Thursday, 28 November 2013

Buddha's Birth Earlier than Previously Thought

When was the Buddha born? Until recently opinion dated his death to between 486 and 483 BCE or, according to some, between 411 and 400 BCE, at a symposium on this question held in 1988, the majority of those who presented definite opinions gave dates within 20 years either side of 400 BCE for the Buddha's death.

However, the discovery of a 2,600-year-old simple wooden shrine surrounding the ancient tree in Nepal to which the Buddha's mother clung as she gave birth looks set to revolutionise the understanding of the origins of one of the world's major religions.

Archaeologists digging beneath the sacred Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini have uncovered the first physical evidence to enable them to accurately date the nativity of Prince Siddhartha Gautama whose teachings are now followed by half a billion believers.

The extraordinary find suggests that the very earliest devotees -some 600 years before Christ - were vegetarian and eschewed material wealth in favour of spirituality as laid down by the prince who abandoned his high rank to seek out the path to Enlightenment.

A vast brick temple, which also predates the earliest known Buddhist structures, found at the same place suggests that the emerging religion enjoyed a wealthy benefactor before its adoption by the Emperor Asoka whose empire spread across most of the Indian sub-continent.

Professor Robin Coningham of Durham University, who co-led the international investigation with Kosh Prasad Acharya of the Pashupati Area Development Trust in Nepal, said: "This find completely resets what we are dealing with in terms of early Buddhist practice."

The failure to discover any physical evidence prior to a sandstone pillar laid by Asoka in 249BC marking the birth spot during- his visit, has long sown doubt over the chronology.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Doctor Who - the Buddhist Connection

On Saturday the BBC showed the 50th aniverserary edition of Doctor Who, "The Day of the Doctor". Over the years there have been quite a few Buddhist references in Dr Who, regeneration maybe? .............

At times religion has been addressed directly. For example, 1970s producer Barry Letts, a practicing Buddhist, worked ideas from Buddhism into the show's narrative: witness Jon Pertwee sharing a version of the Mumonkan's sixth Zen Koan with companion Jo Grant in the 1972 episode The Time Monster. In this story, the Doctor tells Jo of a Time Lord 'guru' who influenced him as a boy. The story the Doctor tells Jo, about climbing a hillside and his guru pointing to a flower, is based on a story from Buddhist text the Mumonkan, where the Buddha holds up a flower and Mahakasyapa understands Zen in that moment. Buddhist themes are explored again in the Third Doctor's final serial, Planet of the Spiders.

(Mumonkan - Case 6: Buddha Twirls a Flower

When Buddha was in Grdhrakuta mountain he turned a flower in his fingers and held in before his listeners. Every one was silent. Only Maha-Kashapa smiled at this revelation, although he tried to control the lines of his face.

Buddha said: "I have the eye of the true teaching, the heart of Nirvana, the true aspect of non-form, and the ineffable stride of Dharma. It is not expressed by words, but especially transmitted beyond teaching. This teaching I have given to Maha-Kashapa.'

Mumon's Comment:

Golden-faced Guatama thought he could cheat anyone. He made the good listeners as bad, and sold dog meat under the sign of mutton. And he himself thought it was wonderful. What if all the audience had laughed together? How could he have transmitted the teaching? And again, if Maha-Kashapa had not smiled, how could he have transmitted the teaching? If he says that realization can be transmitted, he is like the city slicker that cheats the country dub, and if he says it cannot be transmitted, why does he approve of Maha-Kashapa?

At the turning of a flower,
The snake (his disguise) shows his tail.
Maha-Kashapa smiles, 
Every monk does not know what to do.)

When Jon Pertwee regenerated into Tom Baker, elements of the episode were set in a Buddhist meditation centre, with a fellow Time Lord clandestinely living as a Buddhist monk in close attendance.

These themes continued in later episodes, for example in Christopher Bailey's Kinda in 1982 and in Snakedance in 1983 where once again the episodes were strongly hinged on Buddhist mythology. Kinda focuses on escaping the Wheel of Time and characters are named after Buddhist concepts such as Anatta (not-self), Anicca (impermanence) and Dukkha (suffering).

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Rapidly Developing Bhikkhuni Sangha

Regular readers will know that we have been committed supporters of full female ordination within all Buddhist traditions and have had a particular interest in supporting full Bhikkhuni ordination within the Thai forest tradition of Ajahn Chah. The nearest monastery to the West Wight is Cittaviveka - Chithurst Buddhist Monastery which is part of the network of Thai forest tradition monasteries in the West and we regularly join up with the Newport Soto Zen group to travel over to the mainland and visit the monastery.

