Thursday, 30 September 2010

Massacred Buddhist Monks Commemorated

Human rights activists, lawmakers and religious leaders took part in a sit-in organised by Friends of the Third World (FTW) to commemorate the massacre of Buddhist monks in Myanmar on 27 September 2007.

For about an hour, protesters sat silently in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Colombo, holding placards and banners with signs in English and Sinhala that said, “Free Political Prisoners,” “Listen to the People”, “Stop Killing – Freedom to report,” and “Release Aung San Suu Kyi.”

FTW Chairman Freddy Gamage told those present that the protest was meant to remember the third anniversary of the brutal 2007 crackdown on peaceful protests led by monks known as the "Saffron Revolution." In his address, he called on Burma's ruling military junta to restore democracy to the country.

US and Southeast Asian leaders meeting in New York last week should press the Burmese government to end an escalating campaign of repression, release political prisoners, and begin a dialogue with opposition groups ahead of Burma's coming flawed elections, Human Rights Watch said today.

US President Barack Obama and leaders of the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held a summit in New York on September 24, 2010, the eve of the annual United Nations General Assembly.

"Three years ago, world leaders meeting at the United Nations expressed outrage and repugnance over the brutal use of force to disperse Buddhist monks and other protestors in Burma," said Sophie Richardson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This summit is an opportunity for the US and ASEAN leaders to send a clear message to Burma's rulers that their intransigence, denial of basic freedoms and cynical election manipulation harm the region's progress."

For an in depth analysis of the Saffron Revolution read this article from Burmanet News.....

Irrawaddy: An anniversary written in blood – Editorial
Mon 27 Sep 2010

On the third anniversary of the violent suppression of the “Saffron Revolution,” the international community should consider taking immediate concerted and focused actions to secure the human rights, dignity and future of Burma’s 54 million people.Three years ago, Buddhist monks overturned their alms bowls during their morning rounds of the streets of Burma’s old capital, Rangoon, and other principal cities and refused to receive offerings from the Burmese ruling generals

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Whatever Happened to the Qur'ans pastor Terry Wanted to Burn

Remember the Qur'an burning (about to) pastor in the United States?

Well the controversy may have faded, but Terry Jones now faces the cost of his proposed Koran-burning rally.

Authorities said security for this month's cancelled event -- originally planned on the anniversary of Sept. 11 has cost the city of Gainesville in Florida $200,000. And the 50-member church will likely be forced to pay up.

And if you think that it has nothing to do with us pastor Jones stated in a deposition he made at a trial in which he was a witness that,

"We would actually consider all religions of the Devil except Christianity".

Q. And you believe that everything that is not from god is of the devil. Is that right?
A. Yeah, I guess so. Uh-huh. Then again, it depends on what you're talking about. I don't believe necessarily baseball is from the devil because it's not from god. But I mean, basically in general, I believe that if it's not from god, it's from the devil. Right.
Q. Is Hinduism of the devil?
A. Yes, of course.
Q. Buddhism?
A. Yeah.
Q. How about Judaism?
A. Yes.

So that's us in the frame as well, something, that personally, I'm proud of given the circumstance, it's nice to stand shoulder to shoulder with everyone else.

As to the actual condemned Qur'ans themselves, they've been picked up by another bunch of evangelists. Reverend Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition (CDC), plans to distribute the Qur'ans to churches and Christian leaders who promise to keep them as a reminder to pray for Muslims and share with them the love of Christ.

Mind you, who is this devil character anyway and as for the god one I haven't a clue.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Binara Poya day

Today is known as Binara Poya day and celebrates the inauguration of the Bhikkhuni Sangha by the ordination of Queen Mahāpajāpatī, the Buddha's foster-mother and her retinue.

When her husband, Suddhodana, died, Pajāpatī decided to renounce the world. The Buddha was at Vesāli and she waited for an opportunity to ask permission of him. Pajāpatī was already a sotāpanna. She attained this eminence when the Buddha first visited his father's palace and preached the Mahādhammapāla Jātaka. She was predicted by sages to be the one who causes Buddha to allow women to join his holy order. Her opportunity came when the Buddha visited Kapilavatthu to settle the dispute between the Sākiyans and the Koliyans as to the right to take water from the river Rohinī. When the dispute had been settled, the Buddha preached the Kalahavivāda Sutta, and five hundred young Sākiyan men joined the Order. The Sakiyan wives, led by Pajāpatī, went to the Buddha and asked leave to also be ordained. The Buddha refused and went on to Vesāli. But Pajāpatī and her companions, nothing daunted, had barbers cut off their hair, and donning yellow robes, followed the Buddha to Vesāli on foot. They arrived with wounded feet at the Buddha's monastery and repeated their request to ordain as monastics. The Buddha again refused, But, Ananda interceded on their behalf and Buddha granted their request, subject to eight strict conditions.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Buddhist Global Relief

I'd like to bring to your attention the aid charity "Buddhist Global Relief" which runs projects in the Buddhist homeland countries as well as Afghanistan & Pakistan, South Africa, the United States and Haiti.

