Monday, 29 July 2013

Monk Supply Store

On the western outskirts of Bangkok there is a shop called Hang Sangkapan which sells everything a Buddhist acolyte could need.

At the store, the name of which translates as "Monk Supply," aisles are stocked with candles, Buddha statuettes (both seated and standing) as well as altar tables, CDs, books and countless odds and ends for all monks from novice to abbot.

Thailand has 61.5 million Buddhists among its 65.9 million population, nearly all of them practicing in the Theravada tradition. Males are expected to take robes at least once in their lives. With heads shaved, they spend a few weeks seeking offerings and learning the Buddha's teaching, disciplines and meditation.

For most, it is back to jeans and consumerism afterward. But some return and spend much of their lives in monasteries. According to the National Buddhism Office, Thailand had nearly 300,000 monks and more than 60,000 novice monks at the end of 2012.

(There is a strange reference at the begining of the video to "Buddhist Lent season", they are actually refering to Vassa, the the three-month annual rains retreat. For the duration of Vassa, Bhikkhus remain inside monasteries and temple grounds. In some monasteries, monks dedicate the Vassa to intensive meditation. Some Buddhist lay people choose to observe Vassa by adopting more ascetic practices, such as giving up meat, alcohol, or smoking. 

Vassa is followed by Kathina, a festival in which the laity expresses gratitude to monks. Lay Buddhists bring donations to temples, especially new robes for the monks, hence the relevance of the "Monk Supply" store! 

The Vassa tradition pre-dates the time of the historical Buddha. It was a long-standing custom for mendicant ascetics in India not to travel during the rainy season as roads were washed out and they may have unintentionally harmed crops, insects or even themselves during their travels.)

Monday, 22 July 2013

FULL MOON - Asalha Puja - Monday 22nd July 2013

Virtuous Aloneness

But if you cannot find a good companion
of integrity and wisdom,
then, like a king departing a conquered land,
or a lone elephant wandering the forest,
walk alone.

Dhammapada v. 329

Integrity is the foundation of our practice. Without it nothing develops. We might have eloquent speech and perhaps our articles have been published in popular journals, but if integrity is lacking, practice hasn’t begun. Travelling the spiritual path alone is not a sign of failure; it may mean quite the opposite. If those around us are willing to compromise on impeccability, it is better that we are alone.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Friday, 19 July 2013

Tassajara Zen Mountain Centre Escapes Fire

A fire burning on both sides of Tassajara Creek in a remote part of the Los Padres National Forest had consumed about 169 acres late Wednesday, and about 10 p.m. firefighters said its advance appeared to have been stopped.

The fire, which began about 1 p.m., is burning in the vicinity of the Tassajara Zen Mountain Centre, a Buddhist monastery-retreat with popular hot springs and swimming holes in the Ventana Wilderness.

Jamesburg resident Carol Dougherty, who helped answer the Zen centre telephone Wednesday night, said some guests had voluntarily evacuated but there were no orders to do so. Staff were calling people with reservations to advise them not to come Wednesday or Thursday because the Forest Service would not let them in, she said. One couple arriving Wednesday was turned away by fire officials, she said.

Dougherty said that after an air tanker dropped water on the blaze around 3:30 p.m., she saw "a lot less smoke. ... Hopefully they got the worst of it."

When Shunryu Suzuki, the Japanese Buddhist priest who founded the San Francisco Zen Centre, was first shown Tassajara in the Spring of 1966, he knew immediately that this was the place for his small but growing group of Western students to study Zen in a monastic setting. Fund raising efforts began immediately, and by July of the following year, the first Zen monastery outside of Asia was established.

Since then, life has changed very little at Zenshinji (Zen Heart-Mind Temple), as Tassajara is known formally. And now, from late September until early April, 50-60 students rise before dawn and begin a full day of zazen (meditation), study, and work, following a traditional Buddhist monastic schedule which dates back over thirteen hundred years to the early Tang Dynasty in China.

Monday, 8 July 2013

BREAKING NEWS - Terrorist Bomb Attacks at Bodh Gaya

Nine bomb blasts in a coordinated terror attack rocked Buddhist pilgrimage town of Bodh Gaya and its famed Mahabodhi temple complex in south central Bihar early on Sunday, injuring two monks.

Buddhists from all over the world visit the temple, which has the Bodhi tree under which Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. “The holy Bodhi tree is safe and there is no damage to it,” said Bihar director general of police Abhayanand.

The police said four blasts took place inside the Mahabodhi temple complex and three occurred at the Terega monastery, while one each were triggered near an 80-feet-tall Buddha statue and a vacant tourist bus parked close to the temple complex.

The police said two live bombs were defused in the town and a third in a village nearby. According to intelligence sources, Bodh Gaya has been in the crosshairs of Pakistan-based terrorists who want to avenge the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar.

NEW MOON - Sunday 7th July 2013

The Right Amount

Not insulting, not harming,
cultivating restraint
with respect for the training,
modesty in eating and contentment
with one's dwelling place,
devotion to mindful intent:
this is the Teaching of the Buddha.

Dhammapada v.185

Modesty and contentment are not part of consumer culture. They are however part of Buddhist culture. It is true that we need enthusiasm and energy, commitment and concentration, if we wish to reach the goal of liberation. But too much of these ‘hard virtues’ and we create unnecessary obstructions for ourselves. When we are mindful there is a chance we will know if we are out of balance and adjust accordingly. The ‘soft virtues’ of contentment, modesty, humility, are less attractive to our spiritual egos, but they might just be what are needed to drop the burden.

With Metta, Bhikkhu Munindo

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A Buddhist Shanty Town?

I just had to share these amazing photos of one of the world's largest Buddhist institutes. The sprawling settlement is found at elevations of 12,500ft and is home to over 40,000 monks, nuns and religious students. It is located in the Larung Valley, Serthar County of Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in "China".

Serthar Institute, known as Larung Gar Buddhist Academy was established in 1980 by Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, the most influential lama of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism in contemporary Tibet.

I particularly like the mass of prayer flags on the hillside at the top of this picture, they look like an immense spider's web.

One of the most surprising elements of Serthar is that more than half of those who come to study are women. Entry into the relatively small number of nunneries that exist in other areas of Tibet is limited, but Serthar was open to virtually anyone who genuinely sought to become a student of Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok’s ecumenical vision. Another surprise at Serthar is that it attracts ethnic Chinese students as well as students from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia, who attend separate classes taught in Mandarin, while larger classes are taught in Tibetan.