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N1.01   The third introduction of Buddhism in Sri Lanka - By the beginning of the 18th century...

N1.02   Row by row, a historic depiction of Buddhist murals - The release of a set of 50 stamps on Buddhism...

N1.03   Serenity amidst a canopy of green - Over one hundred monks were present for the midday...

N1.04   A ray of light behind high walls - Prisoners and officials at Welikada are busy preparing for Vesak

N1.05   Down memory lane to 2500th Buddha Jayanthi - From Gal Oya valley to Alu Vihara Temple, Matale

N1.06   Upasikaramaya for Buddhist nuns - It was a matter for great satisfaction...

N1.07   Light a candle in the dark - It is defined as "the people or an organization which has...

N1.08   Vesak or Valentines? - To the majority, it carries a special spiritual message...

N1.09   Vesak card with a difference - The Vesak season is on. Shops and pavement stalls...

N1.10   Stop that heart attack, go vegetarian - The incidence of ischaemic heart disease...

N1.11   World wakes up to sleeping Buddha - People all over the world who were grieved over the destruction of...

N1.12   China gives facelift to world highest Buddha statue - The 1,280-year-old highest Buddha statue in Leshan...

N1.13   Lumbini to loom as world Buddhist centre  - Buddhist nations have pledged to expedite development...

N1.14   UK academics claim solving Buddha riddle - Two British university academics working in Nepal...

N1.15   Muslim meditators at Vipassana Center - Can Muslims practice Vipasana meditation...

N1.16   Save Lumbini for world Buddhists - The Bhikkhu Sangha in Lumbini in Nepal and in Sri Lanka have jointly...

N1.17   The Bauddha Mahotsav Festival - The Bauddha Mahotsav festival is scheduled to take place...

N1.18   Buddhist missionary monks drawn from Vidyodaya - Vidyodaya followed the tradition set by the Most Ven...

N1.19   Dhamma Vivarana Movement Charter - This aims and objectives of the Dhamma Vivarana Movement will be...

N1.20   Being vegan or vegetarian ? - The idea of flesh eating is so common, therefore one needs to know...

N1.21   Supreme Court allows petitioners in ‘Anduren Eliyata’ rights case - The Supreme Court last week granted leave...

N1.22   Buddhist festival in Toronto - The first of its kind, sponsored by the University of Toronto focuses...

N1.23   UN recognises Vesak as global holiday - A UN Resolution seeking...

N1.24   Mihintale, guardian of the memory of Mahinda - It was at Mihintale that the apostle Mahinda met...

N1.25   Narad Center - The International Buddhist Research and Information Center [IBRIC]...

N1.26   Poson the holiest day of the Buddhists - Poson Pura Pasaloswaka Day is the holiest day of the Sinhalese...

N1.27   Buddhism in Europe - Albert Einstein was not only a great German scientist...

N1.28   International Buddhist Centre in London celebrates 10th anniversary - The Buddhists and their well-wishers...

N1.29   Bringing Theravada Buddhism to the West - A man of vision who had the drive and stamina...

N1.30   Buddhist stand on war and its relevance to the present conflict - There have been many articles on...

 

 

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N1.01  The third introduction of Buddhism in Sri Lanka

A. G. S. Kariyawasam

By the beginning of the 18th century the Buddhasasana in Sri Lanka had deteriorated to such an extent that the Buddhist monks had become just nominal "Bhikkhus" living more or less like laymen under the designation ganinnanse. It was in such a background that the Sasana became blessed with its timely saviour and revivalist Velivita Saranankara Thera, who accordingly became responsible for the third "introduction" of Buddhism in the country, with its first introduction in the 6th century B.C. by the Buddha Himself and the second "official" introduction in the third century B.C. by Arahant Mahinda.

Born in 1698 in the remote Kandyan hamlet of Weliwita in Tumpane, he entered the Buddhist Order at the age of sixteen under the name Saranankara.

With the issueless death in 1739 of King Narendrasinha, the Sinhala kingship came to an end. Since then it was the Nayakkars from South India who ascended the Sinhala throne as they had become members of the Royal court owing to the matrimonial alliances of these later Kandyan kings maintained with them by getting down their wives from South India.

Accordingly, it was Narendrasinha's brother-in-law who succeeded him under the name Sri Vijaya Rajasinha (1739-1747). As a traditional requirement he embraced Buddhism and fall in line with the Sinhala Buddhist royal tradition so far maintained. Ven. Velivita Saranankara, after gaining the confidence of the king, decided to fulfil the mission of restoring Buddhism to its pristine glory of the past. In this vast undertaking the first requirement to be fulfilled was the restoration of Upasampada in the country, as fully qualified such monks had gone extinct by this time.

As such, he had to seek the assistance of some other Buddhist country in re-establishing the lost tradition. He himself was known as Samanera (novice) Saranankara in the absence of his Upasampada.

As the first step in this direction he got the king to negotiate with the Dutch, who were keen to oust the Portuguese and became the rulers of the maritime provinces, to accommodate a delegation from Sri Lanka to Thailand in a vessel belonging to the Dutch East India company. Five young silvats (the pious), by which name the novices who gathered around Ven. Saranankara were known as opposed to the ganinanses, were selected and sent as delegates, along with royal emissaries and other gifts.

In this sea-journey, being a favour from the Dutch East India Company, they could not go to Thailand but had to make a detour through Batavia and Myanmar. However, disaster befell this delegation when on their way to Myanmar from Batavia their ship sank when some of the delegates lost their lives. The few survivors who managed to get on to land were waylaid by robbers. However, they were treated by the local people and with utter disappointment the survivors returned to Sri Lanka.

Subsequently, a second delegation also was sent out of whom also one person died on the way. The others met the Thai King who agreed to send the Upasampada monks to Sri Lanka as had been requested. In the meantime Vijaya Rajasinha died and the Thai king was reluctant to send the Bhikkhus without first knowing what the new king's attitude to Ven. Saranankara's campaign would be. Yet for all, even this second delegation not only to met with failure but became so unfortunate that the members except one died there. Only one member survived to come back to the Kandyan Court to tell the tale.

However, the new King Keerthi Sri Rajasinha (1747-1781) too became a Buddhist, committing himself to follow the tradition of his predecessors.

Thus he quite willingly supported Ven. Saranankara's efforts and a third delegation consisting of sixty members was sent to Thailand. They met the Thai King Dhammika who readily consented to send a delegation of Upasampada monks to Sri Lanka under Ven. Upali Mahathera.

It was his third mission that succeeded, although with the misfortune of another delegate losing his life.

By this time Ven. Saranankara had become the protogonist of the movement and even the Thai delegates treated him as its leader. After performing the funeral rights of their colleague the delegates started their homeward journey and then again one of the ships had started to leak, creating yet another period of gloom and disappointment till they miraculously escaped disaster after a sea-journey lasting nearly seven weeks. Then they entered the Trincomalee harbour on 13th of May 1753, by which time two-and-a-half years had passed since the delegation had left the Sri Lankan shores. Thus, after so many gloomy setbacks they were at last happy and pleased to return to the motherland with achievement of a success.

Having heard the happy tidings of the success of the mission the delegates were received with high honours and were escorted to the Malwatte Viharaya at Kandy, known as Pushparamaya at the time, where lodgings had been prepared for them.

Ven. Upali Mahathera and the other delegates set about the task of this "re-introduction" of Buddhism in the island through Upasampada after the lapse of nearly a century. As an immediate requirement a Seemaa was declared with a building in the centre of the courtyard of the Pushparamaya for the conduct of the connected ceremonies and the Upasampada. On Friday, the 19th of July the first Upasampada was held by Upali Mahathera. In order that the local monks should become familiarised with the proceedings of the ritual it was the Samanera monks who had come from Thailand that were initially given the Upasampada.

Sir D. B. Jayatilake describes this significant event thus: "Rescued from the very jaws of extinction, the national faith was now established on a firm basis. Education had been revived, the light of learning was spreading over the island. The people had been aroused from a long sleep of indifference, the temples and dagabas were put into repair, religious worship and practices were restored and once more Sri Lanka deserved the name of "Buddhist Land", Saranankara the Last Sangharaja of Ceylon.

15 05 2003 - Daily News

 

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N1.02  Row by row, a historic depiction of Buddhist murals

The release of a set of 50 stamps on Buddhism is indeed a unique event in the history of philately. This is one of the main initiatives of the government to commemorate the 2550th Sambuddha Jayanthi marking the completion of 2550 years after the Passing-away of the Buddha. The fact that all the stamps are associated with the temples of Sri Lanka is also significant.

The stamps depict the skills of our painters, architects and engineers over the ages, the grandeur of our monasteries and the efforts by the rulers to preserve the teachings of the Buddha. The stamps highlight a series of temples throughout the country - some well known ones and the others not so well known. Selections from murals in these temples appear in the stamps along with drawings of the temples.

The fifty stamps are divided into ten themes. They are in the denominations of Rs 2.50, 4.50, 5, 10 and 17 - ten stamps in each denomination.

The top row (Rs 2.50 stamps) depicts (from left) a plea to the Master to descend from heaven to serve mankind - 12th century mural at the Tivamka image house, Polonnaruwa; Queen Mahamaya on her way to her parents - a 5th century limestone bas-relief from Jetavana Vihara, Anuradhapura; the birth of Prince Siddhartha from an early 19th century wall painting from Shailabimbaramaya, Dodanduwa; Prince Siddhartha visited by Asita, the Royal teacher - Purvarama Vihara, Kataluwa, and the Great Renunciation, a 5th century bas-relief from Girihandu Vihara, Ambalantota.

The second row of stamps depict the defeat of Maara by the Buddha (Hindagala Vihara - 19th century); the first sermon being delivered (Dambulla rock temple); the conversion of Aalavaka (Sapugoda Vihara-Beruwala - 19th century); the funeral pyre of the Master (Veheragala Samudragiri Vihara, Mirissa; and Buddha's relics being brought to Sri Lanka by Tapassu and Bhalluka (Girhandu Seya, Titiyaya).

'Paarami' (Perfections) depicted through Jataka stories forms the theme of the third row of stamps: Generosity - Vessantara Jataka Bodhirukkharamaya,Eluvapitiya); Wisdom - Paduma Jataka (Kaballelena Vihara, Wariyapola); Renunciation - Sutasoma Jataka (Degaldoruwa Vihara); Equanimity - Siva Jataka (Paramakanda Vihara, Anamaduwa) and Loving kindness - Sachchakira Jataka (Sunanadaramaya, Ambalangoda).

Fourth row: Arahant Mahinda delivering the first sermon and Mihintale stupa; establishment of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Rajagiri lena-Minhintale; Sri Maha Bodhi; scripting the Dhamma at Alu Vihara, Matale; Sri Dalada being brought to Sri Lanka and Lankapatuna Vihara, Trincomalee.

The fifth row of stamps depict the different traditions, emergence of 'katikavatas' , re-establishment of the higher ordination, and Buddha Jayanthi.

Stamps in the sixth and seventh row show the Buddhist influence on society with devotees partaking in numerous rituals and activities.

Places of worship identified as those visited by the Buddha are depicted in the eighth row. The Buddhist influence in architecture, art and sculpture is shown in the last two rows of stamps. These include the twin ponds in Anuradhapura, a moonstone at Magul Maha Vihara at Lahugala, Bodhisatva Avalokiteshvara at Muhudu Maha Vihara, Pottuvil, Nalanda Gedige and Tampita Vihara at Menikkadavara.

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N1.03  Serenity amidst a canopy of green

D. C. Ranatunga
 

Over one hundred monks were present for the midday 'dana'. It was a rare sight to see them walking silently down the pathway on pindapatha in keeping with tradition dating back to the days of the Buddha when monks went on alms rounds for their food.

They came in single file, one after the other, each carrying the alms bowl. Once their feet were washed, they moved on and patiently let the devotees serve the dana into their bowls. Then they retired into the alms hall a little distance away and sat down to eat the food they had been offered.

The monks were followed by a group of nuns clad in their deep brown robes. We were at Nauyana forest monastery, a few miles away from Kurunegala on the Dambulla road. Turning left just before reaching Melsiripura, we drove along a newly tarred road, certain sections of which were still being given the final touches.

A neatly kept pathway led us on a steady climb through the forest, the greenery all around providing a cool canopy. It was a hot sunny morning, yet the shade protected us from the heat. The serene undisturbed environment seemed ideal for meditation and the pathway led to the kutis where monks stay and meditate.

The monastery is in the midst of a 200-acre forest. The government reserve has been given over on the strict understanding that the trees will be protected. The temple authorities are going one better. While protecting the existing flora, they have a programme planned to grow more trees including mahogany and other species.

In all, there are kutis for at least 60 monks. These have been built away from the entrance to the monastery where the shrine room and the preaching hall are located. Facilities are also provided for the devotees who come to offer alms. It's only during a restricted period that visitors are allowed into the areas where the kutis are. This is to avoid disturbing the meditating monks.

Our visit coincided with a 'pinkama' organised to commemorate the birthday of the chief monk, the highly respected and renowned meditation teacher Venerable Nauyane Ariyadahamma Nayaka Thera.

Nauyana forest monastery is one in a chain of nearly 150 meditation centres functioning under the Nayaka Thera throughout the island. It has its headquarters at Galduwa near Ambalangoda. The entire operation is managed by a Sangha Sabha, the Galduwa Kalyani Yogashrama Sansthawa assisted by the lay 'dayaka sabhas' at each venue.

While there are monks in permanent residence at the different monasteries, foreign monks also come here for short periods. Laymen both local and foreign can also stay for short periods and practise meditation.

22 05 2005 – Sunday Times

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N1.04  A ray of light behind high walls

Prisoners and officials at Welikada are busy preparing for Vesak

Isuri Kaviratne

Vesak lanterns, pandals and other Vesak decorations are taking shape in people’s homes and workplaces and even behind the forbiddingly high walls of the Welikada jail.

Inmates of the Welikada prison have been engrossed in making their Vesak decorations for some weeks now. The pandal which shows the "Sama Jathakaya" was being completed when we visited last week. Even as they listened to the lilting melodies of Bhathiya and Santush on the radio, the prisoners were drawing the scenes that would make up the pandal. "The drawing of the thorana will be over by tomorrow afternoon," said the chief painter, dipping his brush into the paint tins around him. It had taken two painters about three weeks to draw the pictures for the thorana. The recording of the virindu too was taking place in an atmosphere of unity, rarely to be seen in today’s society.

"Saranai saranai saranai- palamuwa buddhan saranai." These men convicted of various crimes were singing in unison with the officers in charge of the prison. "Himi pamula mata budu sisilasak daneya." The person who was playing the rabana sighed as the song continued. He, who had once played a rabana and sung virindu for the pandals in temples, is now in prison for murder, the death sentence awaiting him.

"I have no idea about the crime I was imprisoned for. I asked for an appeal but it didn’t work out," he said.

Clad in white, an elderly prisoner, who wrote the script of the "Jathakaya" for the pandal said that he used to be a script writer for Rupavahini and ITN.

"I went through the ‘Jathaka Potha’ and chose ‘Sama Jathakaya’ and wrote the dialogue as I have experience writing scripts," he said.

Another inmate, handling the electrical wiring of the pandal said that he had been doing such work since he was young. "Prison officials provide us with the necessary equipment," he says.

