Saturday, 26 March 2011

Flick and Tick

Flick off that switch tonight it's Earth Hour again. Started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change Earth Hour is your chance to show you care for our world and all the beings on it.

Earth Hour 2011 will take place today the 26th of March at 8.30PM (local time). This Earth Hour the aim is to go beyond the hour, so after the lights go back on think about what else you can do to make a difference. Together our actions add up.

Tomorrow, Sunday the 27th, if you're in the U.K. it's your chance to Tick the Box for Buddhism as you fill in the 2011 national Census. As in the last Census in 2001 this year you are again asked "What is your religion?"

For an excellent appraisal of why you should "Tick the box for Buddhism" and of why you might well be reluctant to do so read this from the Network of Buddhist Organisations.

Friday, 25 March 2011

What is a Buddhist?

One of our Sangha members sent me this animation. It's full of "in" jokes for any Buddhist viewer, especially us westerners!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Tibetan Monk Burns Himself to Death in Protest Against Chinese Occupation

Chinese police have further tightened security amid reports of unrest after the death on Thursday of a young monk who set himself on fire to protest against Chinese rule in Tibet.

The monk, Phuntsog, from Aba county, a mainly ethnicly Tibetan part of south-western Sichuan province, set himself ablaze on Wednesday afternoon and died early on Thursday morning, Xinhua, the state news agency, reported.

This is believed to be the first time a Tibetan monk has died from self-immolation in resistance to Chinese rule. In 2009, another Tibetan monk set himself on fire but survived.

The monk's self immolation came around the anniversary of the Lhasa riots in March 2008, in which 18 people were killed and several hundred injured.

It also takes place during heightened curbs on the Internet and foreign journalists in the wake of online attempts to stage Jasmine Revolution-like protests in Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.

Reports say armed police have sealed off the Kirti monastery, where the monk came from. Telephone lines have also been cut.

The monk, who some reports say was only sixteen years old, was named as Rigzin Phuntsog. He had shouted slogans such as,'May His Holiness the Dalai Lama live for 10,000 years!' before setting fire to himself.
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FULL MOON – Saturday 19th February 2011

All pollution is cleared
from the minds of those who are vigilant, training themselves day and night and whose lives are fully intent upon liberation.

Dhammapada verse 226

If we are confident about the path and direction in which we travel, we won’t spend time in aimless wandering. Hence the Teachings encourage us to be vigilant. Energy and devotion to spiritual practice, however, are not enough. Our lives need to be directed towards the right goal – experiencing for ourselves the state of perfect freedom from suffering. As we travel along the path, we can check to see if our progress and direction are correct by observing the pollutions of mind. Greed, ill will, laziness, anxiety and hesitation, are they diminishing or are they increasing? We get to know the reality of the pollutions as and when they appear. We will learn about their disappearance, here and now, in the same way.

With Metta,

Ajahn Munindo

Friday, 18 March 2011

Tzu Chi Launches Earthquake Efforts

"We need your help to deliver everyone's love and kindness to Japan!"

Tzu Chi, the international Buddhist aid charity's Tokyo branch has opened a relief centre to help those affected by the biggest earthquake in the history of Japan.

The centre, on the branch’s first floor, opened at 6.30 p.m. on Friday, less than four hours after the quake. It is providing people with snacks, an Internet service to contact their loved ones, a place to rest and sleep and comfort for those in shock. The volunteers have supplied 500 items to those who were trapped on the streets of Tokyo and unable to go home: two spent the night in the centre because they lived too far away. More than 200 people have made use of the Internet service.

At the foundation’s headquarters in Hualien, an emergency command centre was established on March 11 and held a video conference with the Japan branch to ask what aid was needed. The headquarters has prepared 50 tons of instant rice and 17,000 environmentally friendly blankets; it has contacted the airlines about shipping these goods to the areas affected by the quake.

Unfortunately donating to Tzu Chi from here in the U.K. is a bit torturous, contact details can be found HERE. A better option is to go to the U.S. site and donate in dollars using Paypal (only enter the amount, don't use a £ pound sign!!!).

