Friday, 31 August 2007

Origin Of The Buddha Image

Origin Of The Buddha Image Image
Putting the Ocean in a Bowl: the Origin of the Buddha Image

Thailand tree carving vies with Bodh Gaya photo as most authentic representation

"The Buddha image, without which the sculptural art of South Asia would have been deprived not only of its major bulk but also much of its stylistic versatility and spiritual fervor, has constantly been under debate as to its origin and evolution.

Shakyamuni Buddha (Seiryoji, Kyoto, Japan, AD 987) said to be based on King Udayana's first image of Buddha.

Some believe that the first Buddha image came into being during the lifetime of the Buddha himself. These scholars contend that the tradition so begun continued ever since. But the medium, wood or clay, generally used for making these images, being of perishable nature, could not have such images survive against time.

The legend of King Udayana, which appears in the Chinese version of the Numerical Discourses ("Anguttara Nikaya"), supports this view. This text of it -- translated into Chinese some time between the 1st and 3rd Century A.C.E. from a Korean translation of the scripture, obviously a work of an earlier date -- contends that the Buddha, after he was enlightened, wished to deliver a sermon to his mother Maya who, having passed away, was in the Trayatrimsa Heaven (or Realm of the Thirty-three).

One of the earliest surviving Buddha images. Kushana Dynasty gold coin with standing Buddha, circa 100 B.C.E. (

The Buddha hence left the human world for three months and went there. His absence was unbearable to King Udayana. He thus commissioned his image. The Buddha came down from "Trayatrimsa". And according to the legend, King Udayana, showed the image to the Buddha, who thereupon preached the great virtue of making such images. (This is in stark contrast to tradition, which states that the Buddha vigorously discouraged graven images. Instead, followers were encouraged to apply the Teachings as the highest form of honoring him).

This story of King Udayana commissioning the Buddha image is said to have been recorded also by Fa-hsien and later by Hsuan Tsang in their travel accounts. One of the most sacred Buddha images in Japan is revered as being the replica of the above-mentioned King Udayana's Buddha image. This image was allegedly brought from China to Japan in 986 A.D. by a Japanese Buddhist monk, Chonen.

The first Buddha image was made of sandalwood. Adhering to tradition, the Japanese replica is worshipped by offering pouches of sandalwood powder. This legend of the origin of the Buddha image remains prevalent and largely believed in Tibet, China, and Japan.

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Monday, 20 August 2007

India Is The Buddhas Land Birthplace Orissa

India Is The Buddhas Land Birthplace Orissa Image


( The Buddha's new birthplace has been discovered: Kapileshwar, Orissa, India). A team of archaeological experts from Orissa say...

BHUBANESWAR, India -- You don't tell Dalai Lama where the Buddha was born. That's exactly what some experts did only to be gently shown their place.

At a meeting where the spiritual leader was to speak, some experts attempted the old trick of mentioning that Kapileshwar, on the outskirts of the city, may have been Lord Buddha's birthplace because Buddhist artifacts have been found at the site. But the Dalai Lama didn't want to get drawn into the debate.

"Whether Buddha was born in today's Nepal or this side (India), I don't know," he said. "Who will decide it, I don't know."

The matter requires intensive research, and the real answer may come from the archaeological findings, he said. "If I say Buddha was born here, my Nepalese friends will say Buddha was from Nepal," he said amidst peals of laughter. Saying that India is the Buddha's land, he called for extensive research on Buddhism and offered support too.

He said he would like to return to Orissa to share his ideas, lecture, and at the same time discuss various aspects of Buddhism. The Dalai Lama also hinted at a program of translation of Buddhist texts into the Oriya language and said he would be happy to recommend important books.

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Thursday, 16 August 2007

Support American Buddhist Nuns

Support American Buddhist Nuns Image
Ayya Taathaloka is our choice for the voice of a new breed of Buddhist nuns, Westerners preserving the Dharma by restoring it in a historically accurate way for the benefit of all practitioners.

The Buddha said: This Dispensation ("Sasana") was not complete until there were both male and female monastics and male and female lay practitioners. The Buddha had achieved his goal. No one can deny the systemic sexism that now mars even Buddhism. But who could stand for it and allow it to persist when there is a chance to rectify the situation? The West can be of great service to the Dharma.

