29 September 2007

Death Will Come Naturally to Our Enemies

There is really no reason to kill our ordinary enemies; death will come to them naturally in the future anyway. Despite this fact there are some soldiers who engage in fearsome battles, willing to fight even though their enemies have superior weapons. They ignore the pains of battle and continue to fight until they are victorious. If there are people who are willing to expend such great effort in order to kill an ordinary enemy, then why do we not strive unceasingly to destroy the worst enemy of all: the delusion that is the cause of all of our suffering? To overcome such a powerful foe we must certainly expect to experience great hardships, but is there any need to mention the absolute necessity of attacking this enemy diligently?

-Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, in Meaningful to Behold

Enlightenment: It's Not What You Look For; It Might Be What You Find

(The following section on Enlightenment is an except from The Roar of the Tigress, page 13-16, Shasta Abbey Press, 2000. This book is drawn from the many lectures of the late Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett that had been taped and transcribed. The late Rev. Master Daizui MacPhillamy did a masterful job of editing these talks into this book.)

What, then, is this "enlightenment" that the Buddha found? Understand that the Buddhist world has been stuck with the word"enlightenment" for two-thousand-odd years. That has been very unfortunate, because the Buddha did not go out to look for enlightenment; He was not trying to "get a spiritual experience". He went out to find the reason for birth, old age, decay, and death. In other words, to put it in Zen terminology, he had the first koan in existence: "Why is there misery in the world? Why is there suffering? How do I get out of it?" He was trying to escape from life instead of accepting that life exists and being able to rise above it. In trying to escape from it, He could find nothing; in accepting it, He found all. His koan is the same koan, which we dress up in various ways, that every one of us brings to Zen training; "How can I escape living? How can I escape dying? This same koan appears at every turn. We can call it what we like, we can use what terminology we like, but it is the same question as Shakyamuni Buddha's. And we have to solve it by the same method: by first accepting it and then transcending it.

As I said, Shakyamuni Buddha did not go out to look for enlightenment; He went out to look for the cure of suffering and by accident, He found the Eightfold Path which was the method that got over the problem. By accident He got something else: He got peace of mind. The only way I can describe it accurately to you is by this story: supposing you've got a caveman who wants to break a stone, so he goes on slamming it with another stone and nothing happens. One day, by accident, he has a bright idea: he fits the second stone to a piece of wood, and so he makes a hammer with which he breaks the first stone. He did not set out to make a hammer, he set out to break a stone. By accident he got the hammer-that is, enlightenment. That s how you "get" it, and that's what it is: it's the bonus you get for doing something about you.

If all you're looking for is the bonus, you're not going to get it, because the thing that matters is doing something about you, doing something about the inner wall. You built it: you pull it down. You made the mess of you: you have to clean it up. If the pond is muddy and you can't see the moon of Zen, it is because you polluted it. In this day of environmental concern, you should get the point of that loud and clear. If you pollute the water, it will not reflect the moon. We put all the daft ideas into our own skulls: we have to throw them out. Shakyamuni Buddha tried all sorts of ways; He had to go back to the naive mind of the child to find the purity and the stillness, and the iron, with which to live life.

And when you realize the true extent of this purity and stillness, you realize your position in the scheme of things and you know the awe-fullness of the Unborn. You "see" the world as if through an ever-changing kaleidoscope that can see the Buddha in everything. This is what is meant by the line in our Morning Service scriptures which says, "The wooden figure sings and the stone maiden dances." And the fence posts sing and dance: they all glorify the Eternal. To be able to see Buddha Nature in all things, to be able to see the spirit in all things (for it exists in all things), this is what is meant by enlightenment. It is not something that will make you a better ballet dancer, or a better writer, or a better this, or a better that, although it may very well do that. That's a bonus; that's not what you've done it for. Bonuses exist, but they must not be taken as the purpose for which you train. That's not what you go to study Zen for, or what you go to study any religion for. You go there because you are so fed up with you that you are ready to give up everything in order to know the Eternal, to know God!

I can remember saying, many years ago, to a Christian monk who was asking why I wanted to go into monasticism, "Well, at least it will help me get rid of my sins", and I was sixteen or seventeen at the time. He said, "You think that's what you go into a monastery for you've got another thing coming!" Yes! I thought it might help me to be a better person, but when I really analyzed it out, I discovered that this did not go nearly far enough: what I wanted was what at a later date I came to call "the perfection of Zen". I was willing, eager, to give up "me" completely, which is to want to know God, or the Eternal. And when you sit in meditation, that is what you sit for. If you sit down to meditate today, know that that is what you are sitting there for. There are ways and ways in which you can be helped in doing this, and later on we hope to show you how they work, but you need to know why you are sitting there.

1 Koan: a statement or story of the catalyst for an ancient master's enlightenment which is used by a Zen master as a teaching device to help a disciple realize her or his True Nature. By extension, it means any spiritual barrier or fundamental question in one's training which one needs to face, penetrate, clarify, and transcend. In Rinzai Zen, the formal koans are used in meditation practice; in Soto Zen the naturally arising koans of everyday life.

2 The way to transcend suffering as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha in the Fourth Noble Truth. The eight aspects are right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

28 September 2007

The Blessed Reverend Mother Theresa of Calcutta on Buddhism and Pluralism

"If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are, and then by being better we come closer and closer to Him...What God is in your mind you must accept."
"All is God -- Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, etc., all have access to the same God."
"I love all religions. ... If people become better Hindus, better Muslims, better Buddhists by our acts of love, then there is something else growing there."
Of her care for an old Hindu priest it was said that "She nursed him with her own hands and helped him to die reconciled with his own gods."
Her longtime friend and biographer Naveen Chawla said that he once asked her bluntly, "Do you convert?" She replied, "Of course I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu or a better Muslim or a better Protestant. Once you’ve found God, it’s up to you to decide how to worship him"

27 September 2007

Is the Reverend Father Robert Kennedy a Jesuit Priest or Zen Master? Both!

The Reverend Father Robert Kennedy, S.J., Roshi, is a Jesuit priest and Zen teacher in the White Plum lineage. He studied with Yamada Roshi in Kamakura, Japan, with Maezumi Roshi in Los Angeles, and with Glassman Roshi in New York. Glassman Roshi installed Kennedy as sensei in 1991 and conferred Inka (his final seal of approval) in 1997, making him a roshi (master).

Kennedy Roshi is the author of Zen Gifts to Christians and Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit.

The attraction to Zen

In Zen Gifts to Christians, Kennedy Roshi suggests that people, leaning toward a deeper form of prayer, are often attracted to studying Zen. It is not [necessarily] because they wish to become Buddhists but because they seek a more contemplative prayer life. He writes:

What is the practice of Zen meditation?

Zazen is the practice of stilling the mind through wholehearted attentiveness to the breath. This steady attentiveness, coupled with the stillness of the body, frees the mind from its ordinary activities of thinking, daydreaming, or speculating on the nature of life. Zen demands discipline and effort. The support of group sitting is a strong encouragement to practice.

What are the benefits of practicing Zen?

When practiced attentively, Zen offers an ever-deepening insight into the oneness of life. This insight reveals to us our own human potential and calls us to use this potential in the service of others brings us to the present moment, clarifying and supporting our readiness to meet the ever-changing circumstances of daily life.

The Morning Star Zendo vision

Kennedy's vision is for the Morning Star Zendo to foster continuously an environment for interfaith dialogue—to be a place where people of all religious varieties meet and respect one another's traditions and points of view.

The spirit at the zendo reflects and builds upon Kennedy's deep respect for and knowledge of Buddhism. It carries out the principles laid out in the Jesuit statement on mission and interreligious dialogue, which demands that Jesuits be not only familiar with the thought of men and women of other religious traditions, but be immersed with them in theological exchange and in a dialogue of life, action, and religious experience.

Kennedy's dharma successors

To date, Kennedy Roshi has installed seven dharma successors: Janet Richardson Roshi, Charles Birx Sensei, Ellen Birx Sensei, Janet Abels Sensei, Ray Cicetti Sensei, Paul Schubert Sensei and Kevin Hunt Sensei , a Trappist monk from St. Joseph's Abbey at Spencer, Mass.

For the occasion of Fr. Hunt's installation, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., wrote:
"Because of the long preparation and training required to become a master of the demanding Zen training, Fr. Hunt's achievement is one that we can all celebrate in thanksgiving to God ... Jesuits and other Christians have found Zen to be a valuable instrument for progressing in the spiritual life. ... By coming to focus on the present moment through the practice of the techniques of Zen meditation, the Christian can become aware of God's immediate loving presence."