Another group of prisoners working on an elaborate Vesak lantern made of coconut shells in the corridor of their cells said that they have been working hard to finish the lantern before Vesak, but have been slightly distracted by the cricket.

"Whenever our team plays we watch the matches," said one of the prisoners while another said the lanterns came first as he was not a cricket fan.

Prisons Commissioner said though their main focus was the pandal, the prisoners will also take part in the annual Vesak Lantern Competition organized by Ven. Watanapola Rathanasara Thera at Rajakaruna Mawatha.

"About 200 prisoners will participate in the perahera conducted by Sri Sambodhi Viharaya as well," he said.

He said the lanterns made by the prisoners and a photo exhibition will be on view in a section around the Beira Lake. The photos depict religious, cultural, educational activities done by the prisoners. He also said that most prisoners did not eat meat and the money they save is used to release cows every poya.

"Prisoners should not be identified only as criminals. They are human beings too. They are not the same people they were when they first came to prison. They are being rehabilitated. It’s time that society too changed its attitude towards prisoners just as we have done within the prison," he said.

Chief Jailor said there will be chanting of ‘gihi pirith’ till dawn on Vesak Poya day and prisoners of all religions too will participate at this event.

29 05 2007 - Sunday Times

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N1.05  Down memory lane to 2500th Buddha Jayanthi:

From Gal Oya valley to Alu Vihara Temple, Matale

Gamini G. Punchihewa

GAL OYA: D.S. Senanayake created the Gal Oya Multi-purpose Project in 1950 which was administered by the then Gal Oya Development Board.

This was passed by an Act of Parliament No. 51 on 24.11.1949. Though this colossal Gal Oya Project was D.S's brainchild, he was not alive to see his dream come true, as he died on 22.03.1952.

"Gal Oya has become a household word. It is symbolic of the new Lanka. May it obtain fulfilment speedily and herald the progress of our march towards self-sufficiency."

With these words, D.S. Senanayake unveiled the commemorative pillar which was inscribed in English, Sinhalese and Tamil erected at Inginiyagala.

"This commemorated the inauguration of the Gal Oya Irrigation and Power Project, opened by the Hon. D.S. Senanayake, Prime Minister of Lanka on August 24, 1949" (culled from Dr. R.L. Brohier's 'The Gal Oya Project, Ceylon, 1951).

Even after 50 years of the emergence of this pioneer Project, Gal Oya is still a household word through the length and breadth of Sri Lanka.

They say history repeats itself, so this mighty Gal Oya Multi-Purpose Project has re-created history in bringing back the ancient Digamadulla region of the 3rd century B.C., to its pristine glory and abundance in rice production, as one of the bountiful rice bowls in our island fair.

Besides this giant Senanayake Samudraya the biggest in our country there was also a network of major irrigation tanks built by harnessing the rivers, Oyas that flowed through the valley of Gal Oya.

Among them was the Pallan Oya tank built after damming the Pallan Oya nestling in the right bank of the Senanayake Samudraya. It was a frotuous man-made lake, as its construction coincided with the 2500th Buddha Jayanthi of 1956/57, it was aptly named as Jayanthi Weva.

This tranquil but serene Jayanthi Weva over-looks the magnificent mountain frontier of Govinda Hela or 'Westminster' named so romantically by the British rulers of the time, as this very sentinel-like rock has the very replica of the Westminster Abbey of London.

Historically Govinda Hela was the abode of refuge of Prince Bhuvaneka Bahu I, of the 13th century A.D.

One significant feature of the of the Jayanthi Weva is that it was solely constructed with the expertise knowledge of our local irrigation engineers, other technical personnel and the work force attached to the Gal Oya Development Board.

Jayanthi Weva lies about 5-6 miles away from Inginiyagala off the Siyambalanduwa-Inginiyagla highway. Among those irrigation engineers involved in the construction of the Jayanthi Weva are T.O.P. Fernando (fondly called as 'TOP' Fernando, as he was fittingly on the top form, where his irrigation works were concerned) M.S.M. de Silva, Wijesundera, M.M. Ismail (hailing from Sammanthurai - a pioneer irrigation engineer of the Irrigation Department and the G.O.D.B.). Mr. Ismail was such a skilled irrigation engineer that when tracing irrigation channels, he did not use the Theodolite to trace channels.

Instead, he went ahead of the machine which followed with its operator, and with his two hands stretched out, he would guide by mere sight on ground level as to how the channel trace should go.

The capacity of the Jayanthi Weva is 70,000 acre feet of water (being 1/10th of that of the Senanayake Samudraya).

Alu Vihara Temple, Matale

The next most sanctimonious event that took place in commemoration of the 2500th Buddha Jayanthi of 1956/57 was the laying of the foundation stone at the Alu Vihara Temple, Matale for the construction of the International Library and Museum by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Chanouk of Cambodia on 17.2.1957.

The whole edifice when completed was inaugurated by the late Premier, Sirimao Dias Bandaranaike on 1.9.1974. When I visited on my usual ramblings around Matale in early January, 2002, I paid a visit to the Alu Vihara Temple, where the epic Tripitakas (Buddhist scriptures) written down in Pali by a conclave of Buddhist monks from memory at the time at this ancient monastery of Alu Vihara in the reign of king Valagamba of the 1st century A.D.

12 05 2006 - Daily News

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N1.06  Upasikaramaya for Buddhist nuns

D. Amarasiri Weeraratne

It was a matter for great satisfaction to have read in the Daily News of 23/1/03 that the Buddha Sasana Ministry in concert with the Government of the People's Republic of China has laid the foundation for a seminary for training Buddhist nuns.

This has been a crying need for a long-time. Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka are called Dasa Sil Mathas. The word Dasa-Sil Matha, is an unscriptural word. It is not found in the cannonial texts, commentarial literature, or Sinhalese Buddhist literature up to the year 1903. The Bhikkhuni Sasana in Sri Lanka became defunct during the Cholian conquest of Anuradhapura in 1017 AD. From that time onwards up to the British conquest in 1815 the patriarchal male chauvinistic and monopolistic monk-masters at priestcraft taught that the Bhikkuni Sasana is defunct and cannot be revived. They came out with a spacious reason based on sophistry to rationalise their gynaephobia.

People were gullible enough to be duped in those ages of faith and illiteracy. They brought in a rule in the Dambadeniya Katikawata to bar the entry of all "low-caste men" to the Sangha. This iniquitous rule is still maintained in the Siamese sect headquartered at Malwatte-Asgiriya, Kandy. When men were thus, debarred what justice could women expect? They and the "low-caste" men waited till British rule with its democratic ideals, religious freedom and civil liberties became open to all.

"Low-caste" men went to Burma and got ordained there. They opened the Amarapura and Ramanna Sects that admitted men of all castes. Similarly women went to Burma in 1903 got Samaneri Ordination there under Das Sila of the novice monks and nuns. Thus was established the Junior Order of Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka. They were in the Dhamma-Vinaya Samaneri Bhikkunis. But the monks coined a name for them "Dasa Sil Matha" to discriminate against them and keep them apart from their legitimate position of "Samaneri Bhikkuni" in the Sasana. And so they came to be called "Dasa Sil Mathas". They were neither Bhikkunis nor lay-women. They are a kind of hermaphrodite in the Buddha-Sasana. What an absurd position.

Now the point I want to make is this. The proposed Seminary for Dasa-sil Matha, Nuns is going to be called Das Sil Matha Sravaka Peetaya. I suggest that it should be called Buddha-Sravika Dharma Peetaya. (Seminary for Buddhist Nuns). In addiction to 2500 Dasa Sil Matha Nuns, there are now 400 fully ordained Bhikkunis in Sri Lanka. Batches of D.S.M. Nuns were given full Bhikkuni Ordination (Upasampada) at Sarnath India. Buddha-Gaya, and at Dambulla Raja Maha-Vihara.

Batches of DSM Nuns continue to be trained for Upasampada at Dambulla at a Training Centre at Kelundawela-Dambulla. Ven. Inamaluve Sumangala has released three temples under him to DSM nuns for this purpose. Facilities at there are poor and inadequate.So what I wish to say is that the proposed Training Centre coming up at Peliyagoda, Kelaniya under Buddha Sasana Ministry patronage and aid from the Chinese Government should be named Buddha-Sravika Dharma Peetaya and not Dasa Sil Matha Sravaka Peetaya as reported in the DN news report referred to. DSM Sravaka Peetaya is a meaningless name. Only Bhikkhus and Bhikkunis can be called Buddha-Sravakas and Buddha Sravikas.

It is a crying shame that Buddhist Nuns who number about 2500 have no Training College. Seminary or Pirivena. Mahayana Buddhist countries such as China, Taiwan and Japan have Training Colleges (Seminaries) and Universities for Buddhist Nuns. If the premier Theravada country does not have a Seminary for Nuns it would be a sad reflection of the Status of women in Theravada Buddhism.

In Sri Lanka there are more than one Pirivena in each town for the education of monks. They receive Government grants for payments of teachers. In addition each pupil monk is allocated Rs. 1240, probably for board and lodging. The pupil monks get free robes and free books from Government. The Nuns receive none of these benefits.

So it is time that a seminary for the education and training of Buddhist Nuns be set up. The present Minister of Buddha Sasana Affairs is an enlightened and well informed person on Buddha Dhamma and Sasana Affairs. His predecessors were ignorant people getting misguided by anti-feminist patriarchs who ignored the needs and requirements of Buddhist Nuns.

Today over 100 temples are deserted in the NCP, EP and Uva. Monks disrobe after University graduation. Even those who remain do not like to live in the remote villages where people are poor. To fill this void it is timely that Nuns be given a proper training and education. Even now the 2500 DSM Nuns live a frugal life, without the motor cars, TVs, refrigerators etc.

They own no temporalities, like paddy lands, coconut estates, tea land etc. It is time the Nuns be given proper education and training. Because in the past nuns came from the poorer sections of society and lacked proper education and training. They were marginalised and ignored. This position can be reversed and the Sasana can be fostered and protected by fostering and promoting the position of Buddhist Nuns.

15 05 2003 - Daily News

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N1.07  Light a candle in the dark

Ven. Sumonjyoti Sraman, Bangladesh

TEACHERS: It is defined as "the people or an organization which has power to make decisions or who has particular area of responsibility in a country or a region."

Are our authorities doing their jobs correctly? Are they really authorities?

For the last few days I have been reading some news items about teachers, playing truant. According to the statistics out of 200,000 teachers 40,000 teachers are absent everyday.

When I spoke to a teacher about this he told that teachers are also human and that they too have their personal work. He also said that there are some teachers who take leave without any special reason. Sometimes educational authorities are responsible for that.

I think this is true. If authorities do their jobs well there is no way for a teacher to play truant. Also there was a letter that teachers are responsible for the poor results, perhaps not all, but to make teachers very efficient, authorities should work actively.

They must analyse the report, find out from where good results and the poor results come. Also they should see the absent statistics of the teachers.

There should be a routine inspection on the schools to find the reasons for being truant. If the authorities visit those schools regularly teachers have no way of leaving the school. While criticising we should take action.

If we take the results of the schoolchildren we may be able to see that most good results come from city schools.

The city schools have all facilities. But the rural schools, at times do not have enough teachers to teach or proper sanitary facilities. So, those students have less facilities to sit for their exams and answer question papers properly. It is not the fault of the teachers and students.

Many schools, which have no proper facilities for students, were highlighted in the television. Authorities should take measures for these problems without only criticizing. If teachers play truant, they should question the principals, if principals play truant, they should put pressure on the school supervisor of the area.

Don’t think only of your own gains or benefits. Think about others as well. Those affluent countries became rich, because they work hard, and do their duties well, Buddha said.

Attanam era Pathamam
Patirupe Nivesaye
Athanmam anusaseyya
Na Kilisseyya pandito

"Let one first establish oneself in what is proper and then instruct others. Such a wise man will not be defiled."

I think it is the best to do our own duties without criticizing others.

30 05 2007 - Daily News

 

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N1.08  Vesak or Valentines?

Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Vesak: To the majority, it carries a special spiritual message associated with the Buddha's Birth, Enlightenment and Passing Away. Despite the colourful Vesak kudus and pandals that give such an air of festivity to Vesak, it is essentially a time for quiet reflection and serene spirituality.

With the invasion of consumerism, however, many things have altered, even the manner of celebrating Vesak. Today, the accent seems to fall on the mundane, the celebration, and that again is a far cry from how Vesak was observed a few years ago. Little wonder that plastic Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck have replaced the traditional olu bakkas or the humorous looking masks associated with Vesak and that Vesak greetings are now similar to Valentine's Day cards.

It is against this backdrop that the government decided to crack down on Vesak cards that infringe upon Buddhist religious sentiment by 'indecency and violation of the sanctity of the occasion'. Imposing a tough ban on the printing and selling of such cards, the Ministry of Justice, Judicial Reforms, National Integration and Buddha Sasana recently instructed police stations to take action against those violating the new regulations.

But how effective is the ban? Despite orders to seize vulgar cards and to charge the offenders, what we saw at various card shops was an attempt to outwit the authorities. With the ban being strictly applied to the sale of cards with images of actors and actresses in romantic poses, traders have instead, settled for doves and peacocks, roses and rabbits complete with passionate verses.

From Maradana to Bambalapitya, it is a sea of make- shift card shops, each containing cards with romantic greetings. Under the guise of Vesak greetings, many contain wishes to meet again in the journey through Samsara as lovers. Even cards with wishes for early unions are being sold!

S.A. Ariyaratne runs a tiny card shop at the Kirulapone junction. He believes that preferences have drastically changed over the years. A decade ago, the demand was for cards with Buddha images. Today, his customers want roses and soldiers.

And there indeed were elaborate cards with paper hearts bursting open, hearts nestled among roses and turtle doves bearing rings. Asked about the ban on indecent cards, one printer said that 'indecency' has not been legally defined. "In an open economy, everything depends on supply and demand. People are not satisfied with the Buddha images alone. They want cards with actors, flowers, soldiers etc; Many want cards with romantic expressions."

Practising his seasonal business of card-selling during Vesak were Mahendra and his wife Swarna in Maradana. One card caught my eye- an image of the destroyed Bamiyan Buddha which seemed to be popular with many. Seetha Illangathileke who bought a dozen Bamiyan cards said that the present day cards were so vulgar that she felt ashamed to send them. "They have no Vesak thoughts. At least this card will mean something special as all Buddhists mourned the Taliban's destruction of the ancient sandstone Buddha statues."

According to Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thero, Secretary of the Jathika Sangha Sabhawa and chief priest of Naga Vihara, a Vesak card should essentially carry a religious message, irrespective of the relationship between the sender and receiver. "First, a Buddhist must understand the significance of Vesak. No other event is as important as Vesak to a Buddhist, yet many lose sight of its significance," noted Ven. Sobhitha.

Shashika Perera is a young card seller from Mt. Lavinia. He claims that cards with roses and hearts sell like hot cakes. Last year he sold over 400 such cards and has invested more in such cards this year. "That's where the money is. That is the market. So what is wrong?" he asks. But Sugathasena, Shashika's father who runs another temporary card shop has different views. "The new regulations are necessary. People are forgetting that Vesak is about impermanence and sharing a spiritual message. Even to lovers, we should be sending meaningful messages," he said. His stall too, had a few cards with the customary love lines. His defence was that they were surplus cards from previous years, as he did not wish to invest in them anymore. " I don't want to be nabbed by the police," he said.

