Friday, 24 May 2013

FULL MOON - Friday 24th May 2013

Wise Restraint

Ably self-restrained
are the wise,
in action, in thought
and in speech.

Dhammapada v. 234

Restraint with awareness brings increased energy. Restraint motivated by fear depletes energy. Deluded ego's way of meeting life is to try and control everything. It believes that without control things will fall apart; a totally enervating way of living. However, so long as ego still believes it is the main player in this drama we will struggle painfully. Even though we feel we have faith in the Triple Gem, we regularly default to our old ways of manipulating body, speech and mind. We fail to trust that true principles can guide us. This is because the momentum of 'my way' is untamed. But if our insight in practice has produced enough wholesome doubt to start to undermine this false conviction, it is a good thing. Now the work is to carefully question the apparent validity of 'my way'. We can trust in this kind of doubt. It can help free us from the hallucination of self-importance.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Happy Vesak from the Vatican

The Vatican has issued a message, addressed to Buddhists for the feast of Vesak. I've posted the message below, but first you might be interested in how we "rank" with the Catholic church.

By Catholic standards, the religions of the world can be ranked by how much truth they teach.

• Catholicism is first, with Orthodoxy equal except for the one issue of papal authority.

• Then comes Protestantism and any “separated brethren” who keep the Christian essentials as found in  Scripture.

• Third comes traditional Judaism, which worships the same God but not via Christ.

• Fourth is Islam, greatest of the theistic heresies.

• Fifth, Hinduism, a mystical pantheism;

• Sixth, Buddhism, a pantheism without a theos; 

• Seventh, modern Judaism, Unitarianism, Confucianism, Modernism, and secular humanism, none of which have either mysticism or supernatural religion but only ethics;

• Eighth, idolarity; and

• Ninth, Satanism.

“On behalf of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, I would like to extend my heartfelt greetings and good wishes to all of you, as you celebrate the feast of Vesakh which offers us Christians an occasion to renew our friendly dialogue and close collaboration with the different traditions that you represent.”

“Pope Francis, at the very beginning of his ministry, has reaffirmed the necessity of dialogue of friendship among followers of different religions. He noted that: 'The Church is […] conscious of the responsibility which all of us have for our world, for the whole of creation, which we must love and protect. There is much that we can do to benefit the poor, the needy, and those who suffer, and to favour justice, promote reconciliation, and build peace' ('Audience with Representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities and of the Different Religions', 20 March 2013). The Message of the World Day of Peace in 2013 entitled 'Blessed are the Peacemakers', notes that: 'The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend, and promote human life in all its dimensions—personal, communitarian, and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life' ('Message for the World Day of Peace' in 2013, n. 4).”

Monday, 20 May 2013

Isle of Wight from Space

Further to the previous story, this one's got nothing to do with Buddhism but is about the island!

This amazing photo of the Isle of Wight was taken by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield from the International Space Station. (We're at the second small bay round from the Neddles at the Western tip of the island).

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Buddhist Way of Life goes on Show in Newport

Yesterday the Isle of Wight branch of Soka Gakkai held an informal walk-in open day showing how Buddhism can benefit people in their daily lives.

Guest speakers gave talks on Buddhist practice generally and how it can improve society. There was a chance to chat to group members and ask questions.

The well attended event was held at The Lotus Tree, a yoga and healing centre, in Lower St James's Street, Newport, and ran from 1pm to 3pm.

Soka Gakkai International is a socially engaged Buddhist movement based on the teachings of the 13th century Buddhist teacher Nichiren.

At the heart of the philosophy is a concept known as ‘human revolution’, whereby the inner change sparked by Buddhist practice leads to courage, compassion and wisdom, fostering fulfilled individuals with a wish to contribute to creating a better world.

Throughout the UK there are local discussion meeting groups where people can find out about how to practise and apply Buddhism in their daily lives.

Nichiren (1222-1282) was a Japanese Tendai priest who came to believe the Lotus Sutra constitutes all of the true teachings of the Buddha. He believed also that the Buddha's teachings had entered a time of degeneration. For this reason, people must be taught through simple and direct means rather than by complex doctrines and rigorous monastic practices. Nichiren compacted the teachings of the Lotus Sutra to the daimoku, which is a practice of chanting the phrase Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, "Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra." Nichiren taught that daily daimoku enables one to realise enlightenment in this life.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Wagner does Buddha

Now here's something different, Welsh National Opera (WNO) are staging a production of Wagner Dream an opera written by composer Jonathan Harvey about Richard Wagner which is to be partly performed in Pali.

In the opera, a dying Wagner reflects on his own unfinished Buddhist opera. You can catch the performance on June the 6th and 7th at the Donald Gordon Theatre in the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff or at the Birmingham Hippodrome on the 12th.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Our Thing's Bigger Than Your Thing!

Blackpool council officials are hoping to boost tourism by twinning with an exotic beach resort in China. Top of the council’s wish list is the tropical haven of Sanya on the Chinese island of Hainan.

Hainan is home to a huge statue of Guan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion. The Statue, also known as Guan Yin of the South Sea of Sanya, is 108 metres tall and is sited on the south coast of the island which is in the Nanshan Culture Tourism Zone near the Nanshan Temple west of Sanya. It is currently the fourth tallest statue in the world.

