Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Thursday, January 26, 2012
The Sacred Fire
It seems that the Buddha chose to itemize three main mental defilements (greed, lobha; hatred, dosa; and ignorance, moha) and call them fires, to parallel and contrast with the sacred fires of Brahmanism (Vin.I,35). Brahmanism required that the three fires be tended and kept burning, the Buddha taught that one attained enlightenment by abandoning the three fires and extinguishing them. Of the several names he gave to the state of complete liberation the most common was Nirvana, meaning ‘to blow out’, i.e. to blow out the burning mental defilements. The Buddha commented that a monk will not make offerings to the sacred fire (aggihoma, D.I,9) and in the Dhammapada he said; “If one were to attend the sacred fire for a hundred years in the forest or were to honour even for a moment one who had developed himself, that honour would be better than the hundred years of sacrifice” (Dhp.107).
The early Buddhists considered fire worship to be as foolish and ineffective and several stories in the Jataka pokes fun at it (e.g. Ja.II,43-40; VI,206-7). In one of these, an ascetic decided to offer an ox he had been given to Agni. Not having salt for the meat he went off to get it, tethering the animal near the sacred fire before going. While he was away a band of robbers came to his hermitage, slaughtered the ox, cooked the meat, eat their fill, and left nothing but the hide, tail and bones. When the ascetic returned and saw what had happened he said; “If Jatadeva the cannot protect what is his how can he protect me?” He dumped what was left of the ox into the sacred fire and then threw a bucket of water over it (Ja.I,494).
After the 7th century CE the fire ritual was one of many Brahmanical practices incorporated into Vajrayana Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism it is called sbyin-sreg and in Japanese Shingon Buddhism goma.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
The Year Of The Dragon
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Snakes And Ladders
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Fighting The AIDS Stigma
“They not only gave me food, they also gave me tremendous emotional and psychological support. There, I was also able to meet with people who had a similar story. I realized I was not alone. I really helped move forward. I have also learnt how to communicate with my community and protect my family.” At the pagoda, Monk Huan, its chief monk, organizes Buddhist teachings twice a week. “Through these sessions, we aim to reduce stigma around HIV and we share information on HIV: how it is transmitted, how to protect oneself. Over 2,000 children and young people have attended these sessions in the past two years”, he says. In addition to these sessions, a team of volunteers trained by the monks undertakes monthly visits to approximately 40 families in the neighbourhood. Approximately 220,000 adults and children are infected with HIV in Viet Nam. In a country where over 80 per cent of the population is Buddhist, Buddhist monks are extremely respected and highly influential. The Buddhist Leadership Initiative was established by UNICEF Viet Nam in 2003. Through the initiative, UNICEF works closely with the government and international partners to train monks to support the special needs of people affected by HIV and to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS in communities. “Buddhist monks are a key elements in our strategy to decrease stigma and discrimination against families living with HIV/AIDS,” says UNICEF Viet Nam’s HIV and AIDS specialist, Yasuda Tadashi. “I receive great spiritual support from the pagoda”, says Nha. “They are an inspiration for me. I have also made many friends at the pagoda. This makes me hope for a bright future, especially for my daughter. I want her dream to come true: she wants to become a teacher.” UNICEF is currently providing support for implementation of the Buddhist Leadership Initiative model in seven pagodas in its two main urban centres (three in Ha Noi and four in HCMC).
By Sandra Bisin from UNICEF wed site
Sunday, January 8, 2012
What Do Prof. Hawking And Zulus Have In Common?
On his 70th birthday Prof. Stephen Hawking has announced that the universe can be explained by science and that there is no room in this explanation for a supreme being. On course you wouldn’t have to be one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century to have come to this conclusion. Some far less well-educated people worked this out for themselves long ago and were highly sceptical of the claims of those who do believe in a god. Take the Zulus who the Reverend Francis Owen tried to evangelize in the 1830s. I quote the good reverend’s own words as reproduced in Eric Newby’s delightful A Book of Travellers’ Tales.
“At length I told him (the king) it was Sunday, whereupon he bid me to address his people and teach them the word of God. At the same time he sent Masipulu, his head servant to tell the Indoonas that they were all to be quiet and listen attentively to me. A dead pause immediately ensued…I commenced by telling them that they all knew that there was a great chief above the sky…I proceeded to say that this king was greater than all kings, greater than my king, greater than their king: that they aught to fear their parents, they aught to fear their king, but much more that they aught to fear the great God; they aught to do what their parents bid them, what their king bid them, and also what God bid them! We have none of us, however, done what God has told us to do. We are all sinners before him. He is displeased at us: each of us has a soul that must live forever when the body is dead, but that our Souls, by reason of sin, are filthy and that they must be washed.
Until this moment the greatest stillness and attention prevailed but now the contradiction began, and such a caviling and stormy audience never did I before address. It is impossible to give an adequate idea of the despite which lasted for nearly 2 hours. When I began to speak of the need of spiritual washing in order to introduce the Gospel the subject was treated with scorn. One asked if it were to be washed in the river. I said not with water, but with blood! Whose blood was the natural reply. The blood, I answered, of the Son of God, who was Jesus Christ. Where is he? They asked. In heaven, I said, but once he came down to earth, and…whom did he leave behind to wash us. He washes us himself with his own blood. It is not our bodies that he washes but our Souls. – He washes all who come to him by faith. Away, it’s all a lie. I persisted in crying that Jesus Christ shed his blood and that if they believed in him, that he came down from heaven that he died for them their souls would be saved. They asked me how this person was killed and who killed him. I said, wicked men nailed him to a tree. Dingarn then asked if it was God that died. I said the Son of God. Did not God die?, he asked. I said God cannot die. If God does not die, he replied, why has he said that people must die? I told him it was because all people were sinners, and death was the punishment for sin, but he would raise us all again from the grave. This gave rise to innumerable cavils.
They wanted me to tell them the day and the hour when we should rise again, who would be witnesses of the resurrection, who would be alive at that day. They said if any generation had been seen to raise from the grave they would believe. I told them that Jesus Christ rose again on the third day, and that he was seen by his 12 servants, and afterwards by 500 persons at once, and that his servants raised a great many other people. Dingarn asked how many days Jesus Christ had been dead. If only 3 days, he said, it is very likely that he was not dead in reality but only supposed to be so! I said, that when he was on the tree a soldier pierced his side from which came forth blood, and that blood, I said, if believed in washes away sin. After a great deal more combat they told me I need not speak anything more about the resurrection, for they would not believe it. They had no objection to God’s word, but they would not believe in the resurrection. I many times broke away from their caviling and exhorted them to believe instead of objecting. The king once asked if all men would go to heaven? I told him plainly, if you believe the words which I now speak you will go to heaven, but if you believe them not you will go to hell. They wanted me to give them proof that Christ was not in heaven; as who had seen him there. What the persons who took him up into heaven said when they came back again.” Condensed.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Wolves In Sheep's Clothing
Went confidently amongst a flock of goats
Killing rams and goats,
And having terrified them he went on his way.
Similarly, some monks and brahmins disguise themselves
And deceive people by fasting, lying on the ground,
Covered with dirt, squatting, begging and holding their breaths.
They claim to be enlightened while actually doing evil.
Monday, January 2, 2012
I wish all my readers a Happy, Peaceful and Dhamma-inspired New Year.