James Fredericks best captures Kennedy's vision of Zen Buddhism for Christians and non-Christians in Horizons, the journal of the College Theology Society. He wrote: "Kennedy's approach is theologically sophisticated and deceptively simple. [His is the] work of a Christian who is spiritually mature, and [of] a Zen practitioner of advanced training."

Robert F. Drinan, S.J., professor of law at Georgetown University, evaluated a Zen sesshin he attended with Kennedy Roshi. He wrote: "After the retreat ... I experienced Asian wisdom combined with Christian illumination. I found God in a new way. I became a new man with deeper insights, and more importantly, a better Christian."

26 September 2007

Burma 'reaches tipping point' as monks take on the military junta

Some barefoot and some in sandals, they advanced steadily though the streets of Rangoon yesterday in a crimson tide of protest.

The shaven-headed monks of Burma led a demonstration of more than 100,000 against the impoverished nation's military leaders.

Behind them in a column stretching for at least a mile through the city centre were civilians, students and political activists.

The march, cheered and applauded by thousands of bystanders, is the latest and largest in a series of protests by Burma's monks and dissidents. Diplomats fear that the country has now reached a turning point, with the generals who have ruled the country with an iron fist for nearly half a century facing the biggest challenge to their power for 20 years.

They could crush the dissent - as they did 1988, leaving at least 3,000 dead - or they can give the monks free rein - and risk the movement spreading across the country.

Last night there were rumours of soldiers massing on the city outskirts and imminent emergency law. Britain's ambassador Mark Canning said: "The demonstrations could subside - that's looking less and less likely.

"Secondly, that we could see some sort of counter-reaction, which would be a disaster, although in terms of probability it, I'm afraid, ranks quite high."

If the military do come down hard on the Buddhist monks, who are revered by the bulk of the population, it risks turning pockets of dissent into nationwide outrage.

The monks are staging more protests against its military rulers - despite threats by the government that they will use force to quell the demonstrations.

Several hundred monks have marched into Yangon's Shwedagon Pagoda, the focal point of the largest anti-junta demonstrations in 20 years.

Many were carrying flags, including some bearing the image of a fighting peacock used by students in a 1988 pro-democracy uprising the generals crushed with the loss of around 3,000 lives.

Lorries with loudspeakers have been driving through Burma's main city of Rangoon warning residents to stop anti-government protests.

25 September 2007

Celebrate Mid-Autumn Day/The Chinese Moon Festival

It's said that the moon in the Mid-autumn is most beautiful. All family members enjoy the moon cake under the moon so it could bring good luck and safety.

Do you know the goddess in the moon? Her name is Chang'E. She is the wife of HouYi, a hero who saved people from 10 suns. Because of HouYi's contribution, the Lord of the Heaven's wife gave him some medicine which can help him become a god. But HouYi did not want to be a god, so he gave the medicine to his wife, Chang'E. Chang'E kept the medicine at home. One day, when HouYi left home, a thief came. Chang'E could not frustrate the thief, so she swallowed the medicine, then she became the goddess of moon.

24 September 2007

2007 Buddhist Holidays in Buddhism

1/3: Amitabha Buddha Day--Day Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhists do good deeds and chant the name of Buddha God Amitabha/Omito/Amida to gain entry to His Pure Land and aid in attaining nirvana. [15th Tibetan day, UT Full Moon day]

1/6: Mindfulness Day--Zen Buddhist day for being mindful of the peace, joy, and beauty of the moment.

1/19: Shakyamuni Buddha Day--Day Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the Buddha's teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. [a/k/a Siddhartha Buddha Day, 30th Tibetan day, UT New Moon day]

1/26: Day for meditation on Tantric Buddha Deities Amitayus and White Tara, who grant good health and long life. Buddhists study sacred texts, meditate, pray, chant mantras, and make devotional offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. [a/k/a Medicine Buddha Day, Tara Puja, 8th Tibetan day]

2/2: Amitabha Buddha Day--Day Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhists do good deeds and chant the name of Buddha God Amitabha/Omito/Amida to gain entry to His Pure Land and aid in attaining nirvana. [15th Tibetan day, UT Full Moon day]

2/3: Mindfulness Day--Zen Buddhist day for being mindful that you, and all that is, are in the process of transformation.

2/15: Nehan--Zen Buddhist celebration of the Buddha's paranirvana (483 BCE). The Buddha taught an eight-fold path to enlightenment - right views, right aspiration, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right contemplation. [563-483 BCE: exact dates unknown] [Forms of Buddhism include Theravada, Tantra (Tibetan), and Mahayana (Zen and Pure Land).]

2/17: Sojong Day--Tibetan Buddhist day of fasting, confession, and reparation for harm done. Forms of Buddhism include Theravada, Tantra (Tibetan), and Mahayana (Zen and Pure Land). [Observed primarily by monks and nuns.] [a/k/a Sojong Chemno]

2/17: Shakyamuni Buddha Day--Day Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the Buddha's teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. [a/k/a Siddhartha Buddha Day, 30th Tibetan day, UT New Moon day]

2/18 to 2/21: Hsih Nien/Suhl/Tet--Chinese and East Asian Lunar New Year (Year 4705: the Pig).

2/18 to 3/3: Losar/Tibetan Buddhist New Year (Year 2134: the Fire Pig) & Monlam Chenmo/Great Prayer Festival--Commemorates miracles performed by the Buddha. Rituals, dances, and sculptures are offered to drive out evil spirits and to protect and benefit all sentient beings.

2/25: Tara Puja--Tibetan Buddhist fast of Bodhisattva Goddess Tara. All are equal in Her circles; She is worshipped with meditations on mandalas and chanting of mantra. [8th Tibetan day]

3/3: Amitabha Buddha Day--Day Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhists do good deeds and chant the name of Buddha God Amitabha/Omito/Amida to gain entry to His Pure Land and aid in attaining nirvana. [15th Tibetan day, UT Full Moon day]

3/3: Mindfulness Day--Zen Buddhist day for being mindful that you are connected to each and every sentient being that has ever existed.

3/19: Shakyamuni Buddha Day--Day Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the Buddha's teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. [a/k/a Siddhartha Buddha Day, 30th Tibetan day, UT New Moon day]

3/21: Haru-no-Higan--Day Japanese Buddhists mark the time of change by meditating on the impermanence of death. [a/k/a Ohigan]

3/27: Tara Puja--Tibetan Buddhist fast of Bodhisattva Goddess Tara. All are equal in Her circles; She is worshipped with meditations on mandalas and chanting of mantra. [8th Tibetan day]

4/2: Amitabha Buddha Day--Day Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhists do good deeds and chant the name of Buddha God Amitabha/Omito/Amida to gain entry to His Pure Land and aid in attaining nirvana. [15th Tibetan day, UT Full Moon day]

4/6: Mahayana Buddhist festival of Bodhisattva Tara/Kuan Yin/Kannon; celebrates Her "birth." She declared women the spiritual equals of men. [2nd Chinese month, 19th day]

4/7: Mindfulness Day--Zen Buddhist day for being mindful that the joys and suffering of others are your joys and suffering.

4/8: Hana Matsuri--Zen Buddhist celebration of the Buddha's birth (563 BCE). [563-483 BCE: exact dates unknown]

4/17: Shakyamuni Buddha Day--Day Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the Buddha's teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. [a/k/a Siddhartha Buddha Day, 30th Tibetan day, UT New Moon day]

4/25: Day for meditation on Tantric Bodhisattva Deities Avalokitesvara and Green Tara, consciousness and empowerment of Compassion. Buddhists recognize the equality of all sentient beings. [a/k/a Tara Puja, 8th Tibetan day]

5/2: Amitabha Buddha Day--Day Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhists do good deeds and chant the name of Buddha God Amitabha/Omito/Amida to gain entry to His Pure Land and aid in attaining nirvana. [15th Tibetan day, UT Full Moon day]

5/5: Mindfulness Day--Zen Buddhist day for being mindful that everything you do, or fail to do, affects all sentient beings.