The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, whose name means "compassion and relief," is an international humanitarian organization with a special consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Founded by Dharma Master Cheng Yen in 1966, the group has nearly 10 million volunteers and supporters in 50 countries and has provided aid in 70 countries. Tzu Chi's work spans the fields of charity, medicine, education, environmental protection and disaster relief. It also established what is now the world's third largest bone marrow donor registry, and promotes humanistic values and community volunteerism.

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Dalai Lama, Vishvapani and the Census

The Dalai Lama announced on Thursday that he was stepping down as political leader of the Tibetan government in exile.

"As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power," the Dalai Lama said. "Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect."

The Dalai Lama has long seen himself as "semi-retired" from political leadership with an elected prime minister already in place in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala. He remains Tibet's spiritual leader.

On Friday Vishvapani delivered BBC radio 4's "Thought for the Day" on the subject of the Dalai Lama's stepping down from his political duties. You can hear it HERE on our Audio Page "Thought for the Day" section. As mentioned in a previous post the number of Buddhist Thought for the Day talks is directly linked to the percentage of Buddhists in the U.K. as identified by the census. So on March the 27th, "Tick the Box for Buddhism".

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Iman Threatened over Evolution

A prominent British imam has been forced to retract his claims that Islam is compatible with Darwin's theory of evolution after receiving death threats from fundamentalists.

Dr Usama Hasan, a physics lecturer at Middlesex University and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, was intending yesterday to return to Masjid al-Tawhid, a mosque in Leyton, East London, for the first time since he delivered a lecture there entitled "Islam and the theory of evolution".But according to his sister, police advised him not to attend after becoming concerned for his safety. Instead his father, Suhaib, head of the mosque's committee of trustees, posted a notice on his behalf expressing regret over his comments. "I seek Allah's forgiveness for my mistakes and apologise for any offence caused," the statement read.

Talking of fundamentalists, a Gallup poll has shown that 40% of Americans still believed in Creationism.

More worryingly, According to a recent study, a majority of high school biology teachers in the States don't take an active stance on evolution, and 13 percent of teachers actually advocate creationism in the classroom. Only 30 percent of biology teachers took a solidly pro-evolutionary stance, a trend that may emerge from teachers' desire to avoid conflict.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Wat Lan Kuad, the Million Bottle Temple

Dave from the Newport group put me onto this story from Thailand. A temple has been built by monks in north-east Thailand using over a million recycled beer bottles to make the walls and roof.

Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew, also known as Wat Lan Kuad or 'the Temple of a Million Bottles', is in Sisaket province near the Cambodian border, 400 miles from the capital Bangkok. Altogether there are about 1.5 million recycled bottles in the temple, and the monks there are intending to recycling even more.'The more bottles we get, the more buildings we make,' says Abbot San Kataboonyo.

The Buddhist monks began collecting bottles in 1984 and they collected so many that they decided to use them as a building material.

They encouraged the local authorities to send them more and they have now created a complex of around 20 buildings using the beer bottles, comprising the main temple over a lake, crematorium, prayer rooms, a hall, water tower, tourist bathrooms and several small bungalows raised off the ground which serve as monks quarters.

The bottles do not lose their colour, provide good lighting and are easy to clean, the monks say. A concrete core is used to strengthen the building and the green bottles are Heineken and the brown ones are the Thai beer Chang.

The monks are so eco-friendly that the mosaics of the Buddha are created with recycled beer bottle caps.

A tourist guide states that, 'Even though drinking is contrary to one of the five "training" precepts  in Buddhism, this still seems like a positive use of beer and lager bottles.'

Representing the cleansing of the human mind, the beer-bottle-temple is now on an approved list of eco-friendly sightseeing tours in South-East Asia.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Women's Day Celebrations - but no Bishops! (or Bhikkhunis)

Yesterday was the centenary of International Women's Day. Each year around the world, International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. Hundreds of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.

Organisations, governments and women's groups worldwide choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues. This year the global theme was "Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women." Last year it was "Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all."

