BUDDHISM RELATED NEWS.
NEWS INDEX - PAGE 2
N2.01 Bamiyan, the glory and the tragedy - The valley of Bamiyan is about a hundred miles north-west of Kabul...
N2.02 Searching for Templo budista - For the last four years, I have been visiting 'Cidade Maravilhosa', Rio De Janeiro...N2.03 Aluvihara: where Tripitakas were written - The epic reign of king Valagamba would go into the literary history...
N2.04 Fanatics instigated destruction of Bamiyan statues - Bamiyan statues, the tallest standing statues of Buddha...N2.05 Ven. Samita as pioneer Bhikku MP Whither Buddha Sasana? - It is a matter for deep regret ...
N2.06 Important events occurred on Navam Full Moon Day - Even before the advent of Buddha, Poya was observed...N2.07 Thousands of low-caste Hindus convert to Buddhism - New Delhi, India, Nov. 4 (AP)- Defying police restrictions...
N2.08 London Buddhist Vihare celebrates 75 yearsN2.09 Establishment of the Sri Lanka Sangha Sabha - August 26, 2001 marked another milestone...
N2.10 Buddhist stupa rises in the RockiesN2.11 'Buddhism is practice, not preaching' - The Buddha's Teaching cannot be learnt from a book...
N2.12 Nepal asks India to scrap dam project that will flood Buddha's birth placeN2.13 Missing hands of Bamiyan Buddha Statue - Will the Sri Lankan Buddhists accept the idea that...
N2.14 First ever Buddhist Procession in UKN2.15 Home is where the heart is - I have written a couple of articles on Myanmar...
N2.16 Buddha statue in bar upset people - Buddha bar, the popular French bar, which has an outlet in the Grosvenor...N2.17 Bamiyan Buddhas were not the only ones - A San Diego University neuroscientist...
N2.18 Buddhist Fellowship shocked over Taliban move - Sri Lanka The World Fellowship of Buddhists is...N2.19 They were faceless but even more powerful: I was awestruck - I flew into Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley...
N2.20 Buddhism around the World - Global conference - One thousand two hundred Buddhist leaders…N2.21 Hundreds embrace Buddhism in Ahmedabad, India - Nearly a thousand Dalits in Ahmedabad embraced Buddhism…
N2.22 227 Buddhist Centres in Manhattan - Buddhism is the fastest growing religion…N2.23 50th Anniversary of the German Dharmaduta Society - The Prospects for the Growth of Buddhism…
N2.24 Buddhism Around The World: Cambodians - Cambodian Bhikkhu Sangha has completely…N2.25 Buddhist shrines in the Trincomalee district - Buddhist shrines in the Trincomalee district…
N2.26 Bollywood Gives Us A Life Of Prince Asoka - I threw up my hands in horror and frustration…N2.27 More Dhamma from Beyond the Net - The dawn of Vesak 1997 saw the launch of Beyond the Net…
N2.28 Buddha’s vision of peace more relevant than ever - Kofi Annan - Secretary-General of the UN in his message…N2.29 A dagaba enshrining Kapilawastu Relics - Dhatu Karanduwa and valuable objects of offering…
N2.30 Bodhgaya to all humankind - The very word conjures up images of the sacred site…
N2.01 Bamiyan, the glory and the tragedy
Ven S. Dhammika
The valley of Bamiyan is about a hundred miles north-west of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. The valley is green and fertile in stark contrast to the surrounding countryside which is dusty, rugged and without vegetation. The north side of the valley is formed by a impressive cliff about a mile and a half long and in places over two hundred and fifty feet high. Cut into this cliff are hundreds of niches, tunnels, halls and rooms which formed part of several huge monasteries that once existed here. But the most prominent of the man-made cxcavations on the cliff are four huge niches containing images of the Buddha, one of them being the biggest statues ever made. On the far eastern end of the cliff is the remains of a niche over a thousand feet long which once sheltered a reclining image of the Buddha. Most of the cliff has collapsed and little can be seen there today. Further to the west is a second niche containing a standing Buddha about one hundred and twenty feet high. On the cliff to the left of this statue was a huge buttress erected in the 1960's by Italian archaeologists to protect the side of the niche from collapsing. Despite being badly damaged and weathered the original beauty of this statue was still apparent. Further along is a niche about thirty feet high containing statue of the Buddha sitting in meditation. This statue is very rough and apparently was never finished.
The Red Idol
The largest and most famous of these statues is near the western end of the cliff. This huge statue is one hundred and seventy three feet high and was known by local people as Surkh'bud, the Red Idol. It seems that the statue was originally covered with gold leaf applied to a red arsenic base and when the gold wore off the statue appeared red coloured for some centuries and hence its popular name. Carved into the cliff around the Great Buddha's feet were nine shrines which gave a good idea of the richness and sophistication attained by Bamiyan's monasteries. The first shrine consisted of an eight-sided chamber (one side forming the door) with a domed roof. Niches rose in three tiers consecutively seven, fourteen and twenty one in number, each containing an image of either the Buddha or a bodhisattva and each beautifully painted. Rather than a dome the roof of shrine No V consisted of juxtaposed square rafters in imitation of the wooden architecture of the time. And once again all this was covered with delicate stucco work and paintings. From shrine No VIII stairs led up through numerous other rooms mainly monks cells to the very top of the Great Buddha's head. From there, looking up to the curved roof above, the visitors would have noticed that large areas were covered with paintings, mainly depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha and still vivid after nearly one and a half millennium. Looking straight ahead the visitor would be rewarded by a breathtaking view over the town below, the verdant fields beyond and the snowdusted mountains on the distant horizon. Obviously those who constructed the Great Buddha envisaged it gazing protectively over the countryside and the inhabitants in turn looking up from their daily labours and being reassured by its benign and gentle smile. If the visitor descended the stairs, walked about a quarter of a mile from the base of the cliff and looked back, he or she got some idea of just how remarkable the Great Buddha of Bamiyan really was. It was made in the Indo-Greek, sometimes called, Gandhara, style and was probably constructed in the fourth or fifth century CE. It stood in the tribhanga posture, that is, with one leg bent and slightly forward. The right hand was raised, palm outward, in the gesture of fearless and the left hand probably held the corner of the robe, as was commonly done in Gandhara representations of the Buddha. Despite the enormous dimensions they were working with, the artists managed to create a well-proportioned image with all the lightness and grace characteristic of much smaller Buddha statues from the same period.
One is forced to wonder how something so huge could have been constructed before the advent of modern engineering. So how was it made? No records survive but we can speculate. It seems probable that the artist or artists conceived the general size and outline of the figure and then the stone masons, suspended from ropes hanging from the top of the cliff, just started cutting into the rock, probably starting at the top and working downwards. Of course this would have been done by hand. Many thousands of tons of rock had to be removed and this formed the large terrace that extends outward from the statue's feet. When the rough outlines of the figure began to emerge wooden scaffolding had to be erected around it so that the masons could do the finishing and the fine details. For some reason the masons decided not to cut the folds of the Great Buddha's robe out of the rock. Instead they draped ropes loosely over the statue, fixed them with pegs and then placed wooden poles along them. Likewise the hands were made separately. Holes were cut into the wrists, long wooden poles were driven into them and the hands were built up out of clay on these. When this was done the whole statue was covered with fine clay, polished, painted and then, at least at one period, covered with gold leaf. The rock forming the robe below the left hand collapsed at one time and the holes drilled into the rock there are remnants of attempts to repair this. The whole project must have taken many years and an investment of vast amounts of labour and resources.
In about 630 CE the Chinese pilgrim Huien Tsiang passed through Bamiyan on his way to India and left a description on the place as it existed at that time. He found ten monasteries housing about a thousand monks. They belonged to the Lokottravadin School and "were distinguished from their neighbours by their love for religion". Concerning the great Buddha images he wrote: "To the north-east of the royal city there is a mountain on the face of which is a stone statue of the Buddha standing, 140 or 150 feet high. Its golden hues sparkle on every side and its precious ornaments dazzle the eyes by their brightness. To the east of this spot there is a monastery which was built by one of the former kings of the country. To the east of the monastery there is another standing figure of Sakya Buddha made of metallic stone about 100 feet high. It has been cast in different parts and joined together and thus placed in a completed form as it stands. To the east of the city 12 or l3 li there is another monastery in which there is a figure of the Buddha reclining as when he attained Nirvana. The figure is a 1000 or so feet long". Bamiyan is situated on what was the main trade routes from Central Asia and China to India and the routes from India to Persia. Trade routes can also serve as highways for invading armies and this was to have disastrous consequences for Bamiyan and its inhabitants. Trade brought pilgrims and wealth hut some time before Huien Tsiang's it also brought the first of a long line of very destructive visitors, the notorious White Huns. These raiders did great damage hut their primary interest was loot and after getting what they wanted they passed on and Bamiyan's monasteries were able to recover. But then in the second half of the eight century came the newly Islamised Arabs who, while greedy for loot were also interested in imposing their faith on the peoples they conquered. To save their skins the rulers of Bamiyan converted to Islam although their faith seems to have been lukewarm because records show that they continued to patronize Buddhist monasteries.
But as one ruler followed another and the pressure of Islamisation intensified the monasteries ceased to find royal support, were occasionally attacked and found less and less young men willing to become monks. In 870 CE Saffarid Yakub looted the place and carted many Buddha statues off to Baghdad where they were probably desecrated and then destroyed. The coup de grace came in the early thirteenth century when Genghis Khan's hordes broke out of Central Asia and swarmed south and west. The impact they had on Islam was so devastating that the faith almost ceased to exist. But when the storm passed it was able to recover with help from Islamic lands untouched by the Mongols. The same was not true for Buddhism in Afghanistan. In 1222 the Mongols raged Bamiyan and because Buddhism in adjoining regions was itself weak or fading it was unable to help in the reconstruction. Bamiyan's monasteries were abandoned and gradually began to crumble. But even this was not enough for the fanatics and random acts of vandalism and desecration continued for centuries. At the end of the seventeenth century the Mogul emperor Aurangzeb ordered that Bamiyan's huge statues be destroyed by cannon fire. It was at this time also that the faces of the two largest statues were broken off. Huge pegs were driven into the tops of the statues heads-until the faces broke off as huge single slabs and fell crashing to the ground.
The last act in the long sad saga of abuse of the Great Buddha took place just a few months ago when Afghanistan's Islamic government announced that it had ordered the statues complete destruction. Protests from governments, cultural organizations, museums and concerned individuals poured in from all over the world. A Taliban public relations spokesman tried to explain the reasons for the destruction including that that representations of humans are forbidden in Islam. A UN official commented, "The Taliban don't need a public relations expert, they need a psychiatrist". It is a reflection on the Taliban's mentality that they not only announced their intention but that they actually filmed the desecration and then released it for the whole world to see. Even common vandals commit their deeds stealthily and when no one can see. Not so the Taliban a single gun was positioned about a mile from the Great Buddha and a single explosive shell was lobbed at it. When the dust cleared only the crudest outline of the Great Buddha remained. The concussion from the explosion must have also caused the collapse of the many shrines around the Great Buddha and the severe damage if not complete obliteration of the paintings within them.
The Great Buddha of Bamiyan was the most famous of Afghanistan's art treasures to be destroyed but by no means the only one. The Taliban announced that they intended to destroy all Afghanistan's non-lslamic art and indeed it seems they have. About fifty miles south-east of Bamiyan are extensive ruins now called Begran which represent the remains of the ancient capital city of the Buddhist kingdom of Kapisia. In the 1930's, 50's and 60's French and Italian archaeologists did major work here, uncovering vast amounts of sculpture and other artifacts, much of it Buddhist. Even at that time Afghanistan's government was not particularly interested in its pre-Islamic heritage and while some of the finds from Begram were taken to the Kabul Museum much else was shipped back to Europe where it can be seen today at the Musee Guimet in Paris. Much else was stored in a large building on the site. At the time the Great Buddha was destroyed all this sculptures was destroyed too. Reports say all the statues had there heads broken off with hammers and were then taken to a nearby gorge and thrown over the side. The Afghan countryside was dotted with the remains of stupas, often situated in prominent places like passes and the tops of mountains. The fate of only one of these monuments is known, the nearly complete stupa at Guldara. In March this year dynamite was placed around this beautiful stupa and it was unceremoniously blown to bits. The fate of the other stupas is not known although it seems likely that it was the same.
But the most tragic and shocking example of all this vandalism was the apparent complete destruction of the collection of the Kabul Museum. This institution housed the largest and finest collection of Indo-Greek art in the world; sculptures, jewellery, inscriptions, pottery and paintings of inestimable value and importance. Much had already disappeared in the years of chaos prior to the Taliban's capture of the capital. Unruly soldiers and frightened museum staff hoping to secure their futures simply stole the gold and silver jewellery and melted it down.
This is believed to be the largest museum theft in history. The numerous paintings, statues and other artifacts had no immediate value and thus survived although some smaller pieces turned up in Pakistan from where they found their way to the international art market. Art historians were hoping that the rest might survive but it was not to be so. Simultaneously with the announcement of the destruction at Bamiyan the government also proclaimed that it had destroyed all the 'idolatrous art' in the museum. One can only hope that some of the more corrupt Taliban officials saved some pieces with the intention of selling them later, although this seems unlikely. All this has to be the most terrible blow to the art world, indeed to civilization in general, since the Nazis assault on art during the Second World War. In time of course the Taliban will go the way of all tyrants but the ugly black hole they have smashed in humankind's common cultural heritage will, tragically, remain forever.
The Island - 23 Feb 02
N2.02 Searching for Templo Budista
On a hot sunny morning I climbed 70 steps to the Temple-saw the monk and said "Ayubowan"
For the last four years, I have been visiting "Cidade Maravilhosa" (Marvelous City) = Rio De Janeiro in Brazil, three to four times a year - Using Rio as a base, touring other cities in Brazil - practising my Sinhalese. Jokes aside, you will be amazed at the number of Portuguese words in the Sinhala language.
In Sept. 2001, I saw a Brazilian lady wearing a Buddhist Flag pin on the Rio subway and asked her if she was a BUDISTA (Buddhist) and told her that I too was a Budista from Sri Lanka. The lady informed me that there was a Sri Lankan monk in a small temple in Rio, but was not aware of its location.
On my return to the states, I e-mailed Sri Lanka Express for information. Deeptha & Hassina asked me to talk with Dr. Ananda Guruge who had visited the temple.
On my return to Rio in December 20O1, I finally located and visited the temple.
The Temple is located in the hilly Santa Tereza district of Rio, on a mountain site within sight of world famous Corcovado (Statue of Christ). It is a US$ 10.00 taxi ride from the tourist hotels of Copacabana Beach.
Dec. 10th - 2001. On a hot & sunny morning, l climbed 70 steps to the Temple - saw the monk and said "Ayubowan Bhikku".
1967 - The Rio De Janeiro Meditation Society invited Talpitiye Anuruddha Thero to start a Theravada Buddhist Society and to build a temple and meditation centre. Rev. Anuruddha gave meditation courses in Brazilian cities & talks at inter-religious gatherings. 32 Brazilians contributed to buy 20 acres of land on the slopes of a mountainside. Levelling of the mountain side and building of the centre was done by Brazilian volunteers under the direction of Rev. Anuruddha.
1972 - Temple & Meditation centre opened by the Governor of Rio State. This is the first & only Theravada Buddhist centre in the Continent of South America.
1973 - Rev. Anuruddha disrobed.& took back his birth name of Don Kulatunga Jayanetti.
1974-5 - Temple headed by Rev. Badulle Shanthi Budra.
1976-86 - The Meditation Society invited Don Jayanetti to become the Chief Dayakaya and to maintain the temple.
1986-date - The temple has been headed by Ven. Puhulwelle Vipassi Thero. In 1988, the Malwatta Chapter of Sri Lanka awarded the title of Sangha Nayaka post for Brazil & South America to Rev. Vipassi.
1992 - Former Sri Lanka President Wijetunge planted a Bo Tree from the Sri Maha Bodhi, Anuradhapura during the Earth Summit Conference on 8th June.
Today, the temple has an active membership of 400 to 500 Brazilians. Activities include Daily Pooja/Meditation at 7 p.m., with an additional Pooja/Meditation at 4.00 p.m. on Saturdays & Sundays. There is a retreat on the last weekend of each month.
Both Rev. Vipassi & Mr. Don Jayanetti, give regular talks on Buddhism/Meditation to University students and at Inter-religious gatherings.
1997 - Rev. Vipassi was honoured at the Dalada Maligawa, Kandy for his Buddhist duties in South America by the Mahanayake Thera's of the Malwatta Maha Vihara.
1974 - Don Jayanetti married Maria Scarambone, they have 2 daughters Marianna & Nanda. In March 2002, Marianna is going to London (UK) for post graduate studies. Nanda is a student at the Rio University. For many years Don worked for a large Corporation in the states of Bahia & Amazonas.
Other Lankans in Brazil
Rev. Vipassi is aware of - Dayananda & Sumana Kapuge and 2 sons in Rio de Janeiro. Piyadasa Uduwanage married to a Brazilian lady - also living in Rio; Kenneth De Lanerolle & Brazilian wife who lives in the Capital city of Brasilia; Nihal Perera who lives in Goias state.