5/12: Dakinis' Day--Day Tantric Buddhists make offerings to Mother Tantra; day to unite will and power to manifest positive social change and environmental healing. [Observed primarily by Tantric initiates.] [a/k/a Mother Tantra Puja, Tsog, Tsok, 25th Tibetan day]

5/16: Shakyamuni Buddha Day--Day Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the Buddha's teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. [a/k/a Siddhartha Buddha Day, 30th Tibetan day, UT New Moon day]

5/24: Tara Puja--Tibetan Buddhist fast of Bodhisattva Goddess Tara. All are equal in Her circles; She is worshipped with meditations on mandalas and chanting of mantra. [8th Tibetan day]

6/1 (Ch B 5/24, Th B 5/2): Saga Dawa Duchen--Tibetan Buddhist festival celebrating the birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BCE). [a/k/a Wesak, Vesak, Vesakha Puja, Visakha Puja, Budh Purnima, Buddha Jayanti] [Tib B: 4th Tibetan month, 15th day; Ch B: 4th Chinese month, 8th day; Th B: May UT Full Moon day]

6/1: Amitabha Buddha Day--Day Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhists do good deeds and chant the name of Buddha God Amitabha/Omito/Amida to gain entry to His Pure Land and aid in attaining nirvana. [15th Tibetan day, UT Full Moon day]

6/2: Mindfulness Day--Zen Buddhist day for mindfully seeing the interdependence of all things at all times.

6/15: Shakyamuni Buddha Day--Day Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the Buddha's teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. [a/k/a Siddhartha Buddha Day, 30th Tibetan day, UT New Moon day]

6/23: Tara Puja--Tibetan Buddhist fast of Bodhisattva Goddess Tara. All are equal in Her circles; She is worshipped with meditations on mandalas and chanting of mantra. [8th Tibetan day]

6/30: Amitabha Buddha Day--Day Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhists do good deeds and chant the name of Buddha God Amitabha/Omito/Amida to gain entry to His Pure Land and aid in attaining nirvana. [15th Tibetan day, UT Full Moon day]

7/7: Mindfulness Day--Zen Buddhist day for being mindful that alienation and hunger for possessions results from ignorance of interconnectedness.

7/13 to 7/15: Obon--Zen Buddhist festival honoring departed ancestors. [a/k/a Bon]

7/14: Shakyamuni Buddha Day--Day Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the Buddha's teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. [a/k/a Siddhartha Buddha Day, 30th Tibetan day, UT New Moon day]

7/18 (Th B 7/30): Chokhor Duchen--Tibetan Buddhist celebration of the Buddha's first teaching. [Theravadin Buddhist festival a/k/a Esala, Ashala Dhamma, Asalha Puja] [Tib B: 6th Tibetan month, 4th day; Th B: July UT Full Moon day]

7/22: Tara Puja--Tibetan Buddhist fast of Bodhisattva Goddess Tara. All are equal in Her circles; She is worshipped with meditations on mandalas and chanting of mantra. [8th Tibetan day]

7/25 to 8/1: Mahayana Buddhist festival of Tara/Kuan Yin/Kannon, Supreme Goddess of Nature and Perfect Buddha of many emanations; celebrates Her enlightenment and Her vow to help all sentient beings. [Buddhists act daily on their vows to help all sentient beings.] [6th Chinese month, 12th to 19th days]

7/30: Amitabha Buddha Day--Day Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhists do good deeds and chant the name of Buddha God Amitabha/Omito/Amida to gain entry to His Pure Land and aid in attaining nirvana. [15th Tibetan day, UT Full Moon day]

8/4: Mindfulness Day--Zen Buddhist day for being mindful that desire for power over others results from ignorance of interdependence.

8/12: Shakyamuni Buddha Day--Day Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the Buddha's teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. [a/k/a Siddhartha Buddha Day, 30th Tibetan day, UT New Moon day]

8/20: Tara Puja--Tibetan Buddhist fast of Bodhisattva Goddess Tara. All are equal in Her circles; She is worshipped with meditations on mandalas and chanting of mantra. [8th Tibetan day]

8/22: Dakas' Day--Day Tantric Buddhists make offerings to Father Tantra; day to unite will and power to manifest positive social change and environmental healing. [Observed primarily by Tantric initiates.] [a/k/a Father Tantra Puja, Tsog, Tsok, 10th Tibetan day]

8/28: Amitabha Buddha Day--Day Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhists do good deeds and chant the name of Buddha God Amitabha/Omito/Amida to gain entry to His Pure Land and aid in attaining nirvana. [15th Tibetan day, UT Full Moon day]

9/1: Mindfulness Day--Zen Buddhist day for being mindful that harm to the Earth and sentient beings results from ignorance of interdependence.

9/11: Shakyamuni Buddha Day--Day Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the Buddha's teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. [a/k/a Siddhartha Buddha Day, 30th Tibetan day, UT New Moon day]

9/19: Day for meditation on Tantric Bodhisattva Goddess Gold Tara, provider of all sustenance and necessities. [a/k/a Tara Puja, 8th Tibetan day]

9/23: Aki-no-Higan--Day Japanese Buddhists mark the time of change by meditating on the impermanence of life. [a/k/a Ohigan]

9/26: Amitabha Buddha Day--Day Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhists do good deeds and chant the name of Buddha God Amitabha/Omito/Amida to gain entry to His Pure Land and aid in attaining nirvana. [15th Tibetan day, UT Full Moon day]

10/5: Day honoring Zen Buddhist philosopher Bodhidharma (470-543), who believed one could attain Buddhahood by realizing one's own Buddha nature. [a/k/a Bodhidharma Day]

10/6: Mindfulness Day--Zen Buddhist day for being mindful that fear and hatred of others results from ignorance of interconnectedness.

10/11: Shakyamuni Buddha Day--Day Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the Buddha's teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. [a/k/a Siddhartha Buddha Day, 30th Tibetan day, UT New Moon day]

10/19: Tara Puja--Tibetan Buddhist fast of Bodhisattva Goddess Tara. All are equal in Her circles; She is worshipped with meditations on mandalas and chanting of mantra. [8th Tibetan day]

10/26: Amitabha Buddha Day--Day Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhists do good deeds and chant the name of Buddha God Amitabha/Omito/Amida to gain entry to His Pure Land and aid in attaining nirvana. [15th Tibetan day, UT Full Moon day]

10/29: Mahayana Buddhist festival of Bodhisattva Tara/Kuan Yin/Kannon; celebrates Her attainment of Bodhisattvahood. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are aspects of Adi-Buddha - the masculine and feminine, transcendent and immanent, omniscient and omnipotent, primordial and eternal Absolute. [9th Chinese month, 19th day]

11/2: Lha Bab Duchen--Day Tibetan Buddhists celebrate the Buddha's descent from heaven after teaching the Dharma there. [9th Tibetan month, 22nd day]

11/3: Mindfulness Day--Zen Buddhist day for mindfully seeing and acting with compassion for the Earth and all creatures.

11/9: Shakyamuni Buddha Day--Day Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the Buddha's teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. [a/k/a Siddhartha Buddha Day, 30th Tibetan day, UT New Moon day]

11/17: Day for meditation on Tantric Bodhisattva Goddess White Tara, who guides the dead to Buddha Amitabha's Pure Land, where all will find salvation. [a/k/a Tara Puja, 8th Tibetan day]

11/24: Amitabha Buddha Day--Day Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhists do good deeds and chant the name of Buddha God Amitabha/Omito/Amida to gain entry to His Pure Land and aid in attaining nirvana. [15th Tibetan day, UT Full Moon day]

12/1: Mindfulness Day--Zen Buddhist day for mindfully seeing and acting with compassion for the poor and oppressed.

12/4: Day for meditation on Tantric Bodhisattva Deities Manjusri and Prajna-Paramita, consciousness and empowerment of Wisdom. Prajna-Paramita is considered Mother of All Buddhas. [10th Tibetan month, 25th day]

12/8: Rohatsu--Zen Buddhist celebration of the Buddha's enlightenment. [a/k/a Bodhi Day]

12/9: Shakyamuni Buddha Day--Day Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the Buddha's teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. [a/k/a Siddhartha Buddha Day, 30th Tibetan day, UT New Moon day]

12/17: Day for meditation on Tantric Bodhisattva Goddess Red Tara, protector against evil and harm. [a/k/a Tara Puja, 8th Tibetan day]

12/24: Amitabha Buddha Day--Day Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhists do good deeds and chant the name of Buddha God Amitabha/Omito/Amida to gain entry to His Pure Land and aid in attaining nirvana. [15th Tibetan day, UT Full Moon day]

Iconograhy: Mudra and Dharani

Mudra and dharani are presentations fundamental to esoteric Buddhism—Shingon in Japan, and the Vajrayana of Tibet and Mongolia. Both are present in exoteric paths of Buddhism as well, though they usually function in supportive roles. A mudra is a "seal," authenticating and personalizing an aspect of realization and its dharma. E. Dale Saunders, in his seminal study Mudra, traces its beginnings back to the dramatic gestures of earliest dance. Hindu and then Buddhist iconography reflect its adoption in the hand positions and postures found in archetypal sculpture. In Shingon Buddhism, and in its antecedents in Vajrayana, the mudra itself is the practice, with directories listing as many as 295 positions, in two main categories, those presenting aspects of the kongokai(Ch. chin-kang-chiai, Skt. Vajradhatu), the diamond realm of enlightenment, and taizokai (Ch. t'ai-ts-ang-chai, Skt. garbhadhatu), the womb or matrix realm of fundamental wisdom, from which the kongokai arises. 48

The Gassho-in (Ch. ho-chang-yin, Skt. anjali mudra), hands held up palm to palm, is a universal Buddhist gesture of accord, veneration, and respect, and is found across the spectrum of world religions. In Christianity, the sign of the cross could be considered a mudra, as well as the ritualized gestures of the priest during mass.