I recently received an email from the Alliance for Bhikkhunis and they mention their new website which is well worth a visit (especially the library). Also on the site they catalogue all the Nunneries for fully ordained Bhikkhuni that are now available since that first "controversial" ordination in Perth. It has become an impressive list so I've reproduced it here......... (guess where's missing!) ...................................


Bodhinyana Monastery
Ven. Brahmavamso Bhikkhu, Abbot
216 Kingsbury Drive
Serpentine, Western Australia
6125 Australia
Dhammasara Monastery
203 Reen Road
Gidgegannup, Western Australia
6083 Australia
40 Chesterville Drive
East Bentleigh, Victoria
3165 Australia
Santi Forest Monastery
Ven. Sujato Bhikkhu, Abbot
100 Coalmines Rd
Bundanoon, New South Wales
2578 Australia


Panna Vihara
Phum Samroun Teav, Abbess
Sangkat Krang Tnuoung, Khan Dangkor
Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Sati Saraniya Hermitage
Ven. Medhanandi Bhikkhuni, Abbess
1702 McVeigh Rd. RR #7
Perth, Ontario K7H 3C9

Czech Republic

Karuna Sevena
Ven. Visuddhi Bhikkhuni
Slezská 3
796 01 Prostejov
Czech Republic
Find us on Facebook


Anenja Vihara
Ven. Sucinta Bhikkhuni, Abbess
Morgen 6, Rettenberg
87549 Germany


Bhikkhuni Viharas in Maharashtra


Ven. Santini Bhikkhuni
1. Dharma Rt 1/RW1 Kp. Cigalukguk
Ds. Cobodas, Maribaya,
Lembang Bandung, Indonesia


Dhammamoli Project
Ven. Dhammavijaya Bhikkhuni
c/o Friends of Dhamma Moli
P.O. Box 628
Yellow Springs, OH
USA 45387

New Zealand

Sati Arama Buddhist Centre
262 Otaha Rd
RD 2
Kerikeri 0295
New Zealand
NZ Bhikkhuni Trust
(in process of establishment)
Adhimutta Bhikkhuni,
J. Hill, S. Weerasinghe, A. Hoffmann

Sri Lanka

Ayya Khema International Meditation Centre 
Ven. Kusuma Bhikkhuni, Abbess
82/1A Stratford Avenue, Krullapona,
Colombo 6, Sri Lanka
Sakyadhita Training Center
President Ranjani de Silva
No. 50, Alwis Perera Mawatha
Katubedda, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
Dambulla – The Golden Temple
(bhikkhuni training, education & ordination facility)
Bhante Sumangala Sangha Nayaka, Thera
No. 130 Kandy Road, Dambulla,
Sri Lanka


Wat Songdhammakalyani Temple
Ven. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, Abbess
195 Petkasem Hwy
Muang District
Nakhon Pathom 50160
Nirodharam Bhikkhuni Arama
Ven. Nandayani Bhikkhuni, Abbess
127 Mu 6
Tambol Doi Kaew, Amphoe Jomtong
Chiang Mai 50160
Suan Siridhamma Center
Ven. Poonsirivara Bhikkhuni, Abbess
109/1 Mu 10
Ban Paewn, Amper Ban Paew
Samut Sakorn 74120

United States

Aloka Vihara
Ven. Anandabodhi Bhikkhuni & Ven. Santacitta Bhikkhuni
1632 48th Avenue
San Francisco, California
USA 94122
Aranya Bodhi Hermitage
Ven. Sobhana Bhikkhuni, Prioress
PO Box 16
Jenner, California
USA 95450
Awakening Truth and Shakti Vihara
Amma Thanasanti Bhikkhuni
15 Columbia Road
Colorado Springs, Colorado
USA 80904
Dhammadharini Vihara ”Women Upholding the Dhamma”
Ven. Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni, Abbess
5010 Grange Rd
Santa Rosa CA 95404
Tel: (707) 583-9522
Dhamma Cetiya Buddhist Vihara
Ven. Gotami Bhikkhuni, Spiritual Director
91 De Soto Road
Boston, Massachusetts
USA 02132-6005
Great Determination Hermitage
Ven. Madika Bhikkhuni, Abbess
P.O. Box 204
Stewart, Ohio
USA 45778
Karuna Buddhist Vihara
Ayya Santussika
279 Aviador Ave.,
Millbrae, CA 94030
Lotus Meditation and Education Center
1446 Summitridge Drive
Diamond Bar, California
USA 91765
Mahapajapati Women’s Monastery
Ven. Gunasari Bhikkhuni, Abbess
P.O. Box 587
Pioneertown, California
USA 92268-1738
Minnesota Buddhist Vihara
3401 N 4th Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota
USA 55412-2617
Samadhi Buddhist Meditation Center
Ven. Bhikkhuni Sudarshana
5908 67th Avenue
Pinellas Park, Florida
USA 33781