The Portuguese came to Brazil in 1500 & to Ceylon in 1505. In Brazil, the local Gurani & Tupi people were eating certain fruits. The Portuguese introduced the fruits to Ceylon together with the Gurani/Tupi names. So today in Sri Lanka we eat - Caju, Annazi, Pera, Naranja, Kabaranka, Sapatillo.
According to historical documents in Brazil, Portuguese officials posted to Ceylon, came over with their Sinhalese servants on being re-posted to Brazil. So there are Brazilians with genes going back to Ceylon.
I spent 3 quiet/peaceful mornings/afternoons at the Temple. Gave Dana to the monk & received his blessings. Also each day met both Rev. Vipassi & Don Jayanetti - 3 middle aged men, born in Sri Lanka, talking in Sinhala/English/Portuguese in a Theravada Buddhist Temple on a mountainside in Brazil.
I believe the Temple could use funds for its maintenance & specially to print Buddhist literature in the Portuguese language for local distribution. Any Buddhist or Sri Lankan artifacts or handicrafts. These could be kept in the Shrine room & Meeting hall.
Rev. Vipassi & Don Jayanetti would welcome the Sri Lanka Express. The Temple does not have a computer. Rev. & Don, would welcome letters from other Sri Lankans - Do write to them, Miss Marianna & Miss Nanda Jayanetti. They have not heard Sinhala music. Any Sinhala music cassettes & CDs would be most welcomed by these 2 young Sinhalese-Brazilian ladies. Letters/parcels should be sent c/o the Temple.
Finally, Rev. Vipassi & Don Jayanetti requests any Sri Lankans visiting Rio De Janeiro to please drop in at the Temple.
Leaving Rio - Brazilian security officer at airport, opens my USA passport - notes "place of birth" Sri Lanka. Asks me if I know Mr. Dayananda Kapuge. I informed him that I visited Temple Budista. The security officer then informs me that he is a member of the Temple & personally knows Rev. Vipassi. He says the Buddhist Prayer" Namo Tassa Bagavatho" I smile at him and say "Sadhu, Sadhu".
In "Cidade Maravilhosa" (Marvelous City), Rio de Janeiro, a city of 8 million Roman Catholic Christians - my faith in Buddhism is restored.
Address: Templo Budista Rio De Janeiro Estrada Dom Joaquim Mamede 45 Lagoinha - Santa Tereza Rio De Janeiro RJ - 20241-230 Tel: 526-1411
If anyone needs further information, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday Island - 17 Feb 02
N2.03 Aluvihara - where Tripitakas were written
The epic reign of king Valagamba/Vattagamani (104-77 B.C.) would go into the annals of the Buddhist literary history as the Tripitakas (Buddhist scriptures) were written down on ola leaves in Pali by a conclave of Buddhist monks of the Aluvihara Temple, lying close to Matale.
These Tripitakas originally had come down by mere word of mouth by being committed to memory by Buddhist monks of the time. Such Tripitakas are classified into three divisions. They are Vinaya Pitakaya (Basket of discipline), Suthra Pitakaya (Basket of Discourse) and Abidarma Pitakaya (Basket of Metaphysics).
The entrance canopy has a prominent Pandal with an arch constructed out of concrete. From there is a steep ascent of stone steps leading to the meda midula - frontage terrace. Here looms a mass of rock boulders harbouring cave shelters.
Then from there, rises round and round steps of stone giving way to the other rock caves having well chiselled drip ledges on the apex. Mr. W. Edwin is in charge of the library housed in a commodious building which is named as the International Library and Museum for writing the Tripitakayas on ola leaves in Pali.
The foundation stone for this International Library and Museum was laid by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia on 17.2.1957.
He had been in Sri Lanka then to attend the Buddha Jayanthi Celebrations held in February 1957. This edifice was inaugurated by the late Premier, Srimavo Dias Bandaranaike on 1.9.1974. It was constructed with state funds.
Mr. W. Edwin, Librarin there, is a real repository of all Buddhist philosophy and other historical episodes connected with this Aluvihara Temple and other archaeological artifacts of cultural value. He was receptive to me and briefed me its origins.
There is an influx of tourists both home and abroad flocking to this historic temple. The library contains a gallery of antiques ranging from Buddhist statues, seated, standing made out of clay, brass, marble, while some of them have been gold plated.
There are priceless Buddha statues gifted by Siam, Cambodia, China, Japan, and Myrama (Burma), together with other archaeological artifacts pertaining to old Lanka, as well. Then there is also displayed Buddha statues of Mahayana sect gifted from countries like China, Japan, Cambodia and Korea. There are well bound Tripitakas on ola leaves written in Pali displayed in a separate bookshelf.
Then next comes an array of heaps of talipot leaves (fresh ones processed into ola leaves on which the scriptures are written with the aid of the panhida-stile.
These specimens are in the form of display to visiting tourists as Mr. Edwin, the Librarian has to explain to them in his lectures as to how these ola leaves are processed from the tali-pat palm-leaves. Besides. Mr. Edwin being proficient in Sinhala, Pali, Sanscrit, he is also well-versed in foreign languages like French, Italian and German as he delivers lectures in these languages on all aspects of making of ola leaves from scrap, and about the origins of Buddha statues and other stone monuments.
Among the antiques displayed are old brass lamps, arecanut cutters, swords, knives, ceramic ware, and other ornaments and implements of antiquity, as well.
This Aluvihara temple from ancient times had been called as Aloka vihara. Mr. Edwin told me that during the reign of Valagamba of the 1st century A.D., the Buddhist scriptures, those Tripitakayas were originally written on ola leaves in Pali at seven of those rock caves by an assembly of erudite Buddhist monks who were resident in those very caves. Of those seven caves, only three are remaining.
In the first cave about 25 feet long and 10 feet high was one of the venues where some of these archaic Tripitakayas were written on ola leaves in Pali by a team of Buddhist monks. On its apex is written in bold Sinhala letters that the Tripitakayas were written during the reign of king Valagamba at this cave shelter.
The rock cave shelter harbours an Image House. Its entrance doorway, overhead is surmounted with the typical Makara Thoranay motif flanked by janitors. There are also seated standing and recumbent Buddha statues of terra-cota, while the murals are adorned with paintings of Jataka stories. The cave ceilings are studded with fascinating paintings of lotus flowers in full bloom - all dating back to the Kandyan period of time.
Next comes a spiral stone staircase that terminates on its summit where the sacred Bodhiya stands cloistering an image house in this rock cave shelter.
The third cave is met amidst a conclave of rock boulders where is sheltered another rock cave where the Tripitakayas were written on ola leaves by the ancient Buddhist monks. Lying in the same premises where the Library stands, is another commodious building sheltering the Sanga Nivasa (Monks Residency).
This Sanga Nivasa was completed on 14.7.1994.
Inside the hall is placed a bronze plaque against its wall in which are inscribed both in Sinhala and English the following nobel but immortal words: "This Sanga Nivasa dedicated to the Sanga Fraternity became a reality on 14.7.1994 with meritorious act completed with the support of the Ven. Son Song Nayaka Thera, members of the Dayaka Sabha Hynn Bulsung Temple of Bulsung Sect in Korea and the Aluvihara Temple Development Fund initiated and constructed during the incumbency of Ven. Ethipola Sri Medhankara Nayake Priest, Chief High Priest, Matale District.
Sunday Observer - 13 Jan 02
N2.04 Fanatics instigated destruction of Bamiyan statues
Bamiyan statues, the tallest standing statues of Buddha, were blown up by the Taliban at the instance of Pakistani, Saudi and other fanatic followers of Osama Bin Laden, according to minutes of a meeting found in a house abandoned by the fleeing militia.
The Times of India reported that "the one-page document, discovered in a house in Kabul is labelled minute of a meeting and describes how Al-Qaeda fighters, as well as Uzbek, Chechen and Pakistani militants who were allied with them, had sent a delegation to the Taliban to "discuss the fate of the Buddha statues," a report said on Sunday.
The document suggests that the Islamic groups or foreigners met repeatedly and lobbied with the Taliban to take action, some of which was opposed by the Afghan leaders.
Said Amin Mujahed, a history professor at Kabul University who was involved in trying to persuade the Taliban to spare the statues, told the Washington Post: "I believed from the early days that this was not the Taliban doing. This was the Islamic radicals from Pakistan, the Arab Wahhabis. The Taliban were not the ones deciding - they were only the implementers. Other people were dictating to them, and they were just repeating the words. You can easily say the Taliban were just the spokespersons for Bin Laden".
The Island - 2 Jan 02
N2.05 Ven. Samita as pioneer Bhikku MP Whither Buddha Sasana?
D. Amarasiri Weeraratne
Reference letter of Mr. P. A. W. Perera on the Ven. Samita Thera, as pioneer Bhikkhu M.P. (Island 17/12/01), it is a matter for deep regret that he is advocating the regularisation of an apostasy which would ring the death-knell of the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka.
Knowledgeable Buddhists know the vow taken by all Buddhist monks at their ordination. With folded palms in worship they say to the teacher 'Ven. Sir, take these robes and ordain me, so that I may devote my life to the realisation of Nirvana and get rid of all suffering in Sansara.' This vow stands unaltered from the Buddha's days to this day. If, due to social, political or economic changes since the Buddha's days, an amendment of the Vinaya is necessary, the Sangha leaders may do so after convening a Sangha Council. But without that for individual members to contravene the Vinaya rules at their convenience and pleasure is a grave apostasy. The Maha Nayake of the Sect is responsible for the maintenance of Vinaya discipline in his Sect. If he cannot do that properly he is not fit for the office of Primate.
Nowadays monks take to various professions, trades, business venture for monetary gain. It is for the Mahanayakes to study why they do so, and what are the necessities which compel them do so. If the funds and incomes of temples are credited to a central fund and distributed among the monks to meet their religious needs, monks need not go for salaried employment. So I must say the Three Mahanayakes are responsible for the break-down of Vinaya observance, and laxity of erratic monks. In the past the Mahanayakes have turned a blind eye to Vinaya-lapses by the rank and file and only a few glaring cases are spotlighted in the newspapers.
In the case of Samita Thera he is a monk of the Siamese Sect. He should have got the permission of his Mahanayake to do partypolitics, contest a seat and enter parliament. He has not done so.
I see people objecting to a bhikkhu becoming an M.P. on very puerile and shallow grounds. Bowing to the Speaker, spreading a white cloth over his seat, leaving the session at 11 a.m. for dana are marginal minor matters that can be adjusted in the way monks in universities, teaching posts resolve these minor issues.
In the case of Samita Thera he is breaking new ground. He is creating history in the sasana, and a precedent that will open the gates of Vinaya violations for future generations.
Sinhalese monks were renunciate who had left the worldly life to pursue the holy life in terms of their vow at ordination. Buddhism had suffered under three colonial powers. So the younger intelligentsia among bhikkhus were anti-imperialistic and anti-colonialist. They believed in independence when Buddhism can gain its foremost place in the life of the people. The Sama Samajists found in them receptive sympathisers. So they got round the young monk intellectuals at Vidylankara Pirivena and conducted classes in Marxism. The young intelligentsia of the Vidyalankara became Sama Samaja sympathisers. It is at that time (1946) that young Rev. Walpola Rahula wrote his booklet called "Heritage of the Bhikkhu". In that he gave instances of Sangha-leaders becoming king-makers, advisors to kings, arbitrators in disputes to the throne etc. He omitted the parts where monks had helped rebels, and conspirators and were severely punished, executed etc. This book became the "vademecum' of young monks. It was a clarion call for party politics by Bhikkhus. This political trend in the young monks was later hijacked by Mr. Bandaranaike to win the 1956 elections. He was carried to power by the Bhikkhus in the vanguard of his pancha-bala-mandalaya. Bandaranaike ended his life being assassinated by Ven. Buddharakkita and Ven. Somarama. That is the finale to 'Bhikshuvage Urumaya' - heritage of the Buddhist monk.
In reply to the 'Heritage of the Bhikkhu' by Walpola Rahula, Ven. Henpitagedera Piyananda wrote "what is the Bhikku's Heritage" (Bhikshuvage Urumaya Kumakda?), In this he pointed out that the heritage extolled by Ven. W. Rahula was a heritage of apostasies not in keeping with the ideals of the Bhikkhus life as enunciated in the Dhamma Vinaya taught by the Buddha. He pointed out that the monks who took to politics against the king were severely punished and sometimes executed by the king. Their monasteries had been demolished. Party politics have nothing to do with the Noble Eightfold Path which the monk has to tread towards Nirvana. The true heritage of the Bhikkhu is to study the Dhamma, teach it, practise it and meditate. He has to maintain temples, perform the rites to laymen and be their guide and mentor in social service and welfare activities.
The Dasa Dhamma Sutta of the Anguttara Nikaya lays down the guide-lines for the Bhikkhus. It has to be learnt by heart by every monk and repeated daily at their evening devotions. It contains Ten Reflections which a monk should constantly bear in mind. The first four are:-
1) I have become casteless.
2) My life style is different from a layman.
3) My life is dependent on others.
4) How do I spend my days and nights.
Far from becoming casteless - the Siamese Sect is the preserve of the Govigama. The Amarapura sub division are caste based.
How can a monk who takes to politics, business or salaried jobs say his life is different from that of a layman? How can a monk earning a salary say his livelihood is dependent on others for the bare necessities?
Rev. Samita has made a serious error of judgement. He has taken the gospel according to Rev. Walpola Rahula as his scripture and religious text. It is a litany of apostasies and corrupt practices of erratic monks of a by-gone age. It is the duty of any genuine Buddhist monk to test any new interpretations or presentations with the Dhamma and the Vinaya of the Buddha. He cannot have the cake and eat the cake. He cannot be a monk and a layman at the same time.
The fault is not entirely with Rev. Samita. It is with the Malwatte Mahanayake the Primate of the Siamese sect. He has no control over his sect, and he himself sets no example in accepting Mercedes Benz cars violating the Vinaya and observing caste in admission of monks to his sect.
If he cares to he can see how the Primate of Thailand (the Sangaraja) exercises his control and Vinaya discipline among his monks who number about 70,000. No monk is allowed to do politics. Siamese monks do not even vote at the elections. They say we have renounced the world, we don't want to do politics and behave like laymen. No monk in Siam is allowed to get a salaried job. They do not litigate in the public court-houses. They are not allowed foreign travel without permission from the hierarchy. Because they do not take part in party politics. People of all parties worship and honour them.
If the Sangaraja of Siam can control his monks and see that they keep to the Vinaya, why cannot the Primate of the Siamese Sect in Sri Lanka to the same? If he does not have the legal powers he can ask the government to give him the powers, by law. No, he is not interested.
The Primate of the Amarapura sects in an article in the Silumina had deplored and expressed dismay at the entry of a Bhikkhu to Parliament as an MP. Ven. Dr. W. Ariyadeva of the Ruhunu University had deplored and appealed to Ven. Samita to vacate his seat and offer it to the candidate of his party who polled the largest number of votes next to him. Or in the alternative he appealed to Ven. Samita to disrobe and worshipfully hand over the noble garb of the Arahants to his teacher or in his absence to a representative elder of the Sangha. Then he should worship the robe which came down to him from a lineage originated by the Buddha. Then he should take the Five Precepts from the Sangha and become a layman. Thereby he can retrieve his good name and the honour of the Bhikkhu Sasana initiated by the Buddha.
The Island - 29 Dec 01
N2.06 Several important events occurred on Navam Full Moon Poya Day
Dr. Walpola Wimalagnana
Even before the advent of Lord Buddha, Poya was observed as a day of rest by the people. Traditional villagers gave pride of place to spiritual attainments on poya day whilst enjoying the material comforts with his family members.
During the Buddha's days, even Brahmin ascetics had declared poya as a day of religious significance. Buddha too affirmed thus practiced and showed His disciples and lay society to follow suit and engage in dhamma discourses.
Of the four poya days the full moon day of each month was observed with sanctity since several important events relating to Buddha's life and the Buddhist order occurred on such a day.
It was the Navam poya at Veluwana Maha Viharaya. The occasion was graced by Lord Buddha surrounded by around 1250 bhikkhus headed by Arahants, Sariputra and Moggallana. The newly ordained disciples such as Uruwela Kassapa, Gaya Kassapa and Nadi Kassapa added lustre to the assembly.
The day became historic when Buddha elevated Arahants, Moggallana and Sariputra as his two chief disciples.
During the first twenty years of Buddha Sasana which is called, 'Patama Sambodhi,' the necessity did not arise for Buddha to introduce special rules of conduct as the bhikkhus remained in virtuous lot.
However, with the passage of time, the situation demanded to enforce rules of discipline, i.e. Vinaya and as such Buddha preached, 'Ovadapati Mokka' sutra-panacea for all ills, to ensure discipline on a Nawam Poya day.
It was again on Navam poya that the Buddha pronounced at Chapala Chetiya the day of His demise, which is called, Ayusanskaraya.
During the last three months prior to His passing away, the Buddha accompanied by His disciple Ananda kept on visiting places of importance associated with His life.
Finally on a Wesak full moon day, the Enlightened One passed away at Upawatta Sal grouse in Kusinara.