Said M. Manjula Pushpakumara, a young card-seller from Kirulapone, "Young people go for the picture and the glossy finish. Often, older folk come and ask us to select the verses. I am a Buddhist too. I would rather sell spiritual cards than cards with cheap sentiments."

But few vendors shared his view. Many felt that they were simply catering to public demand. They claim that the first step should be to stop printing offensive cards. "We buy them because they are available. When we supply the demand, the market expands," they claim. Cards don't come cheap either. The more romantic the card, the higher the price. The decorative cards with hearts and doves resembling wedding invitations were priced at Rs. 70 each while others ranged from Rs. 50-60.

Questioned about the effectiveness of the ban, Buddha Sasana Minister W.J.M. Lokubandara said the police have been instructed to seize indecent cards and institute action. The Minister said the ban has been misinterpreted by some to suit their purposes. "Many think that we have only banned the sale of Vesak cards with pictures of actors or couples. The words 'indecency and injury to religious sentiments' have been carefully included to cover other aspects too."

" It is not a matter of introducing tough laws, but one that calls for action. Wrongdoers should be nabbed and immediate action taken. It is also inadequate to look at the cover when some of the verses are steamy and lustful. Only strict action can serve as a deterrent in the future," said the Ven. Sobhitha. Vesak cards, as Ven. Sobhitha says should only be spiritual messages , an exchange of Buddhist thinking. They should carry no mundane or personal thoughts. What the authorities cannot do by seizing indecent greetings, the buyers could do by being mindful of the message of Vesak.

26 05 2002 - Sunday Times

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N1.09  Vesak card with a difference

The Vesak season is on. Shops and pavement stalls are full of Buddhist flags, Vesak cards and numerous types of decorative material. Every year the debate is on about the quality of Vesak cards, particularly the themes and illustrations used for some of them. Protests are made and the authorities faithfully promise to take action. A year later, they re-appear with absolutely no action being taken. And the show goes on.

Amidst heaps of Vesak cards this year, is a novel one released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 'A journey into Sri Lanka is a journey into Pure Buddhism', is the theme of the attractive Vesak card. 'The Journey' is divided into several aspects and artistically illustrated. Buddhist monuments, Buddhist art, Buddhist meditation, and Buddhist culture are the aspects featured. The cover is a beautiful blend of ola books and a sheaf of lotus flowers.

The Vesak card had been planned in collaboration with the Tourist Board, to attract tourists to Sri Lanka. The Ministry has distributed the cards through Sri Lankan missions abroad giving Sri Lankans living abroad an opportunity to buy them and send to their friends.

The text sums up the Buddha's teaching thus: "The sublime message of the Buddha, preached 2500 years ago is a peerless gift to mankind. Its core elements of Generosity (Alobha), Love (Adosha) and Wisdom (Amoha) continue to influence the hearts and minds of people all over the world.

In Buddha's own words, his philosophy could be summarised as: 'To refrain from doing evil, to indulge in doing good, to cleanse one's mind - this is the teaching of all Buddhas'.

The card is the creation of W. M. K. Wijayabandara, the graphic artist with several international awards to his credit.

Bhikkhu Bodhi's address

To spread the message of Buddhism during Vesak, the Foreign Ministry has also published Bhikkhu Bodhi's address at the United Nations on the occasion of the Vesak celebrations in 2000 when the UN accepted Vesak as a holiday in its calendar. Titled 'Buddha and His Message - Past, Present & Future' the address was well received throughout the world for its lucidity and simplicity. Bhikkhu Bodhi's explanation of the significance of Vesak and Buddha's teachings was highly appreciated, particularly by the non-Buddhists.

"In its diagnosis of the mental defilements as the underlying cause of human suffering, the teaching shows us the hidden roots of our personal and collective problems.

By proposing a practical path of moral and mental training, the teaching offers us an effective remedy for tackling the problems of the world in the one place where they are directly accessible to us: in our own minds.

As we enter the new millennium, the Buddha's teaching provides us all, regardless of our religious convictions, with the guidelines we need to make our world a more peaceful and congenial place to live" was how Bhikkhu Bodhi concluded his address.

The publication has been done in association with the Buddhist Publication Society, of which Bhikkhu Bodhi is President. Incidentally, he is now resident in the USA.

11 05 2003 - Sunday Times

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N1.10  Stop that heart attack, go vegetarian

Dr. D. P. Athukorale

The incidence of ischaemic heart disease (I.H.D.) has been rising steadily in Sri Lanka over the last four decades whereas it has been declining in countries like the U.S.A. An increasing number of Americans are turning to vegetarianism. In spite of the concept of ahimsa preached in Buddhism and Hinduism, a large number of Buddhists and Hindus in Sri Lanka are non-vegetarians.

There is mounting evidence that changes in lifestyle can play a major role in actually preventing, retarding and even reversing the course of ischaemic heart disease.

Dietary cholesterol and saturated fats are definitely important factors in the causation of heart attacks. People in east Finland are among the highest consumers of animal fat which contains saturated fats and cholesterol and these people have the world's highest rate of ischaemic heart disease, whereas the people in the southern part of Japan eat very little fat and have a very low rate of heart attacks.

Cholesterol is absent in plant based food and is found only in animal fat. When we consume animal food, only about 40% of the cholesterol is absorbed and the rest passes out through the intestine.

Saturated fat which is mainly found in animal based food such as meat (mainly red meat such as mutton, lamb, beef, pork and ham) whole milk, butter and processed cheese, when consumed are absorbed from the intestine and after a complicated process is converted to atherogenic cholesterol (L.D.L cholesterol or bad cholesterol).

Poultry and fish also contain substantial amounts of saturated fats. Liver, brain and kidney have large amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat. Fatty acids found in plant food are usually unsaturated fatty acids which reduce the level of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), the two exceptions being coconut oil and palm oil which are saturated oils containing medium chain fatty acids unlike long chain fatty acids present in animal fat. Coconut oil and palm oil when consumed in moderation do not raise the level of LDL cholesterol.

In non-vegetarians the excess of cholesterol is deposited as L.D.L. cholesterol in the wall of coronary arteries which feed the heart muscle and lead to narrowing and hardening of these arteries as the deposits grow. This process is called atherosclerosis. Eventually these arteries get blocked resulting in heart attacks (myocardial infarction). It is common knowledge that out of those who get heart attacks a majority (about 60%) die at home and only about 40% reach hospital.

Since 1950, many studies have been done to compare the prevalence of heart disease among people who eat different types of food. According to Snowden et al (Preventive Medicine 1984) who monitored 25,000 vegetarians from 1960 to 1980, there is a reduction in heart attacks by over 60% among vegetarians compared to overall U.S. statistics. A similar study conducted in Norway in 1991 by Fonnebo (Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 1992) showed that vegetarians were found to have one half of the rate of I.H.D. of the general Norwegian populations.

As previously mentioned, dietary cholesterol comes only from animal products which also contain large amounts of saturated fat, a significant portion of which, is converted to cholesterol in the liver and other tissues. The more cholesterol you have in your blood, higher are your chances of getting atherosclerosis and this process ends up in plaque formation leading to thrombus (clot) formation resulting in myocardial infarction (heart attack).

A groups of scientists at Harvard University led by Dr. Frank Sachs compared 73 male and 43 female vegetarians with corresponding non-vegetarians and found that vegetarians had only 68% of blood cholesterol of meat eaters. The level of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) was 39% lower in vegetarians. (Sachs et al NEJM, 1975). Mr. Mei and Miyoshi at Tokushima University School of Medicine found that increased intake of animal protein was associated with increase in heart disease risk. (Japanese Journal of Hygiene 1991).

Vegetable protein and dietary fibre

Vegetable protein and fibre provide protection against heart disease. The dietary fibre lowers blood cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease risk by 40% (Kushi et al NEJM 1985). It is the soluble fibre found in legumes, beans, oat bran and outer layer of fruits like apples that lowers the level of blood cholesterol. Animal based diets do not contain dietary fibre and of course no vegetable protein and therefore avoiding heart disease through nutrition means becoming a vegetarian.

Vegetarianism in the treatment of heart disease

Dr. Ornish of University of California conducted a year long trial with a group of patients with advanced stages of heart disease. He stopped their medication and placed them on low fat vegetarian diet and motivated them to stop smoking and engage in moderate exercise and stress management; and compared them with another group which continued the medication. Coronary angiography was done at the end of one year and he found that patients who were not vegetarian had worsening of their heart disease whereas the 82% of patients on vegetarian diet and other lifestyle modification programmes showed a regression of their blockage in arteries without use of any form of medication. (Ornish et al Lancet 1990). This trial suggests quite conclusively that vegetarianism can prevent or even reverse heart disease.

High Iron Content

High iron content of red meat is being considered a risk factor in ischaemic heart disease. Iron in excess acts as a catalyst of lipid peroxide free radicals which play an important role in causation of I-H-D. Meat and liver contain both cholesterol and iron and the risk of I.H.D. increases four times by their consumption whereas vegetarian diet lacks both cholesterol and excess iron and therefore prevents or retards I.H.D.

Magnesium Intake

Magnesium deficiency has been a known factor in the pathogenesis of I.H.D. and strokes (Burch and Giles, Am. Heart J. 1994). I. H. D. is less common in areas with hard water having increased magnesium, and magnesium is the most abundant cation in the human body.

Magnesium deficiency plays a role in elevating serum cholesterol and may cause coronary artery spasm and precipitate attacks of angina (Turlpaty and Alutra, 1980, Science) and may precipitate an attack of myocardial infarction (heart attack) and enhances fatal arrhythmias.  

In most diets, cereals and vegetables contribute to a major portion of magnesium intake. Seeds and grains are rich in magnesium. Green vegetables have significant quantities of magnesium. In the animal kingdom, magnesium is found only in bones. Consumption of bones is dangerous as bones too, have poisonous metals such as lead.  

Balanced Intake of Minerals

The vegetarian diet with minerals etc. keeps the body's energy level high, nerves tranquil and muscles, heart and blood healthy. These not only help in maintaining immunity from disease but also helps in regulation of blood pH. When you consume a diet high in acid forming food such as red meat, poultry, eggs, white sugar, fats and oils, the body becomes overly acid.  

The vegetarian diet which has adequate minerals, corrects acidity, aids the digestion and keeps the heart healthy, regulate heart beats and prevents palpitations. The dietary items useful in this regard are cabbages, radish, green beans, legumes, nuts, sesame, cucumber, fresh fruits and vegetables. There is evidence at present that a vegetarian diet can prevent, retard or reverse atherosclerosis and prolong life. Vegetarianism will help you to stay healthier and active longer.

Sunday Leader - 29 April 2001

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N1.11  World wakes up to sleeping Buddha

Soviet archaeologists unearth Tajikistan's sleeping Buddha

Reclining Buddha. By KashaH. Dushanbe, Tajikistan

ISLAMABAD, March 30 - People all over the world who were grieved over the destruction of the giant-sized Bamiyan Buddha statues including the tallest one there, have something to cheer about.

Tajikistan, a neighbour of Afghanistan, has discovered a 5th century A. D. statue of a sleeping Buddha, built during the period of emperor Kanishka. Archaeologists of the former Soviet Union stumbled upon the statue 35 years ago. It is expected to be on display in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, in August.

According to a report in the Pakistani English daily The Nation, Ahmed Rashid an authority on the Taliban, has said that after the recent destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas the Tajikistan Buddha - 14 metres long - would be the largest ancient Buddha statue in Central Asia.

Rashid quoted Hiroshi Takahashi, a former Japanese and now a UN diplomat in Dushanbe, as saying that "this Buddha is a most remarkable discovery for the Buddhist world and the cultural heritage of mankind. There will be many in Japan and other countries who will be enormously interested in coming to see this Buddha".

The report said that the Tajikistan Buddha was first excavated in 1996 from a vast Buddhist monastery complex in Ajina Tepa in southern Tajikistan. Ajina Tepa was on the ancient Silk Route connecting China with Europe and Central Asia with the Indian seaports.

"Some 300 km north of Bamiyan, Ajina Tepa was part of the widespread Buddhist renaissance and culture in Central Asia and Xinjiang under the Kushan kings. The Kushans descended from a branch of the Chinese Yuehchih tribes that first invaded Central Asia around 140 A. D. Rashid said.

The report said the erstwhile Soviet Union chose not to publicise the discovery of the giant Buddha as they did not want the Tajiks to demonstrate their pre-Islamic and Islamic archeological collections. Bringing the Buddha to light has been the lifetime task of Dr. Babamulloev Saidmurad, the newly appointed Director of Tajikistan's Museum of National Antiquities. The museum will official open in August.  

Dr. Saidmurad has been quoted as saying that Buddha was in 100 pieces stored in boxes in the basement of the museum and it had to be put together like a huge jigsaw.

"Smaller Buddhist statues and murals were shipped (by the Soviets) to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and hidden away in its vaults", Dr. Saidmurad said. But the Tajik Buddha "was too big to move" and hence was buried in the basement of the museum. The statue was reconstructed over a period of six months.

"The Buddha lies on his side, his face showing absolute serenity reflecting the nearness of achieving nirvana in the last moments before his death. Around the base of the sleeping Buddha and on the walls of monastery were more than one thousand paintings in bright colours depicting the life of the Buddha, many of which were sent to the Hermitage," the report said.

When the new museum is thrown open to public, also on display would be remarkable artifacts of Zoroastrianism and Hinduism. Shiva and Parvati sitting on a cow is one such fifth century artifact.

"The state is the largest artifact to date showing the initial spread of Hinduism into Central Asia and that it was able to coexist with Zorastrianism and Buddhism".

The report said Greek and Roman civilisation would also be evident when the museum opens. "Early Kushan culture was heavily influenced by the Greeks who invaded Central Asia under Alexander the Greet in 329 A. D. Central Asis was then ruled by the Sogdians, whom the Tajiks consider as their ancestors".

The Hindu

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N1.12  China gives facelift to world highest Buddha statue

China began to give a facelift to the 1,280-year-old highest Buddha statue in Leshan, a city in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The statue, which has been included on World Cultural Heritage list, has suffered weathering from the wind, water, acid rain and damages from visitors for years. Some coiled buns on the head of the statue fell down and the face was darkened.

Experts will clean up the body of the statue, piece up the cracks, and install drainage devices and protection facilities against wind and water.

The repair project is divided into two stages, in April and at the end of this year respectively, costing a total of 250 million yuan (30 million U.S. Dollars), including two million U.S. Dollars of World Bank loans.

The Buddha statue, sitting on a cliff, 71 meters from top to bottom and 28 meters from left to right, is 18 meters higher than the standing Buddha statue at Bamian Valley, Afghanistan, once thought to be the highest of its kind in the world.

The head of the Leshan Buddha, 14.7 meters up and down and 10 meters sideways, is covered with 1,021 buns of curly hair, each of which is large enough to support a big round table. Seven meters long, each ear can hold two people in its hole. Over a 100 people can sit on the 8.5 meter high flat and smooth instep.

Carving of the Buddha started in AD 713 and was completed in 803, during the prosperous period of the Tang Dynasty in Chinese history.