Following an essay that Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote for Buddhadharma magazine on the active dimension of Buddhist compassion expressed through programs of social engagement, several of his students resolved to form a Buddhist relief organization dedicated to alleviating the suffering of the poor and disadvantaged in the developing world, Buddhist Global Relief.

Here is Bhikkhu Bodhi explaining the founding and aims of BGR.

The mission of Buddhist Global Relief (BGR) is to provide relief to the poor and needy throughout the world regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Bearing in mind the Buddha's statements that "hunger is the worst kind of illness" and "the gift of food is the gift of life," BGR especially focuses on providing food aid to those afflicted by hunger and lack of food security. Its long-range goal, however, is to combat all the manifestations of poverty that detract from the inherent dignity of human life.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Today is World Peace Day

The International Day of Peace, also known as the World Peace Day, occurs annually on the 21st of September. It is dedicated to peace, or specifically the absence of war, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone. It is observed by many nations, political groups, military groups, and peoples. The first year this holiday was celebrated was 1981.

To inaugurate the day, the "Peace Bell" is rung at UN Headquarters. The bell is cast from coins donated by children from all continents. It was given as a gift by the Diet of Japan, and is referred to as "a reminder of the human cost of war." The inscription on its side reads: "Long live absolute world peace."

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Latest News from the Saranaloka Nuns’ Community

Saranaloka Foundation, based in San Francisco, was established in 2004 to support nuns from Chithurst and Amaravati monasteries to go to the United States to teach. Since that time, and numerous visits later, enthusiasm for the presence of women monastics has been tremendous and is the driving force behind an invitation to the nuns' community to set up a permanent monastery in the United States. Effectively it is an opportunity for "nuns" from the Thai Forest tradition to practice away from the male authority structures that dominate back home here in the U.K. and that are causing so many problems.

The following is a news update on what's been happening there...........

Now for the news! Ajahn Thitamedha expressed our current situation so well, when she said (I’m paraphrasing) that the foundation had to crumble so that something even better could arise out of the ashes. This update covers both the crumbling and the conscious consideration of a new way forward.

In June, Anagarika Santussika and lay woman Hitesi both decided to leave the vihara to pursue their spiritual paths in other ways. Their leaving opened a door of reflection that is proving fruitful to the community.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Dalai Lama condemns Battery Farming

Some of you may have missed this one. On the 1st of September the Dalai Lama condemned battery hen farming and urged consumers to switch to buying eggs from free range chickens.

"Turning these defenceless animals into egg-producing machines with no consideration for their welfare whatsoever is a degradation of our own humanity," said his Holiness.

"The abuse we inflict on hens has always been particularly disturbing to me and I have always been particularly concerned toward how these animals are treated in industrial food production, switching to cage-free eggs would reduce the suffering of these animals".

The British Hen Welfare Trust (formerly the Battery Hen Welfare Trust) is a national charity that re-homes commercial laying hens and educates the public about how they can make a difference to hen welfare. They find caring homes for thousands of commercial laying hens destined for slaughter each year and have hen collection points all over the country. You can re-home some hens, check out this LINK.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

A Buddhist Take on "Book Burning"

I've been reluctant to say anything on the threatened Qur'an burning by Terry Jones (the pastor not the Python) on the basis that he's already had way too much publicity. At the time of writing the "event" is on hold as the pastor arrives in New York to talk to Imam Abdul Rauf who has said he would make no deal with the fringe fundamentalist preacher over moving the Islamic centre further away from Ground Zero and that there were no plans to meet with him.

From a Buddhist perspective the action of burning the Qur'ans would be unskillful in that it causes hurt and suffering to others but more to the point the speaking of the intended harmful act is itself unskillful and harmful.

From a Western and more specifically a European stand-point burning books has a long and ignoble history. It inevitably reeks of the barbarian attempting to destroy knowledge and civilisation. What matters here is the intention behind the words and the actions and our REACTION to them. The pastor's aim appears to be to cause offence and thus harm. On the other hand they're "just" books, paper, ink, cardboard the destruction of which hardly justifies the death of another human being (as if anything could).

The most measured response that I have come across is this from a British Muslim....