Daily News - 26 Feb 02
N2.07 Thousands of low-caste Hindus convert to Buddhism
New Delhi, India, Nov. 4 (AP)- Defying police restrictions, thousands of low-caste Hindus on Sunday converted to Buddhism, shaking off centuries old social shackles that condemn them to lives marked by discrimination.
Facing a bronze statue of the Buddha, flanked by monks in saffron-coloured robes, new converts chanted religious hymns and lighted candles during a simple ceremony held in an open field in the Indian capital.
"We will no longer pray to Hindu gods and goddesses," they chanted.
The message of Buddhism is that all human beings are equal," said Harish Khare, a 36-year-old government employee who travelled from the western state of Maharashtra to participate in the ceremony.
Nearly one-fourth of India's more than one billion people are low-caste Hindus of "dalites". Also known as untouchable, they occupy the lowest rank in the caste system that is dominated by the once priestly class of Brahmins.
India's constitution outlaws discrimination on the basis of caste. But age-old practices persist in rural areas, where untouchable often are barred from sharing public facilities or temples with upper-caste Hindus. Many low-caste Hindus have chosen to convert to other religions to protest continued exploitation by upper-caste Hindus.
N2.08 London Buddhist Vihare celebrates 75 years
Sujeeva Nivunhella, London
London Buddhist Vihara celebrated its 75th anniversary last week. Under the patronage of Chief Sanga Nayaka of Great Britain, the Head Priest of London Buddhist Vihara Ven. Dr. Medagama Vajiragnana, the celebrations started with a whole night Pirith ceremony followed by an alms giving. There was an exhibition on Buddhism at the Vihara for a week.
Celebrations were concluded on 23rd September at Hammersmith Town Hall. Large number of Buddhist and Non-Buddhist clergy and the lay people from all over the world attended the ceremony.
Welcoming all the people who attended that day, Ven. Dr. Vajiragnana said that the London Buddhist Vihara was founded by Anagarika Dharmapala in 1926. He said it was the only Theravada Buddhist Vihara in London until Thai Buddhist monastery was opened in 1966.
"During the seventy-five years of its vibrant existence, the London Buddhist Vihara has played diverse roles. It was not always smooth sailing. Truly, often there has been a soothing, gentle breeze; at times this turned into gusts of wind and developed even to storms. Yet this flagship Vihara could not be rocked. Obstacles acted as if they were forces of inspiration; the Vihara bravely facing them has always come out clear with renewed vigour and dynamism to achieve the objectives set by its Founder," he said.
"Being the first Buddhist Vihara in the West, it served as the pathfinder, the beacon light to many a subsequent Buddhist mission. It served as a role model to them. Vihara regularly conducts Dhamma talks, discussions and meditation sessions. Library facilities are made available for those interested in furthering knowledge on Buddhism and even pursuing higher studies. The Sunday Dhamma School and Sinhala classes conducted by the Vihara are well attended by the Sri Lankans living in and around London. Without limiting its activities to such traditional areas, the Vihara has begun providing a forum for inter and intra faith dialogue, thus contributing immensely to mutual co-operation, understanding and harmony," he further said.
He noted that he could, without any hesitation, say that the London Buddhist Vihara would certainly be the cynosure of all Buddhists in the West.
Addressing the gathering, Ven. Prof. Bellanvila Wimalaratane Thero said that Anagarika Dharmapala toured the country with American Theosophist Henry Steel Olcott to revive Buddhism in Sri Lanka and he founded the Mahabodhi Society in India in 1891. He said that Anagarika Dharmapala attended the Parliament of World Religion held in Chicago in 1893 and there he determined to introduce practical Buddhism to the West and as a result he started the London Buddhist Vihara in 1926.
"London Buddhist Vihara was not purely for the purpose of serving the needs of the small expatriate community of Buddhist living in London. It was to impart Buddhist knowledge to the British here. From the inception up to now the London Buddhist Vihara has not forgotten the objective for which it was established. It has been doing its best to impart knowledge about Buddhism to people in England. This objective was very devotedly pursued by the Heads of the London Buddhist Vihara. This tradition is continued with same vigour and dynamism at present. The London Buddhist Vihara is fortunate in having as its Head Ven. Dr. Vajiragnana who is eminently qualified and suitable to shoulder a responsibility of this magnitude. The founding of London Buddhist Vihara is certainly an epoch making event. In effectively supplemented the academic interest of the westends in studying Buddhist texts. With the founding of the London Buddhist Vihara there came into being a centre of living Buddhism," he said.
Sri Lankan High Commissioner in London Mr. Mangala Munasinghe, Mr. Brian Appleyard of the Buddhist Society and Dr. Kim Kwang also spoke.
The Island - 30 Sep 01
N2.09 Establishment of the Sri Lanka Sangha Sabha
August 26, 2001 marked another milestone in Dhammadutta work in the South East Asian region. For the first time in modern history, Sri Lankan monks on dhammadutta mission outside Sri Lanka have deemed it fit to organise themselves under one Sangha umbrella group to work together for the betterment of the Buddha Sasana.
The newly formed Sangha Sabha will serve as a platform for monks from Malaysia and Singapore to exchange ideas on training, Dhammadutta work and techniques, socio-welfare work, etc. There is also a long term plan to recruit suitable monks from Sri Lanka to undergo training in English and Mandarin language proficiency, public relations, Buddhist apologetics, Sutta Study and Commentaries, local cultures, etc. before dispatching them to various parts in the region to meet the needs of the ever growing demand for Dhamma from Buddhist seekers in Malaysia and Singapore.
The President of the Sangha Sabha is the Most Venerable Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Nayaka Thera of the world renowned Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. Bhante who hails from Kirinde, Matara has also been the Chief Sanghanayaka for Malaysia and Singapore since 1965. The Sangha Sabha consists of 35 monks from 18 Buddhist temples and societies in Malaysia and Singapore.
The other office bearers of the Sangha Sabha includes:
Vice Presidents: Ven. Belanwila Dhammaratana Thera (Buddhist Research Society, Spore), Ven. Bothawatta Saranankara Thera (Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple, KL), Ven. Kotawila Sri Pemaloka Nayaka Maha Thera (Mangala Vihara, Spore), Ven. Weragoda Sarada Thera (Spore Buddhist Meditation Centre)
Joint Secretaries: Ven. Nakulugamuwe Sumana Thera (Society of Buddhist Volunteers, Spore), Ven. Kirinde Dhammaratana Thera (Buddhist Maha Vihara, KL)
Hon. Treasurer: Ven. Elgiriye Indaratana Thera (Mahindarama Temple, Penang)
To commemorate the occasion a magazine was published which included interviews with various monks who forwarded many valuable suggestions for Dhammadutta work in the region. The magazine also gave an anumodana in memory of all the pioneer monks who worked tirelessly to propagate Buddhism in the region.
The previous night a group of 26 Sri Lankan monks held an all night chanting to bless the Sovereign, the government, the people and the nation on the occasion of celebrating the Independence day of Malaysia which fell on August 31. The Maha Pirith Ceremony was initiated by Ven. Dhammananda in 1965 and has been held every year in the month of August uninterruptedly to commemorate Malaysia's independence from the British in 1957. Prior to the Maha Pirith recited by Sri Lankan monks, monks from the Vajrayana and Mahayana tradition are also invited to chant their suttras. This is to underscore the great sense of fellowship enjoyed by the Buddhists of various traditions in Malaysia.
The Maha Pirith was listed as one of Malaysia's national events in conjunction with Independence Day. The occasion was graced by Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, the Minister of Primary Industries.
The contribution of Sri Lankan monks to the rebirth and development of Buddhism in South East Asia has been immense, especially in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. This revival which began in the early 20th century has been sparked mainly by the exodus of Lankans to Malaya who brought with them able religious teachers from Lanka to cater to the Sinhala devotees' spiritual and cultural needs.
Some of these monks however have gone beyond their primary duties of catering to the Sinhalese to serve the greater Buddhist population. Among the notable early monks were the late Ven. Sri K. Gunaratana Nayaka Maha Thera, the late Ven. Narada Maha Thera, the late Ven. Ananda Mangala Nayaka Maha Thera, the late Ven. Sri P. Pemaratana Nayaka Maha Thera, Ven. Mahaweera Nayaka Maha Thera and Ven. Dr. K Sri Dhammananda Nayaka Maha Thera. Both Ven. Mahaweera and Ven. Dhammananda together have a span of 120 years of Dhammadutta work in the region between them.
These venerables have achieved great success in their Dhammadutta mission in this region and truly contributed to the rebirth of Buddhism in the region after a lapse of almost a thousand years. They have also inspired a second generation of able monks in the likes of Ven. W Sarada Maha Thera, Ven. B. Dhammaratana Thera, Ven. E. Indaratana Thera, Ven. B. Saranankara Maha Thera, Ven. K. Dhammaratana Thera, Ven. K Sri Pemaloka Maha Thera, Ven. N. Sumana Thera, Ven. Dr. K. Gunaratana Thera, Ven. G. Udita Thera, the list goes on.
The number of Sri Lankan monks who came to the region in the last century was small and most of the success achieved by these Venerables was in an individual capacity. The Sasana Abhiwurdhi Wardhana Society (SAWS) being the oldest Buddhist Society in Malaysia formed in 1895 decided to carry out Venerable Dhammananda's suggestion to convene a Sri Lankan Sangha conference to chart the future direction of Dhammadutta work carried out by Sri Lankan monks in the region who in the year 2001 have reached forty in number. This would give a great synergistic effect by creating a platform for exchange of ideas while adding strength to spearhead certain landmark directions in Dhammadutta work for the region.
The Sangha Sabha will meet regularly to achieve its objectives and to organise regular Sangha meetings to chart future directions.
The future of Buddhism depends on a solid foundation of Sila. A strong Sangha founded on Sila and supported by a community of Dhamma-inspired lay persons will ensure that the Buddha Sasana will progress, not decline.
May the Buddha Sasana endure!
The Island - 28 Sep 01
N2.10 Buddhist stupa rises in the Rockies
WASHINGTON: The contrast, and the moment it has become stark, couldn't be more striking. While the bigotry-filled Taliban, wreckers of the Bamiyan Buddha in Afghanistan, continue to hold the world hostage to their whims, a 108-foot tall Buddhist stupa, the largest in the western world, has just arisen in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, whose 10-day consecration concluded this weekend amid chanting and prayers by hundreds of Buddhist monks and followers, is being described as "a symbol of Buddhism's migration and development in the West".
Arguably the most plural society in the world after India, the United States is now home to a variety of religions that has led to a feverish construction of temples, mosques and other places of worship across the country.
But Buddhism has a relatively small and elite following - many Hollywood celebrities among them - and there are only a few small stupas around compared to the scores of grand temples and mosques across America. In fact, most Americans are unaware that Buddhism was born in India. Many believe it originated further east - China or Japan.
The Dharmakaya stupa is almost entirely the product of American converts to Buddhism. It's principle architect is Bob King, a general contractor in Boulder who gave up his business 14 years ago and moved to a camper in the mountains to build the temple for free.
Located 8500 feet above sea level, the inside of the stupa is dominated by an 18-foot seated Buddha finished in gold leaf. The floors are polished granite, lapis, marble and onyx. Built according to the Tibetan tradition, it is replete with typical Buddhist icons and symbols including vividly painted mandalas.
It also has several modern features including temperature control for its three meditation
rooms and specially mixed concrete intended to keep it intact through 1,000 Rocky Mountain winters. The stupa alone is estimated to have cost $ 2.7 million, part of a $ 40 million project that will see a full-fledged Buddhist pilgrimage center come up over the next few years.
The center is dedicated to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan exile who brought Buddhist teachings to the West long before the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual and temporal leader, achieved his celebrity status.
Before his death at 47 in 1987, Trungpa Rinpoche, who fled Tibet for India to escape Chinese repression before migrating to the West, wrote a dozen books expounding Buddhism to westerners. He also founded the Naropa University in Boulder and the Rocky Mountain Shambhala Center, on whose grounds the new stupa stands.
In a glowing account of the consecration, Colorado's premier paper The Denver Post said, "There are hardly adjectives for the 108-foot-high temple that rises from a mountain clearing at the Buddhist retreat, 5 miles south of Red Feather Lakes. It is eye-popping -gilded and embellished with stunning color."
The Island - 22 Aug 01
N2.11 'Buddhism is practice, not preaching'
"The Buddha's Teaching cannot be learnt from a book or a teacher, but only by practice," a University of Toronto professor told a Toronto audience. "And unless you practice, you should not preach".
Professor Pamela Dillon was the keynote speaker at the re-naming of the Toronto College of Buddhist Studies as the Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies, June 23. The TCBS was ceremoniously opened last year and reported in 'The Sunday Island' of August 6, 2000.
"A new name, a new vibrancy," said College president, Professor Suwanda H. J. Sugunasiri, welcoming the gathering at the 'Open House,' renaming the institution. The College is the only one of its kind in Canada, offering several courses in various aspects of Buddhism leading to a Diploma in Buddhist Studies. The College faculty is drawn from several University professors with Doctorates in allied subjects. Prof. Dillon is the latest addition to the Faculty, holding an M.Ed. in Applied Psychology and is on her way to a Doctorate.
The name-change "was humbly sought to invoke history as well as set our sights high," says Dr. Sugunasiri. "The name 'Nalanda' has an auspicious history. Nalanda University in India, founded in the fifth century, was the most famous Buddhist University, and is linked to all the major Buddhist Schools - Theravada, Chinese and Tibetan".
Prof. Sugunasiri expressed the hope that the College would serve more comprehensively, the educational needs of Canadians, Buddhist and non-Buddhist, "helping build a more harmonious Canadian and world society".
The topic of Prof. Dillon's address was 'Buddhism and psychotherapy: the interface'. She discussed the question as to how psychotherapy and Buddhist practices could be connected. Psychology, the treatment of the mind, is similar to Meditation - an essential part of the Theravada Buddhist practices. Both help in cleansing the mind.
"The practice of psychotherapy is the love of my life," Dillon observed. "It facilitates the process of healing which is a natural process that cannot come from outside. It has to come from within ourselves."
Answering an audience question, she said she does not subscribe to the Rudyard Kipling theory that 'Never the 'twain shall meet'. Buddhist practices, she said, could be the means of expanding the Western psychotherapeutic paradigm.
Prof. Dillon dwelt on the problems of depression and anxiety in modern North American society, observing that therapy could be applied to mental problems through the Buddhist concept of meditation. She herself, has practised Yoga and Meditation for the last two decades.
There is a desperate hunger for knowledge in the West, Prof. Dillon observed. And, it is looking for the teachings of the East for answers to the mounting human problems. Why, she asked, is it that Western psychology does not deal with the spirit? How can we be in the world, yet, not of it? The Buddhist Teachings hold practical answers, she said.
In a post-Open House interview with 'The Sunday Island', Prof. Dillon traced her birth to Guyana. Of mixed parentage, she came from a devout Roman Catholic family. She was nine when her parents made Canada their home 37 years ago. From her early years, she was disillusioned with dogmatic religion.
Over a vegetarian meal of green salads, the single mother of a 17-year-old son, spoke of her long journey in search of something more meaningful than organized religion. "Finding Buddhism was like coming home," she said. She looked for people living spiritual lives in their day-to-day activities. "People who practice what they preach are very few". This, she observes, applies to Christians as well as Buddhists.
She is vehement, almost brutal, against the waste of time on traditional rites and rituals. No, she says, she does not take 'Refuge in the Buddha'.
"The Buddha constantly dwelt on 'Attahi Attano Natho'- being a refuge to oneself - or the Master of one's Fate". She stresses the importance of what she cells 'embodied Buddhist practice'. She explains this as the difference between calling oneself a 'Buddhist' on the one hand, and committing to 'being our Buddhist nature in each and every moment of our lives,' on the other.
"The Buddha was not a Buddhist," she asserts paradoxically, if not sacrilegiously. "He had striven for and attained his true nature - his Buddha nature - by stilling his mind and experiencing every moment of his living, resulting in his awakening".
"As you know," she tells me, leaning on an elbow, "the word 'Buddha' means one who is awake, and not the follower of anyone else".
Prof. Dillon says that one can pay lip service to the work of enlightenment, and simply hide behind the 'Buddhist' label in the very same way that one might hide behind the label of 'Christian,' rather than attempt to emulate the example of Christ in every waking moment of life. The difference between 'label' and the reality of moment-to-moment presence, is the difference between 'Samsara' and actual transformation in our lives into the experience of freedom.
Prof. Dillon believes that the emergence of joy and peace from the bondage of suffering is the gift of the Buddha. This, she says, is not to be found through ritual, but rather, in the simplicity of the present moment. She sees herself as one trying to help people find peace within themselves. "I am interested in transforming the lives of people," she says. To her, Buddhism is a powerful means of exploring consciousness. "Most of the time," she says, "people are looking for ways to escape reality". Seeing oneself clearly, calls for change, and human beings, by nature, tend to be resistant to such change. They accept painful, old patterns of living rather than changing their lives.
"But the Buddha's gift of 'Vipassana Bhavana' is the way (magga), parexcellence, to begin to perceive one's own 'present moment' reality with Compassion and Wisdom".