The hand position in zazen, the join (Ch. ting-yin, Skt. dhyana mudra), with the right hand over the left (sometimes reversed) and the thumbs touching, forms the "mystic triangle" that is found in earliest Indian Buddhist sculpture. Postures, or asana(J. za, Ch. tso), are bodily mudra, so to speak. The figure of the Buddha in meditation might first come to mind. With hands in join, the Zen student presents the Buddha himself or herself beneath the Bodhi tree. There are a large number of other postures in Zen and other Buddhist traditions, with leg and hand positions defining the variations. 49

Saunders does not include bows among mudra, but surely the standing bow and the prostration fit the category. Raihai (Ch. li-pai, Skt. namas-kara), the bow to the floor, is found throughout Buddhism, in Christian ordination, and in other world religions, with variations in leg positions and hand placement. Christian genuflection is a kind of abbreviated prostration.

The Zen student is taught that in raihai one throws everything away. Pivoting the forearms on the elbows and raising the hands while prostrated is the act of raising the Buddha's feet above one's head. The dharani is the verbal seal of a rite, again found as a central practice in Shingon and Vajrayana, but also a seal of a sutra or a series of sutras in Zen and other Mahayana traditions. The briefer mantra, not distinguished from the dharaniin Far Eastern etymology, can also be a seal, or it may stand alone as a sacred formula. The Nembutsu, the Daimoku,the supplication to Kanzeon, and the call of monks on takuhatsucan be considered mantra. Like other dharani and some mantra, the closing words of the Heart Sutra are mostly bastard Sanskrit that nobody translates satisfactorily, in this case a kind of "Ode to Joy." Here is the Sino-Japanese, spaced to the beat of the sutra:
Gya te gya te, pa ra gya te, para so gya te bo ji sowa ka, han nya shin gyo. 50
It is interesting that the Heart Sutra refers to itself as a dharani or mantra, recalling the identity of wisdom and words emphasized by Dogen Kigen and Meister Eckhart alike. 51 The Zen sutra service in the West has inherited dharani from Japan, including the "Shosai Myo Kichijo Darani," a short ode to Kichijo-ten (Skt. Lakshmi), incarnation of good fortune and merit. This is traditionally recited three times following the Heart Sutra "to remove disasters." Another, the "Daihi Shin Darani," dedicated to Kanzeon, the incarnation of mercy, is longer and is recited seven times. Like the "ode to joy" at the end of the Heart Sutra, these dharani are rationally almost meaningless incantations, and D. T. Suzuki's efforts to translate them, he admits, are problematic. 52 Nonetheless, they are meaningful to those who gather to recite them, simply, it seems, by the chanting itself.

I feel that Gregorian chants, though straightforward in meaning, have something of dharani quality, and perhaps this was sensed by my teacher Nakagawa Soen Roshi, who spent many hours listening to them on recordings, though he had no understanding of the language.

The short Enmei Jikku Kannon Gyo, (Ten-Verse Kannon Sutra of Timeless Life), though readily translatable, also has a dharani-like quality. 53 In early Diamond Sangha days I offered a translation for recitation in lieu of the Sino-Japanese original, and it was shouted down after a trial of only a few days. There was just too much enchantment (sorry!) in the old rhythms.

48. E. Dale Saunders, Mudra: A Study of Symbolic Gestures in Japanese Buddhist Sculpture(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985), pp. 3, 11-12.
49. Ibid., pp. 121-131.
50. Aitken, Encouraging Words, p. 175.
51. Donald Lopez Jr., The Heart Sutra Explained: Indian and Tibetan Commentaries (Albany: State University of New York, 1988), p. 125; Dogen Kigen, Shobogenzo: Mitsugo, cited by Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen Kigen: Mystical Realist(Tucson: University of Arizona, 1987), p. 78; Eckhart, "A Flowing Out but Returning Within." Fox, Breakthrough, pp. 65-69.
52. Suzuki, Manual of Zen Buddhism, p. 12.
53. Aitken, Encouraging Words, p. 178.

23 September 2007

America's Attack on ALL Religions and Freedom of Speech

Imagine walking into your local library, planning to read a book on Buddhism or Christianity or any other religion.

But instead of finding such important and popular titles, you discover that the religion section had been decimated -- stripped of any book that did not appear on a small government-approved list.

That's exactly what's happening right now to inmates in federal prisons under a new Bush administration policy. As The New York Times put it, they "have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries."

Prisoners are allowed to own up to 5 books on the very limited approved list of books (and a list rife with misspellings), if they can raise the money to pay for them.

I've just sent a message to the Federal Bureau of Prisons protesting this absurd policy of banning and destroying religious books. Will you join me?

Just click here: http://go.sojo.net/campaign/prisonlibraries?rk=kdsdJSp1p0BpW

22 September 2007

Buddhist Influence on Christianity

Some scholars believe that Jesus may have been inspired by Buddhism, and that the Gospel of Thomas and the Nag Hammadi texts reflect this influence. These theories have been popularized in books such as Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels (1979) and Beyond Belief (2003), and Elmar R. Gruber and Holger Kersten's The Original Jesus (1995).

One of the earliest and most prominent scholars of early comparative religions,Max Mueller, noted in his book, India: What it can teach us, published from England in 1883, "That there are startling coincidences between Buddhism and Christianity cannot be denied, and it must likewise be admitted that Buddhism existed at least 400 years before Christianity. I go even further, and should feel extremely grateful if anybody would point out to me the historical channels through which Buddhism had influenced early Christianity." A stronger case was made by Rudolf Seydel, Professor in the University of Leipzig (Germany), whose first book, The Gospel of Jesus in relation to the Buddha Legend, published in 1882, was followed by, The Buddha Legend and the Life of Jesus, published in 1897. In his books, he noted atleast 50 analogous parallels between the Buddhist and Christian stories.

Yale University Professor, E. Washburn Hopkins in his book, History of Religions wrote, "Finally, the life, temptation, miracles, parables, and even the disciples of Jesus have been derived directly from Buddhism." [9]

Historian Jerry H. Bentley considers "the possibility that Buddhism influenced the early development of Christianity". Bentley observes that scholars "have drawn attention to many parallels concerning the births, lives, doctrines, and deaths of the Buddha and Jesus".[10]

Iqbal Singh in the Buddhism Omnibus [11] acknowledges the early historical interactions and influence of Buddhism on the formation of early Christianity.

Thomas Tweed, Professor of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reports that, between 1879 and 1907, there were a "number of impassioned discussions about parallels and possible historical influence between Buddhism and Christianity in ... a variety of periodicals". But by 1906, this interest had waned. In the end, Albert Schweitzer's conclusion was favored: that although some indirect influence through the wider culture was "not inherently impossible", the hypothesis that Jesus' novel ideas were borrowed directly from Buddhism was "unproved, unprovable and unthinkable."[12]

Burkhard Scherer, Professor of Indo-Tibetan Studies at Canterbury Christ Church University believes that the "massive" Buddhist influence in the gospels has been well known among scholars. Scherer states: "...it is very important to draw attention on the fact that there is (massive) Buddhist influence in the Gospels....Since more than hundred years Buddhist influence in the Gospels has been known and acknowledged by scholars from both sides. Just recently, Duncan McDerret published his excellent The Bible and the Buddhist (Sardini, Bornato [Italy] 2001). With McDerret, I am convinced that there are many Buddhist narratives in the Gospels."[13]

[9] History of Religions, 1918, E. Washburn Hopkins, Professor of Sanskrit and comparative Philology, p 552,556
[10] Bentley, Jerry H. (1993). Old World Encounters. Cross-cultural contacts and exchanges in pre-modern times. Oxford University Press.
[11] Iqbal Singh, S. Radhakrishnan, Arvind Sharma, (June 24, 2004)). The Buddhism Omnibus: Comprising Gautama Buddha, The Dhammapada, and The Philosophy of Religion. USA: Oxford University Press.
[12] Tweed, Thomas (2000). The American Encounter With Buddhism, 1844-1912: Victorian Culture and the Limits of Dissent. University of North Carolina Press, 280.
[13] The Secrets about Christian Lindtner-a preliminary response to the CLT.