Women in saffron Buddhist robes need our help. These are remarkable women we may not know and may never meet (although they can be visited in northern California). By monastic rules laid down by the Buddha, they are unable to ask for help. So we are asking for them.

MAKING MERIT The Buddha called the Sangha of monks and nuns "an incomparable FIELD OF MERIT for the world." They practice, are responsible for preserving the Dharma, and are the mostly to attain the fruits (explained in the FRUITS OF RECLUSESHIP SUTRA). Therefore, if one wishes to do good for the benefit of oneself and others, one would be wise to plant one's seeds here. Such productive and beneficial karma is called "merit" ("punya").

Contrary to popular opinion, Buddhist monastics do not "beg" for alms or other support. The disciplinary rules prohibit them from begging, asking, or even hinting. They receive what is freely given (DANA) and permitted by the monastic rules (FOUR REQUISITES).

We live in a historic time. Just 25 years ago there were no fully ordained Theravada nuns ("bhikkhunis") in the world. Currently, there are over 1,000. And their numbers are growing monthly. Bhikkhuni abbeys are popping up in the United States, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Canada, Germany, Australia, and even in India where they originally flourished.

It is a mistake to assume that these nuns are receiving the same level of support as their monk brothers. They are not, not by a long shot.

In a recent interview, renowned Sri Lankan scholar-nun and activist Ven. Kusuma described the vulnerable circumstances many Sri Lankan nuns find themselves in: Most, she said, are "scattered throughout the country, two or three living together, eking out an existence."

THE ALLIANCE FOR BHIKKHUNISThe Alliance for Bhikkhunis (AfB) is backing Ven. Kusuma's plan to develop a training nunnery in the capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo, on land she has been gifted. It is but one of the projects AfB has targeted for 2011.

In addition, the AfB continues to assist with travel expenses so that Buddhist nuns can spend the annual Rains Retreat together or attend monastic conferences. Funds also pay emergency medical and dental bills, as well as going towards the construction of meditation huts and other monastery costs in the US and abroad.

There is much AfB plans to do, depending on our assistance. AfB already maintains a digital library, an online magazine (PRESENT) making available accurate information on "bhikkhuni" history and activities. Thousands visit the site to peruse articles, engage in research, learn about events, and even share INFORMATION VIA FACEBOOK.

Because students and monastics use these services, AfB always wants to keep these offerings free of charge. Be part of the emergency brigade that comes out in full force to protect the still fragile "Bhikkhuni "Sangha "or Order of Nuns.

Partner with AfB to advocate for gender equality across Buddhist schools. This will shape how Buddhism is practiced in our times. For only with the wholehearted inclusion of women can Buddhism hope to flourish.

All DONATIONS are profoundly appreciated by "bhikkhunis". Our generosity enables American Buddhist nuns to take and remain in robes. It inspires women longing to ordain to find the courage to do so, thereby providing more opportunities for women and men to learn the Dharma from females instead of always being limited to our male Sangha. There is a difference in tenor, emphasis, sensitivity, and experience. The world benefits from the inclusion of females in every field and endeavor.

Our actions let the Sangha know it can count on compassionate individuals to lend support when the need arises. Envision a world where there is equality, where there are as many Buddhist nuns as monks, where enlightenment is open to all. To realize this vision, DONATE TODAY.

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Saturday, 11 August 2007

Gays Gay Marriage And Buddhism

Gays Gay Marriage And Buddhism Image
Wisdom Quarterly is sad to corroborate Tricycle's James Shehan in his report on the Dalai Lama's views on homosexuality. Interviewing a very senior teacher, a foreign-born meditation expert and scholar of long standing, the Venerable reluctantly said the same thing. It's not clear whether he thought the questioner was gay or he was being definitive. But when pressed, he unambiguously and uncomfortably called homosexuality "sexual misconduct" ("kamesu micchacara"). Clearly, it is so in a monastic or retreat context, as any sex is. Yet, as if wishing not to involve himself in the controversy or be quoted on so divisive a matter, he said it was and left it at that.As one looks at the literal definition of "sensual" misconduct, it is defined in sexual terms. (See AN.X.206). But it is not likely limited to that. Gluttony is the obvious unmentioned example. It's abuse, an implicit violation, and misconduct. It's harmful. One can imagine that gay sex can be viewed in the same way. It is, however, clear that it is not viewed the same way. There is a great deal of homosexuality around the world, particularly in conservative Asia (in Buddhist and non-Buddhist countries). The world keeps it secretive and hidden, socially condemned, but privately allowed, understood, and condoned in certain contexts.