Pamela Dillon vibrates with life. She loves people, life and jazz music, and is interested in both, physical and mental health and well-being. She considers her life to be an ever deepening journey of understanding spirit in matter. As a Yoga teacher, marathon runner and athlete for over 20 years, a Shiatsu therapist for ten years, Akido practitioner and avid student of Taoist philosophy and Jungian Psychology, Pamela Dillon's versatile life equips her to explore mind/body/spirit dynamics to facilitate the healing process in others.
A bundle of energy, she's passionate about the Buddha-Teaching which she sees as a driving force for the enjoyment of life.
N2.12 Nepal asks India to scrap dam project that will flood Buddha's birth place
KATMANDU, Nepal. 2-Aug-01 - Nepal has asked India to stop building a dam that threatens to flood Buddha's birthplace and violate international laws. Nepal formally requested India to "stop the construction of the barrage," Minister for Water Resources Bijaya Gachchedar. Four months ago, India began building the Rassiyal-Khurda-Lautan dam across the Danav River, just 655 feet from the Nepal-India border south of Lumbini - Buddha's birthplace.
Buddhist scholars and Nepalese political parties have criticized the 20-foot high dam. They accuse Hindu-dominated India of violating international laws that bar such constructions within five miles of an international border.
"The construction of this barrage is a well-designed conspiracy of India to inundate the birthplace of Lord Buddha and create another fake Lumbini somewhere in the Indian territory," said lawmaker Gokarna Bista of the United Marxist Leninist Communist Party of Nepal.
Some said say India is conspiring to use the dam as a way of flooding the historical location. Lumbini, 170 miles southwest of Nepal's capital of Katmandu, is said to be the place where Buddha born more than 26 centuries ago as Gautama Siddhartha.
UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural arm, has also recognized Lumbini as the birthplace of Buddha and declared it a World Heritage Site.
India officials have said the dam is meant to block and manage the flow of river water, mainly for irrigation. India has long claimed the actual birthplace of Buddha is in India and not Nepal. However, archeologists discovered in 1996 a commemorative pillar placed there by the Indian Emperor Ashoka in 249 B.C. that marked the precise location.
UNESCO has said that Lumbini is one of the holiest places of one of the world's great religions, and its remains contain important evidence about the nature of Buddhist pilgrimage centers from a very early period. (CNN)
N2.13 Missing hands of Bamiyan Buddha Statue
D. G. B. de Silva
Will the Sri Lankan Buddhists accept the idea that a Buddha statue could be sculpted without the details of the face and the hands? Going by their response so far the answer has to be in the negative. They have been reconstituting even those statues which had been without parts; or added elements that were not there in order to conform to present ideas regarding the sculpting of Buddha statues. The damaged nose of Samadhi statue, a picture on which Jawaharlal Nehru had meditated when he was in prison, was repaired giving it a 'Semetic' looking nose which has destroyed much of its original appeal. A 'Usnisa' was fixed on the head of the colossal Buddha statue at Avukana overlooking the fact that 'Usnisa' did not form part of statues executed during the Anuradhapura period. A number of other Buddhist statues have been repaired by adding the missing parts.
This is a situation that Buddhists of Sri Lanka who are going to set up replicas of the colossal Buddha statue of Bamiyan which was destroyed, among others, by the Taleban regime of Afghanistan will have to contend with, before they raise the statue because the colossal statue at Bamiyan had neither its face, nor its hands and the left leg intact. The commencement of construction of one of the replicas at Gampola was shown on Television news with the President participating on the occasion. If these are not political gimmicks at least the design of the proposed statue should have been disclosed to the public, who will, no doubt, be called upon to meet the expenses.
Besides, what criteria is behind creating a replica of the Bamiyan statue when the iconographic concept behind it does not fit in either to the religious or the iconographic tradition of Sri Lanka? So the decision to erect a replica of Bamiyan statue has to be seen as an emotional response to the destruction of the statues. The political appeal has also to be recognised. The idea has nothing Buddhist about it. A replica as some one pointed out may not have the same attraction religious-wise. It may not even help raise emotions over its aesthetic appeal. It is not just the mass of rock or concrete that makes both religious and aesthetic appeal but the sculpture itself in its "living beauty," set against its background of history and traditions. Whether it be as an object of worship, or something with aesthetic value. A replica could only have a commercial value like the Tokyo Tower which the Japanese constructed in imitation of the Eifel Tower.
Emotional responses of this nature may be a universal phenomenon in a situation like the one mankind faced when Taleban regime destroyed the cultural heritage. Such emotions could be compared to a child crying over a lost toy being pacified by saying "We will get you another one.'' but certainly, it cannot be called neither a Buddhist nor a Sinhalese attitude. The Sinhalese as others, have more profound perceptions as seen from the simple villager's saying "Giya hakurata nadunne; tiyena hakura rekaganne" [Do not cry over the lost lump of sugar: take care of what you have]. The saying goes far deeper than the English proverb 'Do not cry over spilt milk". This is not the place to go into details. To cut it short, the government may do well by taking effective measures to safeguard our vanishing cultural heritage, especially our valuable Buddha statues being stolen or vandalised as we hear almost daily today. The Buddhists themselves have enough to think of rather than building replicas of Buddha statues which are not even part of our religious and sculptural tradition. If one wants to gain merit as the old belief goes, collect a few Tourist Dollars as they do with the Tokyo Tower, or one wants to use the occasion to meet a political agenda it is a different thing. There are enough gullible people in the country. Why? Didn't an Indian fast- talker who was promoting the Tourist Board's Hanuman Temple complex idea at Sita Eliya say that millions of Indians would come and Sri Lanka could earn valuable 'forex' by selling the black earth (claimed to be resulting from the Hanuman's burning of Ravana's city) of Sita Eliya. Even our chenas may not be spared once the idea catches on! Besides, why go so far looking for mythical Hanumans when there are living ones in our very midst-Colombo. Jaffna, Mawanella, Ratnapura included? This is by the way.
In my last article entitled "Misconceptions about Sri Lankan Buddha Image - The case of Avukana Buddha. I rejected the comparison of the Bamiyan and Avukana statues made by my good friend, Denis N. Fernando, which arguments he has failed to meet or defend his two positions in his rejoinder. Additionally, I advanced the hypotheses that the missing right hand of the Bamiyan colossus was probably held in the 'abhaya mudra' which is different from the 'Asisa' mudra in which the right hand of Avukana statue as well as other standing statues of the Anuradhapura period were held. Denis Fernando has agreed with my view that the upper arms of the Bamiyan statue where the details of the robe have been meticulously moulded with cascading frills were not meant to be hidden away [if the hand was held perpendicularly close to the Upper arm as is the case in Avukana statue]. But, he has rejected my proposition about the position of the hand thereby raising a contradiction. However, he has made a very valid observation when he points out that the sheer weight of the hands if carved out of the rock would not have permitted cantilevering as required if the hand was not held in the perpendicular position close to the body [upper arm] of which it should have been part. Of course, he visualises the possibility that the hands may have been made out of wood in which case also it would have to be supported [from underneath or horizontally]. This is a problem that sculptors of standing Buddha statues had to grapple with and one sees the hands being supported by making them part of the flowing outer robe or cloak (in some). Later this supporting de vice had become a sculptural feature which is continued even in bronze figures where the problems of cantilevering was not acute.
The first point I wish to make is that the hands of the Bamiyan statue could not have been sculpted out of the same sand stone rock. The evidence is that like some other parts of the body, e.g. Iegs, the robe etc. the hands too had been moulded whether using a wooden framework, or stucco [ mixture of straw and mud some times with a wooden base] as often found in sculptures from Bamiyan, Fondukistan and Hadda in Afghanistan. In this case the problem of weight and cantilevening is less acute. As such, a position like the 'abhaya mudra' cannot be excluded. It must be said that there are several variations of the 'abhaya mudra; but in none of these does the hand rise above the level of the shoulder.
The second point is that there is no evidence as far as one could see from pictures that the right hand had been held close to the body as at Avukana where such positioning was necessitated because there was no other way it could be supported, as there is no robe covering the right shoulder drooping over the right arm which could have provided alternate support. In the Bamiyan image as in other images where the right shoulder is covered and the robe droops down over the right hand, such presentation provides the support [cantilever ] to the right hand. The robe arrangement transforms itself into an iconographic feature from a sculptural necessity and as such, is repeated even in bronze cast statues where the problem of cantilevering does not arise.
In Bamiyan the upper arm and the torso are free from any encumbrances and sculptural details are very clear. On the contrary, there is a clear peg mark on the right hand wall of the niche in which the statue stands which is lager in dimension than other peg marks found elsewhere in the statue [Such a peg-mark is also found in a parallel position in relation to the left arm] which points to some supporting devise provided to the arm. Of greater significance are the four square peg marks found in a perpendicular position between the outer side of the right leg and the outer cloak [on the same side] which is evidence that they had supported the robe which had been drooping down to form as column the outstretched right hand. This contrivance has actually been used as a supporting device like a column to support the right hand. This column results from the robe on the right side being held on the right hand which is held in the 'abhaya mudra'. Many examples of this could be seen in Chinese, Japanese and Korean statues where the right shoulder is covered by the robe. In the case of the Bamiyan image the support for the right hand held in 'abhaya mudra' appears to have come from both the device fixed on the single large peg found on the niche on the right hand and the column [hanging robe] which extends downwards along the right leg which is now missing but the existence of which is clear from the peg marks left. This column [drooping robe] had been linked to the right leg which finally takes the weight of both the hand and the column. The hands as we observed, were in all probability of lighter material such as stucco on a wooden base.
The third point is that the "abhaya mudra" is not necessarily a one hundred per cent vertical position. There are varations in the position of the hand in this mudra but in general it is not a fully vertical position as found in statues where the hand is held in the 'Samudra-mudra' as found in Myanmar [Mandalagiri Vihara] and Thailand [Watkenchama-bojit vihara]. The statue in Myanmar though cast in bronze is a fine example of a fully vertically stretched hand which is supported by the arrangement of the robe as pointed out earlier.
In "abhaya mudra" the hand is held in a semi up-right [perpendicular] position the vertical aspect being not very pronounced. Still it would call for cantilevering but the problem is not as acute as in a fully vertical position here the hand is stretched forward.
The fourth point is that the perpendicularly held right hand as found in the Avukana statue which is known as 'Asisa mudra' is a variation of the 'Abhaya mudra' which is peculiar to Sri Lanka and nut found outside the Island. This may not be a scientific consideration, but it is an important observation in iconography which cannot be set aside, it has been developed in the Island more likely in the last days of the Anuradhapura period and continued to this day as a main sculptural feature.
In the case of the left hand the iconographic tradition is less rigid. The sculptors seem to have had the freedom of choosing from several alternatives available. The Anuradhapura school has shown a preference for the perpendicular position of the left hand holding the end of the robe at the top of the left shoulder. This position of the hand is rare in other countries. The closest are the bronze statue in the Madras government Museum [10th century], and the statue in the Buddha Gaya museum. In all other countries and at Mathura in India the left is hand is generally held in a hanging position. In Sri Lanka too this universal style has been preferred from the Gampola period onwards.
There is no question, whether one looks scientifically on the basis of available evidence in the statue itself or through comparison with mudras in other statues and chronological development of the Buddha statue, that the left hand had not been held in the perpendicular position as it is in the Avukana statue. Besides the fact that the style of the robe in the Bamiyan statue has no end to hold as in Sri Lankan statues. There is no evidence of the left hand having obscured the finely defined folds in the robe through a movement of the hand upwards to the left shoulder.
There is some evidence of the left hand having been supported from bottom as the long line of peg marks as seen from the broken point in the bend of the arm to the bottom of the clock [it is more like a cloak which Persian and Kushan rulers wore more than an outer robed]. Similarly the right hand also has received strength from the lower part of the cloak which was in a fair state of preservation before the recent destruction. Like in the case of the right arm there is also evidence that the left hand has had support from a device fixed on the wall of the niche exactly as at the same height. Madame Nancy Dupree wife of archaeologist. Louis Dupree. has, in her writings stated as follows: "The face was once covered with gold leaf, the right hand lifted in a gesture of re-assurance [which is 'abhaya mudra'], the left hand hanging by the side. The small holes covering the body made by wooden plugs which held the cords in plastering his robe."
Madame Dupree wrote with the experience and observations of her husband who was an eminent archaeologists and art historian. She has left the question of both hands stated in simple language without reference to mudras or making any categorical identification of the postures. As for the right hand it is clear that the 'abhaya mudra' is meant. Regarding the left hand, the observation leaves the position open but it is certain that she meant a perpendicular position stretching downwards and not one stretching upwards as at Avukana. The comparison would fit into the position of the left hand in some of our more recent statues as found at Dambadeniya and Bellanvila Raja Maha Viharas.
At Bamiyan, the left hand is supported as I observed, by the left portion of the cloak which has stood like a column. Such supporting devices would have allowed the sculptor the freedom to choose a more appropriate posture than allowing the hands to droop down hanging, if one were to compare with the many positions in which the left hand is held in numerous statues found in (Central Asia, China, Korea, Japan and South Asia, one would see a number of different possibilities for the Bamiyan statue.
I was fascinated by the unusual but very balanced posture of the left hand found in the Buddha statue in gilt bronze belonging to the Northern Wei dynasty of China (King Udayana mudra] which is now at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art which I was privileged to see [See picture]. I would not apply the gesture in the right hand of the Chinese statue to the Bamiyan colossus as the evidence in the latter does not indicate that it was so. Though it is also in "abhaya mudra' the hand of the Chinese statue extends a little too far horizontally and the Bamiyan Buddha's robe arrangement does not extend that far. In my last article I gave the 'King Udayana mudra' and the 'Varocana mudra' [Gadaladeniya bronze statue- Photo in last article] as possible alternatives for the left hand. I think indeed the Bamiyan colossus represent the Vairocana Buddha, meaning 'Resplendent' in Sanskrit, whose images, it would seem from many Chinese examples, became popular from the second half of the 6th century onwards and finally made its entry into Japan. It was centering round Vairocana [Lu-che-na in Chinese and Roshana in Japanese] whose description is first given in 'Brahma-jala-Sutta' that images began to be built in China when the concept of a single supreme Buddha began to take a hold. The first experiment was to make the statue of this new concept as taller colossi to give it the cosmic appearance. One sees the beginning of this trend in Bamiyan where not only the colossal size its employed but also the paintings of the statues and the niches to give that cosmic appearance. The identification of the Bamiyan colossus itself requires a separate treatment.
The Island - 23 Jun 01
N2.14 First ever Buddhist Procession in UK
Sujeeva Nivunhella, London
The first ever "Buddhist Procession" (Buddha Perahera) in the United Kingdom was held in London on May 26. About 2000 Buddhist devotees attended this procession and it was started at Hyde Park and ended by the Japanese Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park.
A group of Buddhist monks led this procession and they were followed by the dancers and the devotese with Buddhist flags. Another group of Buddhist monks travelled in a float chanting 'pirith'.
It was organised by the 'Sinhala Bala Mandalaya in the UK' with the help of all the Buddhist temples. The chief organiser Gamini Keerthichandra told 'The Sunday Island' that the reason he organised this was to unite all the Buddhist monks living in England and try to give Buddhism a greater exposure in the western countries. He also said that he was planning to rectify any shortcomings and organise another procession in a larger scale, next year.
The Island - 3 Jun 01
N2.15 Home is where the heart is
I have written a couple of articles on Myanmar and seemed to rave over the place. Feedback there was in that around six persons wanted more details and said they were going to breathe life into their dream of visiting the Golden Land. Good for them! One or two asked me why I did not touch on political matters. It definitely is not my business and I cannot comment after a seven-day visit. Also, after being treated so goodly how could I criticize? Criticism would be merely superficial comment with absolutely no salutary effect, no one in Myanmar or in the embassy here taking the slightest notice of what I write.
I did compare in my mind and once in a while in my articles, Myanmar and certain things as they prevail there with what obtains in Sri Lanka. And inevitably Myanmar scored. I want to balance things by writing of the positives of our beloved Sri Lanka as against the positives of Myanmar I wrote about.
I commented on the lack of real piety in general, and the absence of peace, quiet and heartfelt veneration in the places of worship here in Sri Lanka, in contrast to the sacred sites we visited in Yangon and Prome. I admit I was recollecting my impressions of visits to Mihintale and Sri Pade where the journey is more fun than pilgrimage, to most. I do still hold by my comment that we seem hurried and harried in our worship in temples. But there is a general awakening to this and the presence of many who go about their worship with quiet dignity is testimony to the fact that Buddhism in its pure form, devoid of rites and rituals, is taking strong hold in this country of ours.
True piety in Sri Lanka too
Vesak was spent at the Maitriye Hall in Mettarama Temple down Lauries Road. The temple hall too had a large number of devotees in sil. There was quiet and a pervasive sense of tranquillity, un-hurriedness and dignity. No loud speaker blared forth, no scramble for the two meals given, not much chatting and exchanging inane how-do-you-dos. Sil was undertaken seriously with commitment and joy.