The statue has been repaired many times in history. However, an effective way to prevent the statue from erosion has not been found, experts said.

Before the current repair project, experts from seven cultural relics protection research institutes across China, and those from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had made a diagnosis on the cause of the statue's "illnesses."

They examined the environment of the Buddha statue. In order to find the most suitable material to mend the cracks on the statue, experts put several hundred slates made of different materials beside the statue, and select one kind which had the least erosion.

The selected material, in the same colour of the statue, is a mixture of lime, carbon residue and hemp, according to experts.

When it was built, the body of the Buddha had a hidden water drainage system to prevent erosion. And experts will add more drainage devices on its body to better protect the statue.

The statue is regarded to represent ancient China's high sculpture level. An ideal view of the Buddha is from a boat on the river which provides the required distance to take a picture of the entire statue.

According to the local cultural relics protection department, a research centre of Leshan Buddha Statue will be established by the end of this year to develop more effective technologies to protect the world heritage.

Peoples daily

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N1.13  Lumbini to loom as world Buddhist centre 

Buddhist nations have pledged to expedite development of Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, as a holy site on the lines of the Vatican and Mecca.

Earlier, Nepal had sought their assistance to develop Lumbini, a backward village lying close to the Uttar Pradesh border about 300 km south of Kathmandu, as an international pilgrimage site.

The master plan for Lumbini was prepared by Japanese architect Kengo Tange, who had earlier designed the Tokyo Olympic village, about 20 years ago.

Lately, the Lumbini Development Trust, an agency set up by Nepal to oversee development work, has included nearby sites related to the life of the Buddha like Tilorakot, Gorihawa, Sagalhawa, Kudan, Niglihawa, Ramgram and Devdaha in the plan. The cost for development are likely to go beyond Rs 410 crore. 

Nepalese Tourism Minister R. Tamrakar said the trust would set up religious, community and construction committees to speed up development work.

Representatives from UNESCO, the Japan Buddhist Foundation and the trust met on February 9 to finalise the construction of the temple of Mayadevi, the Buddha's mother, near the site of the birth of the founder of Buddhism.

S. Miyabara, a senior Japanese Buddhist leader from the World Fellowship of Buddhists, said: "Construction of the Mayadevi temple was stopped two years ago after it was feared that digging work might damage the spot-which is recognised as a world heritage site by UNESCO."

Miyabara was one of the over 100 delegates from 14 nations who came here to attend the second three-day biennial world Buddhist meet that ended on Saturday.

The first conference, held in 1998, had envisaged the development of Lumbini into three components-the sacred garden, the monastic enclave and the pilgrims' village- covering an area of 6 sq km. Japan, Vietnam, S. Korea, Myanmar, Thailand and China have already built impressive temples and monastic quarters in traditional style.

Hindustan Times

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N1.14  UK academics claim solving Buddha riddle 

Remains of Kapilavastu Palace in Tilaurakot

Two British university academics working in Nepal believe they have solved a riddle that could rewrite the history of one of the world's oldest religions. Archaeologists Robin Coningham and Armin Schmidt are awaiting results that could settle a major dispute on where the Buddha or Prince Siddhartha Gautama grew up.

For the last four years, the Bradford University academics have been working on a Unesco-funded dig at Tilaurakot in Nepal. They say the Buddha was born in nearby Lumbini and 19th century archaeologists believe the remains of Kapilavastu, Buddha's hometown, were to be found in nearby Tilaurakot.

But these claims were discredited in the 1960s after Indian archaeologists said key finds at the site did not go back far enough in time and only dated to 200 B.C., which was 300 years after the Buddha is believed to have lived.

Now the Unesco team, working with Nepal's chief archaeologist Kosh Acharya, has found items, including iron furnaces, terracotta crucibles and fragments of painted bowls, which confirm the accuracy of the 19th century archaelogists.

Coningham expects to receive carbon-dating results that will confirm his findings within weeks. He compares the Unesco project with searches for major Christian sites like Nazareth. "Seldom has archaeology had such a superb opportunity to uncover the origins of one of the world's greatest religions," he said.

"We are now quite certain that the excavated finds date back to as late as the seventh or eighth centuries B.C., which certainly pre-dates the period when Buddha is thought to have lived." He hopes the discovery will help attract tourists and investment back to Nepal, whose Buddhist sites have been relatively neglected.

Indian experts continue to believe that the site of Pipprahawa was the home of the young Buddha. But the British archaeologists believe Indian archaeologists dated the remains at Tilaurakot incorrectly because they tested only one section and not the deepest. Coningham, who is due to fly back to Nepal next April to work on a new dig, says there has been huge local interest in the Unesco project.

Hindustan Times

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N1.15  Muslim meditators at Vipassana Center

 Feedback from Iran

 Dr. Shelina Meghani

Yo sahassam sahassena sangame manuse jine; Ekan ca jeyyamattanam, sa ve sangama juttamo.

Though one could conquer a million men on the battlefield, yet the noblest victor, indeed, is one who has conquered himself. - Dhammapada

Can Muslims practice Vipasana meditation

Many Muslims are reticent to take up meditation because they fear it might be in conflict with their religious principles. Adil Salahi, religion editor of the Arab News and one of the most respected religious scholars in the Middle East, recently commented on meditation bysaying that it is perfectly permissible for Muslims to take up a meditation technique as long as that technique is not identified with any religious activity. Sheikh Adil commented:

"Meditation needs no particular ritual. Therefore, what is desirable and encouraged by Islammay be achieved without having to go through the rituals of some other religion."

Dhamma, the Truth, the Teaching, the Way, all things, is a river. The river flows. It notices not whether you are a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Jew or from any other religion. It notices not whether you are male or female, black or white, yellow or brown. It notices not whether you are learned or illiterate, rich or poor. It flows for all. The Truth is the Truth for all. Come and see. Sit at the bank of the river for a while, ten days perhaps, and see for yourself.

People from many different religious backgrounds have practised Vipassana and seen for themselves, that this is a pragmatic method which can eradicate the root cause of human suffering, a technique which can be applied, leading to happy, healthy, productive lives.

Many Muslims have experienced the positive benefits from taking Vipassana courses including a significant number from Iran, some of whose feedback is presented below.

The following are some brief comments from Iranian Moslems after a Vipassana Course in Dhamma Giri. Igatpuri in Maharastra, India.

- Vipassana does not have anything to do with any organised religion, It is a technique for everyone to purify the mind and matter and reach highest stage.

- From an orthodox Moslem, University Teacher. Vipassana helped me to understand everything much better. I would like to come again. I continue.

- I thought, I knew, what is calmness of insight, but now, during 10-days, I realised something beyond that, what I could imagine.

- People here, at Dhamma Giri, reach with Vipassana some higher stage.

- Mr. Goenka taught me Vipassana, that will help me throughout my life and beyond that.

- With Vipassana I found the way of my life.

- After the Vipassana course, I feel much energetic, and lighter, mind is clear, why should not be one all the time in such a situation? I have to practise Vipassana.

- After a long time, looking for something, that can help me throughout my life, I found Vipassana. Now I am satisfied.

- Vipassana is good for every society and more than that.

- Vipassana is helping me to come out of every addiction and have a good relationship with my family members.

- Suddenly I had lost my mind. I did not know what I was doing, I quit my job, my family members were unhappy with me, I started to do something here and there and finding the others fault. I came in contact with Vipassana, only then, I started to understand what I am doing and start to improve my life.

- With Vipassana I could witness inside hell and also paradise.

- University teacher for psychology: We know that every cell has information, but we did not know, how it is working. Vipassana helps us to have access to that.

- A Professor: I had for long time pain in my back. During my second Vipassana course, one day suddenly there was a light throughout my body and the pain disappeared. I cannot with ordinary science describe it, but I feel me very well and lighter.

- realising anicca here and understanding it, is a great thing for the day to day life.

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N1.16  Save Lumbini for world Buddhists

 Nemsiri Mutukumara

The Bhikkhu Sangha in Lumbini in Nepal and in Sri Lanka have jointly made a call to Buddhists everywhere to save Lumbini for the Buddhist world.

The call comes as a sequel to the sorrowful desecration of the sacred birth place of Bodhisatta - Prince Siddhartha who became the Buddha.

The campaign to call the international Buddhist community to unite in a call to the conscience of the world sprang up in Lumbini early this month during a visit of a team of journalists led by Lake House staff photographer Avinash Bandara.

This is his story: "When we went to Nepal to cover the South Asian Federation Games in Kathmandu, we had one full free day. So, four of us teamed up together and hired a taxi for an extensive tour of Lumbini, the sacred place of Buddhist worship and Kapilawastu, the place of the Buddha's habitat.

"When we arrived at Lumbini, we met the Venerable Nepala Vimalananda, a long standing resident bhikkhu at the Vajiraramaya, Bambalapitiya before taking up residence in Sacred Lumbini. There was another bhikkhu who had close links with Sri Lanka. They said in a chorus, that the future of the birthplace of the Buddha faces a great threat. We - the bhikkhu sangha of Nepal and Sri Lanka should initiate a movement to "Save Lumbini for the Buddhists."

"Ven. Vimalananda lamented that the sacred Lumbini is infested with non-Buddhists. One Mohamed, a Nepali, over an year ago, killed a Japanese bhikkhu and fled across the border to India. Nepalese do not require visas to cross the border. The Nepali police trailed the alleged assassin and brought him to Kathmandu. The Nepali court sentenced the culprit to 20 years in jail.

Ven. Vimalananda said, the biggest problem, the Buddhists now face is the operation of Non-Governmental Organisations - NGO's in Lumbini are carrying on a secret agenda in the guise of helping the poor. The other disturbing element is the excavations carried out by a team of Japanese archaeologists. They have dug up everywhere indiscriminately to find out a "new birth place" of the Buddha. According to Japanese theory, the Buddha was born not at the place where Emperor Asoka erected the monolithic granite pillar some 2300 years ago.

"The Japanese have dismantled the Maya Devi Temple, Lumbini's landmark next to the Asoka Pillar. On top of these unholy activity, the Japanese have employed non-Buddhist security personnel to protect the area. No Buddhists are consulted or informed of the activities of the Japanese.

Japanese archaeologists have cut the ancient Bodhi tree and taken it to Japan. It is learnt, a lucrative business is in progress in Japan to sell the pieces of the Bodhi trunk as medals of the Tree of Wisdom.

In these pathetic circumstances, what are we to do? We Nepali Bhikkhus have only to join hands with the Bhikkhu Sangha of Sri Lanka to campaign to save Lumbini for Buddhists.

Vimalananda Maha Thera asked, was it not Sri Lanka's great son, Anagarika Dharmapala who made a clarion call to the Sinhala people to save Buddhagaya for the Buddhists, 108 years ago.

Avinash Bandara says, he gave an assurance to the Bhikkhus and the Buddhist laity in Lumbini that he would carry his message across to Sri Lanka.

When contacted, the Venerable Dr. Mapalagama Vipulasara Mahathera, Secretary-General of the World Buddhist Sangha Council said every effort will be made to protect Lumbini for the benefit of the world community, particularly the Buddhists.

Ven. Dr. Vipulasara, who relinquished the post of president of the India Mahabodhi Society said, during his term, the society's general secretary Ven. Dr. Revata had initiated a project to construct a complex of buildings - a monastery, pilgrims rest a library and meditation hall. The building construction is now progressing The project was a vital need, since adequate facilities were conspicuous in its absence in Lumbini.

A world-wide call through the World Buddhist Sangha Council and also through the new President of the India Mahabodhi Society, the Ven. Dr. Kyuse Enshinjoh will be made immediately. Venerable Nepala Ananda Thera, a resident in Sri Lanka, says Buddhists everywhere should address their minds to save Lumbini for the Buddhists as much as we Nepali people.

The present situation at the sacred place is an imminent threat to the future not only of Lumbini but the entire region where one finds many places of Buddha's habitat, within twelve miles to the North of Lumbini including Kapilavastu.  

Already the Nepali archaeologists have located the three sacred places connected with the life and times of Kakusanda Buddha, Konagama Buddha steps are being taken to locate the place of the Kashyapa Buddha.

We are hopeful, that one day very soon we will be able to find the Kashyapa Buddha's bath place. In all other places, Asoka Pillars are found giving all information to the authenticity of the place, Ven. Ananda said.

In Nepal, Hindus and Buddhists live in harmony and friendship. The lay people visit each others temples, respect each others deities. Hindus pay homage to the Buddha because Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal are inseparable, he added. He hoped that, Hindus in Nepal will also associate in the Buddhist endeavour to save Lumbini.

The Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Anunayakethera, the Secretary General of the Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha in a lengthy statement deplored the unholy situation at the holy place.

He said: 'The Buddha's birth place is daily visited by Buddhists and tourists as well from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, England, United States of America, Canada, Australia and the Continental countries of Europe. Ven. Dhammavasa during his visit to Lumbini witnessed the wanton destruction the Japanese had caused the 150-year old Mayadevi Temple. They had already cut the ancient Bodhi tree.

Today, the sacred Lumbini's landmark appears to be the 12 foot deep crater the Japanese dug during excavations.

He said, all these haphazard type of excavations and conservations are carried out because most of the archaeologists of Nepal and India and the officialdom in the UNESCO are non-Buddhists. They are not interested in the religious aspect of the sacred place. Their only concern is archaeology.

However, the only consolation is that Sri Lanka Government from 1979 or so had taken quite a serious interest in safeguarding the sanctity of Lumbini.

The previous government built a Pilgrims Rest at a cost of Rs. 30 million.

The Anu Nayakethera complimented President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has provided the necessary facilities to the Buddhasasana Ministry to construct a building complex comprising of Pilgrims Rest, Sanghavasa, Bodhimalu, Dagaba and Vihara in the Lumbini sacred zone for the benefit of pilgrims and visitors.

With all our keenness to protect Lumbini will be in jeopardy if immediate steps are not taken to avert the looming threat of desecrating the sacred place, the Anunanayakethera said. He would request President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to express the deep concern of the Bhikkhu Sangha and the Sri Lanka people to His Majesty's Government of Nepal, over the prevailing situation in Lumbini and also to the UNESCO and the United Nations.

This writer during his last visit to Lumbini two years ago questioned the Japanese archaeologist about the need for excavations. Regrettably, he had no plausible excuse other than resorting to mumbo-jumbo.

The "Daily News" also learnt that the Bangkok/based World Fellowship of Buddhists has donated several million US dollars for the development of Lumbini on a Master Plan produced by the Lumbini Vikas - the Lumbini Development Committee from the time it was led by Mr. Loke Darshan Bajrachaarya. The WFB donation was a collection from the international Buddhist community.

Daily News - 23 Oct 99

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N1.17  The Bauddha Mahotsav Festival

Derrick Schokman

The Bauddha Mahotsav festival is scheduled to take place from October 24 to November 4, 1999 in India It is meant to be a pilgrimage of renewal of the Buddhist faith in the three most sacred sites in India and some others. The three most sacred sites are at Buddhagaya where the Buddha was enlightened, at Saranath where he preached his first sermon and at Kusinara where he passed away. The Buddhist tradition was born at Buddhagaya, where Prince Siddharta Gautama saw a way out of the suffering that afflicts the human race, having made a realistic analysis of existential facts.