Blackpool is famous for it's Tower, a tourist attraction which was opened to the public on 14th May 1894. It is 158.12 metres (518 feet 9 inches) high!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

NEW MOON - Thursday 9th May 2013

If birds are trapped in a net,
only a few will ever escape.
In this world of illusion,
only a few see their way to liberation.
Dhammapada v. 174

 It’s an advantage to have a variety of ‘skilful means’ at hand as we go forward in practice. Remember, the deluded personality will employ powerfully persuasive arguments in its attempts to maintain self-importance. We need an extensive repertoire of skills to meet these arguments. If it is tranquillity that is called for, then we could put effort into honing down our ability to focus more precisely. Or it might be that further study of the traditional teachings is what quells the doubt that disturbs us. At another time it is a trusted, respect friend that we need, to talk things over with before we learn the lesson of letting go. Or perhaps we should find someone who shows us how to adjust our posture so we don’t get a headache every time we sit. Or someone who shows us what transformative patience looks like. Then again, it could be a good long walk in the country, followed by a nice cup of tea, which helps us to drop whatever is bothering us. Agility!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Why are Buddhist Monks Attacking Muslims?

The following is the best analysis of the sectarian conflict in Burma that I have come across. It is by Alan Strathern who is a fellow in History at Brasenose College, Oxford.

"Of all the moral precepts instilled in Buddhist monks the promise not to kill comes first, and the principle of non-violence is arguably more central to Buddhism than any other major religion. So why have monks been using hate speech against Muslims and joining mobs that have left dozens dead?

This is happening in two countries separated by well over 1,000 miles of Indian Ocean - Burma and Sri Lanka. It is puzzling because neither country is facing an Islamist militant threat. Muslims in both places are a generally peaceable and small minority.

In Sri Lanka, the issue of halal slaughter has been a flashpoint. Led by monks, members of the Bodu Bala Sena - the Buddhist Brigade - hold rallies, call for direct action and the boycotting of Muslim businesses, and rail against the size of Muslim families.

While no Muslims have been killed in Sri Lanka, the Burmese situation is far more serious. Here the antagonism is spearheaded by the 969 group, led by a monk, Ashin Wirathu, who was jailed in 2003 for inciting religious hatred. Released in 2012, he has referred to himself bizarrely as "the Burmese Bin Laden".

March saw an outbreak of mob violence directed against Muslims in the town of Meiktila, in central Burma, which left at least 40 dead.

Tellingly, the violence began in a gold shop. The movements in both countries exploit a sense of economic grievance - a religious minority is used as the scapegoat for the frustrated aspirations of the majority.

On Tuesday, Buddhist mobs attacked mosques and burned more than 70 homes in Oakkan, north of Rangoon, after a Muslim girl on a bicycle collided with a monk. One person died and nine were injured. But aren't Buddhist monks meant to be the good guys of religion?

Aggressive thoughts are inimical to all Buddhist teachings. Buddhism even comes equipped with a practical way to eliminate them. Through meditation the distinction between your feelings and those of others should begin to dissolve, while your compassion for all living things grows.

Of course, there is a strong strain of pacifism in Christian teachings too: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," were the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

But however any religion starts out, sooner or later it enters into a Faustian pact with state power. Buddhist monks looked to kings, the ultimate wielders of violence, for the support, patronage and order that only they could provide. Kings looked to monks to provide the popular legitimacy that only such a high moral vision can confer.

The result can seem ironic. If you have a strong sense of the overriding moral superiority of your worldview, then the need to protect and advance it can seem the most important duty of all.

Christian crusaders, Islamist militants, or the leaders of "freedom-loving nations", all justify what they see as necessary violence in the name of a higher good. Buddhist rulers and monks have been no exception.

So, historically, Buddhism has been no more a religion of peace than Christianity.

One of the most famous kings in Sri Lankan history is Dutugamanu, whose unification of the island in the 2nd Century BC is related in an important chronicle, the Mahavamsa.

It says that he placed a Buddhist relic in his spear and took 500 monks with him along to war against a non-Buddhist king.

 He destroyed his opponents. After the bloodshed, some enlightened ones consoled him: "The slain were like animals; you will make the Buddha's faith shine."

Burmese rulers, known as "kings of righteousness", justified wars in the name of what they called true Buddhist doctrine.

In Japan, many samurai were devotees of Zen Buddhism and various arguments sustained them - killing a man about to commit a dreadful crime was an act of compassion, for example. Such reasoning surfaced again when Japan mobilised for World War II.

Buddhism took a leading role in the nationalist movements that emerged as Burma and Sri Lanka sought to throw off the yoke of the British Empire. Occasionally this spilled out into violence. In 1930s Rangoon, amid resorts to direct action, monks knifed four Europeans.

More importantly, many came to feel Buddhism was integral to their national identity - and the position of minorities in these newly independent nations was an uncomfortable one.

In 1983, Sri Lanka's ethnic tensions broke out into civil war. Following anti-Tamil pogroms, separatist Tamil groups in the north and east of the island sought to break away from the Sinhalese majority government."

Thursday, 2 May 2013

After Meditation People Incline to the Political Left

Today the people of the Isle of Wight, along with much of the rest of the U.K., are going to the polls to elect our Local Council.

New research from the University of Toronto suggests that people become open to more politically liberal
ideas immediately after practising a spiritual exercise such as meditation. The research, which consists of three unique stages, makes some interesting observations about how religiousness and spirituality — and the difference between the two — affects our stance on social and political issues.