I had the good fortune of spending time recently at the Sacred Bo Tree and Ruanwelisaya. The special aura that is Anuradhapura, a mixture of pride in this prosperous ancestral capital of ours and piety surrounded me and filled my senses, so that I venerated the earth I walked on. I spent precious time sitting in absolute silence and devotion to the Sacred Tree, remembering with gratitude and joy that a little sapling that was alive when Siddhartha Gotama became the Thatagatha, was there before us, now old and gnarled but still alive to give us so much to be grateful for.
It was quiet with tourists and pilgrims going about their respective sight seeing and veneration. Seated on the bare ground, one did not feel its hardness, nor did the ants on whom one surely placed one's weight, strike back. Once in a while a man chanted, loud and clear, some gathas for a suppliant's benefit. I did not get distracted nor annoyed by this supplication to the devas. To each his own style of worship and sense of ego, but it would be good if this kapurala were given a place down below and not right under the sacred tree. Gratitude to the tree which sheltered Siddhartha Gotama and its veneration as symbolic of the Buddha are forgotten when the attraction of having one's prayers conveyed to the devas is offered. Sadly, money and profit raise their ugly heads here, tolerated if not encouraged by the monks in charge of the temple.
No glitter, but greater majesty
The Ruwanwelisaya is invariably stunning in its size and majesty. You may see it ever so often, but this awesome feeling, albeit comfortable and prideful, never fails to overwhelm you. Clean, white, uncluttered and stupendous, it takes your breath away and then you give grateful thanks to that mighty king, Dutugemunu. It has no gold, no glitter, but it overwhelms you. Walking round, peace and sheer joy that you are able to be there, flood you. You remember the times you have walked the hallowed ground and give merit to those who brought you to the sacred city - grandparents when you were very little, parents later, siblings in girlhood and then your husband.
The Shwedagon glittered and took your breath away. The Ruwanwelisaya does the same in its simplicity and majesty. It was special this time. It had been recently painted over, and the lighting along the cone at the top, rising from the rectangular section, was seen for miles around; on the left at one time as you went along the road, right as you took a turn. It was beautiful, the lighting effected expertly so that the very top glowed bluey white, with a glisten of the gem at the very top.
It was very quiet, the day we visited being a weekday and in-between poyas. Dusk falling wreathed the place with a special glow and the dry zone sunset set the western sky ablaze. I was asked by my brother to walk upto the wall that rises from the flat platform, keeping my eyes on the stupa. Yes, it disappeared from view as I got closer with only the jewel on the pinnacle visible as my nose touched the base of the stupa. Maybe I had done this before, but the marvel of the architectural know-how of those ancient builders brought on anew a sense of wonder and praise.
Persons in khaki
Anuradhapura hits you in the eye with reminders of the on-going war. You see a lot of khaki and young men bathing in the wevas, concentrated near their barracks. You remember the hospital here receives the wounded as each battle rages and subsides.
The police in the town were rather hard. You stop your vehicle to ask directions and the two burly policemen on a motorbike who zoom on you have no mercy. Get on they shout and one scuttles the vehicle forward in case they clamp a fine on you, or worse, haul you to the police station.
Those guarding the sacred area and manning the checkpoints were, however, very polite. It is a great mercy and boon that vehicle passes are issued now to get closer to the very sacred area. Otherwise those incapacitated or aged will be kept away from the Ruwanwelisaya and Jayasirima Bodhiya. It is comparatively easy to get a pass to visit the sacred sites, the Ruwanwelisaya included, but to get a vehicle very close to the Sacred Bo Tree is difficult. This is as it should be. No matter though, since very thoughtfully a wheel chair has been provided for those elderly or ill, from the Ruwanwelisaya end. The bus continues to ferry people across, but sometimes a pass is preferred if one wishes to go very late in the evening to the most sacred area.
The Island - 20 May 01
N2.16 Buddha statue in bar upset people
WebIndia123, February 12, 2006
A Buddha image inside "Buddha Bar"
Dubai, UAE - Buddha bar, the popular French bar, which has an outlet in the Grosvenor House hotel here, has upset hundreds of Buddhists by placing an eight-foot tall statue of the sage and founder of Buddhism inside the bar.
The Buddhist population here, mainly from Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and China, see this as a gross misuse of their Lord's name and his teachings and they look up to their governments to take up the matter with the authorities here.
''No Buddhist will be happy about a place that serves liquor and has Lord Buddha's statue and Buddhist artefacts around,'' Sunil Chandrakumara, a Sharjah-based Sri Lankan national and community worker told the Gulf Today daily here.
He also said, it is ''extremely painful'' to see the Buddha's images being misused and referred to a local furniture retailer using Lord Buddha's image to advertise its wares.
When asked Jaideep Bhatia, marketing manager of the hotel, told the daily, ''I have no comments to make at this stage,'' and said, there are many Buddha Bar outlets in the world.
Buddha Bar was created by Raymond Visan in Paris. The bar shot up into the popularity charts for the food, the ambience and the lounge music from DJ Claude Challe as the crossover music caught the fancy of the upwardly mobile.
Danushke Sanjeewa, also a Sri Lankan national, said it may not be easy to tackle an international chain like Buddha Bar. ''We may not be able to take them head on, but can at least register our protest and reveal our feelings over misusing Lord Buddha's image,'' he said.
He added that it was difficult to fathom how a place like Dubai that does not have a Buddhist temple has allowed a bar named so obviously after the Buddha.
''I hope the authorities will at least get the Buddha statues removed from the bar,'' he said.
Mr Sanjeewa added that the eight-foot tall statue of Buddha is used as a showpiece in the hotel.
An Indian expatriate Jagan Rao said the whole thing is in bad taste. ''People should realise their moral responsibility in not hurting religious sentiments of anyone so as to develop a healthy societ,'' he said.
In the backdrop of the storm raised over the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, published in a Danish newspaper, Buddhists here hope that the authorities will act to ensure that the followers of other religions do not feel insulted in this cosmopolitan city.
N2.17 Bamiyan Buddhas were not the only ones: When man is against his own heritage
D. G. B de Silva
A San Diego University neuroscientist suggested recently that Samson who pulled down the Temple of the Philistines at Gaza and killed 1000 Philistines single handedly had shown six of the seven kinds of behaviour listed in the standard manual of mental illnesses called DMS-IV. If one were to probe, it may not be difficult to find people qualifying for all seven symptoms in our midst whatever may be the cloak in which they are covered, the pointing of the finger in the wrong direction, as Ayr. Dr. S. K. Vadivale often does, notwithstanding.
The iconography of Afghanistan belongs to the Gandhara School of Art, yet, they differ from that of north-west India. The French Archaeological delegation whcih investigated the Oxus river basin found that presence of a Greek artistic culture in Bactria. The madness of Taleban could only take second place when compared to the mind-set of those who directed and caused the destruction and desecration of places of hallowed religious worship in this island like that of the historic Kiraveddi Bodhi tree in Trincomalee district. The attack on the Sacred Bodhi Tree at Anuradhapura and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth in Kandy. In contrast to the two colossal standing Buddha statues and other sedant Buddha statues in the Bamiyan valley in Afghanistan which were more of interest to art historians rather than as objects of worship except to the small remnant minority of Buddhist villagers in the Bamiyan valley; and many other Buddhist sculptures scattered in places like Hadda. Kabul, Paitava [Kapisa], Ghazni, Kakrak valley and Fondukistan and many other places; and those deposited in the Kabul Museum itself, the places of Buddhist worship in Sri Lanka that came under destruction from time to time were all living monuments, i.e., places where devotees and pilgrims congregate daily and on festive occasions.
The Bamiyan statues cut out of rock and with surface modeled out of stucco are better known for their collosal size. The tallest stood at a height of 53 metres which another stood at 38 metres.
The situation in Sri Lanka was far more serious and called for urgent attention of the international community. Firstly, the destruction as caused at Kiraveddi and numerous other places were attempts to erase landmarks of the presence of Sinhalese Buddhist civilisation in the claimed so called "Tamil Homelands". Secondly, the attacks on the two places hallowed by Buddhists of this country and of others, was an attempt to dishearten and scatter the Buddhists by reminding them of the "impermanence" of their hallowed symbols of worship, as Magha did in the 13th century. It is significant that both places of worship are places closely associated historically speaking, with the very identity of the Sinhalese nation and their ancient kingdom and those who destroyed and desecrated them are the very people shouting over their own rights but do not think of the rights of others.
What was the response of the government, the people and the so called "international community", the UN and UNESCO when the Sri Lankan historic edifices and objects of veneration were destroyed and damaged on the direction of a megalomaniac? Then why is this concern over the Taleban government destroying inanimate objects when human life itself was destroyed in the attempted destruction at Anuradhapura and Kandy? Weren’t the lives of those who were killed in these places in our island more sacred than the rock and stucco monuments and artifacts now being destroyed in Afghanistan? What happened to man’s conscience in relation to the Sri Lankan case which he, in general, and the international community in particular, now wont to display in great abundance over the Taleban affair? There cannot be duplicity. It is because of that duplicity on the part of the international community, the UN and UNESCO that they have lost clout and Taleban government does not care a two-pence for them.
This discourse is not an attempt to take away the seriousness of the issue caused by Taleban government’s action of destroying the ancient heritage of mankind now located within the territory of Afghanistan. What is even more appalling is not the destruction itself but the gross disrespect for international opinion.
What was the true significance of the monuments and artifacts that came under Taleban regime’s canon fire and hammer ? The colossal sculptures of the Buddha in the Bamiyan valley chiseled out of solid rock on an extension of the Hindukush mountain range were only part of a great heritage of tolerance which was the result of the meeting of many cultures and minds that ancient Afghanistan once proudly claimed. This meeting place remains sadly bereft today of that great heritage and walks the path turning that ancient respectable land into a virtual cultural dessert and a symbol of gross intolerance. From the voices raised in other Muslim countries and organisations, including those in Sri Lanka, it is to be understood that this is very much against the spirit of Islam and the Taleban government is following a path of its own which is against humanity.
In 1998 I published a well researched article on this subject in "The Island" when Taleban forces were in the process of gaining control over the Bamiyan valley and appealed to the government, the intellectual community and to UNESCO to do all what was within their means to stop the destruction of the monuments. I followed this up with long telefax messages addressed to the Foreign Minister, the Minister of Cultural Affairs and Buddhasasana and others. Dr. Roland Silva, Chairperson of the IOCOM assured me that representations were sent to UNESCO. The threat to the monuments reappeared in December last year and it would seem that time has been lost meanwhile that the world is now faced with a fait accomplish as it seems.
The Bamiyan statues cut on rock and with surface modeled out of stucco are better known because of their colossal size. The tallest of these stood at a height of 53 metres while another stood at 38 metres high (100 feet]. There were also other defaced seated Buddha figures in the niches around Bamiyan where a large number of rock-cut caves for monks existed. The 38 metre Buddha is assigned to the 4th and 5th centuries while the larger statue is dated in the 5th and 6th centuries. The significance of these statues is their "monumentality, " a process which began in ancient Kapisa [ Paitava) in Afghanistan during the mature phase of Gandhara art. These statues have not only provided a landmark to the caravaneers who traversed these great ancient caravan routes that linked the Mediterranean west with China and India but they also provided the ‘’protection" to the merchant classes who came to patronise them in their treck through lonely routes. As late as the 7th century, the Chinese pilgrim Hsuan -Tsang recorded the existence of another colossal Buddha figure in the Nirvana ;sleeping] position which was about 1000 feet in length but such a figure has not survived the vandalism throughout the centuries. The length attributed by this generally accurate observer is considered a corruption in the text.
The iconography of Afghanistan belongs to the Gandhara school of art. Yet they differ on certain aspects from that of the North-West of India. The French Archaeological Delegation which investigated the Oxus river basin in Northern Afghanistan found the presence of a Greek artistic culture in Bactria. Soviet excavation found this evidence extending beyond the territory of Oxus. Some of the 3rd century works found there are considered to have been produced in Greece itself but finds of stucco heads and unbaked clay sculptures also point to stylistic evolution towards distinctive forms still of ‘’classical" types. These are not Buddhist arts but they belong to the Gandhara tradition.
The excavations carried out at Hadda by the French Archaeological Delegation show that the tradition there is wholly Gandharan but have definitely Hellenistic classical elements. One of the most surprising examples in a niche from Hadda is the one where Buddha is accompanied by Vajrapani seated with his thunder bolt [Vajra]. This discovery by the Afghan Institute of Archaeology shows clear Hellenistic features in the drapery of the Seated Buddha figure, while Vajrapani is an unmistakable portrayal of Heracles holding the thunder bolt against his knee, in completely Hellenistic style, technique with Hellenistic drapery in the lion skin that is around the girdle. These features point to the execution of the work by an artist or several of them familiar with Hellenistic mythology as well as the sculptural tradition.
Speaking of the tradition of representation of Buddha, the distinguished archaeologists and art historians, Prof Jean Boissellier and Dr. Ahmad Hassan Dani who apparently compiled the evidence on Afghanistan for the UNESCO volume on Buddha Image, (1978) observed that in Hadda as well as other places:’’ It was no longer acceptable in Gandharan iconography for the Buddha Sakyamuni to be shown in the context of an episode in a narrative and on the same level of importance as the other characters as was the case in the older reliefs of the school . The Buddha has now assumed greater proportions, his position is one of rigid centrality and the very style in which he is depicted ÉÉÉ differentiates him from the other figures his ‘divinization’ is henceforth clearly reflected in the iconography, and this is all the more evident because here in Afghanistan more than elsewhere, the other figures continue to follow Hellenistic models".
The same work observes that the sculptures from Tapa Maranjan (Kabul) now in Kabul Museum, the "Buddha [or Bodhisttva] is depicted henceforth only in a purely architectural setting; his image is placed in a niche, so that it is isolated, or rather confined within its own space. This space may be in a niche, or it may be the base panel of a stupa, with pillasters around it. The scenes from the life of the Buddha and from the "Jatakas" then gradually disappear or become much reduced; they are no longer narrative accounts of an event but mere allusions to it. Yet within these limits the artists of Hadda were capable of producing a masterpiece, very freely composed, such as the ‘Preparation for the Great Renunciation’."
This attitude of Buddha which appeared in early sculptures as a ‘man among men’ reveals himself in the art of Afghanistan to men as a ‘constant source of salvation’. One is able to understand the non-Hellenic and Non-Indian attitude found in Kushan sculptures in places like Mathura and Surk Kotal when one examines the sculptural remains from Kapisa in Afghanistan. [Some pieces were in Kabul Museum]. The stele depicting ‘Buddha in the Dipankara Jataka’ found at Shotoruk [Kapisa] sculptured on schist rock- [Kabul Museum), which is a unique piece in itself where the Buddha Dipankara is depicted in proportions much larger than other figures illustrates this point.
The stele showing the final Nirvana of the Buddha and that of the Buddha being venerated by the three Kasyapas which are also in the Kabul Museum are valuable pieces sculpturally and in terms of Buddhist lore.
New evidence brought out by French and Italian Missions point to ‘the final surge’ of renewal of the stylistic iconographical language, in Afghanistan before the Muslim invasion. The material used is clay-mixed with straw, and horsehair [at Fondukistan] often on a solid wooden framework. Features noted in these work containing figures of Bodhisattvas, Nagas, Devatas and Buddha himself are youthfulness, graceful shapely limbs with a ‘somewhat feminine ideal of beauty and grace unquestionably aristocratic.’ These have been further described as ‘subtly equivocal in the inclination of the head and the "Mudras" are no longer severe, as in the sculptures of the previous centuries, but are charming gestures of courtesy rather than symbolic attitudes heavy with religious significance."
In contrast to clay sculpture from Fondukistan and other places crop of sculptures in marble and other calcareous material have appeared in East Afghanistan where the Kabul river meets, River Indus. These are mostly Saiva and Vaisnava sculptures attributed to the Shahi dynasty which was finally wiped out by the Gaznivad Muslims.
Another type of clay sculpture f’ound in a number of places are the bejeweled Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. These are considered to be the expression of the Mahayanist concept of "Sambhogakaya". The idea appears to be to identify the Buddha with the "Universal Monarch.’ This iconographical phenomenon, a good example (7th c. Fondukistan] of which is found in Musee Guimet in Paris. is that of a Bodhisattva image in unbaked clay with a reddish paint considered to derive from Mathura design of the Gupta period’ with a style of painting reminiscent of the Ajanta caves. However, I find an unmistakable Roman look about this Bodhisattva figure.
Afghanistan provides a treasure trove for the student of art history, specially a field to learn the fusion of several cultural streams which met there. The hay day of the civilisation was in the time of the Kushan kings, notably, the great Buddhist King Kanishka. This is not surprising as the land was in the heart of the ancient Silk Route linking the Mediterranean with China and India. It was along this route that Tapasra and Bhalluka, two Bactrian merchants who were Buddha’s first lay disciples stopped on their way to the ports of Kalinga, where, they had outposts and to Sri Lanka and beyond, stopped to listen to Buddha preaching the doctrine, and were rewarded with a few strands of Buddha’s hair which they deposited at the Dagoba at Tiriyaya, which event is commemorated by a 9th century Sanskrit inscription on the spot.
The explorations by the French and Italian archaeological missions during the 1960s have added to man’s knowledge about the cultural fusion, religious coexistence and the understanding the art, sculpture and painting traditions which developed in the whole region. Can one comprehended how man himself could rise to destroy he himself created over several millennia of history in the very land which once set an example to the whole world on the principle of coexistence of peoples, religions and cultures, except in terms of the DMS-IV syndrome’’ What is man’s response to situations like this?