This happened in his 35th year when meditating in the shade of a Ficus tree, later to be known as the Bodhi or Bo tree. The Buddha first made known the fruits of his enlightenment to five ascetics who had been associated with him in the early years of searching for the truth. This sermon was the celebrated Dhamma chakka parvanathana Sutta or the ""Turning of the Wheel of Law", containing the kernel of the Buddha’s teaching; the Dhamma.

It was the wheel which set in motion the Dhamma through Asia and then the rest of the world. The Buddha himself travelled extensively in North India after his enlightenment where, by teaching and example, he sought to dispel ignorance, fear, cruelty, hatred and greed.

He finally passed away in his 80th year in a grove of Sal trees at Kusinara.

At that time funerary earth mounds (stupas) were in vogue to mark the burial sites of important persons. The Buddha is reported to have said to his chief disciple Ananda before he died:

"This is the way you should treat the remains of the Buddha. A stupa should be constructed over his remains. Whosoever there place garlands or perfume or lights, or makes salutations, or becomes in its presence calm in heart, that shall be in him a profit and joy."

This is what no doubt inspired great and pious kings to raise stupas to him. At Buddhagaya Emperor Havistka built the famous Sri Maha Bodhi Temple in the 2nd century AD. The Chaukandi Stupa was erected in the 5th century on the spot where the Buddha preached his first sermon in the deer park at Saranath (Benares). And at Kusinara where he attained his parinibbana, there is a stupa and a temple with a great image of the Buddha lying in repose. In later years when Buddhism declined in India, the Buddha’s relics gradually found their way to Lanka, where they were also enshrined in great stupas.

And here in Lanka, the Anagarika Dharmapala took up the cause of Buddhism, becoming the greatest Buddhist missionary of modern times. When he visited the three most important Buddhist Sacred sites in 1891, he was so shocked at their lamentably neglected condition, that he knelt before the ancient Buddha statue at Buddhagaya and firmly resolved to recover Buddhagaya and other holy places for Buddhists to reintroduce and promote Buddhism in India. On his return to Lanka he founded the Maha Bodhi Society for this purpose. The present flourishing condition of those sacred sites owes much to his early labours.

The Anagarika finally settled down in Sarnath, where he became a bhikku and took the name of Devamitta Dharmapala. There he created the Mulgankanda Kutivihara. It was his dream that this vihara would one day be the centre of a new Buddhist monastery, where scholars would come to learn the sacred law and go out into the world as missionaries like the Buddha’s disciples had done before.

The Anagarika died in Saranath on 29 April, 1933, his dream sadly unfulfilled. But he vowed to be reborn as often as necessary to spread the Buddhist faith in India again.

The Island - 19 Oct 99

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N1.18  Buddhist missionary monks drawn from Vidyodaya

 Wijitha Nakkawita

Last week the 'Sunday Observer' published the first part of the article on Vidyodaya Pirivena, Maligakanda, Colombo, on the occasion of the Pirivena celebrating its 125th year of service to the nation. The event was marked with a meeting in the institution attended by distinguished lay and religious leaders. President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga graced the occasion as the chief guest while the Religious and Cultural Affairs Minister Lakshman Jayakody was among those present.

Vidyodaya followed the tradition set by the Most Ven Weliwita Pindapathika Asarana Sarana Saranankara Sangha Raja Thera, the last of the great Buddhist prelates, under the Sinhala kings of Senkadagala. The Sangharaja Thera, who, while being the most honoured and acclaimed prelate and the teacher of the ruling king, had been humble enough to beg for alms, had not only led an illustrious religious life, but had also revived the learning of Tripitaka and the classical oriental languages. He despatched his learned pupils to various parts of the country. Later during the British colonial rule national education and traditional knowledge preserved in Sri Lanka for two and a half millennia were relegated to the kitchen as English was treated during the Roman conquest of Britain in the Pre Christian Era.

Following the footsteps of the Most Ven Weliwita Sangharaja Thera Parama Dhamma Chetiya Pirivena was established by the Ven Valane Sri Siddhatha at Ratmalana. He produced the two most brilliant pupils at the Pirivena drilling them on classical grammar and nuances of the oriental languages as well as on the Pali canon. One was the Ven Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayake Thera,founder of Vidyodya. The other, Ven Ratmalane Sri Dharmaloka Nayake Thera the founder of Vidyalankara Pirivena.

It is indeed a very rare occasion in the history of Sri Lanka that two such brilliant scholar Bhikkhus were produced at the same time in any national seat of learning in Sri Lanka. There were of course other scholar Bhikkhus like the famous debater Ven Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera who has gone on record having successfully faced the challenges made by certain Christian missionaries in the next generation at the five public debates from Panadura debate to Gampola debate vanqushing his opponents cleverly. He too was a product of Vidyodaya, a pupil of Ven Sumangala Thera.

In this scenario it has been recorded that a normal Bhikkhu could not walk the streets of Colombo without abuse from the non Buddhist citizens of Colombo who were tacitly, if not directly, patronized by the British Colonial regime of the times and their local adherents, in that era, the westernized oriental gentlemen disparagingly referred to by the British as WOGS.

Recalling the trend of the times, the Religious and Cultural Affairs Minister Lakshman Jayakody said that Vidyodaya was established at a time when a Bhikkhu could not even walk on the streets of Colombo. The Miinisiter of course did not say that the Colonial powers, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British had pursued the policy of suppressing the indigenous intellectual leaders who were naturally the Buddhist clergy who had motivated the lay Sri Lankans to build a flowering civilization from the third century BC to almost the sixteenth century AD.

While recalling the contribution made by the pioneers of Vidyodya mention has to be made about the most eminent and forthright national leader of the last century Anagarika Dharmapala who too had the opportunity to study Buddhism and national culture and civilization under the Ven Hiikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayake Thera. When he formed the Mahabodhi Society to reclaim the Buddhists' most hallowed places of worship in India like the place of birth of the Buddha and the shrines and temples at Buddhagaya, it was again under the leadership of Ven Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayake Thera at Vidyodaya that the whole movement began.

The Sri Lankan nation especially the Buddhists among it owe a deep debt to Vidyodaya for the national renaissance spearheaded by the Anagarika Dharmapala who was ably backed by the erudite and courageous Bhikkhus of Vidyodaya who gave him and all other national leaders of the times, the moral courage arming them with the tenets of Buddha Dhamma.

It has also to be noted that the revival of Buddhist Missionary Monks also from 1925 weremostly drawn from Vidyodaya once again harking back to the history of Theravada Buddhist tradition of Bhikkhus travelling thousands of miles mostly on foot in other countries to enlighten people on the Dhamma, as recorded during the times of the Sinhala kings.

Vidyodya Pirivena and Vidyalankara Pirivena were the two national institutions which should be preserved as treasures of the people of Sri Lanka and the two heads of these institutions today are seen continuing the traditions of the great heritage of Theravada Buddhism.

Sunday Observer - 19 Sept 99

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N1.19  Dhamma Vivarana Movement Charter 

 

This aims and objectives of the Dhamma Vivarana Movement will be Multi-National, Multi Faceted and of Multi-Sansaric duration in effectiveness, as such membership commitments may be for one or several specified Sansaric Births as Elite Humans in order to uphold 'Ideals" of the Movement, It is hoped to establish several Regional Headquarters in Sister Nations while the Executive Headquarters will be located in Sri Lanka and administered by several Committees under the guidance of dedicated groups of Buddhist Clergy & Intellectuals. The regional Headquarters, situated in other Nations, too will be similarly administered.

The Immediate Objective of the Movement is to promote, through International Sponsorship, the Launching of Information Satellites to be code named "Dhamma Vivarana 2000(#) "in order to Preserve The True Dhamma which is to be translated from Pali to the different languages of the World to enable easy assimilation & correct understanding while ensuring its protection & Man Made Calamities that may affect our Planet. This will facilitate the Global & Astral propagation of the 'Samma Sambuddha Dhamma way of Life" through the establishment of an Information Sharing Cybernetics Network designated as 'Dhamma Net' to be used as an Internationally Accessible Platform for the Sharing, Transfer, and Monitoring of Information on Dhamma. Thus to ensure the Continuance of the Buddha Sasana on this Planet for the Next 2500 Years, at least, which is of utmost importance for the well being of all mankind. Thereby promoting Togetherness of World Nations in our joint serch for Peace through Righteous Self Reliance in the next Millennium. The success of this venture will ultimately ensure the gradual realization of the following Long Term Objectives of the Movement, which are:

(a) Promote the Translation & Documentation of all Scriptures on Dhamma into the National Language of each participating Nation.

(b) Promote an International Code of Ethics through Righteous Spiritual Development resulting from the Propagation of Dhamma as a World Order.

(c) Promote the Understanding & Adherence among The Sangha to the Dhamma Vinaya (Laws) established through Dhamma Councils (Sangayanavas)

(d) Promote for Our Progeny - World Harmony and Peace.

(e) Promote a World Economy based on Human Values as against Profitability.

(f) Promote Economic Priorities that are Human Existence Level Oriented rather than Luxury Oriented.

(g) Promote Reduction of Illiteracy in the World through Free Basic Education via Satellite.

(h) Promote Development of Software Application Range, Code names 'Ne Plus Ultra 2000+' designed for down loading via Satellite, targeting gradual assimilation by the Human Brain there by ratiocination between Mind & Body functions resulting in the overall refinement in Mankind. Ten such sophisticated 'Mind' Programs are earmarked for development by sponsors during next Millennium.

 (i) Promote Dhamma V net & D-mail (Electronic Mail) services for the furtherence of above Humanitarian Services.

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N1.20  Being vegan or vegetarian ?

Gamini Kulatunga, Ph.D, C Eng.MIE 

The idea of flesh eating is so common, therefore one needs to know what happens when animal products are excluded from the diet.

The common vegetarian is really a lacto-vegetarian, who includes milk and milk-based products in the diet. The ovo-lacto-vegetarian includes eggs too in the diet. The pure fruit and vegetable eater is named a vegan.

The change from flesh eating to any one of these stages could be due to many reasons, a predominant one being religious. But, now more people are concerned about eating meat due to the use of chemicals in the rearing of animals, which tend to accumulate in the muscles we eat. Whatever the reason be, one should adopt some corrective measures in the diet with the shift to vegetarian diet from flesh eating.

The deficiencies that one may encounter in the diet and how to correct these are presented here based on the authoritative book on Food and Nutrition by Pro£ T.W. (Tommy) Wikramanayake.

Vegetarian diets mainly supplies only the poorly absorbed form of iron. Vitamin C present in raw fruits and green leafy vegetables enhance the absorption of this form of iron found in the vegetarian diet. Therefore, plenty of fresh fruit and mallun are a must in a vegetarian diet. Vitamin C also results from the sprouting of pulses such as Mung and Uludu. Bean sprouts are therefore a source of vitamin C.

Deficiency of either of these vitamins could cause megaloblastic anaemia. Lack of vitamin B12 in particular could cause neurological damage, quite independently from the anemic condition.

Vitamin B12 is synthesized by bacteria, fungi and algae. The only source of the vitamin in nature is its synthesis by microorganisms in soil, water and animal intestines.

The daily requirement is around 24g per day but a normal vegetarian diet will contain only 0.3 to 0.4 ug. This is sufficient to maintain health though not enough to store at the optimum required levels.

Milk, cheese and milk products can supply the requirement to lacto-vegetarians. But, vegans will require a diet that will give l.0mg per day by way of a food supplement.

It takes more than 20 years to develop a clinically evident deficiency. But, if there is any gastro-intestinal dysfunction, it could happen in less than three years.

Most of the Ca in our diet come from milk and milk products. Ca deficiency is a risk factor for osteoporosis and bone loss later in life. It may also give rise to hypertension.

Vegans have a low intake of Ca and Vitamin D, coupled with high intake of dietary fibre, oxalic acid etc, which inhibits Ca absorption. Vitamin D is essential for Ca utilization by the body. Therefore, vegans not exposed to sunlight, a rich source of vitamin D, run a special risk. Ca- fortified food seems to be the only answer for vegans.

There are other deficiencies such as Zn and riboflavin, which may occur in vegan diets. About 0.4mg of riboflavin is found in a cup of milk, one avocado, two cups of cooked greens or in two cups of okra.

A rich source of proteins for vegetarians is legume grain or pulses. The pulses contain, on the average, more proteins than in fresh meat, fish or egg. Pulses are also rich in Ca and Fe. The presence of toxins in some pulses can be easily got rid off by soaking, removal of skin and by normal cooking. The undesirable beany taste in Soya can be eliminated by due care durmg processing.

Fermentation of pulses is also widely used to enhance the protein content and to destroy trypsin inhibitor. Thosai and idly are two common fermented products made of black gram. Fermentation also increases the vitamin B compounds such as choline, methionine and folic acid content of the mixture. Hoppers are made from rice flour mainly to make the diet more attractive and appetizing.

The pulses you eat must have variety to obtain all the amino acids that must be supplied by the protein food. Prof. V,E.A. (Teddy) Wikramanayake has produced a list to get daily variety in the legume grains you eat. The seven pulses for the seven days of the week are Masoor, Thora, Cowpea, Uludu, Kadala, Mung and split Peas (bole kadala) and of course Soya as textured meat on any day.

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N1.21  Supreme Court allows petitioners in ‘Anduren Eliyata’ rights case 

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N1.22  Buddhist festival in Toronto

Kirthie Abeyesekera

A ‘Buddhist Festival,’ the first of its kind, sponsored by the University of Toronto, U of T, focuses attention on the quest in the West for a meaning to life - removed from the dictates of dogmatic religion.

The 11-day October event presented jointly by the U of T Buddhist Community, UTBC and the Buddhist Student Association, BSA, included the exhibition of Buddhist history, literature, culture, art and architecture. ‘The Way of Buddhist Life’ was depicted through displays, music, lectures, slides, videos, meditation and yoga workshops and discussions.

Prominent among the exhibits was the Sri Lankan booth that overshadowed those of Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam. "We are trying to project the essence of the Buddhist Teaching," says UTBC president, Sesath Hewapathirane, a Canada-born Sri Lankan. The 20-year-old, 4th-year pharmacology student observes that there is a great need to dispel the notion that Buddhism is just a process of ceremony, rites and rituals.

Several hundred undergraduates from around the world, stroll around the hallowed halls of the U of T, Canada’s most prestigious Seat of Learning. The multicultural mix of students were taking in the lavish display of Buddhist literature. Peter picks up a pamphlet on: ‘Is Buddhism a Philosophy?’ It quotes Albert Einstein: "The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. It should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity.

Buddhism answers this description...If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism."

Peter, a 2nd-year science student who read the quote, asks, "How do I become a Buddhist?"

"You do not become a Buddhist," says an ordained guidance counsellor on hand at the Festival. "You are a Buddhist, or you are not." He explains that one might carry a religious label such as ‘Christian,’ but could in reality, be following the Buddhist Teachings.

"Our operating philosophy is non-sectarian in orientation," says Shan Tong, UTBC vice-president. She was 17 when she left her native Hong Kong two decades ago. A part-time student of East Asian Studies, she says UTBC welcomes all who wish to explore or practice the Buddha Teaching as presented by the various schools and traditions - "in the spirit of free inquiry." She adds that "we hold dear what the Buddha said in the ‘Kalama Sutta’ which underscores the need to observe and analyse, and then accept what is reasonable and conducive to the common good."