Today 600 Anglicans are officially leaving the Church of England in protest at the decision to ordain women as bishops.

So it's not just Buddhists adhering to medieval traditional Asian cultural norms who deny women's equality.

The "justification" offered by the those leaving the Church of England is that they are convinced the Bible teaches that male headship is what God wills, both in individual families, and in the family of the Church. They point to passages such as 1 Corinthians 11:13 - "The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."

"For us in Reform we see the Bible teaching so clearly the leadership of men - in a loving way," says the Rev Paul Dawson, the group's media officer.

"We have to say OK, we can live with working alongside women leading local churches though we think it's not ideal. But once you have women in a very public leadership role within the Church then we have to say 'That's gone beyond the line.'"

UN support for the rights of women began with the Organization's founding Charter.  Among the purposes of the UN declared in Article 1 of its Charter is “To achieve international co-operation … in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Happy Losar

Today is Losar, the Tibetan new year. This year, 2138, is the year of the Iron Female Rabbit or Hare.

Losar is the most important holiday in Tibet and is celebrated for 15 days, with the main celebrations on the first three days. In ancient times when the peach tree blossomed, it was considered as the starting of a new year. Since the systematisation of the Tibetan calendar in 1027 A.D., the first day of the first month became fixed as the new year or Losar. On New Year's Day, each home will open its door with prayers and fetch the first bucket of water of the year. People will greet each other with well-meaning wishes- "Tashi Deleg". Losar is a colourful week of activities including Tibetan drama, pilgrims making incense offerings and other folk activities such as wrestling, weight throwing, tug-of-war and horse-racing Tibetans dressed in their finest crowding the streets. It brings together family from far and near for prayer and celebration.

And if you thought Tibetan culture was stuck in the past how about this song for Losar.

Friday, 4 March 2011

The Census and Vishvapani

An illustration of the importance of the 2011 census for Buddhism in Britain was given from this morning's "Thought for the Day" slot on the Today program. The speaker was Vishvapani, a Buddhist. Now regular listeners to the Today program may have noticed that we don't get a Buddhist "thought for the day" very often.

The BBC allocates the number of slots roughly in line with the proportion  of each affiliation acording to the latest census. So,in terms of faith background, 78% of presenters were Christians, 8% Jews, 4% Muslims, 4% Sikhs, 3% Hindus and 2% Buddhists. Relative to the 2001 census of population of the UK, and excluding those with no religious affiliation or none stated, Christians were under-represented as presenters (93% being their expected share, given Thought for the Day’s current brief).

By contrast, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists were over-represented in leading Thought for the Day, with the representation of Muslims nearly right in terms of the census (although their numbers have increased considerably since that time).

If you meditate, value compassion and live your life by the principals extolled by the Buddha and want to hear more excellent talks by Vishvapani "Tick the Box for Buddhism" in the census on March the 27th.

You can listen to Vishvapani's talk on an "ethical foreign policy" and the events in North Africa in our Audio Section under the Thought for the Day page.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Putting Buddha Together Again

In the week when the British Museum hosts an exhibition of priceless artefacts which were saved from the Taliban by the brave actions of a small group of Afghans comes news of the Bamiyan Buddha statues.

German scientists say it may be possible to reconstruct one of the two giant 1,500-year-old Buddha statues dynamited by the Taliban in central Afghanistan 10 years ago. Researchers have studied several hundred fragments of the sandstone statues that once towered up to 180 feet (55m) high in Bamiyan province, and found that they were once brightly coloured in red, white and blue, said Erwin Emmerling of Munich's Technical University.

Research has shown that the smaller of the pair – some 125 feet high – could be reconstructed using the recovered parts, even though there are some "political and practical obstacles" to overcome. Read more HERE.

As one of our Sangha members commented, "I rather feel that Buddha wouldn't care one way or the other, but it would be nice for the rest of us don't you think....?"

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Take the Compassion Quiz

Further to the previous post, Compassion in World Farming have a quiz that you can do to test your knowledge of factory farming and other practises in intensive "food" rearing.

Click HERE to take the quiz.