The Island - 10 March 2001
N2.18 Buddhist Fellowship shocked over Taliban move
Sri Lanka Regional Centre of The World Fellowship of Buddhists is shocked to learn that the Taliban Movement has given a radical ruling of destroying all religious centres and statues including the priceless ancient Buddha statues at the Kabul museum and World famous Buddha statues at BAMIYAN valley.
As a result of Emperor Dharma Asoka’s Dharma Duta activities, well-trained Bikkus from Kashmir who could speak, a number of languages went on dharma duta activities to the Far East, Persia, Afghanistan, Mesopotamia, and Palestine. These monks who travelled on the Silk route established in the Bamiyan Plateau a number of Buddhist centres. The name Bamiyan itself being used by them with the meaning " place of Buddha". Well-known sculptors from India built many Buddha statues and drew paintings in this Bamiyan Plateau dragging on to a number of years. There had been more than 5000 Bikhus under training and learning the Buddha’s path of teaching in the Bamiyan Plateau.
These statues are valuable not only to Buddhists but also to the country owning them as they posses historic and archeological values to mankind. Most of Afghan war terrorists are at present occupying these caves and destroying Buddhist monuments and continue to destroy most valuable Buddhist statues built around 2000 years ago.We being Buddhists, we are very much disturbed and concerned about this radical decision by the Taliban Movement in Afghanistan and humbly request the government to take up this matter with Director General of UNESCO General Koichiro Matsuura and Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Kofi Annan demanding a stop to this radical demolition of statues of historic value.
The Island - 8 March 2001
N2.19 They were faceless but even more powerful: I was awestruck
Julian West, New Delhi Correspondent
On a brilliant winter’s day three years ago, I flew into Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley in a cargo plane. From high above the snowy Hindu Kush, I could see the colossal statues of Buddha, which the radical Taliban movement is now destroying, dominating the area. It was only as we landed, though, that their awesome size became truly apparent.
Many years before, I had visited Bamiyan in winter as a student. The lovely valley was sealed by snow and ice and totally silent. On its northern edge rose a sandstone cliff, pockmarked with caves. There, set under a cerulean sky and dwarfing the village beneath them, towered the world’s two largest standing Buddha statues, 180ft and 125ft high. A slightly smaller, seated image was carved into the cliff, further along.
The Buddhas have stood at the spot for something like 1,700 years. They were carved during the Buddhist dynasty of the Kushan king, Kanishka, which flourished on the old Silk Route between China and the Mediterranean. In their heyday, they were known as one of the wonders of the world: robed in brilliant red and blue cloaks, their faces and hands glittering with gilt, their heads adorned with jewelled ornaments. Pilgrims came from afar to see them and visit the yellow-robed monks who lived in the exquisitely frescoed monastic complex carved in the cliff.
They have survived the ebbs and flows of empires and conquest, protected by their mountain fastness. Islam converted most of Afghanistan not long after they were carved, but the statues suffered little. Zealots hacked off their faces, but, if anything, such acts of religious vandalism rendered the faceless images even more powerful and god-like. I, like every visitor to Bamiyan, was awestruck.
By the time I first arrived at Bamiyan, the original decorations had long gone, victim of centuries of biting winters, baking summers and human neglect. Many of the frescos were faded or broken.
The lovely draperies remained, though, as a unique example of Gandhara style, the fusion of Greek and Asian art which flourished in Afghanistan and north-west India in the second to fifth centuries after Christ.
A steep narrow staircase, which more recently had partly crumbled, climbed up through the rock and into a chamber leading out on to the larger Buddha’s head, itself the size of a small room. From there, I gazed out over the wheat fields and orchards of the valley and the tiny figures of herdsmen on donkeys riding by the river far below. Afghanistan’s many troubles seemed to melt away. It was a scene of paradisiacal serenity.
More recently, I found that many of the Buddhas’ draperies had been damaged by the intervening years. The caves ringing the larger Buddha’s feet were being used as ammunition dumps. Still, the images retained their immense power and beauty. Last week, though, it seemed that the death knell had been sounded for them.
Taliban soldiers are said to have begun firing at the Buddhas with rockets and tanks. On Friday a Taliban team, armed with enough dynamite to blow up most of the cliff face in which the statues stand, had begun crossing the snowbound passes north of the capital. The fundamentalist Taliban, which controls most of Afghanistan, has ruled that all statues must be destroyed because they are un-Islamic. While countries across the world have expressed horror, to many Afghans the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas symbolises their impotence and the loss of everything they hold dear: their music, art, history - their culture and their joy.
Last week, an Afghan who works for an aid agency said: "In 20 years of war I haven’t cried. But when I heard this news, I cried." In Rome, Afghanistan’s exiled king, Zahir Shah, who personally supervised many of the country’s first archaeological digs and who has spent the past week striving to save the Buddhas and other threatened antiquities, said he was "shocked and saddened".
"You can rebuild a town, you can rebuild roads, but you can never rebuild these statues," he said.
As the Taliban embarked on one of the world’s most terrible acts of vandalism yesterday, a special representative of Unesco arrived in Pakistan in a last-minute attempt to stop the mass destruction. I remember how on my last visit to the Buddhas, my companions and I posed for photographs. In the picture, we reach as far as the larger Buddha’s ankle. It is, in many ways, a humbling image.
The Island - 5 March 2001
N2.20 Buddhism around the World - Global conference
Global conference on Buddhism- 1200 Buddhist leaders to attend
One thousand two hundred Buddhist leaders from across the world led by World's leading Buddha Dhamma practitioners, eminent Buddhist scholars and renowned Buddhist thinkers will descend on Malaysian soil for a two-day Global Conference on Buddhism - 2002 slated for December 7 and 8 at the Grand Blue Wave Hotel, Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia.
This first ever global Buddhist Conference to be held in Malaysia in modern times is organised by the Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM), Buddhist Gem Fellowship (BGF) and the Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia (BMSM).
Mr. Goh Seng Chai, Organizing Secretary states that the theme of the conference is "Buddhism for a Richer Life".
Mr. Goh who was a leading Buddhist Youth in the country has now graduated to be the President of the World Fellowship of Buddhist Selangor Regional Centre of Malaysia.
The Global Conference has attracted widespread interest in several countries. The event has overseas coordinators. Mrs. Angie Monksfield in Singapore, Mrs. Pannee Boonyakamol in Thailand, Mrs. Sumi Loundon in United States of America, Mr. Usman Lais in Australia and Ven. M. Anuruddha Thera in New Zealand.
Mr. Goh says that the participants, all knowledgeable and authoritative leaders in their respective fields of discipline will discuss the major issues and challenges facing the global Buddhist community and the world in general in the 21st century.
Eminent Bhikkhu Sangha and Buddhist Nuns will discuss the Role of the Sangha in the New Millennium. Mr. Goh said, the Organizing Committee took up the challenge to create history in Malaysia in holding such a gigantic conference. The GCB held its launching ceremony with Dato Ong Ka Chuan, Executive Councillor for the state of Perak on January 19. From that day, we kept the ball rolling creating GCB-2002 spirit at fever-pitch.
More than 200 guests attended the launching ceremony from various Buddhist Organizations in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Telute Intan (Perak), Johore Bahru and Kedah.The Venerable Dr. Kirinde Sri Dhammananda Nayaka Maha Thera, the Spiritual Adviser to the Global Conference on Buddhism led the Congregation in Panca-sila.
The Nayaka Maha Thera lauded the interest of the organisers in accepting the challenging task of hosting a conference of such a magnitude.
The Global Conference on Buddhism will certainly achieve the desired objective of furthering friendship and camaraderie among people of different cultures and beliefs, he emphasised.
The Buddhist Prelate from the deep down South of Sri Lanka who has guided the destinies of Mahayana and Theravada schools of Buddhist Thought in Malaysia and Singapore, for well over 50 years, said, the main objective is to show the war-weary and conflict-ridden world would immensely benefit by the deliberations of the GCB-2002.
The People of Malaysia would be presenting to the world at large the message of eternal peace, mental tranquillity and physical progress living with one another in absolute harmony, the Nayaka Maha Thera added.
N2.21 Hundreds embrace Buddhism in Ahmedabad, India
Ahmedabad: Nearly a thousand Dalits in Ahmedabad embraced Buddhism on Sunday in the presence of monks from Asian countries. Followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar chanted "Buddham Sharanam Gachchhami, Dhammam Sharanam Gachchhami, Sangham Sharanam Gachchhami", during the ceremony.
A delegation of 20 monks and nuns from Bodh Gaya, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam initiated them into the religion. "We are giving back to India what it gave us, this is a religion for the whole world," observed Bhante Dhammadhari from Thailand.
He, however, said that Buddhist "conversions" were different from those in other religions. "One does not have to give up one’s faith. However, in order to lead a purer life, on could imbibe something from Buddhism which stands for friendship, love and peace. We don’t ever convert to hurt anyone".
Bhante Mahanama from Bodh Gaya, who is a teacher of Therevada sect of Buddhism presided over the ceremony. "We were here for two days and visited the Akshardham temple to offer our prayers in memory of those who died there," the senior monk said.
He claimed that in all, over 1,000 persons, mainly Dalits, embraced Buddhism during their three-day tour. When asked as to how they convince the people to change their religion, he said, "We did not ask them to accept Buddhism. They had interest in Buddhism and they wanted to get converted. So we gave them Odiksha.
It was Ambedkar who had shown them the way. Ahmedabad-based Bhante Harshabodhi co-ordinated the programme that has been dubbed as the biggest ever conversion programme in the city.
31 10 2002 - The Island
N2.22 227 Buddhist Centres in Manhattan
Buddhist resurgence in the New York state
Buddhism is the fastest growing religion in the United States of America says the Venerable Pandit Kurunegoda Piyatissa Nayaka Maha Thera.
I met the Nayaka Maha Thera at the ceremonial consecration of the three storeyed Vihara cum Buddhist Centre at Yatiyana, Minuwangoda recently.
The Centre is the brain-child of the Venerable Paravahera Candaratana Sangha Nayaka Thera of France who is also the Director of Centre Bouddhique Internationale and President of the Le Bourget based Association Bouddhique Internationale.
Nayaka Maha Thera made an appointment to meet me on the eve of his departure for New York. The venue was the Sri Sambuddhaloka Maha Viharaya, Lotus Road, Colombo where he resides whenever he comes to the capital city. After a distinguished educational career in Sri Lanka, proficient in Pali, Sanskrit, Hindi, Sinhala and English languages he spent a few years in India in the propagation of Buddha Dhamma and the development of the Pali Studies in North Indian Universities.
From India he was invited to be the deputy bhikkhu-in-charge of the London Buddhist Vihara where the Most Venerable Dr. Hammalava Saddhatissa Maha Nayaka Thera was Viharadhipati. The Vihara is run by the British Mahabodhi Society started by the Anagarika Dharmapala.
Twenty-two years ago, the Prelate recalled, he went to New York to comply with the spiritual needs of Sri Lankan community and a few ardent and devout American Buddhists in New York.
"When I first stepped in the New York state it was conspicuous with the absence of a Theravada Vihara. However a Chinese Mahayana Temple had been existing to cater to the religious needs of the ethnic, Chinese community living in and around New York. After all, the (Chinese people are early birds in the US and they are well established in society. They live close to each other as a closely knit community.
Besides the Chinese Temple there was a Thai Buddhist Temple in Bronx.
The dayakas who invited me purchased a fairly comfortable house, though small, that could provide some form a religions instructions including facilities for meditation.
Called the New York Buddhist Vihara with the keen enthusiasm of the dayakas, we were able to provide their needs in the improvised Buddhist Vihara near Manhattan.
Today, to the eternal credit of ever increasing interest of the American people and the influx of Sri Lankan people to the East coast of America, the New York Buddhist Vihara has a three-storeyed Buddhist Vihara Complex in Spencer Avenue, Hollis Hills in New York.
The Budu Medura is adorned with a large Buddha statue in Samadhi posture. Ample facilities are provided for meditation anytime of the day from morning into the late hours of the evening. With the growing interest of the people for a change, for a harmonious way of life in the modern day world, where everything almost, is becoming instant, the society yearn for something more congenial, calm and collected, the Prelate said.
Satisfied with the approach of the Bhikkhu Sangha whose exhortations and the explanation of the Buddha's ancient path - 'the way to deathlessness the New York Buddhist Vihara made them the proud inheritors of a monument to the awakening of the Americans for a peaceful way of life, he added. Nayaka Maha Thera Piyatissa went on to say that with the New York Buddhist Vihara as the nucleus, the schools of Buddhist Thought functioning in the New York state teamed up together to establish the Buddhist Council of New York and elected the Ven. Piyatissa as the President of the Council.
The Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana and the Tibetan traditions of the Lamas were joined by all Buddhist temples from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Thailand, China, Tibet, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. Under his leadership, the New York Buddhist Council has conducted a colourful procession in Vesak, on the Full moon day in May every year for the last seventeen years. This year a massive Vesak perahara illustrating different Buddhist traditions, and diverse ethnic cultures of Asia went along the streets of New York city on May 8. The unique feature of the New York Buddhist Council is the promotion and fostering of the solidarity and oneness among all the three schools Buddhist traditions - Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana, hitherto unseen anywhere.
On all matters pertaining to Buddha Dhammas and Buddhists teaching joint discussions are held and the basic teachings of the Buddha in its pristine purity is held in highest esteem. This unity and harmony and friendship is manifest in the Buddha's teaching in the Buddha word - "Samagganam Tapo Sukha" (Happiness is the unity among the disciplined).
As a result of the New York Buddhist Vihara performance in the American State - New York State alone, no less than twenty-two countries participate in the Buddhist functions, cultural ceremonies, Buddhist conferences, seminars and symposia organised at the New York Buddhist Vihara and every other Buddhist Centre in the state. Nayaka Maha Thera Piyatissa described the new phenomena as a great leap forward for the glory of Buddha Sasana in the Western world.
At present, the New York Buddhist Vihara has opened three branches – the Station Island Buddhist Vihara with five bhikkhus, the South Carolina Buddhist Vihara with three bhikkhus and the New Jersey Buddhist Vihara with three bhikkhus. The main Vihara in the City has five resident bhikkhus. Speaking about the facilities at the Vihara, the Prelate said we are available for the welfare of the people free and freely.
Our day begins at 6.00 in the morning. Every Wednesday Meditation instructions are given for one hour from 6.30 to 7.30, followed by discussion from 7.30 to 8.30. The bhikkhus teach the Dhamma from 8.30 to 9.30.
Westerners living in the State including the native Americans join meditation practice and dhamma class regularly, he added.
A faculty member of the New School University in New York, Ven. Piyatissa Nayaka Maha Thera is well known as a dhamma preacher and a lecturer.
Often he is invited to talk on Buddha dhamma with special reference to Karma - the theory of cause and effect. Ven. Piyatissa Nayaka Maha Thera recalled the first Theravada Buddhist Vihara established on the American soil by the Sri Lankan Buddhists sponsored by the Maharagama Sasana Sevaka Samitiyas under the patronage of the Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thera of the Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha.
The SSS left no stone unturned under the Presidency of Senator D. L. F. Pedris, a entrepreneur and a devout Buddhist to make the Vihara project a fait accomply within a few months.
The Government of Sri Lanka too supports the Vihara. Many philanthropists and well-wishers here and abroad generously supported the SSS to make the first Theravada Buddhist Vihara in the USA, a big success.
Quoting the Venerable Dr. Henepola Gunaratana Maha Thera - a world renowned meditation master, writer and a desaka who had the privilege of becoming the resident bhikkhu of the Washington Buddhist Vihara, said in 1954 the Vihara could not find a single book from any book shop in the US capital for the Vihara library or for the resident bhikkhus.
Last year - 2001, after a passage of merely 17 years, the American book publishers print and publish more than one thousand titled on Buddhist philosophy, Buddhist Metaphysics, Buddhist meditation and Buddhist History every year. What a climax? The book publishing alone stands as an eloquent testimony to the inherent interest for a peaceful way of life of the American people, the Prelate said. Today, in Manhattan alone there are 227 Buddhist Viharas and Buddhist Centres. In almost every place there is a resident bhikkhu.
That is a phenomenal success of the efforts of dedicated bhikkhus who reside in the USA particularly, the number of genuine writers of Books on Buddhism for the peace loving people.
The intelligentsia, the business community, the entertainers, film world's celebrities have come to join the Buddhist Dhamma discussions at the Vihara and in many other centers. The Nayaka Maha Thera said, the September 11, 2001 disaster in New York, where the 110 storeyed World Trade Centre - the nerve of US business and finance has become an eye opener for the American people.
The American began to question, the cause of the disaster and as to why those people had to die from a fanatical Islamic fundamentalist Osama bin Laden's suicide squad? What have they done to die in that manner? they want to know. What have those bomb victims done to die in that fashion. The American people are trying to find an answer now.