In ancient times gays were referred to as "pandakas "(shown here in modern India at a gay rights parade). "Pandaka "("eunuch") did not mean "gay" in the Buddha's time, but gay was included in the category as deviancy. Today eunuchs, gays, and satyrs are imagined to be cross-dressing, gender-bending deviants, even as men in heterosexual marriages are involved with them. Sex with such deviants seems to be the prerogative of normative men. And that -- then as now -- seems to somehow make it okay.

The normative men are not condemned and do not call themselves "bisexual" for their activity; instead, they are still viewed, and view themselves, as masculine and dominant in spite of their homosexual conduct (usually wrapped up with cheating on their wives). Maybe that's why this sexual conduct is called misconduct. Whatever the case, gays are despised as well as discounted, even while being utilized like young men in a Greek gymnasium.

And conservative Buddhist countries in general do not let the religion stand in the way of the social behavior even as it dictates the norms and mores. (Like old Europe, people take their cues from monastics and monastic tradition and try to live as close to that as possible). There may be a great deal of bi- and homosexual ideation and behavior. But to accept it would feel like monks were openly allowing it in their midst since it is often lay Buddhists keeping monks in line, if only due to their high expectations and idealistic regard.

Traveling in Thailand, I met a young British woman living there. She was a Jewish lesbian who spoke Thai and lived with a family. She held hands, hugged, and was frequently hugged by the Thai women in the house/business of the Buddhist family she had ingratiated herself in. When I suggested telling them she was a lesbian, she was terrified they find out. I asked about all the hugging, which she said was innocent and explained that it would all be lost if they knew. I was surprised they didn't know or that, as Thais, they would have a problem with it given all the ladyboys and mangirls around. But they would, they certainly would, she explained.

Thailand, with its legendary "kathoeys" (flaming "lady-boys," actual transsexuals and simple cross-dressers), uncomfortably accepts and even celebrates its third-gender with national beauty contests. But this sexual phenomenon is not limited to Thailand. It is present in Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, China, and (ancient and modern) India. It's probably present in every country in the world, with each country proudly proclaiming, "That doesn't exist here!"

Recent reports of its prevalence in hyper-masculine Afghanistan (a formerly Buddhist country) and the mixed-message U.S. military (where annually 10% of the recruits are homosexually raped by American soldiers) suggest it is practiced here. And it's a dirty little secret bisexual men do not want to let out of the bag, even as it perpetuates a miserable condition for non-normative individuals. As Americans -- the fashion-forward, hegemonic dictators of the world -- we've learned to love gays, at least of the lesbian variety. Or not. But I think we can all agree that the whole world can do without the hypocrisy, secrecy, and double standard.

Should gays marry? Whatever. Is it sexual misconduct? It may be. But what is and what is not "misconduct" has to have something to do with local norms and customs. And as our traditions change to accommodate homosexuality, the world is not really doing anything that hasn't been done before (gays have a hidden place in society) -- other than calling it what it is and accepting it.

by Jacquelyn Martin

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Wednesday, 1 August 2007

India And Buddhism Photos

India And Buddhism Photos Image
While India is a majority Hindu nation (which regards the Buddha and Buddhism as a part of that tradition) and the "largest democracy in the world," it also has a sizable Muslim population of more than 100 million. And it was the Muslims who built the iconic Taj Mahal as a dedication of love from an emperor to his deceased beloved. The amazing architecture mimics an Islamic vision of [a] heaven. This effect is hard to appreciate unless one visits and does so in the morning before it opens. The area frequently experiences a morning fog, giving the glimmering appearance of the minarets and dome at first light the illusion of floating on a cloud. This special effect would not seem to be an accident and may explain why it was built in out of the way Agra. It is a world heritage site and is equally impressive seen from above and due to its interior.

The "stupa "of the Great Enlightenment ("Maha-bodhi") in Buddhagaya (Bodhgaya), "budh" and "bodh" both referring to the great "awakening" that took place here.

