Sunday, 27 June 2010

A History of the World in 100 Objects

The BBC have been running a fascinating series on Radio 4 entitled "A History of the World in 100 Objects". A History of the World is a partnership between the BBC and the British Museum that focuses on world history, involving collaborations between teams across the BBC, and schools, museums and audiences across the UK. The project focuses on the things we have made, from flint to mobile phone.

100 programmes, written and narrated by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, focus on 100 objects from the British Museum’s collection. Several of these have a Buddhist connection and we are posting those up on our Audio Section. The first two are about an early Buddha statue from Gandhara and, with the aid of a piece from one of his famous pillars, how the Indian ruler Ashoka turned his back on violence and plunder to promote the ethical codes inspired by Buddhism.... enjoy.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Posting Deleted

Some of you may recall a recent posting regarding the infamous "Five Points", Tuesday 15th June. This has been deleted at the request of the author of the quoted letter. It was pointed out that it was a draft copy only that was released into the public domain as the result of a miscommunication. Other sites which featured this have also withdrawn the item. I have apologised to the author personally for the innocent use of this unauthorised material.

There is still a story waiting to happen in connection with this and we will bring it to you when appropriate and when everything is above board.

In the meantime The Cambridge Insight Meditation Centre has issued the following statement:

"We are in support of Women's Ordination

The Buddha taught that the path of awakening rested in the practice of the four fold sangha which includes monks (bhikkhus), nuns (bhikkhunis), laywomen, and laymen. As the dharma spread from India into the rest of Asia, both men and women were ordained and the sangha of lay practitioners thrived. In the west today, monks, laywomen, and laymen are all still thriving.

However, between the time of the Buddha and now, the bhikkhuni order died out in India for a variety of cultural and political reasons though it continued in Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, and Japan. Today there is a deep interest on the part of many practitioners in re-establishing the bhikkhuni order in the Theravadin tradition.

In the dharma establishing its roots firmly in the west, in cultures that welcome and respect all practitioners regardless of gender, it is incumbent on us to encourage and support bhikkhuni ordination. The teaching of awakening and freedom would only be diminished by the marginalizing of any sincere aspirant."

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Happy Birthday Daw Suu

Today is Aung San Suu Kyi's 65th birthday, and yet again she will be spending it in detention!

She has spent almost 15 years in detention since 1989, the exact time will be 14 years and 238 days. The United Nations has repeatedly ruled that her detention breaks international law.

The UN General Assembly, UN Security Council, UN Human Rights Council, European Union, USA and Asian countries have all said the UN should work to facilitate negotiations between the dictatorship, Aung San Suu Kyi¹s National League for Democracy, and ethnic groups.

However, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is not actively working to make this happen.

Please take action now to get Ban Ki-moon to take action on Burma.

Take action here:

Here in Parliament there was also an Early Day Motion, EDM 112 - HUMAN RIGHTS IN BURMA

That this House sends its best wishes to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who will spend her 65th birthday in detention on 19 June 2010; calls for the immediate release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma; rejects the elections planned by Burma's generals later this year which, due to election laws and ongoing repression in Burma, cannot be free and fair; condemns Burma's new constitution which is designed to maintain dictatorship in civilian guise and does not grant rights or protection to Burma's ethnic minorities; notes that all diplomatic efforts to reform the dictatorship's sham roadmap to democracy have failed; recalls that the United Nations Security Council, General Assembly, Secretary General and Human Rights Council have all stated that the solution to the problems in Burma lies in dialogue between the dictatorship, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, and ethnic representatives; and calls on the Government to support a United Nations-led effort to pressure the dictatorship to enter into such dialogue.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

A Quote that I Like

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it's not open."

Frank Zappa (1940 - 1993)

Friday, 11 June 2010

New Zealand Bans Kosher Slaughter

The Orthodox community of New Zealand is outraged that the Agriculture Ministry has de facto banned the practice of "shechita", Kosher slaughter.

New Zealand's new animal welfare code, which took effect Friday, mandates that all animals for commercial consumption be stunned prior to slaughter to ensure they are treated “humanely and in accordance with good practice and scientific knowledge.”

The regulation has shocked the Jewish community.

“This decision by the New Zealand government, one which has a Jewish prime minister, is outrageous,” said Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, acting president of the Organization of Rabbis of Australasia. “We will be doing everything possible to get this decision reversed.”