Aftermath of September 11 holocaust, American people, particularly those living in the New York State visit the Vihara in search after the true position. They look forward to detailed explanation of Kamma - the theory of cause of effect. Non-Buddhist Americans in growing number join the regular gathering to learn more about karma and its effects. A new feature witnessed in the Vihara these days, he said, is the daily arrival of newcomers seeking to know what the Buddha taught.
America is a vast country. Travelling from New York to Los Angeles take six (6) hours by air. When one takes a plane after dinner in New York, he arrives in Los Angeles the following morning. That is the situation which is caused both by distance and the difference of the time.
As a result, people find difficulty in turning up at the Vihara to meet the bhikkhus and learn the dhamma and discuss many aspects of the teaching.
"Instead, they use the telephone. Long distance telephones is a daily feature in the Vihara. Quite often I had to spend many hours on the phone answering queries and carrying on telephonic discussions with eager callers. In USA the telephone is a utility service, not a status symbol.
We distribute booklets, leaflets and books, quite often free to the visitor. Those books have become a solace for the reader.
20 9 2002 - Daily News
N2.23 50th Anniversary of the German Dharmaduta Society
(1952 - 2002)
Agganyani (Christa Bentenrieder) the Secretary-General of the Deutsche Buddhistische Union (German Buddhist Union) will deliver the keynote address on the topic 'The Prospects for the Growth of Buddhism in Germany and other Western countries' at a public meeting being organised by the German Dharmaduta Society to mark the 50th Anniversary of its founding (1952-2002). This meeting will be held tomorrow the 21st September 2002 commencing at 3.00 p.m. in the Auditorium of Savsiripaya, 123, Wijerama Mawatha, Colombo 7.
A highlight in the day's proceedings will be the first issue of a new commemorative postage stamp and first day cover in honour of the services rendered by the German Dharmaduta Society during the last 50 years. The German Dharmaduta Society was founded by Asoka Weeraratna, on 21st September, 1952. It was initially known as the Lanka Dhammaduta Society.
It is dedicated towards spreading the message of the Buddha in Germany and other Western countries. It owns and maintains the Berlin Buddhist Vihara (Das Buddhistische Haus) in Germany, which is the oldest Buddhist Temple in Europe and the key symbol of the growing Buddhist cultural ties between Sri Lanka and Germany.
Agga Maha Panditha the Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayake Thera will chair the Meeting. Hon. Mr. Karu Jayasuriya, Minister of Power and Energy, will be the Chief Guest at this function. His Excellency Mr. Juergen Elias, the German Ambassador to Sri Lanka, will be a Guest of Honour. Professor Emeritus Dr. Lily de Silva will speak on the Topic 'My experience as a teacher of Buddhism at the Berlin Buddhist Vihara' Mr. Tissa Weeraratna, the Trustee managing the Berlin Vihara will also deliver a speech. Mr. Karunasena Sonnadara will speak on the topic 'Memories of 40 years of association with the Berlin Vihara'.
Agganyani (Christa Bentenrider) the main speaker is a charismatic personality and widely known in Germany and International Buddhist circles. Born in 1954 to a Catholic family she studied at Munich University completing her studies of natural sciences with a Diploma in Mineralogy (similar to M.Sc).
N2.24 Buddhism Around The World: Cambodians seek Sri Lanka support
The Venerable Seng Somony Cambodia's Deputy Director of National Buddhist Education says the Cambodian Bhikkhu Sangha has completely dedicated themselves to rebuild their once glorious Buddhist society in the motherland after the re-establishment of the Monarchy under King Norodom Sihanouk.
He was leading a 47-member bhikkhu-laity delegation on a two-fold mission: one to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth-relic of the Buddha at the Siri Dalada Mandiraya and the Jayasiri Mahabodhi at Anuradhapura and the Atamasthana and the Kalutara Bodhi and secondly to meet the leadership of the World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth - Sri Lanka, the Dhammaduta committee of the World Fellowship of Buddhists and the WFB World Buddhist Peace Foundation. The discussion was held recently at the Taksala Nursery School hall, Katubedda, Moratuva.
Ven. Seng Somony sorrowfully recalled that more than two million people, almost all Buddhists including the Bhikkhu Sangha perished in the communist Khmer Rouge holocaust.
Our Viharas, libraries, Pagodas, sacred Buddhist monuments were destroyed, ransacked and burnt down. All our Buddhist texts, Pali works and commentarial literature cannot be easily found in Cambodia. All that remains are with the Bhikkhu Sangha and certain Buddhist leaders and scholars who took along them when they fled Cambodia in terrible fear of their life. Those are scattered in many countries in Europe, in several cities in Britain and the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand.
The Cambodian bhikkhu sangha observe strictly the 227 Vinaya rules of discipline. The bhikkhu sangha Bhikkhus with great difficulty restored the village Wat as the nerve centre of the people. Despite their abject poverty the villager is daily prepared to offer food and money and other needs of the bhikkhu who visit on their pindapata rounds almost daily - except during the Vassana period.
Describing the most keenly awaited annual event, the Kathina puja after the three month rains retreat of the Bhikkhus, Ven. Seng Somony said, the event is organised and sponsored by the State officials with the enthusiastic participation of the villagers. The Kathina puja day is a national event in Cambodia. From His Majesty the king, and Her Majesty the Queen, the Royalty and Prime Minister and other Cabinet Ministers, all high ranking state officials downwards in the administrative establishment take part in this annual ceremony. Ven. Seng Somony said nearly two hundred and fifty thousand bhikkhus reside in Wats throughout the country.
Every one of them have devoted their lives to the massive reconstruction program. The biggest handicap is the devastated resources of the once self-sufficient Cambodia by the Pol Pot regime. The empty coffers of the State and a destitute population of Buddhists.
Cambodian children and youth are willing to enter the Bhikkhu Sangha Order. Cambodian women are keen to become Ten Preceptors. But they do not drape the saffron robe of a samanera bhikkhu. The Eight-Preceptor and Ten Preceptor females wear a simple white cloth and jacket. Ten Preceptors shave their head.
They are supplementary and complementary to the Bhikkhu Sangha Order. They perform their duties to the Vihara and look after the cleanliness of the compound and the education and healthcare of the children.
Ven. Seng Somony said, the Bhikkhu Sangha and the laity are prepared to make any sacrifice, because they firmly believe that the golden era of Cambodia will dawn again very soon, when the country restore Buddha Sasana to its former position and with that they will be able to maintain Khmer identity.
Khmer people Buddha Sasana and Khmer identity are synonymous. For them being a Khmer is being a Buddhist. Without Buddhism one hardly can conceive of Khmer Culture and tradition.
Responding to the requests of the Cambodian Sangha, the WFB Dhammaduta Activities Committee assured to provide a set of Pali and English books to the Cambodian representatives attending the 22nd General Conference of the WFB slated for December in Malaysia.
The WFBY-Sri Lanka will also donate a set of Buddhist books for children.
The WFB World Buddhist Peace Foundation will provide six-colour Buddhist flags for distribution among Cambodian Viharas for hoisting on full moon days.
18 9 2002 - Daily News
N2.25 Buddhist shrines in the Trincomalee district
Attention has been drawn in the issues of The Island (Magazine section) of 27th April, 18th May and 8th June 2002 to three Buddhist shrines in the Trincomalee district namely Tiriyay, Welgam Vehera and Seruwila respectively which are held in great reverence and affection not only by Buddhists but also by all lovers of Sri Lanka.
There are many other lesser known shrines in this district. The late Mr. Cyril Matthew, a former Minister of Industries, together with the assistance of his friends had identified no less than 74 shrines and depicted them on a map an extract from which is reproduced with this article. As the reader may wish to know a little more about these, some notes made by the Archaeological Department on a few of these shrines are given below:
Galmetiyawa in the Kinniya AGA’s division:
This site lies below the Galmetiyawa reservoir some four miles off the 102nd mile on the Trincomalee road.
A Buddha statue sculptured in marble was found here. Although the statue appeared to have been worn out by the action of flowing water it was
beautifully sculptured in the Amaravati style. Around the statue were the remains of ancient buildings. Bricks and pieces of pottery were lying around.
Ancient site at Kuchchaveli:
The torso of a limestone Buddha statue was found at this site. The statue is a beautiful work in the Amaravati style. Pieces of flat tiles and bricks were found in large quantities. It is possible that there was a monastic establishment of the Anuradhapura period at this site. On a boulder of rock at the foot of a hillock is a sculpture consisting of 16 dagaba presentations. The Buddha statue was transferred to the Archaeological Museum in Trincomalee.
Ancient site at Kantalai:
(Tract 13 of Kantalai sugar farm)
At this site two broken Buddha statues were found along with guard stones. There were also pieces of bricks and tiles. The Buddha statue depicted as seated under the nine hooded Muchalinda Naga Raajaya (about four feet in height) has been transferred to the Archaeological useum in Trincomalee.
Ancient site Mahaweli river ford in Koddiyar Pattu:
Here are the remains of a structure with 42 pillars. On one of these pillars is an inscription.
Sri Gajaba Len Vihara:
On an eminence strewn with large boulders at a site on the right bank of the Morawewa colony are several dripledged caves. In three of these here are Brahmi inscriptions.
Ancient site at Etabendiwewa:
(on a by-road between 87th and 88th mile post on the Horowupotana—Trincomalee road).
There are remains of a dagaba built on a square terrace which has been vandalised. On each of the four sides of the terrace is a flight of steps with plain guard stones and a moonstone. West of the dagaba are the ruins of a building.
Ancient site Pulmodai:
About 1 1/2 miles away from the Ilmenite factory is an ancient site where there are a number of caves. In one cave is a Brahmi inscription. Close by is a pillared building with the torso of a Buddha statue.
On one occasion in 1978/79 I met the late Mr. Cyril Matthew at Nilaveli and had the privilege of going along with him to see some of the lesser known Buddhist sites. There was no doubt at all that he had meticulously scoured the area with his friends with the irrepressible zeal of a missionary and found these sites and appointed watchers to look after them. I particularly remember one spot on the road from Kuchchaveli to Tiriyay where he took me to a lowly cadjan hut inside which was a beautiful head of the Buddha about 15 kilos in weight and some delicate artefacts. When I inquired from him as to where he found them he took me to a jungle clearing some distance behind the hut where there were remnants of stone pillars and the foundation of a dagaba. There were several other places which he showed me where once upon a time there had been temples, dharmasalawas and monasteries around which had been thriving Buddhist communities.
Fort Frederick Trincomalee:
Some time in 1971 when I was functioning as the General Manager of the Ceylon Hotels Corporation, it was decided to add eight more bedrooms to the Trincomalee Tourist Inn which was situated on the summit of a hill in Fort Frederick overlooking the harbour. The Tourist Inn had only two rooms then. When excavation work for the foundations was in progress the workers unearthed several bricks and tiles which were identified as belonging to the Anuradhapura period. According to the records of the Archaeological Department in ancient times Trincomalee had been known as Gokarna. Swami Rock which is the highest point in Fort Frederick is an ancient site where there had been Buddhist and Hindu shrines for a long time. King Mahasen (275-301 AD) had built the Gokarna Vihare. King Agbo V (718-724 AD) had added a preaching hall to the Vihare. These structures had been demolished by the Portuguese to build a fortress.
The evidence that emerges from all this is incontrovertible. There had been several Buddhist shrines in the district during the Anuradhapura period of our history. Around these shrines had been thriving Buddhist communities which maintained these shrines.
It is up to the authorities concerned together with the co-operation of the public to ensure that these holy places are not defaced or obliterated but are preserved for veneration not only by the present generation but also by generations yet unborn.
In my next article I propose to deal with the Buddhist shrines in the Batticaloa and the Amparai districts.
Note: The information given here is taken from a map prepared by the late Mr. Cyril Matthew showing the Buddhist shrines in the North and East of Sri Lanka.
Location of Buddhist shrines:
67 - Iranei 68 - Madawarichchi 130 - Pulmoddai 131 - Kiulakadawala 132 - Sembimalai 133 - Kallampattu 134 - Kuchchaveli 135 - Muduwankulam 136 - near Kuchchaveli 137 - Galmaduwa 138 - Tiriyay 139 - near Kuchchaveli 140 - near fifth mile post 141 - Aalankulam 142 - Mailawewa 143 - Rangiri Ulpatha 144 - Puliyankulam 145 - Veherabendi Kanda 146 - Kattakulampattu west 147 - Gomarankadawela 148 - Ridi Kanda 149 - Galmetiyawa 150 - Wilpanakulam 151 - Kumbukwewa 152 - Tamarawewa 153 - Marangwadiya 154 - Kumbukwewa 155 - Morawewa 156 - Kimbulpatiyawa 157 - Mahadiulwewa 158 - Namalwatte159 - near Morawewa 160 - near Morawewa 161 - Gajaba len vihara 162 - Parampanjam 163 - Galmetiyawa164 - near 6th mile post 165 - Welgam Vehera 166 - Tekkewatte167 - near 152/13 culvert 168 - Kalampattu 170 - Aandakulam 171 - Katsunai 172 - Tamblegamuwa 173 - Sampur 173 A - Lankapatuna 174 - Pattikimbula 175 - Sunethra Wewa 176 - Ruins in Mutur 177 - Mandangiri 178 - Kiliweddi 179 - Neelahelagama 180 - Dehiwatte 181 - Pallewela 182 - Seruwila 183 - Somapura Dhakshinaramaya 184 - Somapura Pashwimaramaya 185 - Aarama Kande 186 - Kallar 187 - Pavanei 188 - Serunuwara 189 - Vilgam vehera 190 - Ruins at Keenganga191 - Wan ela 192 - Kantalai 193 - Kantalai 194 - Kantalai town 195 - Wellunnaa 196 - Raja Ela 197 - Maithree wewa 198 - to 200 in vicinity of Kantalai.
6 7 2002 - The Island
N2.26 Bollywood gives us a life of Prince Asoka
I threw up my hands in horror and frustration a couple of weeks ago in this column about the film fare available to the cinema goer in our paradise. Almost every cinema was screening an adults only labelled film of dubious character. I noticed the title of the film being screened at the Liberty recently but did not give it a thought and for that I tick myself off sharply. A friend had to tell me to go see Asoka. Very fortunately I was told this because I just managed to see it before its run ended. The manager of the Liberty Cinema, when asked, said they may screen it again. The film seeing public should demand a rerun so that many more could see this wonderful film.
Asoka is a Hindi film about the young Mauryan prince, Asoka, from the time he retrieved his grandfather’s sword thrown away as a gesture of renunciation of the world in favour of devoting his life to Jainism, to when the young prince himself renounces violence and conquest.
Historical fact as opposed to cinematic fiction
India by Percival Spear, which I dipped into, has this to say: ‘In 322 BC, two years after Alexander left Sind, Chandragupta Maurya seized the throne of Magadha and thence steadily extended his power northwards. When Seleucus Nikator became king of Babylonia or West Asia in 313 BC, he thought of recovering Alexander’s Indian provinces. But his attempted invasion in 306 BC was defeated outright by Chandragupta. The next year a treaty gave to Chandragupta Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, and modern Baluchistan in return for five hundred elephants. His son Bindusara (c 298-273 BC) probably conquered the Deccan. His grandson Asoka (273-232 BC) conquered Kalinga or eastern India in 261 B C. His realm extended to the modern Mysore. About the year 185 B C the dynasty was overthrown and the empire broke up.
That is dry as dust written history. The film brought parts of it flamboyantly to life.
Spear continues thus: Chandragupta founded the Mauryan empire, but his grandson Asoka adorned it. He is one of the great names of all ages. He was the first ruler of a great empire to preach the way of gentleness in preference to the way of force, to insist that the moral law was the key to public action. He ruled his empire without dispute for forty one years. The crisis in Asoka’s life came with the conquest of Kalinga. Remorse for the suffering then inflicted provoked a spiritual revolution. He thus describes it in Rock Edict XIII.
Kalinga was conquered by his Sacred and Gracious Majesty when he had been consecrated eight years. 150,000 persons were thence carried away captive, 100,000 were slain and may times that number died. Thus arose; his Sacred Majesty’s remorse for having conquered the Kalingas because the conquest of a country previously unconquered involved the slaughter, death and carrying away captive of the people. From this moment Asoka spent the rest of his life promoting the law of duty or piety through his great empire. His inspiration was the teaching of the Buddha.
The edits were a way of spreading Asoka’s ideas within the empire. But he was not content with this; he carried the message abroad. About 230 BC his brother Mahendra led a mission to King Tissa in Ceylon which resulted in the king’s conversion to Buddhism. Asoka’s sister Sanghamitta founded a nunnery.
The last part we learnt at our mother’s knee when we were toddlers. Doubt was expressed then as to whether Mahinda Thera and Ven. Sanghamitta were siblings of Asoka or his offspring. We now accept the latter relationship. Through the years this story was heard, ever with wonder and gratitude. We quoted, almost as if rote-learnt, that Mahinda brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka and thus arose our culture. Not so, we are now told. Ven Soma Thera made this clear on a Wednesday before Poson. We were already very civilized with a vibrant culture, and Buddhism was practiced in the land. Mahinda Thera’s arrival converted the king to the religion and thus officially, the entire country.
The film Asoka
The story was in mind, etched in browns and yellow, with gratitude and pride. Santosh Sivan’s film Asoka brought the life of the young prince - the fighting, murdering prince to a glorious technicolour sound and light display, directed by Karam Jhoran.