Katarina, a Serb from the former Yugoslavia, who was in Japan on a student-exchange programme, says she’s a student of Japanese culture. "Buddhism," she adds," is of both, academic and spiritual interest to me as a student of comparative religion."

Among the vast display of Buddhist literature at the Festival are the writings of Ven. Narada, including ‘Buddhism in a Nutshell’ - his concise, yet profound portrayal of the Teaching An essay by Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thera on "Buddha and His Way,’ says. "Buddhism is not a dogma, nor a revelation of any supernatural agency, but a philosophy propounded by the Buddha, a human being who, through his own effort, reached the Supreme State of Enlightenment." Such writings quickly catch the eye of the Western mind.

On the panel of speakers at the Festival was Dr. Suwanda Sugunasiri, a research assistant in Buddhist Studies at the U of T, who made a video presentation of ‘Journeys to Sacred Buddhist Landscapes in Sri Lanka.’ Bhante Madawala Punnaji from Sri Lanka, dwelt on ‘The Four Noble Truths.’ Bhante Kovida conducted a workshop on Relaxation and Yoga as exercises in preparation for Buddhist meditation. Other presenters included Professor Leonard Priestley, teacher of Buddhist philosophy at U of T, and David Waterhouse of U of T’s Department of East Asian Studies.

A topic that generated much interest was a talk by Dr. A. K. Warder, Professor Emeritus of the U of T. The author of ‘Indian Buddhism,’ his topic, ‘Was the Buddha a Buddhist?’ raised debate whether to rely on Buddhist texts or on personal experiences.

Shan Tong who also edits ‘Wisdom,’ a quarterly ‘free-spirited Student Buddhist publication’ of the U of T, states in the current issue, that "at an inter-personal level, the four sublime states &emdash; loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity &emdash; are beautiful ideals to be borne in our minds." Heidi Chan, a student of Religion and BSA secretary, in an essay in ‘Wisdom,’ argues that renunciation is not an ‘escape’ from the world. Rather, it is because of a better understanding of that world.

David Yeung, an Engineering Science student, and BSA president, says a webring of Buddhist student organizations at universities and colleges around the world, is being started to form mutual links. A list of Professors of Buddhism is also in the making. The U of T plans to set up a Buddhist Resource Centre in the campus shortly.

Organizers of the Festival believe that the start they have made will generate greater interest in the study of Buddhism in a country where people, in significant numbers, are turning away from organized religion which stifles human thought.

Hewapathirane says the membership of the U of T’s Buddhist community is likely to increase dramatically as a result of the Festival. A directory titled, ‘Buddhism in Ontario,’ compiled by the U of T "Buddhist Women’s Network,’ lists over a hundred Buddhist organizations and institutions throughout Ontario, Canada’s largest province inhabited by one-third of the country’s 30 million people. The list includes the two Sri Lankan temples -The Toronto Maha Vihare and the West End Buddhist Centre.

The growing generation around the world is seeking answers to the increasing complexities of life. As we enter the new millennium, we are reminded of Arnold Toynbee, the historian who observed that "the coming of Buddhism to the West may well prove to be the most important event of the Twentieth Century."

Sunday Island - 07 Nov 99

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N1.23  UN recognises Vesak as global holiday 

A UN Resolution seeking the international recognition of the day of Vesak has been adopted by consensus at the 54th UN General Assembly.

The resolution was co-sponsored by 34 member states, all the SAARC countries and many Asian Buddhist countries among others, including Russia and the United States. Many countries which supported the resolution were those where a majority of the population are from other faiths. 

The idea of internationally recognising the day of Vesak was first mooted at the International Buddhist Conference held in Colombo in November last year and presented before the General Assembly by Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in September this year.

Addressing the General Assembly Minister Kadirgamar said the teachings of the Buddha had been bringing happiness and solace to the lives of millions in many parts of the world. 

"International recognition at UN offices would acknowledge the contribution Buddhism has made for over two and a half millennia as one of the oldest religions in the world," he said. 

The draft resolution recognises that the day of Vesak or the day of the full moon in May is the day most sacred to Buddhists, who commemorate on that day the birth of the Buddha, his attainment of enlightenment and his passing away.

Sunday Times - 19 Nov 99 

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N1.24  Mihintale, guardian of the memory of Mahinda

Derrick Schokman

It was at Mihintale that the apostle Mahinda met King Devanampiyatissa on a full moon day in the month of Poson and officially introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka. 

Mahinda resided at Mihintale, finding the hustle and bustle of the royal city of Anuradhapura unsuitable for monastic life. King Tissa created 68 rock cells at Mihintale for Mahinda and his retinue.

Throughout King Tissa’s rule of 40 years, Mahinda Thera engaged in propagating the faith, setting an inspiring example by his own life. He died eight years after the King, and ever since his name has been held in reverence for having introduced the bhikku sasana and the cult worship of stupa and Bodhi Tree as a constant reminder of the Buddha’s teachings.

Ambasthala

During the Poson season, thousands of devotees ascend the 1840 stone steps from the bottom to the top of the Mihintale hill to pay their respects to Arahat Mahinda, whose relics are said to be enshrined in the Ambasthala stupa. This stupa was created by King Mahadathika Mahanaga on flat land just below the peak where apostle and king were supposed to have met and talked.

The Ambasthala dagaba or "mango-tree stupa" got its name from a riddle that Mahinda is said to have posed to the king to test his capacity for instruction.

Pointing to a tree close at hand, the Thera asked the king for its name. The king replied that it was a mango tree.

"Are there any other mango trees besides this?"

"There are many mango trees," replied the king.

"And are there any other trees besides this mango tree and other mango trees?"

"There are many other trees," replied the king, "but they are not mango trees".

"And are there besides these mango trees and those which are not mango, yet other trees?"

"There is this mango tree", said the king.

"Thou hast a shrewd wit, O Ruler of Men" said the Thera.

The spot where this Socrates-like dialogue took place is marked by a rock slab enclosed by a railing. Mango trees have been grown in the vicinity to commemorate that event.

More than two centuries after the construction of the Ambasthala, King Kanitha Tissa added two circular wooden roofed ambulatories on stone pillars and converted it into a Vatadage. Only the stone pillars are left.

Mahinda’s cave

From the Ambasthala, opposite the point of entry, a path will take you down to a steep sheltered rock overlay, within which is a flat rectangular slab of rock.

This place is called "Mihindu-Guha" or Mahinda’s cave, where he is said to have spent much of his time in meditation.

What thoughts did he have of the people he was instructing to counteract greed, malice and inordinate desire, the arch enemies of an enlightened mind?

Was it there that he conceived the idea of asking King Tissa to request Emperor Asoka of India to send some bodily relics (saririkadhatu) and associational relics (paribhogiakadhatu) of the Buddha to be enshrined and worshipped as a constant reminder of the Master’s teachings?

His sister Sangamitha Theri subsequently arrived with the relics. A collarbone of the Buddha was enshrined in a hastily put together stupa in Anuradhapura using the mud of the Abhayawewa.

In time this stupa &emdash; Thuparama was given a firmer structure and finally converted into a Vatadage.

A sapling of the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha received enlightenment while meditating at Gaya was also brought by Sangamitha and planted in the royal Mahamegha garden, where it still exists today as the oldest historically recorded tree in the world.

Maha Seya

Another relic of the Buddha &emdash; the "uma-roma" or a hair that grew between the eyebrows signifying a "maha purusha" or "great being" was also enshrined in the Maha Seya at Mihintale.

When excavation and restoration work was begun by the Archaeological Department in 1934 under the direction of Senerat Paranavitana, the Maha Seya was found in a collapsed condition.

Under its debris was discovered a small stupa which Paranavitana identified as the Mihindu Seya built by King Devanampiyatissa’s brother King Uttiya to enshrine Arahat Mahinda’s ashes.

Several golden relic containers were found inside the stupa. Also a small polished black earthernware container.

In the black container was a reliquary in thin gold foil in the form of a miniature stupa containing beads, trinkets, fragments of bone and ash.

Kanthaka Chaitiya

Relics were also enshrined in the Kanthaka Chaitiya halfway up the hill, but there is no record of what they were.

During excavation, there was ample evidence of the relic chamber having been vandalised for buried treasure.

Several stupa-shaped stone containers, very likely to have contained the expensive offerings of the pious, were found scattered in the debris.

The highlights of this stupa are the restored "vahalkadas" (altars) and flanking stelae which display some of the earliest examples of the plastic arts.

They are profusely ornamented with friezes of dwarfs (gama) geese (hamsa) animal figures, floral motifs and niches in stucco or terra cotta with fragments of figures of deities.

In the words of Professor Paranavitana:

"When it was in its pristine glory covered with a coating of white plaster, with its gilded pinacle and its elaborately carved four vahalkadas at the four cardinal points, it must have presented a spectacular sight of singular beauty".

Even in its truncated form today the chaitiya is a wonderful sight under a westering sun.

In the soft evening air, one is able to experience the spell of antiquity and the spirit of Arahat Mahinda, Apostle of the romantic coming of Buddhism to Lanka in King Tissa’s bygone day.

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N1.25  Narad Center

(International Buddhist Research and Information Center)

The International Buddhist Research and Information Center [IBRIC] which is presently located at the Narada Center at 380/9 Sarana Road, Colombo 7 was started under the aegis of the Most Venerable Aggamahapandita Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayaka Thera several years ago.

Almost at its inception, it gave to the world the first computerized version of the Pali Tipitaka. This also includes several post-canonical Buddhist texts in Pali as well as several Sri Lankan anthologies in Pali like the Mahavamsa. In the area of literature on Buddhism in English, IBRIC has two web sites: http://www/transmillennium.net/IBRIC/ and http:/www.metta.lk/IBRIC/ with items such as The Word of the Buddha and Buddhism for the Younger.

Lessons for beginners in Pali studies are also provided on the web site via Narada Mahathera’s introduction to Pali. Supplementary tutorial Pali lessons [prepared by Bhikkhu Professor Dhammavihari) are also at these websites.

Very soon a Buddhist Archives will be set up, storing up a vast collection of articles and monographs on many areas of Buddhist studies including religion, philosophy, history, art and architecture. To this will be added a miniature museum, including items of Buddhist art like paintings and sculpture from different countries of the world.

The latest in our development project is the establishment of an auditorium on the fourth floor of the building. This is to bring before the public, both Buddhist and non Buddhist, as well as present to the visitors to island, a panoramic vision of Buddhism, covering its early history in India, its spread across eastern and western Asian from Iran, Iraq in the west to China, Korea and Japan in the east. Special emphasis will be laid on the impact of Buddhism on different world cultures, specially of Asia.

At this stage, we need the installation of an electric elevator at the Narada Center to operate up to the fourth floor. A smaller-size lift, conveying about six persons would be deemed adequate. A well-wisher’s generosity in this direction, individually or collectively, will be highly appreciated. It would go down in the history of the Narada Center as a commendable appreciation of the services rendered to the cause of Buddhism by the late Venerable Narada Mahathera.

Wg. Cdr. Noel Fernando

President, Sasana Sevaka Society (Colombo Branch)

Siri Vajiranana Dharmayatanaya.

The Island - 13 June 00 

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N1.26  Poson the holiest day of the Buddhists

Godwin Witane 

Poson Pura Pasaloswaka Day is the holiest day of the Sinhalese, the day they received the Noble Gift of the Dhamma. Before the year 1505 all Sinhalese were Buddhists. The foreign conquerers, Portuguese, Dutch and the British proselytised a section of the Sinhalese and the Tamils through compulsion to an alien faith.However, once they were free from bondage a greater number of them reverted back to their hereditory faith.

Poson Full Moon brings us thoughts of Arahat Mahinda, who brought Buddhism to this resplendent isle of Lanka 308 years before Christ, during the reign of King Devanam Piyatissa. He was the eldest son of King Asoka of India. The arrival of Mahinda was a result of the friendship that existed between his Royal Father and the reigning King Devanam Piyatissa of Sri Lanka. King Asoka having risen to the throne of India after the death of his father Emperor Chandragupta led a cruel and belligerent reign often engaging in war with neighbouring states thereby causing death and extraordinary bloodshed to millions of people, who underwent the travails of war. He always achieved victory in a string of wars. His last triumph was annexing the country of Kalinga to his domain.

However, this was his turning point. He was struck with remorse over the millions that lost their lives. His conscience began to prick him and repentence filled his beleagured mind. He melted to become a Dharmista. His thoughts first rested on the stoppage of all warfare in his kingdom. He made it a state policy to end all war, which became a landmark in the annals of India. He became a Dharmista and the horrendous epithet he was branded with Chanda Asoka for ascending the throne by killing his brothers to become the Lord of all India was thereby erased to become Dharmista Asoka or Dharmasoka.

Asoka’s piety had by this time washed away the stain of fratricide. The king who was known as wicked became Asoka the pious. Asoka was the only military monarch who abandoned warfare after victory in battle. Asoka learned about Dharma from a juvenile Monk Negrodha. He converted the king to Buddhism and made him religious and righteous. The king gave up his Brahmanical faith and became a deciple of the Buddha. He proclaimed edicts demanding his subjects to practice compassion, nurse the sick, look after elders, respect parents emphasising to be peaceful.

In the history of kings there is none comparable to Asoka as a just man ruler. He was an embodiment of everything that was good. Asoka said "All life is sacred and its preservation is indispensable to individual and collective well being. Having seen the horrors of war and its cruelty he decided he will no longer conquer by war. He devoted the rest of his life to the spread of Buddhism in the world. His name is always honoured as the greatest of monarchs produced by Mother India.

History

History records that from ancient times people of the world had inter communication especially in trade. We have heard about the ancient Silk Route starting from the East that was an overland passage over India to the Middle East countries. At the same time sailing vessels of individual countries had plied the seas for commerce and also gaining knowledge concerning the life led and habits of different nations. It had been the custom for even the ruling monarchs of nearby countries to contract friendship through frequent Royal Missions interchanged between them.

The Emperor Asoka of India and the King of Lanka were unseen friends. Once King Devanam Piyatissa sent his nephew Maha Aritta with rich and rare presents to King Asoka. As Asoka embraced Buddhism his prime desire was to introduce his friend and neighbour King Devanam Piyatyissa into the same faith he had gainfully acquired. While reciprocating the good wishes King Asoka sent to his friend Devanam Piyatissa, "I have taken refuge in the Buddha, the Law and the Order. I am a lay desciple of Sakyamuni Buddha, imbue your mind also with faith in The Triple Gem". Thus the ground was prepared for Arahat Mahinda to establish Buddhism in Sri Lanka. King Asoka also sent missionaries to Kashmir, Himalayas, Gandara, Varanesi, Yaveni country and to Sri Lanka. King Asoka’s only son Prince Mahinda was born 204 years after the demise of the Buddha and two years later a daughter Sangamitta was born.

Prince Mahinda was ordained a monk at the age of 20 in the 6th year after his father’s coronation. Mahinda was distinguished above all others for intelligence. He obtained Upasampada or Higher Ordination on the same day he was ordained. Arahat Mahinda volunteered to go to Sri Lanka at the request of his revered father, the King. He was accompanied by 4 Arahat Theros, Ittiya, Uttiya, Sambala and Baddasala. Arahat Samanera Sumana, son of Teri Sangamitta and the lay deciple, Anagami Bhanduka were the others. The purpose of taking with him five Theros was to complete the number of 6 Theros necessary to perform Upasampada.