21 September 2007

What can Christians learn from other religions?

The Reverend Father Mark Beckwith says:
We can learn more about God. After college I lived in Japan for two years. Among the many things I did there was to study and practice Zen. Zen introduced me to a tradition and discipline of silence that I had never experienced before. I discovered that silence is a common "language"--transcending cultures and religions. And it was in silence--which I later discovered in the monastic Christian tradition--that I discovered a new dimension of God's love and presence.

Some thirty years later, in the aftermath of September 11, our church community has met and worshipped with members of the local Islamic community. Our initial intent was to express support and solidarity--and to make a common witness. But the more we talked and shared with one another, the more I discovered two things: how much we are different in terms of culture and history and expectations of community; and how much we are the same in our desire to be in relationship with God. I watched and listened to the Imam pray, and his demeanor and devotion opened me up to a new and different awareness of God.

Borrowing on the writing of Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas said that God is "that which nothing greater can be thought." The wisdom and tradition of other religions help expand the arena in which God lives and moves and has being.

20 September 2007

Tensions in American (Western) Buddhism?

MARY ALICE WILLIAMS: Buddhism is the world's fourth largest religion, founded about 2500 years ago in India. The Buddha taught that life is suffering and the way to overcome that is to get rid of attachments. Widely practiced across Asia, Buddhism has attracted many converts in this country. They are developing forms of Buddhist practice that are often very different from the practices of Asian-Americans. Some observers believe there is a growing ethnic divide in American Buddhism. Correspondent Kim Lawton has our cover story.

KIM LAWTON: In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Pat Phelan is being installed as abbess, head of the Red Cedar Zen Temple. She has taken the name Taitaku Josho to demonstrate her acceptance of Buddhist precepts. She is being elevated to her new position in a symbolic "Mountain Seat ceremony," attended by the Zen Center's members. Like Phelan, all of the Center's members are converts to the Buddhist tradition and its sometimes puzzling exchanges.

A few miles across town there's another Buddhist temple, which people often mistake for a Chinese restaurant. Here Vietnamese Buddhists gather to worship in what's known as the "Pure Land" Buddhist tradition. Some members of this sangha, or worship community, have been in the U.S. for more than 20 years; others have arrived more recently.

The two Buddhist centers are in the same Bible Belt community, but virtually separate, largely unaware of each other. That's a situation increasingly common as Buddhism takes hold across America. The forms of practice are diverse, with numerous traditions. But many believe the biggest divide may be an ethnic one.

LOPON CLAUDE D'ESTRÉE (Chaplain, George Mason University): There is an Asian Buddhist community, and there is a Western American Buddhist community, and they don't often mix.

PROFESSOR RYO IMAMURA (Buddhist Priest and Professor, Evergreen State College): I think we co-exist peacefully, probably not interacting a whole lot.

HELEN TWORKOV (TRICYCLE magazine): There's definitely some divides, and I think we could call it a racial divide. I do not think it's a racist divide.

LAWTON: Buddhism has always traced a wide cultural path. From its beginnings -- 2,500 years ago -- in the Himalayan Mountains to its spread across Asia, Buddhism has adapted to and ultimately shaped each culture it has encountered.

Buddhism first came to the United States more than 150 years ago with the arrival of Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Even in those days, there was interest from non-Asians.

PROFESSOR STEPHEN PROTHERO (Associate Professor, Religion, Boston University): There was a sort of Buddhist boom in the late-19th century, and there was a second one that began in the '50s with the Beat generation and those kinds of people.

LAWTON: In the '60s and '70s that boom became a virtual explosion of non-Asian conversions, among them a relatively large number of Jews. Many of those converts now lead their own Buddhist communities, also mostly non-Asian converts.

Precise figures are difficult to come by. Experts say there are between three and four million Buddhists in the United States today. About 75% of them are of Asian heritage. But despite their numbers, many Asian Americans say they don't feel sufficiently acknowledged in this country's Buddhist landscape.

Hollywood and the media have perpetuated the impression that the American Buddhist community consists of mostly-white practitioners who follow charismatic Asian leaders such as Thich Nah Hahn or the Dalai Lama.

PROFESSOR IMAMURA: I think when the term "American Buddhism" is used, most Asian-American Buddhists feel outside of the dialogue.

LAWTON: Ryo Imamura is an 18th-generation Buddhist priest and a third generation Asian American. His grandfather ministered to the Buddhist community in the early-20th century in Hawaii, and in the '40s and '50s, Imamura's parents began a Buddhist Study Center in Berkeley, California. The Center attracted some non-Asians. Imamura says those times have largely disappeared. He says while Asian teachers may have started Buddhist groups here, white converts now lead them.

PROFESSOR IMAMURA: Racism has to play a role because of the times. I think most Caucasian Americans have not interacted with Asians, certainly not in ways that put Asians in more authoritative roles, or roles of respect. And I don't know if you want to characterize this as racist, but I think they are much more comfortable looking up to a white, male authority figure, or maybe a female one.

LAWTON: Many say there are clear reasons that Buddhist groups tend to divide along racial lines. In addition to obvious language barriers, there are differences in practice. Most convert Buddhists focus on meditation. Their communities tend to be more lay oriented, with more women in positions of leadership. For some converts, Buddhism is more a philosophy than a religion.

For Asian Americans, the temple has more congregational importance, playing a key religious, social, and cultural role in the community.

LOPON D'ESTRÉE: In a sense, we have two different agendas or maybe cultural agendas. The Asian tradition is based on something they have grown up with and has more ritual aspects. Coming to a service on Sunday is like coming to church anywhere else. Western Buddhists tend to be more interested in learning how to meditate and Buddhist philosophy. So there is somewhat of a clash of cultures.

LAWTON: Cultural divides also exist within Asian-American communities, with little interaction across those ethnic lines either.

MS. TWORKOV: In some cases, you have communities of these people. I mean they really came out of the killing fields. They came to this country traumatized by the wars in Southeast Asia. Their needs are not only very different [from the] needs of white middle-class Americans, they're very different from the needs of very well educated middle-class Japanese Americans.

LAWTON: Tworkov's magazine, TRICYCLE, focuses on the needs of the diverse convert community.

MS. TWORKOV: By nature, the immigrant relationship to religion is conservative. You want to conserve your culture, your values, your heritage, your language. And that is done primarily through the church, the temple, the religious value system. We came along in the '60s and we wanted to transform everything, so everything was about, really it was like an opposite direction.

LAWTON: Experts say ethnic divides aren't unique to Buddhism.

PROFESSOR PROTHERO: It needs to be admitted that this is the normal course of things in American religion. We have had a history of Lutheran groups in the U.S. who are Finnish or who are German, who don't particularly interact with one another. [The same can be said about] the Orthodox, Russian Orthodox Christians, and the Orthodox from Greece, for example, the Greek Orthodox.

LAWTON: But Prothero admits with Buddhism the definitions are more fluid, leading some to wonder whether all the differing strands can still be kept under one umbrella.

PROFESSOR PROTHERO: There is no central authority in Buddhism. There is no Buddhist pope, as much as some like to position the Dalai Lama as the sort of pope-designate for the American scene. There isn't anyone who can excommunicate you if you have a goofy idea of what Buddhism is all about, or if you try to define Buddhism in a way that is unorthodox.

LAWTON: Some Buddhist leaders believe all of American Buddhism would be enriched by more dialogue and interaction.

KEN TANAKA (Co-editor, THE FACES OF BUDDHISM IN AMERICA): I certainly feel an excitement in the fact that you do have virtually all the Buddhist groups represented here. And not only for a conference, but living in a same community. Given that, it is always going to be a minority religion, that there ought to be much more interaction, mutual support,... to survive for one thing.

LAWTON: But others on both sides of the divide say that shouldn't be rushed or forced.

MS. TWORKOV: There's a lot of concern about bringing the groups together. But frankly my own view is it's always coming from a place of being politically correct, and there's not necessarily a good reason for it. There's no reason why people should not be developing their own kinds of practice and their own forms of practice and working according to their own needs.

PROFESSOR IMAMURA: I think because of the realities of our society, our diverse society, and the need of we, who are called racial minorities or ethnic minorities, to maintain our identity and our pride in our communities, I think we need that racial divide in a way.