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Inequality of Women in Buddhism

In the latest edition of BuddhaDharma there are a number of articles on the subject of full female ordination, the Bhikkhuni question. The first is by three former Buddhist nuns—Thanissara, Jitindriya, and Elizabeth Day, and is entitled "The Time Has Come". The second, "That Was Then, This Is Now" is by Buddhist scholar Janet Gyatso and the last is a report by Llundup Damcho on the Seventeeth Karmapa’s vow to reinstate full ordination for women in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, it is titled, “I will do it”.

On the same subject there is an excellent article on the same subject, again by Thanissara, in the latest edition of Present, which is published by the "Alliance for Bhikkhunis". It is, "Take it or Leave it and the Ground Between" and is downloadable from this link as a PDF file.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Jade Buddha Coming to Britain

Strange what you come across while surfing the net. Here's one for your diaries, between the 30th of July and the 7th of August 2011 the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace is going to be on display in Birmingham.

It is the largest Buddha carved from gemstone quality jade in the world. The Jade Buddha is 2.7 metres high and sits on an alabaster throne 1.4 metres high. The Jade Buddha itself weighs around 4 tonne and has been valued at £3.5 million.

The purpose of exhibiting the Jade Buddha around the world is for everyone, irrespective of their religion, to take a moment to reflect upon peace; peace for the world; peace in their relationships; peace for their families and friends; peace at work; peace in their mind.

Download Fact Sheet

The Buddha will be displayed at;
Tu Dam Temple, Midland Buddhist Association
34 Holyhead Rd. Handsworth, Birmingham, United Kingdom
For further details contact:- Senior Ven. Thich Phuoc Hue +44 12 1551 8614

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Three Years Old Today!

It's a hard to believe but the West Wight Sangha web site has been running for three years as of today. I missed doing an anniversary issue last year but in this post I want to link back to some of the "major" stories that we have covered over the last twelve months (please follow the links for the full stories).

The first one that I want to mention is when we got together with the Newport Soto Zen group at the end of July last year to travel over to the mainland and visit the Buddhist monastery at Chithurst. Cittaviveka, as the monastery is known, belongs to the Thai forest tradition was founded by Ajahn Chah and features strongly in later news.

September saw the Island Sangha Picnic taking place in the grounds of the Ventnor Botanic Gardens for the second year running.

At the beginning of October we had a visit by Palaka to the Island to teach "an exploration of the personal significances to be found and used in the symbolism of the '6 Realms' that appear in the 'Wheel of Becoming'."

On the 22nd of October a momentous occasion happened, quietly....... to start with! Ajahn Brahm, Abbott of Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery in Perth, Western Australia, enabled the ordination of four Theravada Bhikkhunis, or nuns. Bodhinyana belongs to the same Thai forest tradition as founded by Ajahn Chah as Chithurst. Bhikkhuni ordination is illegal in Thailand and not "allowed" in the Thai forest tradition! The news of events in Australia only came out when Ajahn Brahm was "Expelled" from the Thai forest tradition because of the Bhikkhuni Ordinations. Many more stories followed in connection with this and the whole issue of gender inequality within certain traditions of Buddhism is now, thankfully, fully in the open.

November marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”, his momentous work, which he started here on the Island ( it was the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth back in February of last year).

In December there was a whole flurry of stories around the continuing Bhikkhuni controversy with "retaliation" taking place or being threatened by Wat Pah Pong, the head monastery of the Thai forest tradition as founded by Ajahn Chah. These continued into January of this year with news of moves to "reclaim" the "ownership" of Bodhinyana monastery.

The story rumbled on into February with a group of female novices, who while being "ordained" as second class Siladhara "nuns" at Amaravati monastery here in the U.K., were forced to agree to the infamous "Five Points".

April witnessed the tragic results of the earthquake in the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in China (i.e. Tibet, not China as the media kept saying). We also launched the the new "paged" version of the site which has grown steadily since then and we have also made a return visit to Chithurst monastery.

May heralded in a new government here in the U.K. The "Sangha Sisters" walked the Wight and we celebrated Wesak with the rest of the Island Sangha here in the West Wight for the second year running.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Island Buddhist Calendar Grows!

Meeting up with friends from the other Buddhist groups on the Island for events such as the Annual Buddhist Picnic and now for our new Wesak get-together is always a pleasure. It also gives us all an opportunity to kick some ideas around. As a result both the Ryde Meditation group and the Lake Community of Interbeing are now putting their meeting and event details onto our "Island Buddhist Calendar" (first link button at top of page). 

So far we have only been displaying details for the West Wight Sangha and the Newport Soto Zen group but this is a great step to rolling the calendar out as an Island wide resource. Mark informs me that both the Ryde and Lake groups have also posted their details onto the Council Website as a result of our discussion (the entries should appear in a few days time after verification by the Isle of Wight Council).