On his journey to Lanka, Mahinda first visited his mother Vadisa Devi to see her and bid farewell. On Full Moon Day of Poson (jettha) in the year 308 BC. Maha Mahinda Thero rose up in the air accompanied by six others alighted on Ambastale, the beautiful Peak of Mihintale. Meanwhile Devanam Piyatissa King of Lanka was on a deer hunt in the forest in close proximity to the summit of Ambastale along with his retinue and as willed by the Arahat the king confronted the strangers clad in saffron robes and shaven head. Arahat Mahinda addressing the king announced his arrival from Jambudweepa. After a brief conversation with the king to judge his power of imbibing the sacred Dhamma, Arahat Mahinda delivered Chullahattipadopama Sustra contaning basic tenets and the Four Noble Truths. He thus introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Buddhism was established in Sri Lanka nearly 2 centuries after the advent of Vijaya.

The first discourse between the king and Arahat Mahinda resulted in the conversion of the king and 40,000 of his followers into the new found faith Buddhism. People welcomed the acceptance of Buddhism by their king and it spread rapidly bringing peace and hapiness. Mihintale situated 8 miles from the Capital Anuradhapura was named after Mahinda, the site of historic meeting with King Devanam Piyatissa. Mahinda’s mission was one of the most successful as Lanka stamped Buddhism as its sole religion for all time. The coming of Buddhism to Sri Lanka is the holiest occurrence in the island’s history. The story is moving and mind emboldening. People thronged the palace gates rejoicing over the new found salvation. Princess Anula with 500 of her attendants desired to enter the Order but as Arahat Mahinda could not ordain females, the king sent a second mission to King Asoka through his nephew Artitta requesting him to send Theri Sangamitta and a sapling of the Sacred Bo Tree. King Asoka although grieved to part with both of his children fulfilled this noble request to the greater glory of the faith and the Island of Lanka. It was Unduwap Full Moon Poya Day that the Sapling of the Sacred Bo Tree at Buddha Gaya under which Prince Siddartha attained Enlightment or Buddhahood was brought to Anuradhapura by Theri Sangamitta along a decorated route midst shouts of rejoicing and veneration.

The assembled crowds thronged the streets to capacity. The Sacred Sapling performed great miracles by ascending the sky and descending upon the earth at the time of sunset and took root in Maha Mega Park, where it stands today enduring the changing millenia. The bo tree was planted in the 8th year of Devanam Piyatissa’s reign. The 3rd mission was undertaken by Arahat Samanera Sumana at the king’s request to King Asoka to which God Sakra, the King of Devas added the right Collar Bone of the Buddha extricated from Chulamani Stupa. The relics were received with great ceremony and the greatest honour. The relics were enshrined in Thuparama Chetiya, the first to be built in the island.

At the enshrinement a great earthquake occurred and crowds witnessing this miracle embraced the religion of the Buddha while the king’s younger brother joined the Order adding to the total 30,000 monks those days. Mahinda’s preachings were so impressive and enlightening that everyone who listened to him were convinced and embraced the faith of Buddha. Mahinda brought with him the highest culture of India.

He dedicated his whole life for the happiness and glory Lanka and passed away at the ripe age of 80 years. Although this happened so many years ago he is gratefully and adoringly remembered by all Buddhists in Sri Lanka as long as the country lasts. He was the architect who laid the foundation for a perpetual lumination of the Noble Truth, the Dhamma expounded by the all loving Lord Buddha. Even today thousands of pilgrims ascending the 1840 steps to Mihintale do so in veneration of the Great Son of India.

The Island - 16 June 00

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N1.27  Buddhism in Europe

Dr. Granville Dharmawardena

President - German Dharmadutha Society

Albert Einstein was not only a great German scientist, but he was also the greatest human being who lived on earth in the 20th century. The global community has named him as the Man of the 20th Century to honour him for enabling mankind to perceive the true reality of nature. He is truly a giant among scientists. He is also a person who made a giant contribution to Buddhism in Europe by enabling everyone to follow the Buddha's instruction "Ehi Passiko" or come and see.

Before Einstein, science had the great disability of having to be restricted to three spatial dimensions and what is material. This was because scientists were unable to perceive anything that extended beyond the scope of their five senses. Our universe, however, consists of a lot of very important phenomena that extend beyond three spatial dimensions. These phenomena, therefore, are beyond the scope of pre-Einstein Science.

The Buddha's holistic way of acquiring knowledge did not suffer the above disabilities and, therefore, the Buddha perceived the true reality of the universe before he founded the Buddha Dhamma. Teachings of the Buddha, therefore, encompass all natural phenomena including those that lie beyond the scope of pre-Einstein old science. The inability of old science to undertstand the true reality of nature made it incompatible with Buddhism. Hence such natural phenomena and concepts as mind, rebirth, telepathy, impermances and selflessness (Anatta) which are important in Buddha's teachings were considered as unscienctific in Europe where what received the label "scientific" was believed to be true.

Einstein's great contribution to mankind is pulling human perception out of the three dimensional frog's well and extending the scope of science to vistas of nature that lie beyond three dimensions. Quantum sciences that followed, fully opened up the true nature of the universe to human perception.

The new knowledge that developed on top of pre-Einstein science, as a result of Einstein's theory of relativity and quantum theory is referred to as modern science. (Some refer to this as new science and pre-Einstein science as modern science).

It has already been shown that on the basis of modern science, rebirth and telepathy are natural phenomena in our universe. Buddhist concepts such as impermance and Anattha are true in terms of modern science.

Albert Einstein, having mastered modern science and studied Buddhism said, "The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal god and avoid dogmas and theology covering both the natural and spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description."

Einstein learned of Budhism from the writings of the great German Buddhist scholar, Arthur Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer was the first person to present the teachings of the Buddha to Europe by his book "Die Welt als Wille and Vorstellung", which was published in 1818. In his book Schopenhouer explains in a clear way that European intellectuals could understand and accept that, everywhere in existence we inevitably find discomfort, distress and suffering of some kind or other. Then he pointed out that this distress springs simply from the fact that men are willing, desiring, wanting creatures, since it is impossible in a world like this, that their wants can ever be fully satisfied. From this predicament there is only one way of realse, namely that men should cease to will and desire.

Albert Einstein later said "If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism", and Bertrand Russel, one of Europe's greatest Philosophers said, "Of the great religions of history I prefer Buddhism."

Having carried out his own research, Derek Parfit of Oxford University who is considered as the world's most important living philosopher, has begun to accept the Buddhist view of life and selflessness. He believes that his acceptance of selflessness which was inspired by split brain research, has liberated him from the prison of self. He says "when I believed that my existence was such a further fact, I seemed imprisoned in myself. My life seemed like a glass tunnel, through which I was moving faster every year, and at the end of which there was darkness. When I changed my view, the walls of my glass tunnel disappeared. I now live in the open air."

Our mission is to make all Europeans realize for themselves what Einstein has said of Buddhism, take them out of the old science's three dimensional frog's well which still keeps them shrouded in a cloud of mysticism, take them into the open air that Parfit has experienced and help them to live more meaningful lives based on truth and universal reality.

This we intend to achieve through the German Dharmadutha Society and Das Buddhistische Haus (the Berlin Buddhist Vihara), which is the oldest Buddhist institution in Europe.

Conclusion

Asoka Weeraratna conceived the idea of founding a Society for Dharmaduta work in Germany on his first visit to Europe in 1951. He successfully formed the German Dharmaduta Society within one year i.e on September 21, 1952. Asoka Weeraratna undertook a second visit to Europe in 1953. On this trip he travelled widely all over Germany, meeting leaders of Buddhist organizations in various German cities and enlisting their support for the cause of establishing the Buddha Sasana in Germany. It was on this trip while looking for a suitable site for a Buddhist Missionary Centre and Vihara, and a Settlement for lay Buddhists and Upasakas, that he located Das Buddhistische Haus (built by Dr. Paul Dahlke in 1924) in Berlin - Frohnau. The German Dharmaduta Society purchased this property in 1957, and converted it into a Vihara, thus enabling Theravada Buddhst monks to reside for prolonged periods at this Buddhist House and spread the Dhamma in Europe.

Sunday Times - 2 July 00

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N1.28  International Buddhist Centre in London

Celebrates 10th anniversary

Professor Ratna Wijetunge

University of Sri Jayawardanepura, Sri Lanka

The Buddhists and their well-wishers throughout the world assembled in the Brent Hall of London on June 24 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre and the World Buddhist Foundation. This article which has been written in this regard attempts to give an outline of the historical background of British Buddhism and its relation to the religious and cultural activities of the said International Buddhist Centre.

Buddhism has been flourishing in Britain for more than hundred years. Initially it was introduced as a subject of academic interest and gradually the British scholars became interested in learning Buddhism - the teaching of Gotama the Buddha - as found in the Pali canon. The Pali Text Society was founded in 1881 by the late Professor and Mrs. Rhys Davids and other eminent scholars in order to give an opportunity for the British people to know about Pali and Theravada Buddhism. Later the arrival of Buddhist missions in Britain can be considered as a significant event in the history of British Buddhism.

Anagarika Dharmapala from Sri Lanka was the first Buddhist missionary to visit this country. He came to Britain in 1893, 1896 and in 1904 in order to engage in Buddhist missionary work. Anagarika Dharmapala worked hard to spread Buddhism in Britain though he was too old and physically feeble during these years. The missionary work carried out by an English Buddhist monk known as Ananda Metteyya who was ordained in Burma created a great opportunity for the British people to know more about Buddhism. These two missionaries, namely Anagarika Dharmapala and Venerable Ananda Metteyya belonged to the Theravada School of Buddhism. The missionaries belonging to the Mahayana School of Buddhism began to visit Britain since 1928. Consequently the Mahayana Buddhist centres were established and the Britishers became interested in learning both Theravada and Mahayana Schools of Buddhism. A new school of Buddhist thought known as the Friends of Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) can be considered as a recent innovation into the modern British Buddhism.

Today the follower of Theravada Buddhism include Europeans and other non-Europeans whose ethnic identity is related to the countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Similarly the followers of Mahayana Buddhism consist of Europeans and immigrants from China, Japan, Tibet, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. The followers of these two Buddhist traditions have founded numerous centres to conduct rituals and ceremonies in Britain. The first Sri Lankan Buddhist centre known as London Buddhist Vihara was established in 1928 by Anagarika Dharmapala. Later the Sri Lankan Buddhists established different centres such as Saddhatissa Buddhist Centre (Kingsbury Vihara), Thames Vihara and numerous other places of worship in Britain. The Western Buddhists who follow the Theravada School of Buddhism founded a monastery known as Amaravati Vihara for the English forest Sangha. However, the establishment of different Buddhist institutions is not considered as a hindrance to the peaceful coexistence among Buddhists. These institutions get together occasionally under one umbrella to perform religious ceremonies. Thus the Modern British Buddhists find it not difficult to work together for a common goal irrespective of their tradition or ethnic identity. Even Anagarika Dharmapala - the first Buddhist missionary to visit Britain recognized the importance of mutual understanding and coexistence among different Buddhist Schools of thought and practice. He said, "Buddhism has many aspects and Buddhists strive to be tolerant to others. There is no reason why the different sects of Buddhists should not get on amicably together, there could be the greatest feeling of brotherhood between the various schools of thought in Buddhism."

The Buddhists have initiated different activities to propagate Buddhism in Britain. These activities which are important academically, religiously and socio-culturally can be considered as corner-stone of spreading the teachings of Buddha among the people. The translation of Buddhist Texts from Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese can be treated as academically important. The events which are religiously important take place regularly in all Buddhist centres. The publication of a wide range of English books on Buddhism by both European and non-European scholars can be considered academically as well as religiously important. These books are descriptive and analytical in nature. Within the category of non-European writers we may include some of the Sri Lankan writers such as Ananda Coomaraswamy, Professor G.P. Malalasekara, Venerable Narada, Dr. Hammalawa Saddhatissa and Piyadassi Thera.

Venerable Dr. Saddhatissa who went to the Great Britain after his successful Buddhist missionary work in India, Nepal and Burma became one of the highly respected monks throughout the Buddhist world. He became the Head of the London Buddhist Vihara and carried out missionary work in Britain and other European countries. He was a member of the London Pali Text Society and served as a member of the academic staff of the University of London. He took the initiative to set up a fellowship by the Sri Lankan Government to teach Sinhala, Pali and Buddhism in the School of Oriental and African Studies of the said University. He was also a founding member and adviser of the Mahabodhi Society of Great Britain. Further, he was a distinguished scholar and a prolific writer. His English publications on Pali and Buddhism are recognized internationally. The foundation of Buddhist societies and centres in Britain in the recent past can be considered as a result of Venerable Dr. Saddhatissa's pioneer work. The World Buddhist Foundation which was established by him paved the way for strengthening the friendship among all Buddhists in the world. He was appointed as the chief Sangha Nayaka of Great Britain by the Mahanayaka Theras of all three sects- Siamese, Amarapura and Ramanna of Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka in recognition of his scholarship, leadership and service to spread Buddhism in the West. Thus the contribution of the late Buddhist prelate to propagate Buddhism in the West is highly praiseworthy. It is a fitting tribute for him to name Kingsbury Vihara as the Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre.

The Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre at Kingsbury conducts regularly a number of programmes which are religiously and culturally important. The religious programmes include the Sunday Dhamma School, classes for teaching Pali, Buddhist doctrine and meditation and special religious activities conducted on Poya days; the cultural programmes, such as Sinhala and Hindu New Year celebrations, are conducted by the Sri Lanka Educational, Cultural Foundation and Welfare Foundation which has been affiliated to this Centre. A rehabilitation centre for the destitute children has been set up by this Foundation in Hettipola, Sri Lanka.

The religious service of Venerable Dr. Saddhatissa is being continued by his pupil Venerable Pandit Galayaye Piyadassi. He is the present Head of the Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre. It is under his guidance, supervision and advice that all activities related to the 10th anniversary celebrations were conducted. The Buddhist representatives from 10 countries participated in this function and the honourary awards were presented to 10 distinguished persons in recognition of their contribution to Buddha Sasana and humanitarian work. Another significant event associated with these celebrations was the publication of a volume of research articles on Buddhism entitled the "Buddhism for the New Millennium." The Venerable Dr. Medagma Vajiranana, the Chief Sangha Nayaka of Great Britain, and other distinguished guests addressed the gathering. The guest of honour was Mr. Paul Boateng, the Honourable Home Minister of the British Parliament. Celebrations were concluded by a three-day Pirith Chanting - the ceremony which was held for the first time in London and alms-giving ceremony for the Maha Sangha.

Sunday Observer - 16 July 00

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N1.29  Bringing Theravada Buddhism to the West

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi 

Asoka Weeraratna was a man of vision who had the drive and stamina to translate his vision into fact. He once told me that his favourite saying of the Buddha was, "Do not become discouraged and give up, and do not rest satisfied with partial achievements." He himself took this piece of advice to heart. Whenever he set himself a goal, he did not merely dream about it and sing praises to its glory. Rather, he worked with incredible foresight and energy to make the goal a reality.