LAWTON: Many say the fact that this is even an issue at all shows the extent to which Buddhism has taken root and is maturing here in America.

19 September 2007


Monasticism (from Greek: monachos — a solitary person) is the religious practice in which one renounces worldly pursuits in order to fully devote one's life to spiritual work.

Many religions have monastic elements, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Jainism, though the expressions differ considerably. Those pursuing a monastic life are usually called monks or brothers (male), and nuns or sisters (female). Both monks and nuns may also be called monastics.

Buddhist Monasticism
The order of Buddhist monks and original nuns was founded by Gautama Buddha during his lifetime over 2500 years ago. The Buddhist monastic lifestyle grew out of the lifestyle of earlier sects of wandering ascetics, some of whom the Buddha had studied under, and was initially fairly eremetic in nature. Monks and nuns were expected to live with a minimum of possessions, which were to be voluntarily provided by the lay community. Lay followers also provided the daily food that monks required, and provided shelter for monks when they were needed.

After the death of the Buddha, the Buddhist monastic order developed into a primarily cenobitic movement. The practice of living communally during the rainy vassa season, prescribed by the Buddha, gradually grew to encompass a settled monastic life centered on life in a community of practitioners. Most of the modern disciplinary rules followed by monks and nuns – the Patimokkha – relate to such an existence, prescribing in great detail proper methods for living and relating in a community of monks or nuns. The number of rules observed varies with the order; Theravada monks follow around 227 rules. There are a larger number of rules specified for bhikkhunis (nuns).

Buddhist monasticism with its tradition of councils, missions, and being a source of knowledge and literacy spread from India to the Middle East and eventually west, with Christian monasticism following in its footsteps in the areas where Emperor Ashoka sent missions.

Christian Monasticism
Monasticism in Christianity is a family of similar traditions that began to develop early in the history of the Christian Church, modeled upon Scriptural examples and ideals, but not mandated as an institution by the Scriptures.

The focus of Christian monasticism is on an ideal called the religious life, also called the counsels of perfection. The words of Jesus which are the cornerstone for this ideal are "be ye holy like your heavenly Father is holy."

Christian cenobitic monasticism as it is mainly known in the West started in Egypt, which had warm temperatures ideal for living away from society. Originally, all Christian monks were hermits; and especially in the Middle East this continued to be very common until the decline of Syrian Christianity in the late Middle Ages. Saint Anthony the Great is cited by Athanasius as one of these early 'eremitic monks.'

But not everybody is fit for solitary life, and numerous cases of hermits becoming mentally unstable are reported. The need for some form of organized spiritual guidance was obvious; and around 318 Saint Pachomius started to organize his many followers in what was to become the first Christian monastery. Soon, similar institutions were establish throughout the Egyptian desert as well as the rest of the eastern half of the Roman Empire.

18 September 2007

The Samsara Tsemo Game

A game based on the Wheel of Reincarnation (Samsara), to learn the different realm and the Law of Karma. From 1 to 6 players. Ages 4 and up.

17 September 2007

Buddhism and Christianity

Reminiscent of the Hinduism out of which Buddhism arose, Buddhists such as Cabezón believe that there are multiple incarnations of deity. For this reason, Jesus may be accepted as incarnation out of many, unique in his own way perhaps, but not exclusively unique as many Christians believe.12 Furthermore, Buddhists do not believe that any being is capable of redeeming another; no deity is an ultimate creator; all were initially subject to samsara. Therefore, Jesus, as the manifestation of a deity, was not able to provide the salvation that many Christians claim is only possible through him. In Cabezón’s words: “Salvation from suffering [as opposed to salvation from sin13] is earned through the process of self-purification, not bestowed on one as a gift from above.”14 It follows that Christ may have shown an example of a potential path toward ultimate enlightenment, but this example was then misunderstood by many Christians who hold to an exclusive view of Christ as Savior that does not admit to other possibilities.15 Bokin Kim, a Won Buddhist, is very optimistic about the possibility, however, that Jesus is a figure worthy of non-exclusive emulation, looking at him through the eyes of Won Buddhism’s founder, Chungbin Park Sot’aesan.16

12 Ibid. Para. 17, under subheading “Jesus as Teacher.”
13 1 John 1:8–10.
14 Cabezón, José Ignacio. “Jesus through a Buddhist’s Eyes.” (Jesus Christ through Buddhist Eyes.) University of Hawai’i Press. (Appears in Project Muse. This article was in the sample issue of Buddhist-Christian Studies, Volume 19.1 (1999), pages 51–61.) November 15, 2001. Para. 23.
15 Kim, Bokin. “Christ as the Truth, the Light, the Life, but a Way?” (Jesus Christ through Buddhist Eyes.) University of Hawai’i Press. (Appears in Project Muse. This article was in the sample issue of Buddhist-Christian Studies, Volume 19.1 (1999), pages 76–80.) November 15, 2001. Para. 3
16 Ibid. (Entire article.)


"The oft-cited parable of the burning house tells of a father distraught as his children blithely play, unaware that the house is ablaze. Knowing of their respective predilections for playthings, he lures them from the inferno with the promise that he has a cart for each waiting outside, a deer-drawn cart for one, a goat-drawn cart for another, and so on. When they emerge from the conflagration, they find only one cart, a magnificent conveyance drawn by a great white ox, something that they had never even dreamed of. The burning house is samsara, the children are ignorant sentient beings, unaware of the dangers of their abode, the father is the Buddha, who lures them out of samsara with the teaching of a variety of vehicles. . . knowing that in fact there is but one vehicle, the buddha vehicle whereby all beings will be conveyed to unsurpassed enlightenment."

15 September 2007

Jesus is a Buddha

Recent epoch-making discoveries of old Sanskrit manuscripts in Central Asia and Kashmir provide decisive proof that the four Greek Gospels have been translated directly from the Sanskrit.

A careful comparison, word by word, sentence by sentence shows that the Christian Gospels are Pirate-copies of the Buddhist Gospels. God's word, therefore, is originally Buddha's word.

Comparison reveals that there is no person, no event, no locality mentioned in the four Christian Gospels not already present in the Buddhist Gospels that, for sure, are far earlier in time than their Christian copies.

14 September 2007

The Sacred Well of Spirituality

From The Reverend Mother Marsha's blog, "Rain City Gnosis", quoting a book by Thich Nhat Han called "Living Buddha, Living Christ"
"Before I met Christianity, my only spiritual ancestor was the Buddha. But when I met beautiful men and women who are christians I came to know Jesus as a great teacher. Since that day, Jesus Christ has become one of my spiritual ancestors."

He also tells his readers that on his altar he has statues of Buddha, the Bodhisattvas and an image of Jesus Christ. He said that he doesn't feel conflict with in himself because of this and that he feels stronger because he has more than one root.

13 September 2007

Tripitaka: The Buddhist Canon

Organization of the Canon

There exists an agreed-upon group of ancient Indian scriptures of Buddhism, called by the Sanskrit term Tripitaka ("Three Baskets"), called Sān Zàng 三藏 or "Three Storehouses" in Chinese. Several hundred times the size of the Christian Bible, the Tripitaka is divided into three parts:
  • Part one is made up of the Sutras (Chinese: jīng 經 "scripture"), devoted to Buddhist teachings of dharma, attributed tothe Buddha.
  • Part two contains the Vinaya (Chinese: lǜ 律 "law"), or rules of conduct both for the priesthood and for Buddhist laity.
  • Part three contains further clarifications of the dharma, called Śāstras (Chinese: lún 論 "discussion"). These are written by a number of people through the centuries.
  • A fourth part contains materials originally written in Chinese and usually designated zá 雜 "Miscellaneous."
The Chinese version of the Buddhist canon is not limited to translations from Sanskrit and Pali, the north Indian languages in which Buddhist texts were originally written, but also includes works originally written in Chinese after the transmission of Buddhism to China, so it is larger than the original collection of Sanskrit and Pali texts, and is referred to as the Dà Zàng Jīng 大藏經 or "Great Treasury Scriptures."

The challenges faced by translators of religious material from Indian languages to Chinese were many, and the result was the creation of a literature that could be understood only with a good deal of special training. Although materials originally composed in Chinese were easier to understand than translations most of the time, even these often used vocabulary or treated subjects that demanded a knowledge of the Indian heritage to understand. The Chinese Buddhist canon is therefore immense, but largely unknown to most Chinese, including most Chinese Buddhists, and many of the most "popular" scriptures are in fact used only as liturgical texts chanted as a religious exercise to gain spiritual merit. In modern times, despite the establishment of nearly universal literacy in modern Chinese, Chinese have shown little interest in modernizing these translations and trying to render them more readily understood.

