the full moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could give him this beautiful moon, too."

Some might say that Ryokan was letting the thief take advantage of him by giving him his clothes. But the point of the story was that Ryokan was so compassionate and so non-attached that he genuinely didn't mind giving the thief his only possession - his clothes. This is best expressed in the words of Shantideva, who said:

"All those who suffer in the world do so because of a desire for their own happiness. All those happy in the world are so because of their desire for the happiness of others."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Practice for the New Millennium by the Dalai Lama

1. Spend 5 minutes at the beginning of each day remembering we all want the same things (to be happy and be loved) and we are all connected to one another.

2. Spend 5 minutes breathing in, cherishing yourself; and, breathing out cherishing others. If you think about people you have difficulty cherishing, extend your cherishing to them anyway.

3. During the day extend that attitude to everyone you meet. Practice cherishing the "simplest" person or people you dislike.

4. Continue this practice no matter what happens or what anyone does to you.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Message of the Buddha - The Four Noble Truths

Life is Suffering - To live is to suffer. Life is accompanied by inevitable pain, sickness, disappointment, disillusion, decay and death. This place we live on, the earth plane, is characterized by inevitable and unavoidable dissatisfaction, disappointment, rejection, failure, pain, yearning, decrepitude, and loss. "Suffering" in Buddhism refers not only to physical pain, aging, sickness, and death, and to emotional pain like fear, loss, jealousy, disappointment, and unrequited love, but also to the existential sense that, somehow, deep down, life is permanently out of joint. Everything is touched by the shadow of dissatisfaction, imperfection, disappointment. Suffering, in the Buddhist sense, is a pervasive condition. No one escapes it. Even enlightened teachers grow old, suffer the pains of decay, and die.

Suffering is Caused by Attachment - Suffering arises because everything changes, everything is impermanent. Everything is in process, all the time. Whenever we hope to find any lasting happiness by means of something that is changing, suffering results. This means that nothing in the realm of ordinary human experience can provide lasting happiness, and trying to force things to stand still and make us happy is itself the main source of misery. "Attachment" in Buddhism extends far beyond the sense of "greed" or "clinging" to something closer to what the Christian tradition would call "pride"--a self-centered isolation, the separate selfhood, "ego" in the worst sense. " This is a deep, pervasive, but normal kind of alienation--one seemingly built into the nature of the human nervous system. The most pervasive form of self-centered suffering takes place as we project upon everyday experience a huge burden of extraneous interpretations, associations, fantasies, emotions, painful memories, and diversions. We act then with the Buddhist big three problems: greed, aversion, and delusion. Greed sucks things in to our purposes, violating their natures as necessary. Aversion shoves things away, denies, distorts, destroys them--again violating their natures. In the state of delusion, we float, confused, not seeing, not knowing, insulated from the pain and salvation of deep experience. Instead of seeing each moment as it is, we react to each moment from our past pain and frustration; then we react to the pain and frustration; then we react to that reaction; and so on and on. In this way a special form of mental torment is created that consists of seemingly endless layers of pain, negative emotion, self-doubt and self-justification--known in Buddhism as "samsara," the illusory world we think of as real. It is what, in honest moments, many people might call "normality." I think of it this way: Instead of experiencing life directly, we create a worldview and experience it. That worldview serves to protect us through a system of explanations; but it also makes each of us into an isolated self, separated from nature, from real experience, from spirituality, and from one another--causing all experience to be distorted and "out of joint," and ourselves to suffer from living at one remove from life. We are nearly always, in some degree, outsiders to the world and even to our own experience. Buddhists have given deep attention to the ways human beings are at once empowered and entrapped by the categories we create for thought and language. Racial prejudice is a straightforward example of what Buddhists mean by suffering that is created by the mind; it is based on mental categories that distort perception and project our expectations onto others. The fundamental Buddhist act is to accept responsibility for one's projections, and to learn to know, first hand, how the mind creates illusion and amplifies suffering.

Freedom from Attachment is the Cure for Suffering - If we could be released from attachment, we would be released from suffering. And our primary attachment is to the concept of a separate, isolated self--from which we derive all other attachments and experience all other sufferings. This I understand to be the central belief of Buddhism: When we fully face, accept, and lighten the self-amplified sufferings of our lives; when we begin to experience life beyond our delusions and confusions, beyond self, beyond culture, beyond knowledge--what we find is not a meaningless universe of alien forces, but our true home. Life is real. Reality is good. Goodness, gratitude, love and joy are the natural state of the awakened heart. When people begin to feel released from their self-sustained sufferings, they experience life more fully, they become more cheerful and compassionate. Most people have heard of the ultimate release--"nirvana"--a state of mystical unity with the cosmos. Fewer people know the moving story of how the Buddha and his major followers throughout history have approached nirvana, only to turn back from that mystical escape and devote themselves to a life of helping others in this imperfect world. Enlightened people do not cease to experience the pain of existence. They only stop creating illusions that amplify that pain and cause new suffering.

The Way Out of Suffering is through the Eightfold Path - Buddha taught a method to lead away from self-sustained suffering toward a more enlightened and compassionate life--through the pursuit of morality, meditation, and wisdom, described as eight pursuits: right speech, right action, right livelihood, right concentration, right mindfulness, right effort, right understanding and right thought. Because it avoids the extremes of asceticism and indulgence in favor of a life of moderation, nonviolence and compassion, Buddhism is known as the "Middle Way."

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Live In Joy

Live in joy, in love, even among those who hate.
Live in joy, in health, even among the afflicted.
Live in joy, in peace, even among the troubled.
Look within.
Be still.
Free from fear and attachment,
Know the sweet joy of living in the way.
There is no fire like greed,
No crime like hatred,
No sorrow like separation,
No sickness like hunger of heart,
And no joy like the joy of freedom.
Health, contentment and trust are your greatest possessions,
And freedom your greatest joy.
Look within.
Be still.
Free from fear and attachment,
Know the sweet joy of living in the way.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Life's Journey

On life's journey faith is nourishment,
Virtuous deeds are a shelter,
Wisdom is the light by day
Right mindfulness is the protection by night.
If a man lives a pure life nothing can destroy him;
If he has conquered greed nothing can limit his freedom.

The Four Reliance's

The Four Reliance's
First, rely on the spirit and meaning of the teachings, not on the words;
Second, rely on the teachings, not on the personality of the teacher;
Third, rely on real wisdom, not superficial interpretation;
Fourth, rely on the essence of your pure wisdom mind, not on judgmental perceptions.

Hold Fast

As the Buddha was dying, Ananda asked who would be their teacher after death.
He replied to his disciple:
Be lamps unto yourselves.
Refuges unto yourselves.
Take yourself no external refuge.
Hold fast to the truth as a lamp.
Hold fast to the truth as a refuge.
Look not for a refuge in anyone besides yourselves. And those, Ananda, who either now or after I am dead, shall be a lamp unto themselves, shall betake themselves as no external refuge, but holding fast to the truth as their lamp, holding fast to the truth as their refuge, shall not look for refuge to anyone else besides themselves, it is they who shall reach to the very topmost height; but they must be anxious to learn.