(Paranormal photograph of the Buddha at Bodhgaya) The site is a reconstruction of many disparate artifacts found by British archaeologists and may not be the exact site at all, having been consume by the forest in the ensuing centuries and obscured by Muslim invasions (which killed the original Bodhi tree, except that its descendant survives in Sri Lanka, having been taken there as a sapling and recognized by science as the oldest authenticated tree in existence. Of course there are trees thought to be older, such as the bristle cone pines of California, but they are not historically documented. The original tree's descendant was then replanted at this site, then speculated to be the original site of the enlightenment. So while the site may have been lost, the original tree was in a sense preserved.


India's greatest contribution to the world is the Buddha's message (Dharma), which could not have arisen elsewhere. Like many of the seers ("rishis"), meditating ascetics (yogis), and inspired teachers -- mystics and scholars alike -- the Buddha arose at a time that made his message possible. He was born in greater-India (called Bharat), an expanding empire of allied kingdoms and republics that included parts of the Near East. The established consensus-history is convoluted enough, but Dr. Ranajit Pal alleges a great of historical fraud by Europeans and reveals a more sensible history that has yet to gain acceptance (

Although it is not on the "Buddhist circuit" as a main site, Rajgir (Rajagriha/Rajagha, "royal city" or fortress) is a magic place ringed by seven hills on the Gangetic plain. It is the setting for many sutras. Particularly notable is Vulture's Peak (Griddhkuta), misleadingly named since there were never any vultures there but merely rocks that in certain light look like the gangly scavengers. It is a wonderful peak atop which to meditate, as these monks are seen doing.

Rajgir, which Vulture's Peak looks down on, is where "Buddhism" officially began. Whereas the Buddha's message (Dharma) was set forth in Sarnath with the Turning of the Wheel Sutra, near the famous holy city of Varanasi (ancient Benares), the established conventions of a religion were established with the First Council. And that took place on a nearby hill seen in the distance, near where the great elder Maha Kassapa had a cave (Pipphali). This hill, just to the right of the entrance to the ring of seven hills of Rajgir proper, has a cave called Saptparni where a great number of enlightened elders gathered to codify the tradition. Outside of the entrance to the city is the famous Bamboo Grove (Veluvana) monastery.

JAINISM: AN EXTREME BUDDHIST SCHOOL?This was King Bimbisara's capital, and it is equally important to the Jains, whose tradition parallels Buddhism to such a degree that some scholars suggest it is an offshoot or early school of Buddhism, distinct in adhering to severe austerities and nonharming ("ahimsa"). Indeed, the story of its founder has so many similarities to the Buddha's that one is hard pressed to imagine it all coincidental. (For instance, the Buddha hasn't always been popularly called "the Buddha." It's a title, and there have been many others applied to him, including "Great Hero," or Mahavira, which just happens to be the name of Jainism's founder). Rather, it's as if some early Buddhists were trying to reinvent the Dharma in more Brahminical/Hindu-friendly terms -- idolizing the yogic ideals of asceticism, complete renunciation, "ahimsa," vegetarianism, equality (Jainism allegedly had nuns before Buddhism did) and utter detachment (non-possessiveness). It is telling that ancient Jain texts do not mention the Buddhists, whereas Buddhist texts do mention the Jains, referred to as Niganthas or "non-possessors."

Jainism is an examples of one of the extremes the Middle Path avoids -- self-mortification and completely abandoning the world. Refusal to be in the world while not of it means an uneasy coexistence, not coming to terms with the world. This is most evident in that orthodox (Digambara) Jain monks famously go about in the nude, refusing to possess even robes. And it is this uncompromising allegiance to extremes that has meant that unless one takes a religious studies class in college, one has probably never heard of Jainism outside of India.

Every Buddhist pilgrim to India should see Rajgir with its ancient hot springs and modern gondola that climbs up to a Japanese temple high on a neighboring hill. (And what trip to India would be complete without seeing the jewel of Islam that is the Taj Mahal and the site of the Buddha's enlightenment?) After all throughout Asia, India, not Israel, is the "holy land." The historical Buddha spent a great deal of time in Rajgir meditating, preaching, and establishing the Dharma far from his ancestral kingdom of the Shakya Clan, just as other "buddhas" (and, interestingly, other "mahaviras") had done in the distant past.

by Seven Jaini

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