Eight Popular Texts Used by Chinese Buddhists

The list of major Buddhist writings given here includes only a few brief works (all found in the canon) that actually circulate widely among Chinese Buddhists. Most of them were originally composed in Sanskrit and the Chinese translations are by no means colloquial today; many of the texts are popular to chant as a merit-gaining religious exercise, but are not necessarily understood without further instruction.

Usage Note. Although the term jīng 經 is best translated "scripture" in other contexts, in the case of Buddhist works it is conventional to retain the original Sanskrit term "sūtra" in English translations.

Dàbēi Chàn 大悲懺 "Great Compassion Penance"
A text where the ever popular bodhisattva Guānyīn appears as the special agent of the buddha Amitabha's compassion.

Ēmítuó Jīng 阿彌陀經 "Sutra of Amitabha" ("Lesser Sukhavati-Vyuha Sutra")
Translated from Sanskrit by Kumarajiva.
This work is associated with the Buddha Amitabha (often known in English by his Japanese name Amida), associated with the Pure Land sect, which teaches that by sincerely calling upon the Amitabha Budda one can be reborn into the Pure Land (jìngtŭ 淨土) that he governs. This work is commonly used in private meditation and is recited in services for the dead.

Jīngāng Jīng 金剛經 "Diamond Sutra" (Vajraccedika-prajña-paramita Sutra)
Translated into Chinese from Sanskrit by Kumarajiva (Jiūmóluóshī 鳩摩羅什), a Jīn dynasty missionary to China famed for his translations.
The text, in the form of a dialog between the Sakyamuni Buddha and a disciple, stresses that all appearances are mere illusions projected by one's own (illusory) mind. In the course of the discussion, the Buddha predicts that another buddha will follow him years later to repeat the message, a passage that is interpreted as referring to Amitabha, but also is sometimes cited by "heretical" sects to identify their leaders as buddhas.

Liánhuá Jīng 蓮花經 "Lotus Sutra" (Saddharma Pundarika Sutra).
Translated from Sanskrit by Kumarajiva.
The Lotus Sutra is especially associated with the Tiāntái 天台 sect, although it is widely used by all sects. It asserts the transcendent character of the Buddha and purports to contain his direct teachings, including the assertion that there are many paths to enlightenment, and the possibility of help from bodhisattvas. Often separately used is chapter 24, called Pŭmén Pĭn 普們品 "All-Sided One." The Pŭmén Pĭn describes the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who in China is the popular goddess Guānyīn 觀音.

Liù Zŭ Tán Jīng 六祖壇經 "Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch"
Composed in Chinese by Făhăi 法海, a priest of the Táng dynasty.
This work recounts the succession of a humble sweeper boy who become the sixth patriarch of Chán 禪 school, Huìnéng 慧能 and presents his teachings. Because it was composed directly in Chinese, this work is readily accessible to modern readers with a knowledge of Classical Chinese.

Wúliàng Shòu Jīng 無量壽經 "Sutra of Unlimited Longevity" ("Greater Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra")
Translated from Sanskrit by Kalayasas (畺良耶舍 Jiāngliángyéshè).
The full title is actually Guān Wúliàngshòu Fó Jīng 觀無量壽佛經, or "Sutra of Visualizing the Buddha of Unlimited Longevity." Like the Ēmítuó Jīng, this work describes the Pure Land of Amitabha.

Xīn Jīng 心經 "Heart Sutra" (Mahaprajñaparamita-hridaya Sutra)
Translated into Chinese from Sanskrit by Xuánzàng 玄奘 (A.D. 596-664), a Chinese monk who made a journey to India (629-645) and returned with scriptures, which he translated into Chinese. This tiny work teaches that form and emptiness are identical and is widely chanted, but is especially associated with the Chán 禪 school. Its popularity is probably largely due to its shortness, which makes it easy to copy, chant, paint on pottery, or even tattoo.

Yào Shī Jīng 藥師經 "Sutra of the Master of Medicine"
Translated from Sanskrit by Xuánzàng.
This short work contains twelve promises of salvation for both the living and those in purgatory.

12 September 2007

Gnostic and Buddhist Parallels

Edward Conze, a leading expositor of Buddhism to the twentieth-century western world, has pointed to a number of similarities between Mahayana Buddhism and the Gnosticism of the early Christian centuries. And others have found resemblances. One is the special emphasis on Wisdom. There may indeed be a central core of meaning shared by the relevant Sanskrit, Semitic, Greek, and Latin terms -- as a reference to "wisdom," "mind," "awareness," "consciousness," different from mere intellect or rationality.

All the words intended to be descriptive of Wisdom are, like "Wisdom" itself, elusive in meaning and variously nuanced. They concern questions which neither science nor philosophy nor theology can precisely phrase, let alone precisely answer. By itself the similarity in nomenclature of central ideas does not necessarily prove geographic connectedness. It is striking, however, that a particular Wisdom theme and mystical systems associated with it arose just beyond both borders of Iran in the same period. In both, "knowledge" as an intuitive revelation (Greek gnosis , Sanskrit jnana) is the key to salvation.

In both Gnosticism and Buddhism, the opposite of gnosis or consciousness is ignorance, the root evil. Drunkenness, blindness, poverty, deficiency, emptiness, were favorite Gnostic metaphors for the un-knowing state of humankind. Western thinkers and clerics almost universally deplore what they regard as the "negativism" of Gnosticism and Buddhism. The Greco-Judaic-Christian model does indeed take a more optimistic view of human possibilities: God is Good; God created this world for human beings to enjoy; and when their brief lives are ended, they will, if worthy, be rewarded in perpetuity. Buddhists speak of this life as being suffused with dukka , which is usually translated as "suffering." The Pali or Sanskrit word would perhaps mean more to the Western mind if it were seen to include such notions as incompleteness, unsatisfactoriness, frustration, anxiety.

To ignore this fundamental element of being is, in the Buddhist and Gnostic view , to be escapist and evasive of truth. For the Buddhist, dukka results from the passions of craving and its opposite, hate and aversion. Hope for escape lies in overcoming the physical and mental and emotional distractions of this life and a return to a state free of differentiations. Gnostics likewise aspired to a Return to a state of unity, beyond the reach of those entangled in this unsatisfactory world's concerns.

In both Indian and the Middle Eastern systems, there are different levels of spiritual attainment. Some Gnostics, like the Valentinians (and eventually Northern Buddhists, after about A.D.200). thought of three levels of human existence: the highly spiritually aware, destined for salvation; those blind to truth and given to self-deception who are destined for perdition; and those whose destiny is not fixed, who are open to the possibility of salvation. Mahayana, however, resisted the thought that anyone was hopelessly beyond the pale.

There are many other pointers toward mutual influence across the broad belt of Aramaic-speaking lands between the Euphrates and the Indus -- and other lands further east, along the Ganges. We have already noted the vigorous trade between the Mediterranean world and India, in part a sea trade but also commerce by caravan routes across Syria, Mesopotamia, Iran, and Afghanistan, connecting with the silk road into China. Not only fabrics and gems but also writings held to be sacred traveled these highways of commerce. Merchants and missionaries are usually found together. Manicheans were famous as traders in the East. Hippolytus, as we have seen, wrote of a Scythianus who, before Mani, had brought the doctrine of the Two Principles from India. Also in the fourth century, Ephraim had attacked Mani for letting himself be overcome by "the Lie" from India, introducing "two powers which were against each other."

There are unmistakable signs of Roman connections after the Kushans took over from the Parthians of Gundaphorus's time in the middle of the first century. Caches of Roman coins have been found in the Punjab as in southern India, although not on as large a scale. The Kushans themselves began making coins on the Roman model.

The early Christian centuries saw a flowering of Buddhist sculpture in the Kushan empire, in stone and gesso figures. In the northwest region of Gandhara the sculpture is much more distinctively Greco-Roman than Indian. The Buddha's soul-twin, Vajrapani, appearing as a naked Heracles leaning on his club (the thunderbolt), is one example. For the first time, the Buddha himself is depicted in sculpture, dressed in Roman robes, quite unlike those appearing further East along the Ganges. The techniques (and perhaps even the materials) of Kushan gesso work, involving the use of gypsum like that found in ample deposits west of Alexandria, were apparently brought by artisans from the Mediterranean world.