I'm a Muslim and to be quite honest the physical action of burning the Qur'an doesn't bother me. People over the world could be doing worse to copies of it and I would be none the wiser. What bothers me is the media attention it's being given. This group is attempting to incite the wrath of passionate (and some may say extremist) Muslim's the world over. They more than likely have no idea of the contents and meaning of the Qur'an yet they are being given the chance to send Muslim's around the world a "message" by publicly burning a copy of our holy book. The Qur'an and it's messages are in my heart and soul and there is nothing an ignorant group of people can do to destroy that so why should I give it more than a second of my attention. That's what they want. Muslim's around the world should send a "reply" of forgiveness which will be more effective than retaliation and doing harm to innocent people as is being threatened.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Bhikkhunis Ordained in California

Sylvia Boorstein writing in the Huffington Post:-

Ordination of Bhikkhunis in the Theravada Tradition

At 6:15 p.m. on August 29, 2010, at a secluded mountaintop hermitage overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Sonoma County, California, four women, all long-time dedicated practitioners, were declared fully ordained as bhikkhunis, Buddhist nuns, in the Thai Theravada tradition. It was the first such ordination ever in the Western hemisphere, and it was epochal since their preceptors were nuns in their same tradition.

Although the Buddha ordained both monks and nuns, the order of nuns disappeared a thousand years later when it became clear that there were no nuns available to ordain new nuns. Keeping strictly with tradition (and in keeping with patriarchal pressures) the rule that nuns needed to be ordained by nuns brought the order of nuns to an end, and women were able to join a community and practice in only an inferior status. The pressure brought by women ardent to practice and have roles and recognition comparable to men has enabled some women, trained in the Theravada Thai tradition, to be ordained by nuns with Sri Lankan ordination. The nuns ordained Sunday join the now small group of recognized bhikkhunis in the Thai Forest tradition that can now continue to grow.

The formal ceremony began with a procession of monastics entering single file though the gathered community to take their places in a simply constructed pavilion that had been decorated with flowers. Members of the community shared rose petals from prepared baskets lining the way so they could strew the petals along the path as the monks and nuns passed by. I thought of the similar use of flower petals at weddings understood how in both cases the flowers are marking holy space in preparation for a sacrament.

I was awed by the hours-long ceremony of asking for admission, being granted permission and being blessed. The part I sense in myself -- I think we all must have it -- that longs for inner peace resonated in joyful participation as the new nuns bowed to their sister nuns, and then to the twelve Theravada monks who had come from monasteries and retreat centers all over America to add their blessings. Bhani Henepola Gunaratana, the eldest of the monastics, offered words of teaching and blessing. Ruth Dennison, at eighty-eight a most venerable lay teacher in the tradition, also added her words of delight and blessing.

It's probably fair to say that not many people outside of Buddhism have been aware of the exclusion of nuns from equality in monastic practice in the Theravada tradition. Nevertheless, I felt the event as an epochal one, and not only for women in Theravada practice. Each time equal opportunities are afforded to women where they had not been before, each time gender barriers are eliminated and women are emancipated, all women benefit. All people benefit. The world is made more harmonious.

The Buddha's final teaching emphasized "avoiding schisms in the community." Sunday's ordination is a ratification of that teaching.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Cherish the Nuns

I've just received our copy of the Insight Journal from the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. This is the Summer 2010 edition and, at the time of writing, is not yet available online. The "Editor's Essay" by Andrew Olendzki is entitled "Cherish the Nuns" and examines the whole question of "Seniority" with a fascinating proposal at the end.

"After his awakening the Buddha made a return visit to his home town of Kapilavastu. An influential Sakyan chief (and cousin to Siddhartha) named Mahanama had the thought that, since many young men of good families had gone forth to join his growing monastic community, it would be good if some youths from the Buddha's own family joined also. So before long a contingent of six Sakyan princes, including the well-known cousins Baddhiya, Anuruddha, Ananda and Devadatta, snuck away from town and met up with the Buddha at a place called Anupiya. They were accompanied by their barber Upali, who was initially sent home with all their valuables, but who then decided that he too wanted to go forth into the life of the wandering mendicant. At this point the princes made a remarkable and generous gesture.

They knew that the Sangha of monks was organized entirely on a system of seniority, wherein people of all castes and all socio-economic backgrounds would defer to one another solely on the basis of the order in which they joined the community. They addressed the Buddha, saying, "We, Lord, are Sakyans, we are proud. This barber has been our attendant for a long time. May the Lord let him go forth first. We will greet him, rise up before him, salute him with joined palms, and do the proper duties. Thus will the Sakyan pride be humbled in us Sakyans."

It was done as they wished, and Upali went on to become one of the most important members of the community, the one who memorized all the monastic laws and led the recitation of the Vinaya at the first council. It was a tribute to the Sakyan princes' integrity and commitment to the ideals of the movement that they were willing to humble themselves in this simple but highly symbolic way.
Sometime later Pajapati, the Buddha's aunt and adoptive mother (taking over all maternal duties after the death in childbirth of her sister Maya), also asked to join the monastic community, which up to that time had monks but no nuns. The Buddha at first hesitated,