Friday, November 29, 2013

More On The Lumbini Discoveries

In my last blog (26th Nov.) concerning the recent discoveries at Lumbini, I mentioned that not having read the archaeological report I was not really able to comment on it and that it might be best not to get too excited until the jury is in. Well, one of my readers, Venerable Indrajala, has very kindly  sent me a link to the report. You can read it at
You can also read an intelligent review of the report at

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Discoveries At Lumbini

You will have heard the news. Archaeologists say they have discovered evidence suggesting that Buddhism may be at least 100 years or more  older than has been  previously thought. This will be not just an interesting but also an important piece of evidence – if it can be verified. All sources agree that the Buddha lived for 80 years but there is wide disagreement about exactly when he was born. From at least as early as the 2nd century BCE, Sri Lankans have believed that he was born in 624 BCE. This date probably reflects the belief in India at the time Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka. Up to now most historians and Indologists have considered this date to be too early. Until recently 563 BCE was thought to be the more likely date of his birth. However, in 1988 an international conference was held at Gottingen University in Germany to review all the evidence pertaining to the Buddha’s  dates and there was wide consensus among scholars that he was born later than 563, perhaps as much as a 100 years later. More research is needed before we can be sure. All the papers read at the conference can be read in Heinz Bechert’s 1995 When Did the Buddha Live?
Of course, uncertainty about the Buddha’s  dates has no bearing on the veracity of his Dhamma. Nonetheless, a certain date would allow us to have a better understanding of the forces that influenced the Buddha’s teaching and how he presented it. I have not read the archaeological report that contains these new findings  and the press  reports of it so far give very few details. The main evidence seems to be this;  that digging under the foundations of the Maha Maya Temple in Lumbini where Prince Siddhattha was born has revealed the remains of what appears to be a tree shrine and wood from this shrine has been carbon 14 dated at aprox. 600 BCE.  Siddhattha’s birth took place under a tree and the assumption is that the actual remains of the tree have been located. There are more than a few problems with these conclusions. Is there any evidence that the tree was worshipped by Buddhists? The tree around which the shrine (if that’s what it is) was built could have been alive for several hundred years before Buddhists started worshiping it. Etc, etc, etc.
Some scientists and researchers nowadays are in the habit of announcing headline-grabbing accounts of their discoveries long before they have actually been confirmed. Before we start getting too excited about these new discoveries let’s wait until the jury is in.  You can read more about the discoveries at  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Among The Tombstones

When in London this September I visited Highgate Cemetery, the last resting place of some 170,000 people. Of course  the cemetery’s most famous grave is that of Karl Marx. But    Robert Cesar  Childers’ (died 1876) who compiled the first Pali English dictionary is there somewhere too although I could not find it.  Parts of the cemetery are well maintained but most if it is overgrown and rather spooky. While walking through an overgrown and dark section  my eye was caught by the word Nirvana on one of the partly obscured moss-covered tombstones. Perhaps Calbe Pink (died 1907) was an early Buddhist or Theosophist.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Learn From The Dogs

The 15th century Moroccan Sufi saint Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli   authored  a wonderful little book of contemplation. While Muslims usually consider dogs to be impure al Jazuli saw them as having many virtues well worth emulating. This is his Ten Attributes of Dogs.  
1. He sleeps only a little at night; a sign of the lovers of God (muhibbin). 2. He never complains of heat or cold; a sign of the patient (sabirin). 3. When he dies, he leaves nothing  which can be inherited from him; a sign of his simplicity (zahidin). 4. He is neither angry nor hateful; a sign of the faithful (mu’minin). 5. He does not  mourn  the loss of a close relative, nor does he accept assistance; a sign of the secure (muqinin). 6. He is happy with whatever is given to him; a sign of the contented (qani’in). 7. He has no place to live; this is a sign of the wanderers (sa’ihin). 8. He sleeps  anywhere; this is a sign of the easily satisfied (radiyin). 9. Once he knows his master, he never despises him, even if he beats or starves him; a sign of the true knowers (’arifin). 10. He is always hungry; a sign of the virtuous (salihin).    

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Recollection On Peace

I sit now before the Buddha and contemplate that by seeing the aggregates as empty He attained great peace. It is His unmoved stillness and sorrowless compassion that shall be my inspiration. Those who are angry at injustice, impatient for change, despairing at tragedy, elated today and depressed tomorrow, are soon exhausted. But those whose minds are always still and who abide in peace, are abundant in energy. They, like the Buddha, are islands of peace in a sea of turmoil and a refuge to all beings.
Therefore, I will seek peace and quiet, avoiding always the loud, the noisy and those who wish to argue.
I will strive to restore harmony to those who are at odds.   
I will speak without abuse or harshness, gentle always, with words sweet and true.          
I will strive to be conciliatory and yielding, and never be a source of conflict for others.
May all who live in turmoil find the peace they long for.   
May my heart be free from agitation of defilements.          
May my abiding in peace help in the freeing of the heart.