Friday, 7 June 2013

Review of Our Sixth Year

Yes, that's right, the West Wight Sangha website has now been running for six years. As has become "traditional" we now take a look back over the proceeding twelve months to remind ourselves of just some of the stories that made the Buddhist news last year.

Just click on the links to follow the full Stories....

On the 16th of June Aung San Suu Kyi's was at last able to deliver her Noble prize acceptance speech.

On the 9th of July my "Daily Dhammapada" program displayed a random quote from the Dhammapada on my desktop which was very relevant to the, then current, debate on reforming the House of Lords. (Nothing changes, the Lords are still controversial as can be seen in our latest story "Dodgy Lords and the Dhammapada".)

The big event in the U.K. last year was the Olympic games and in the lead up to the incredible opening ceremony on the 27th of July the Olympic flame was relayed around the Country. On the 14th the flame came to the West Wight and was carried through Totland, home of the West Wight Sangha!

Also there was a Giant Prayer Flag Installation in the West Wight symbolising the Olympic flame.

In August came the sad news of the death of Gore Vidal, author of "Creation" which describes an encounter with the Buddha and his disciples. The month also brought the surprising news that ex President Bill Clinton was learning Buddhist meditation........ it's never too late.............

While the U.K. government agonises over legalising same sex marriage the Buddhist wedding of two women in Taiwan last August was the latest sign of obstacles to same-sex unions quietly being dismantled in Asia, especially in predominantly Buddhist countries.

In September we were pleased to be able to advertise the 2nd Annual International Bhikkhuni Day. Our first post was an email from Susan Pembroke, President of the Alliance for Bhikkhunis. Our second piece that Month was on the 29th, the actual Annual International Bhikkhuni Day.

October sadly started with a story on the, then, growing tensions and violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar. Our report actually related to the burning of Buddhist temples in the Bangladesh border region with Myanmar.

On the 20th we featured the story of the Dalai Lama "swearing". An audience of students at Brown University in Rhode Island, were surprised when at the end of a speech on world peace, the Dalai Lama appeared to utter the "F" word.

The Buddhist spiritual leader's thick Tibetan accent led to confusion at the end of his talk when he pronounced "forget" in his traditional manner, but the crowd burst into laughter— they thought he swore, saying "f--- it."

Caption screens in the auditorium were showing subtitles of the event, and a stenographer transcribing the speech also appeared to think His Holiness had uttered the words, 'F**k it'.

The exiled Tibetan leader was in fact urging listeners to share his thoughts with others if they found them interesting. If not, he said, they could “forget.”

'If you feel these points are not much relevant - not much interest - then forget.'

I've  repeated the entire post here as the video of the event now only displays, "The YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement."

At the beginning of  November we reported on two elections; that of President Obama who supports gay marriage, and that of Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, who doesn't.

Then we reported on two firsts. Starting with the election of Mazie Hirono who became the first Buddhist Senator in America. Hirono, who was born in Japan, practices the Jodo Shinshu tradition of Buddhism.

The other "first" was a tragic one, a British man became the first Western Tibetan Buddhist monk to die from self-immolation. David Alain, 38, had taken the dharma name Lobsang Tonden. His action was, apparently, a gesture of solidarity with Tibetans who have died by self immolation protesting against the
Chinese occupation of their country.

December witnessed a call for the destruction of Egypt's cultural heritage. Murgan Salem al-Gohary, a leader of Egypt’s ultra-conservative Salafist party, recently called on Muslims to destroy the Giza pyramids and the Sphinx as a religiously mandated act of iconoclasm. "The idols and statutes that fill Egypt must be destroyed. Muslims are tasked with applying the teachings of Islam and removing these idols, just like we did in Afghanistan when we smashed the Buddha statues," said Gohary, who claims to have participated in the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001.

He needn't bother really as the 21st of the Month was the end of the World according to the Mayans, only it wasn't..................................... Watch this short video to find out what they really meant.

We started 2013 with a couple of stories on equality, the first being "Through the Stained Glass Ceiling, or Not?".

Which was followed by the story of Zen priest Enkyo O’Hara Roshi who had recently married her
partner, Barbara, at City Hall in New York.

This last one ticked so many boxes, she's a woman priest, she's married, she's married to her same sex partner and she's a Buddhist!

January ended with the Dalai Lama commenting on the five Indian men on trial for the rape and killing of Jyoti Singh. They could be hanged if they are convicted.

“I do not like the death sentence,” he said, adding that there are other ways to deal with the alleged perpetrators. The Dalai Lama said that, the 21 century belonged to dialogue and not to confrontation or violence."

As a footnote to this story, Ram Singh, the alleged ringleader in the gang-rape and murder of the young woman hanged himself in jail.

In February we featured this Video of a statement by Professor Robert Thurman on the Tibetan self-immolation protests.

Our next story was "Which is the Largest Buddha?", more on that later..............................

Later in the Month we had the story  that authorities were confiscating Buddha statues from shops in the Iranian capital, Tehran, to stop the promotion of Buddhism in the country,

March featured two contributions from Sangha members. The first came about because we'd been discussing the danger of holding "opinions". One of our Sangha members sent me this piece by Adyashanti ..................

The second posting, Buddha in the Snow, was inspired by this photograph taken by one of our Sangha members.

The piece goes on to talk about the Dharma Primary School which is Europe’s only primary school based on Buddhist principles and is located in Patcham in Brighton.

At the school they use a meditation exercise, ‘Buddha in the Snow’ – a simple exercise to help ‘cloudy’ minds find a clear focus.

April started with the good news that no horses were killed in this years Grand National.

Next came the news that Parliament was voting to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of caste. This was followed by the report that the motion had been rejected by 307 votes to 243.

Our regular full moon reflection on the 25th contained this photograph...............

It was on November 25 2011 that an old man was found dead in the waiting hall of a train station in Taiyuan, the capital city of North China’s Shanxi Province. Among his fellow passengers was a Buddhist monk. Photos of the monk holding the dead man’s hand, bowing and praying for his final peace became overnight hits online. It was this image that was voted – by 58% of respondents to the popular Phoenix TV network – the most important Buddhist event of the year.

In May we ran the story, Why are Buddhist Monks Attacking Muslims? It 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.

We also returned to the theme of large objects with Our Thing's Bigger Than Your Thing! Click on the link to find out what our thing is!

We also reported on one of our fellow Buddhist groups on the Island holding an event in Newport. The Soka Gakkai Nichiren group held an informal walk-in open day showing how Buddhism can benefit people in their daily lives.

Talking of Island Buddhist groups, the following amazing photo of the Isle of Wight was taken by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield from the International Space Station. (the West Wight Sangha meeting hall is in Totland, the second small bay round from the Neddles at the Western tip of the island).

At the end of the Month we featured the communication from the Vatican wishing us all a happy Wesak.

And so back round to June this year and the story yet again of Dodgy Lords and the Dhammapada, just as back round at the start of this review!

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