Early Western students of Buddhist art tended to think that the obvious Hellenistic aspects of Kushan sculpture in the Gandhara region derived directly from the conquests of Alexander the Great late in the fourth century B.C. Before the Kushans, however, any surviving traces of Greek influence on the region's art and coinage appear weak and crude. Later scholars have persuasively argued (and a discerning eye will confirm) that the Hellenistic features, especially sharply defined and naturalistic human figures and distinctive treatment of garment-folds, derived from a fresh infusion directly from the Roman world in the first two centuries. A.D.

There are other suggestive conjunctions. A visit to "India" (the Buddhist Northwest of the subcontinent) conferred a cachet on holy men, historic or legendary, among Christians and others in the Middle East. "Judas Thomas," Bardaisan, Apollonius of Tyana, and Mani were among the saintly travelers. At the age of 39 the third-century Neoplatonist Plotinus wanted to explore the thought of Persia and India. He got as far as Mesopotamia with the forces of Emperor Gordian, who was planning to invade Persia.

Plotinus had to flee to Antioch when the emperor was killed and the Roman expedition collapsed, and then he went on to Rome.

Clement of Alexandria was aware of Buddhism, praising in his Miscellanies the "Samanaeans" [from sramanas = wanderers] of Bactria for shedding the light of their philosophy "over the nations," and noting that some of the Indians also "obey the precepts of the Boutta, whom on account of his extraordinary sanctity they have raised to divine honors." Clement quoted well-known Greek historians as authority for these observations.

As we have earlier noted, the Mediterranean world had been fascinated by the philosophers of India as far back as Alexander's time (tending to confuse, as Clement sometimes did, Buddhist and Brahmin holy men, who were not naked, with Jains, who were). Dion the Golden-Mouthed was not the only educated Greek-speaker of his time to see the Indians as a people wiser than his audiences. A twentieth-century French explorer of the lore of the Thrice-Greatest Hermes (a non-Christian Gnostic system originating in Egypt) remarks -- with the note of disparagement that marks much Western scholarship -- that "the Oriental mirage had always seduced the imagination of Greece." In the first centuries of the Christian era, he says, minds weary of Greek rationalism embraced the foreign viewpoint. The barbarians were held to "have purer and more basic notions concerning the Divinity -- not because they made better use of reason than the Hellenes, but, quite to the contrary, because, neglecting reason, they were able in the most secret ways to communicate with God.

11 September 2007

Relation to Diety

Zoroaster. It seems that Zoroaster preached the monotheistic worship of Ahura Mazda, who was the creator of two other spirits - one good, the other evil.18 Classical dualistic Zoroastrianism, which pitted Ahura Mazda against the evil Ahriman, developed in the Sassanian period (A.D. 226-652). Later Zoroastrianism also developed a doctrine of a Saoshyan (Savior) who would raise the dead. According to Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin:

Zoroaster did not give himself out to be the redeemer. When his prayers call the redeemer who is to renew existence, he means the prince who shall accept his doctrine and realize the Dominion of Righteousness and Good Mind. He even allows the role of redeemer to any man, provided he practises righteousness.19

Buddha. Although it is not correct to speak of Buddhism as an "atheistic" religion, it is a religion whose chief focus is on man rather than on any god. The Buddhist Annual of Ceylon defines Buddhism as "that religion which without starting with a God leads man to a stage where God's help is not necessary." Buddha himself, coming out of a background of polytheistic Hinduism, seems to have treated even Brahma, one of the highest of the gods, with a cool superciliousness. Junjiro Takakusu of Tokyo University explains that "the Buddha did not deny the existence of gods (Devas), but he considered them only as the higher grade of living beings, also to be taught by him."20

It is clear that over the centuries the original concept of Buddha as an enlightened man was radically changed so that "he was no longer that simple teacher of moral values but a Mahapurisa [a super-human being], greater than the gods themselves."21 Transformations in Buddhist art reveal this evolution in doctrine. From the third to the first centuries B.C. Buddha was depicted in Indian art simply by a symbol, such as his footprint, umbrella or throne.22 Thereafter the Buddha himself is depicted. According to Mortimer Wheeler, "It was no less fitting to represent the deified Buddha than to embody the traditional divinities of the Hindu pantheon."23

By the second and third centuries A.D. Mahayana Buddhism had produced a doctrine of Boddhisatvas, innumerable perfected Buddhas distributed through space and time who help mankind by their merits. According to the Lotus of the True Law the Buddha was an eternal sublime being, who appeared in human form as the savior of mankind.

Socrates. Though Socrates did not fully subscribe to the anthropomorphic Homeric deities, he was deeply devout in his own way. He was scrupulously obedient to his daimonion, a personal guiding spirit. In Xenophon's Apology, Socrates says, "As for introducing 'new divinities', how can I be guilty of that merely in asserting that a voice of God is made manifest to me indicating my duty?" In his Memorabilia Xenophon asserts, "For myself, I have described him as he was: so religious that he did nothing without counsel from the gods…."

Muhammad. The Qur'an emphatically stresses the Oneness of the Godhead, not only to deny polytheism but also to refute the Christian Trinity. Qur'an 112:1-4 reads:
Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.
Muhummad himself did not claim to be anything other than a mortal messenger (Qur'an 7:188; 17:95). On one occasion he is said to have exclaimed: "O, God! I am but a man. If I hurt anyone in any manner, then forgive me and do not punish me." His fallibility is shown in the Qur'an, surah 80, where Allah rebukes him for turning away from a blind man.

Nor did Muhammad claim he had the power to save others. According to a tradition reported by Athar Husain, Muhammad said:
O People of Quraish be prepared for the Hereafter.
I cannot save you from the punishment of God, O Bani Abd Manaf…. I cannot
protect you either, O Safia, aunt of the Prophet,
I cannot be of help to you; O Fatima, daughter of Muhammad, even you I
cannot save.24
When Muhammad died, Abu Bakr, who was to be one of the succeeding caliphs, announced: "O men, whosoever worshiped Muhammad, know that he is dead; whoever worshipped Muhammad's God, know that He is alive and immortal."

Jesus. Unlike the other spiritual leaders we are examining, Jesus came out of a monotheistic culture. The concept of "gods" in polytheistic religions is quite anthropomorphic; there is no sharp difference in kind between men and such gods.25 In Jewish monotheism the distinction between God as transcendent and infinite and man as finite is almost absolute.

It is therefore altogether remarkable that Jesus claimed to be one with the Father (John 10:30), a blasphemy for which the Jews wished to stone him (John 10:31, 33: John 5:17-18). This claim to be one with God was expressed in Jesus' claims to be free from sin (John 8:46), to be the only way to the Father (John 14:6), to have authority to forgive sins (Matthew 9:5-6) and to have the right to demand complete loyalty (Luke 14:26). He accepted worship (John 20:28; Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:52; contrast the refusal to accept any adoration by Peter, Acts 3:12; 10:25-26; and by Barnabas and Paul, Acts 14:14-15) and believed he deserved equal honor with God the Father (John 5:23). Jesus dared to address God as Abba, an intimate Aramaic term for "father," which none of the rabbis used. As Joachim Jeremias has noted, "…this Abba implies the claim of a unique revelation and a unique authority."26

It is sometimes suggested that the deity of Jesus is a late doctrine, imported into Christianity by pagan converts.27 This thesis cannot be maintained in light of the declarations of the apostle Paul, a converted Pharisaic Jew.28


18 Cf. R. C. Zaehner, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism (1961). [Return to place in text.]

19 Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin, The Hymns of Zoroaster (1963), p. 19. [Return to place in text.]

20 Cited in F.H. Hilliard, The Buddha, the Prophet and the Christ (1956), p. 60. [Return to place in text.]

21 B.G. Gokhale, "The Theravada-Buddhist View of History," Journal of the American Oriental Society, LXXXV (1965), 359-60. [Return to place in text.]

22 Tamara T. Rice, Ancient Arts of Central Asia (1965), p. 150. [Return to place in text.]

23 Mortimer Wheeler, Flames over Persepolis (1968), p. 163. [Return to place in text.]

24 Athar Husain, Prophet Muhammad and His Mission (1967), p. 128. [Return to place in text.]

25 Cf. Edwin Yamauchi, "Anthropomorphism in Ancient Religions," Bibliotheca Sacra, CXXV (1968), 29-44. [Return to place in text.]

26 Joachim Jeremias, The Central Message of the New Testament (1965), pp. 29ff. [Return to place in text.]

27 For example, H.J. Schonfield, The Passover Plot (1966), pp. 21, 200. Cf. the writer's review in The Gordon Review, X (1967), 150-60; also reprinted in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, XXI (1969), 27-32. [Return to place in text.]

28 H.J. Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History (1961), pp. 152, 158. [Return to place in text.]
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