The film was Bollywood through and through. Why complain? No complaint. Only praise and wonder.
We were taken through renunciation by Chandragupta; an ailing Bimbisara who favoured his son Susima as heir due to the influence of the younger wife; Asoka’s mother vowing eternal silence so her son would leave the kingdom and evade threats to his life. And thus proceeds a narration of his life: a stupendous love for a beautiful princess, herself in hiding with the heir to the Kalinga throne; heart rending sorrow and despair on being told she, Kaurlika, was dead and shown her pyre; marriage to a Buddhist princess because she was rejected by her suitor on account of her being a Buddhist. Prince Asoka’s wife says she will not allow the baby she carries to be touched by the blood stained hands of its father. But Asoka proceeds from conquest to conquest, more bloodthirsty than land-hungry, until in the killing fields of Kalinga he comes upon his first wife, now fighter herself wielding a fierce sword. The young prince of Kalinga dies as they are reunited, arrowed in the back.
The film depicts in the shadowy background the image Asoka carried in his mind of a peaceful ascetic. He thus forswears violence. He is told, while on the battlefield, that his wife has given birth to twins, a boy and girl.
I said it was glorious Bollywood. The written-in English introduction says that legend is mixed with history. The film director and producer go further. Into the film is woven song and dance, drenched-in-water clothes clinging to a slim yet well proportioned young woman (lissom Kareena Kapur), murder and mayhem most foul and an absolutely handsome and princely Asoka, played by heart throb of the Indian screen Sharuk Khan
Bollywood is taking the western world by storm and extending its popularity eastwards too, just as the Mauryan empire did. Major difference is the modern invader is going all around the world. Hollywood is imitating Bollywood, learning and borrowing ideas, which a couple of years ago was treated with derision as escapism for the starving masses. We’ve not seen it, but Oscar nominee Moulin Rouge is supposed to be pure Bollywood with all its inimitable ingredients thrown in.
I intend giving you the comments of two others on the film, next Sunday. I apologise for not having made this comment on Asoka earlier so that more could have seen this film. The Liberty, however, was packed throughout the run of the film and we do hope it will return to the screen.
The film is captioned in English. Hearing the mellifluous Hindi language was treat enough with familiar names such as Maghada, Susima and Asoka given a particularly lovely intonation.
What most caught the viewer’s attention was the poetic language of the captions rich in meaning, rich in word use, and style.
Reference to Emperor Asoka at a recent event:
The ambassador for India in Sri Lanka, Shri Gopal Krishna Gandhi, referred to King Asoka in his address at the inauguration of the seminar on Creative and Academic writing, co-sponsored by the British Council and the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, on Wednesday evening at the British Council grounds in Kollupitiya. In his excellent address, excellent in content, style of language and delivery, the ambassador made mention of the three greatest Indians of all time: Siddhartha Gotama the Buddha; Emperor Asoka and Mahatma Gandhi. He passed on to his wrapt audience, new insights to Gandhi as pacifist and writer. Creative writing to him is from the heart, sincere and concerned.
All opportune at this time of Poson.
30 6 2002 - The Island
N2.27 More Dhamma from Beyond the Net
The dawn of Vesak 1997 saw the launch of Beyond the Net, a comprehensive web site on Theravada Buddhism set up and managed in Sri Lanka. Beyond the Net has now upgraded its web site and the new version with cutting edge technology and comprehensive content has much to offer viewers.
The Home Page features the colossal Ruwanweli Seya with the music of the well known "Dhanno Budunge".
The "Life of the Buddha in Pictures" is a colourful array of images depicting events in the life of the Buddha. The introduction to Buddhism as a religion, science, psychology and a philosophy is by the late Ven. Piyadassi Nayaka Maha Thera of Vajirarama.
Bhikkhu Bodhi is the president and Editor of the Buddhist Publication Society and a world renowned author in Theravada Buddhism. He covers the Dhamma from the Noble Eightfold Path to the true nature of existence, trilogy of Anicca Dukkha Anatta, Theory of Rebirth and Kamma and Theory of Dependence Arising to Nibbana.
The 'Noble Quest' is dedicated to the writings of Venerable Bhikkhu K. Nanananda from his remote hermitage Pahankanuwa in Devalagama. The "Noble Quest" contains "Topsy Turvydom to Wisdom", "Mind Stilled", "Towards Calm and Insight" and "Publications" . "Mind Stilled" is a collection of sermons to meditating monks delivered by him at the Meethirigala Forest Hermitage. "From Topsy Turvydom to Wisdom" contains a collection of short essays on the teachings of the Buddha.
Noble Quest also presents Ven. Nanananda's writings in Sinhala and English which are published as a dhamma dana by the Dharma Grantha Mudrana Trust. These include "Towards a Better World", his recent English translation of "Lowada Sangarawa", "Pahankanuwa Dhammadesana" the Poya day sermons delivered by him at Pahan Kanuwa and much more.
A practical guide to serenity and insight meditation is presented by Mithra Wettimuny, former cricketer, corporate leader and meditation teacher.
The animated graphics presented in the site depicting the fundamental concepts of Vipassana Meditation are helpful here. "The Dhamma Way" is an application of the Dhamma in daily life. A wide range of topics is dealt with under "The Dhamma Way" such as "Buddhism in Modern Management Techniques", "Buddhist Perspective of Marital Discord", while a veteran soldier and Dhamma writer, Major General Ananda Weerasekara contributes an in-depth study on "Buddhism and Soldiering" and his writings based on scripts entitled "Metta's Questions".
Beyond The Net has donated web space to the Buddhist Publication Society of Sri Lanka and also serves as the official web site for BPS.(http://www.beyondthenet.net/bps)
Dhamma Kuta, the only Sri Lankan Meditation Centre also presents its course schedule giving viewers the opportunity of enrolling for courses through this website. (http://www.beyondthenet.net/dhammakuta ).
The new version of the site is the work of a dedicated group of professionals of Lanka On-Line (Private) Limited guided by B.P. de Silva Ceylon Ltd. The website is owned by B.P. de Silva Holdings of Singapore.
N2.28 Buddha’s vision of peace more relevant than ever - Kofi Annan
"Today all over the world Buddhists celebrate joyously the message of compassion, understanding and mutual respect that the Buddha brought to mankind. In this time of global uncertainly, the Buddha’s vision of peace and humanity’s highest potential may be more relevant than ever before", says Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations in his message to mark the Day of Vesak.
The full text of the message reads:
The Buddha’s lofty ethical and humanitarian ideals have given birth to a vibrant spiritual tradition that continues more than 2500 years later, to ennoble the lives of millions of people. Today, all over the world, Buddhists celebrate joyously the message of compassion, understanding and mutual respect that the Buddha brought to mankind.
In this time of global uncertainty, the Buddha’s vision of peace and of humanity’s highest potentials may be more relevant than ever before. Indeed, if we want to have a chance of overcoming the many challenges that face us today — in the fields of peace and security, development, and the protection of our global environment — we must think beyond our narrow, short-term self interests, and raise ourselves to a universal perspective from which the well-being of the broader human community appears as important as our own well-being. Each of us shares the hope of a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable future. Our actions — as individuals and as members of our communities — must be guided by that common dream.
On this Day of Vesak, let us remember that whatever our origin, our race, our culture or our belief, we are not essentially different. Above all, we share the same home, a shrinking planet on which we are bound to live together. So, let us work together towards the common good and the harmonious and peaceful coexistence of all the world’s people.
N2.29 A dagaba enshrining Kapilawastu Relics
Edwin Loku Bandara Minister of Culture in the 1977 Government of J. R. Jayewardene was extremely happy to witness the conveyance of sacred Dhatu Karanduwa and valuable objects of offering from Kirivehera in Ruhunu Rata in the deep down South to the Naga Vihara in Jaffna in the Northern end of the Raja Rata early this month along the A9 highway - the Mahanuvara - Yarlpanam road.
He recalls with pride the historic movement of a similar motorcade without any hinderance, of course in 1978 - when he as Cultural Affairs Minister despatched the Sacred relics of the Buddha from Kapilavastu obtained for exposition in the country from the Indian Government.
Under the Sri Lanka - India cultural exchange program Minister Hurulle negotiated with his Indian counterpart Chandra Chunder India's Union Minister of Education and Culture.Discovered by the Archaeological survey of India, thanks to the pioneering endeavours of archaeologist R. Srivatsava from the Sakya Kingdom of Kapilavastu, the Sacred relics - in all 22 large pieces bone relics - were given to Sri Lanka for the veneration of the Sri Lankan people and returned.
Popularly called the "Kapilavastu Sacred Relic exposition" the motorcade was taken across the country for several months.
Day by day, the exposition began to draw increasing number of devotees lining up along the highways and byways along which the motorcade was passing through making offerings ranging from flowers and incense to Atapirikara and gold and silver jewellery. Moved by extreme piety and devotion women removed their bangles and chains and necklaces and offered to the Sacred relics.
Irrespective of religious affiliation, Minister Hurulle gave the rare opportunity to all people to see and worship the Sacred relics to the people in the Eastern province as well as the Northern province.
When the motorcade arrived in the city limits of Jaffna the then MP for Jaffna V. Yogeswaran and Lionel Fernando, the then Government Agent took the Sacred relics casket on their heads along the main streets to the Naga Vihara in the Jaffna town - where the temple premises was packed to capacity with Tamils.
Moors, and Sinhalese people belonging to Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Buddhist faiths.
From Jaffna Kapilavastu Sacred relics were conveyed back to Colombo. After travelling throughout, across the country - except Mannar - the Sacred relics returned to Colombo after nearly six months. Wherever the Kipilavastu relics were taken people of all faiths lined up to see the Sacred objects and pay their respect.
There was clamour for the extension of the period of exposition. Minister Hurulle negotiated with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India and his Minister of Foreign Affairs Narasimha Rao for a portion of Sacred relics.
Following excessive discussions by Minister Hurulle with the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo and Sri Lankan High Commissioner in New Delhi with the Indian Government Ministers, finally. Premier Rajiv Gandhi had conveyed to Minister Hurulle through Minister Narasimha Rao that India was pleased to gift two pieces of Sacred relics to Sri Lanka to enable the Sri Lanka government to construct a dagaba in Sri Jayawardhana Pura Kotte.
Mr. Hurulle, now living in retirement in Kotte says the time is now ripe for Sri Lankan people to build a dagaba enshrining the Kapilavastu relics to further enhance the solid friendship between the people of India and Sri Lanka. The Kapilavastu Dagaba will stand as a majestic monument for the Indian and Sri Lanka people.
Mr. Hurulle believes that the large community of Indian business entrepreneurs who has set up industries under the open economic system would lavishly contribute to the Sacred venture, after all, Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha is considered by the Indians from Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru as the greatest son born in India in modern times.
Kapilavastu Dagoba in Sri Jayawardhanapura enshrining the two pieces of bone relics of the Sakyamuni Buddha promised by the Indian government will certainly inspire both Indian and Sri Lanka people to greater relief as hoped by India's first Prime Minister Sri Jawaharlal Nehru in his masterpiece "The Discovery of India" in the following words: "We live in an age of conflict and war, of hatred and violence, all over the world.
Never before has the need been greater for all of us to remember that in mortal message which Lord Buddha, the greatest and the noblest of the sons of India, gave to us, and to you, and to all the world. That message of two thousand five hundred years ago is a living message today, enshrined in our hearts, and we draw inspiration from it to face the troubles and difficulties that threaten to overwhelm us."
24 5 2002 - Daily News
N2.30 Bodhgaya to all humankind
Bodhgaya: The very word conjures up images of the sacred site where Buddha attained enlightenment, under the shade of a magnificent Bodhi tree. After more than 2,500 years, it remains the most supreme and inspirational place of Buddhist worship in the world.
The historic site, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in June this year, will evoke much religious fervour this December when Bodhgaya is dedicated to all humankind. Massive celebrations have been planned and the city of Gaya will be then renamed as Gautam Nagar, the cradle of Buddhism.
But a tussle between the Bihar administration and the Bodhgaya management is delaying the dedication ceremony, according to an official associated with the development planning. And the failure to reach a consensus is also making the ambitious development plans rot, while the people await renewed interest in their city's development.
As the Bihar administration continues to insist on clearing the structures within the buffer zone, as required by UNECO, the grand dedication ceremony has been postponed to December with no date being fixed.
Elaborate plans are afoot to unearth the Buddhist heritage that remains buried and to restore the past glory. Gautam Nagar will be developed under a new development model. " The dedication ceremony will be an extremely elaborate and evocative one that would draw all attention to Bodhgaya again, said Director, Indian Tourism Development Corporation, Ashwani Lohani.
Lohani who was the driving force behind the initial plan to win UNESCO heritage status for the site, told The Sunday Leader that Bodhgaya's dedication will inspire the entire Buddhist world "with participation from all Buddhist countries and state patronage from India."
Boghgaya is a magnificent temple complex found in the state of Bihar in Eastern India, within the administrative district of Gaya. Administered by the Indian Mahabodhi Society, Bodhgaya is the one destination that draws the highest number of tourists from Buddhist countries.
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its outstanding universal value, Bodhgaya is the 23rd such site in India and the very first in the state of Bihar. At present, there are 730 such sites the world over.
While the tussle continues, Indian authorities have made ambitious plans for Bodhgaya. As the dedication ceremony draws near, the Bihar administration is busy attempting to clear the unauthorised structures within the area that is to be declared as the buffer zone.
The plans primarily include a special project to unearth a buried city in the area once known as Uruvela, a master plan to develop 12 acres and promote massive religious tourism, all of which are a part of one ambitious plan.
Proposed in March 2000, the UNESCO World Heritage Site status announcement made in Budapest, in June, led to massive celebrations in all parts of India, particularly in the state of Bihar as people exchanged sweetmeats, lit crackers and played traditional music in a spirit of celebration. They will soon have more cause for celebration, when Bodhgaya is ceremonially dedicated to all humanity.
As the Bihar government prepares to launch a massive development programme in the city of Gaya, the Mahabodhi management entrusted with the administrative responsibilities and the protection of the unique site since1953 has called for the support of Buddhists world over to restore Bodhgaya to its past glory.
The proposed city of Gautam Nagar needs the urgent developing of a buffer zone around the Mahabodhi temple complex, removal of all shops, business establishments, government and residential buildings within the demarcated area forthwith to meet UNESCO requirements.
The Bihar Urban Development Ministry and the Maghad Division are to jointly introduce a three-phased development programme in Gaya, which will cover a buffer zone of 12 acres , create a meditation park, Buddhist museum and information centers, at a cost of US $ 1,765,500.
The master plan will also include the creation of a backdrop, with appropriately landscaped lawns, flower beds, a deer park and meditation areas for monks and laymen.
Meanwhile, the Maghad Archaeological Development Project has also planned extensive excavations and conservation to reveal the buried ancient city of the Mahabodhi Complex with its many sanctuaries built by various kings of different countries, during the course of many centuries.
" It is an inspiring project. I think an orphan finally able to trace his mother would feel this excited - looking for the past link" an official involved in the project said.
Besides all the development work concerning the site, the Indian authorities are concerned about promoting religious tourism to Bodhgaya. Come December, there will be direct flights from Delhi to Bodhgaya daily.
It would augur well for Bodhgaya and the Buddhist people the world over to ensure that immediate action is taken to settle the minor political dispute and make way for the necessary development to take place. The place where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment should inspire people to seek truth and reflect upon life, than be grounds to a dispute that prevents Bodhgaya from achieving its full potential.
In the philosophical and cultural context, the Mahabodhi Temple Complex is of great relevance to the most important events in the life of Gautama Buddha, and hence forms much of the tangible heritage.
The temple itself, a grand 50 metre high structure is regarded as a significant component of the site, which is also one of the most ancient temple structures existing in the Indian sub continent, dating back to 6th Century BC. It is also believed to be one of the very few representations of the architectural genius of the Indian people in constructing a fully developed brick temple.
The complex itself forms another significant part of the site, which is living testimony to India's developed architecture and artistic finesse. It contains several well-preserved temple structures and the famous grand structure.
The sculptured stone railings are held to be 'an outstanding example of the art and architecture of the period of emperor Ashoka (3rd Century BC).
Besides the main temple complex, there are six other sacred spots including the sacred Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment and the lotus pond where Buddha meditatedafterwards.
Referring to the grand architectural style manifested in the complex, the proposal forwarded by the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) to UNESCO canvassing World Heritage Site status said: "As such, it bears an exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition and to the prevalent forms of architecture in the late Gupta Period, also known as the Golden Age of Indian Culture."
The Buddha is believed to have said to his closest disciple, Ananda Thero:
" There are four places Ananda, which the believing man should visit with feelings of reverence. The place Ananda, at which the believing man can say,
Here the Tathagata was born (Lumbini)
Here the Tathagata attained the supreme and perfect insight (Bodhgaya)
Here was the kingdom of righteousness set on foot by the Tathagata (Saranath)
Here is the Tathagata passed finally away in that utter passing away which leaves nothing whatsoever remain behind (Kusinagar)"
(Maha Parnibbana Sutta translated by T.W. Rhys Davis)
20 10 2002 - Sunday Observer