Because he followed these guidelines, Asoka Weeraratna’s life was crowned by three great achievements: the establishment of the German Dharmaduta Society in Sri Lanka; the founding of the Berlin Buddhist Vihara in Germany; and the creation of the Nissarana Vanaya Hermitage at Mitirigala.

Already in the 1950s, he foresaw the potential for establishing Buddhism in the West, and to make his own contribution to the westward movement of the Dhamma, in 1952 he founded the German Dharmaduta Society. He started the Society in the back room of the family shop, though later it moved to premises purchased with funds he acquired through a zealous fund raising drive.

Asoka realized that if Buddhism was to send down roots in Germany, it was not enough to set up a base for German Buddhist missions here in Sri Lanka. He saw the need to have a Buddhist centre right in the heart of Germany itself. Thus, under his initiative, the German Dharmaduta Society purchased Das Buddhistische Haus in Berlin (built by Paul Dahlke in 1924), renovated it, and in 1957 brought * back to life as the Berlin Buddhist Vihara. In the same year, Asoka Weeraratna organized the first Buddhist mission to Germany, led by three Sri Lankan Bhikkhus accompanied by himself. From that time to the present, monks from Sri Lanka and elsewhere have lived at the Berlin Vihara, helping to maintain a Theravada presence in Germany.

Asoka Weeraratna later turned his attention to the construction of the Nissarana Vanaya Hermitage at Mitirigala, which became one of Sri Lanka’s most respected meditation monasteries. He equipped the monastery with all the facilities conducive to the meditative life. He found an accomplished meditation master, yen. Matara Sri Gnanarama Mahathera, to direct the meditation training, and then’ his mission accomplished, he himself entered the Buddhist order under the name Ven. Mitirigala Dhammanisanthi Thera. After his ordination he himself spent over a year at the Berlin Vihara in the early 1980s.

Buddhism comes to the West

The topic of this seminar is very timely, for in many Western countries today Buddhism is the fastest growing religion. In North America, Western Europe, and Australia-New Zealand, hundreds of Buddhist centres have sprung up almost overnight, offering teachings and meditation retreats even in remote regions. Today Buddhism is espoused not only by those in the alternative culture, as was the case in the 1960s, but by businessmen, physicists, computer programmers, housewives, real-estate agents, even by sports stars, movie actors, and rock musicians. Thousands of books on Buddhism are now available, dealing with the teachings at both scholarly and popular levels, while Buddhist magazines and journals expand their circulation each year.

What is characteristic of Western Buddhism in its present phase of development is the focus on Buddhist practice, especially the practice of meditation. In this phase it is not the academic study of Buddhist texts and doctrines that dominates, or the attempt to interpret the Dhamma through the prism of Western thought, but the appropriation of Buddhism as a practice that can bring deep transformations in one’s innermost being as well as in the conduct of everyday life. This does not necessarily mean that Buddhist practice is being taken up in accordance with canonical or traditional Asian models. Adaptations of the Dhamma to Western culture and ways of thinking are commonplace, but Buddhism is viewed principally as a path to awakening, a way that brings deep understanding of the mind and makes accessible new dimensions of being.

The need for a living transmission

Today, as Western interest in Buddhism increases, it is left to those of us who continue Asoka Weeraratna’s legacy to find a systematic way to establish the Theravada Sasana in the West. Here I must stress an important point. It is not merely texts and ideas that Westerners are looking for, not merely the Buddhism of the books, but persons who display the truth of the teaching in their lives. Thus when we consider how to establish Buddhism in the West, we should not think merely of the pure canonical Dhamma, but of a living transmission.

This takes us to the heart of the issue. Theravada Buddhism, in its orthodox mould, has always looked upon the monastic order, the Sangha, as the bearer of the Buddhist heritage. Thus, if Theravada is to take hold in the West, it seems it should come about through a monastic transmission, guarded and upheld by lay support. Without this, we would probably wind up with a watered down version of the Dhamma.

The need for a monastic transmission, however, immediately runs up against a practical problem. In Sri Lanka today there is a severe shortage of monks who exemplify the personal qualities needed by a Buddhist "messenger of Dhamma" (dhammaduta). This shortage has negative repercussions for the whole project of propagating Theravada Buddhism abroad, making the Theravada something of a still backwater on the otherwise lively Western Buddhist frontier. 

The problem of monastic education

Although I do not have an easy solution to this problem, it would be wise to make a preliminary diagnosis of its origins. I would suggest that the fault lies partly with the system of monastic education that prevails here in Sri Lanka. This system is extremely inadequate and needs drastic revision with respect to the aim, depth, and breadth of monastic training. If a monk is to go abroad to spread the Dhamma, he must have not only a thorough knowledge of his own Theravada tradition, but some acquaintance with other subjects too. These include the history and schools of Buddhism, comparative religion, and English. He should also know, or be ready to learn’ the Language of the country in which he will work.

Beyond these specific areas of competency, he will need the intellectual openness and acuity to comprehend the dispositions, attitudes, and worldviews of people from a different culture and relate to them in meaningful ways. He must have some grounding in the practice of the Dhamma, too, for knowledge of books and doctrines, however wide, will be fruitless if not coupled with dedication to the practice. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find a monastic institute that can impart the necessary training and the Buddhist prelates, due to their conservatism, are resistant to changes.

The need for revitalization

This problem may also be aggravated by the sharp distinction found in the Theravada monastic tradition between the so-called "village and town monks," devoted to preaching and community service, and the forest monks, devoted to full-time meditation. Thus we face this dichotomy: educated town monks without deep personal insight into the Dhamma or experience in meditation, and meditation monks without much inclination to propagate the teaching.

Since it would be inappropriate to prevail upon monks devoted to full-time meditation to take up a more active vocation, the remedy needed to redress this imbalance seems to require a revitalization of meditation practice within the bhikkhu training institutes. But meditation practice does not occur in a vacuum. It occurs under the impetus given by a clear understanding of the foundations and objectives of the Buddhist spiritual life. Thus what we really need is a rejuvenation of the spiritual challenge at the heart of Buddhist monasticism.

Personally, I do not think it is prudent to try to create institutions expressly for the purpose of training monks as dhammadutas. Such institutions could well attract monks keen to go abroad for the wrong reasons &emdash; to gain prestige, to become popular, perhaps to find employment and disrobe. It is wiser, I feel to strengthen programmes in the existing bhikkhu training centres. At the same time, we should keep an eye open for capable bhikkhus enrolled in these programmes who display the qualities needed to propagate the Dhamma in the West.

A quiet service 

Despite the shortage of qualified dhammaduta monks, scattered across the West there are a few Theravada viharas and Buddhist centres whose incumbents, in their own quiet and non-assertive way, are working to spread the Dhamma. Prominent among them we find Sri Lankan monks, who often must take up this task with much hardship and self-sacrifice. Such monks generally do not have large organizations behind them, or financial backing from home, but through their dedication to the Dhamma and compassionate concern for others, they actively seek to help Westerners find their way to the Buddha’s path. Their selfless work deserves appreciation and support from all sincere Buddhists in this country.

Sunday Island - 6 Aug 00

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N1.30  Buddhist stand on war and its relevance to the present conflict

 Sarath Weerasekera

There have been many articles on "Buddhist stand on war" and all of them naturally conclude stating that Buddhism is "totally opposed to war". all these articles imply, either intentionally or unintentionally that those who (including monks) directly or indirectly support the current war effort in our country, act against the teachings of the Buddha and consequently disgrace Buddhism. I was motivated by this to write this article to express my views in this regard.  

Buddha was very clear on war, peace and politics. He advocated and preached "non - violence and peace" as its universal message. Buddha has said, "Never hatred is appeased, by hatred but it is appeased by kindness."

This is an eternal Truth.

The first precept is to abstain from taking life, and Buddha has covered the entire spectrum of living beings by classifying "life" into following five categories (mentioned in Karaniya Metta Sutta). i.e. a. Tasa - Tava - moving, unmoving b. Digha (Long), Mahantha (large), majjima (medium), rassaka (short), anuka (minute), thula (fat) c. Ditta (that can be seen), additta (that cannot to seen) d. Dure (which live far) &emdash; avidure (which live near) e. Bhuta (born), Sambhavesi (seeking birth) 

Not only living beings, Buddha even condemned the destruction of plant life. He was very critical of contemporary religious rituals which involved sacrifices, killing of large number of animals. Thus, we can imagine how critical he would have been of indiscriminate killings, deliberate violence and devastation of vegetation in war. 

Buddha says, "Victory breads hatred, the defeated live IN pain, Happily the peaceful live, Giving up victory and defeat."  

Buddha rejects glorification of war since there can be no glory when the mind is dominated by hate. It is recognized that battle cannot take place without hatred and the wish to kill is prevalent both in the mind of aggressor and victim.

Hence in principle, Buddhism is opposed to war. But, what about the rules who are drawn into conflict when threatened by aggression, for the sole purpose of protecting their citizens? Is a father as the head and the protector of the family is not justified in killing a person who has entered the house forcibly to harm the family members? In situations like above, how far it is relevant or correct to compare the best courses of action with the teachings of the Buddha?

LTTE has been categorized as the most ruthless terrorist organisation in the world. They commit atrocities against unarmed innocent people and also engage in "ethnic cleansing" by systematically terrorizing and chasing away Sinahalese from East. (Already completed in North) The government forces fight LTTE and the patriots from every quarter of the society (including monks) bless, encourage and support the troops in their above endeavour. It is in the light of this that articles do appear in papers challenging the above role/action of the troops/patriots by making parallels with the Buddhist teachings. Hence it is timely to discuss the Buddhist attitude during similar situations in history, including the period of the Buddha, Himself.

The texts show that Buddha, although preached non violence has acknowledged that a state must have an Army to defend herself. In Chakka Vatti Sihenada Sutta the Buddha gives advice to the righteous king. "Being a man of Damma, you should provide the right watch/protection for your own folk, for the Army, for the Nobles etc". This naturally implies that Buddha was mindful of the need for an Army to protect the citizens and the consequent use of force in defence as a world necessity.

Once Buddha asked king Pasdenadi whether he would like to keep a Noble youth in his Army if he was untrained, unskilled, unpracticed, undrilled, timid, trembling and one who would run away! The fact that the Buddha used similes from Pasenedi’ s military implies that he accepted and acknowledged the existence of an Army as a tool of the state.

King Kosol once approached Buddha and complained that his soldiers join the Order which had resulted in depletion of the Army. Buddha immediately incorporated the rule in the formular of ordination that the candidate must not be in the Army and if so must get the consent of the king to enter order. (This rule is still valid and, in our country a serviceman cannot join the order without the written approval of the respective service Commander). This incident too implies that the Buddha has accepted that the state must have a fully fledged Army for defence whilst being fully aware of the role of the Army during an invasion. 

There were instances where Buddha has prevented wars, but it is not claimed that Buddhism has prevented all the wars. Buddhism is not very clear as to how far Buddhist principles of non-violence can be followed when it comes to protecting the weak and innocent against aggressors. Buddhism allows the validity of certain worldly necessities which may not be fully compatible with the highest ideals of harmlessness and non - violence. The administration of justice itself implies punishment to offender. 

The precept to refrain from killing is one that is voluntarily under taken. A Buddhist knows if violates does so at his own peril. But the question remains whether there is any mitigation, if killing is carried out as a duty of the state. In a situation like this hatred is not so dominant in "Chetana" or the mental volition accompanies such an act, as otherwise. But the extent to which it is modified can hardly be known even to the person concerned. A diminished responsibility may be argued in the case of conscripts forced to kill to protect the country. Surely, there has to be a difference between wars of conquest and wars of defence!

In what is called "mercy killing", certainly it is not the victim that is hated. The pain and the suffering are the aspects taken into consideration. Although unwholesome mental states exist, yet they appear in the guise of compassion.

When it comes to a State, the primary duty of it is to look into the welfare of the people and ensure freedom. It is the duty of the State to protect its individual members under all circumstances. It cannot give them Nibbana any more than it can attain Nibbana itself. All it can do is to ensure their worldly welfare. In order to do that the state may have to wage war in defence, kill the common enemy of the public etc. Only by this, an individual, who in Buddhism is the most important of all, will be free to workout his own salvation.

Buddhism, hence doesn’t directly deal with the "Buddhist" way of reaction against aggressors. All what we can see from above is that non - violence in the face of violence is not a moral absolute in all circumstances.

As it was mentioned earlier, it is the Chetana or the intention which is the key factor in all the activities. In the second century BC the Chola prince "Elara", a Hindu, invaded the country and ruled the Northern part of the island for 40 years. King Dutugemunu mustered the whole nation in his fight for national Independence against the invader. His war slogan was "Not for kingdom but for Buddhism" and it was psychologically so effective that even Bhikkus left the order and joined the liberating Army to fight against the foreign invader. Mahawansa describes how Ven. Theraputhabaya derobed, joined king Dutugemunu’s Army and after victory, re entered the order and attained Arahathood!!

We are fully aware that if not for king Dutugemunu, the entire country would have become a Hindu Tamil dominated one and Buddhism would have suffered the same fate as in India, Maldives, Bangladesh, South Korea etc. which were Buddhist countries earlier. Hence as Ven. Walpola Rahula threa points out, fighting for national Independence had become an established Buddhist tradition, since freedom was essential to the spiritual as well as material progress of the community. 

Throughout the history Buddhist monks have taken an active role in protecting the country and Buddhism, against foreign invasion. On 05th century BC during the invasion of Hindu Tamils from South India, Ven. Mahanama raised the Royal Prince Dhatusena amidst attempts to assassinate him. He admitted the prince into order and brought him up secretly giving education in every relevant field of a king. Dhatusena subsequently liberated Sinhalese and Buddhism from the aggression. Can anybody argue that Ven. Mahanama acted against the Buddhist teachings? If not for him, what would have been the fate of Sinhalese and Buddhism in the country?

As per Mahawansa when king Dutugemunu became remorseful at the thought of killing a large number of human beings in battle, a representation of Arahats living on the island of Piyangu had met the king and said that his path to heaven was not obstructed as his intention had been pure and clean. Ven. Rahula in his book "The heritage of the Bhikku" concludes that although the above record is diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Buddha, working for the freedom and upliftment of religion was recognized as so noble by both laity and Sangha that they seemed to have believed that Arahats themselves had accepted that even the destruction of human beings in order to save the country was not a grave crime. If there was no violent reaction to the repeated aggressions by the enemy Buddhism in our country would have suffered an irreparable blow.

Our country is in peril. The terrorists are destroying the Buddhist heritage in the North and East. The harmless farmers in the villages affected by terrorism are being massacred. The innocent men, women, children of such villages withdraw to the jungle at night fearing attacks by terrorists. In this state of affairs, as patriots, do we fight to eliminate the terrorism or, lobby the message of Buddhist stand as "totally opposed to war" and wait with folding arms allowing terrorists to rule the North and the East?

The Island - 10 Oct 00

 

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Practice for the New Millennium by the Dalai Lama
 

The Practice:


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 (clerks, attendants, etc)
or people you dislike.

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

These thoughts are very simple, inspiring and helpful.
The practice of cherishing can be taken very deeply if done wordlessly,
allowing yourself to feel the love and appreciation that
already exists in your heart.

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