Khemārāma (Tịnh An Lan Nhã)
Abbess: Bhikkhuni Susanta (Như Liên)
Add. Thon Quang Thanh, Xa Nghia Thanh, Huyen Chau Duc, Tinh Ba Ria Vung
Tau, Vietnam
Suññatārāma (Ni Viện Viên Không)
Abbess: Bhikkhuni Viditadhamma (Liêu Phap)
Add. Xa Toc Tiên, Huyên Tan Thanh, Tinh Ba Ria Vung Tau, Vietnam

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Monk with a Camera - Amsterdam November 24-30

A film documentary, on the photography of American Buddhist monk Nicholas Vreeland is having its world premiere on November 24-30 at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.

Last year the Dalai Lama named him as the first Western abbot of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Vreeland has been raising funds for the institution in question, Rato Monastery, through exhibitions and sales of his extraordinary black-and-white photos.

The film traces Vreeland’s single-minded dedication to restoring Rato Monastery and his historic appointment. In the larger context, Monk with a Camera’s producers describe it as being “about life in the monasteries, about the future of the Tibetan communities, about the impact of Buddhism on American society, and about pursuing art in a world of impermanence.” Here are some of his images..............................

Sunday, 17 November 2013

FULL MOON – Sunday 17th November 2013


From endearment springs grief.
From endearment springs fear of loss.
Yet, if one is free from endearment,
there is no grief
so how could there be fear?

Dhammapada v. 212

One way of reading this text says we are wrong for holding things dear: family, friends, memories. Such an initial interpretation blames the feelings themselves for our suffering. But the Buddha is not just talking about the feelings, he is pointing to how we might be free. Is it possible to feel endearment and be free at the same time? When he heard that his two chief disciples, Venerables Sariputta and Moggallana, had died, the Buddha commented it was like the sun and the moon had gone out from the sky. That doesn’t sound like someone who doesn’t feel anything. Knowing the truth of feelings means we no longer find identity in feelings. Letting go of feelings does not mean they disappear. In what are all these feelings arising and ceasing? That was the Buddha’s abiding, hence he could feel fully and freely, without suffering.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Friday, 15 November 2013

Note - Unseen Features

Just a quick note to all of you who follow us by email.

Although your email notifications contain all the text and pictures in a posting they DO NOT show any Video or embedded Audio items, as in the last post "Belgium Boy Allowed to Leave to Become Monk" or "Dalai Lama Speaks of Chinese Poison Plot".

If a post seems like it ought to have a bit more or is a bit short - check it out on the website, West Wight Shanga and enjoy the full Audio/Visual experience. Not to mention all the great stuff in our Video and Audio sections..........  it's what the Web's for.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Belgium Boy Allowed to Leave to Become Monk

Another story you may remember we reported on was that of Giel, the Belgium boy banned from becoming a Buddhist Monk in India.

Well the good news is that he won his appeal and left Brussels airport yesterday to "follow his dream".

Monday, 11 November 2013

Chinese Buddhist Frescoes Overpainted a'la Spanish Masterpiece

Do you remember the Spanish pensioner who painted over a 100 year old fresco in her local church?

Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Elias Garcia Martinez has been on display in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza for more than 100 years.

Well now Chinese authorities have had a go at “restoring” centuries-old Buddhist frescoes in a Chaoyang temple with “cartoon-like figures from Taoist myths.”

The faded and peeling paintings were inside a 270-year-old temple in the north-eastern province of Liaoning, which is nearly 400 miles north of Beijing.

Years after it was created the intricate fresco, which dated back to the early period of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), was left with only hints of its former glory, with large pieces scratched away and only scraps of colour left.

But they have now been completely painted over with cartoon-like Taoist figures in garish colours. The crude characters are dressed in pinks, greens, yellows and blues and bear no resemblance to the former painting that was in the Chaoyang temple.

Figures swaddled in robes can be seen riding ponies, mythical beasts and elephants.

Ren Xiuqi, an official responsible for the management of the Phoenix Mountain where the temple is located, said 'inspection and law enforcement' teams had been dispatched to the temple to prevent further damage.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

NEW MOON – Saturday 2nd November 2013


It is always a pleasure 
not to have to encounter fools. 
It is always good to see noble beings 
and a delight to live with them. 

Dhammapada v.206

The Buddha gave this short teaching referring to conditions in the outer world, and it is not difficult to agree. We can also contemplate the spirit of this teaching in reference to our inner world; our mind states. How does it feel when we encounter foolish thoughts? What happens when we cease indulging in them? What is the effect of witnessing our heart’s wholesome aspirations? Is it possible to dwell for extended periods in noble intentions?

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo