Thursday, December 31, 2009

World Welcomes New Year!

Even though the New Year for most isn't actually until Valentine's Day 2010 (according to the Chinese lunar calendar), Goodbye 2009! The World is ready for a more hopeful 2010!
  • Buddhist New Year: In Theravada countries like Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Laos, the new year is celebrated for three days from the first full moon day in April. In Mahayana countries the new year starts on the first full moon day in January. However, the Buddhist New Year depends on the country of origin and ethnic background of the celebrants: Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and Vietnamese celebrate in January/February according to the lunar calendar, while Tibetans celebrate a month later. More>>

iPod to Obama: The decade in 3 minutes
Relive the thrills, tragedies, and most unforgettable moments of the 2000s. Hello to new icons, goodbye to legends - New racial dynamics - Are we any healthier?

The world welcomes a new year
While the U.S. waits for the stroke of midnight, revelers around the globe ring in 2010 with wild displays. Highlights - New Year's photos - Revelers ponder the future - See Australian sky lit up

New Year's Celebration/Meditation, L.A.

Silence and Celebration: A New Year’s Eve Retreat (and Party)
Thursday, December 31st: 4:00 PM - 1:00 AM

If you have been meaning to meditate more this year — or to learn to meditate — it’s not too late! Everyone is welcome to join in this mini-retreat as we transition from the old year to the new. Come for the entire evening (or for any part of it) to meditate and celebrate with old friends and to make new ones. As a special “bonus,” we will practice the Sadhana of Mahamudra, a profound presentation of the path in which students at all levels can participate.

Meditation instruction is available at all times during the program.

Registering for this event is of great benefit to the coordinators — especially if you plan to attend the celebration dinner portion of the evening. This can be indicated in the comment section of the registration page.

  • 4-7pm – Meditation Session
  • 7-9pm – Celebratory Community Dinner ($10 donation appreciated)
  • 9-10pm – Sadhana of Mahamudra
  • Everyone welcome!
  • 10pm – 1am – Meditation Session

**Includes walking meditation. It is not necessary to stay for the entire session; you are free to come and go at any time.

Buddhist New Year's Eve Celebration

"May the New Year bring you happiness and peace! May no fear affect you! May no illness afflict you! May no danger come to you! May you enjoy good health and long life!" Maithri Vihara invites all to join the celebration of the dawn of 2010 in a spiritual way -- on New Year's Eve, Thursday Dec. 31, 7:00 pm - 1:00 am:
  • Maithri Buddhist Temple
  • 10819 Penrose St.
  • Sun Valley, California 91352
  • (818) 768-9382

Extended protective chanting (maha-piritha) of the sutras of an all-night protective ceremony will be chanted under a beautifully decorated canopy (mandapa). The distribution of holy water with sacred thread will follow. And home cooked traditional Sri Lankan delicacies will be served.

Dalai Lama, Caste in India, Monks in Politics

Dalai Lama to visit Zenkoji Temple in June
NAGANO (Kyodo, 1/1/10) The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, may stir yet more controversy in his antagonism with China, this time by a plan to visit Zenkoji Temple in the city of Nagano next June, according to his Tokyo liaison office. The Buddhist temple drew attention last April after it declined to serve as the starting point of the Japan leg of the Beijing Olympic torch relay due to the Chinese crackdown on Buddhists in Tibet. According to the liaison office, the Dalai Lama sent a Buddhist statue to Zenkoji in November 2008 and the temple invited him at that time. He plans to hold a service for world peace at the temple and give a lecture in the city.

India's silent prejudice
Caste permeates Indian society, even today. But its influence most often lurks beneath the surface. Since I have been writing about Hinduism for Comment is Free, I have been inundated with comments asking about the caste system. Some people have been curious, others have just about fallen short of demanding my blood. I am – pardon the refrain – no expert on religion...It may surprise some to learn that I actually don't remember hearing any open elitist statement until I was in my early twenties.

Accession to India Conditional
(Kashmir Observer) SRINAGAR, India - Describing accession as "conditional," the ruling National Conference (NC) today said that the state of Jammu & Kashmir never merged with the Union of India. Addressing a meeting organized in connection with the membership drive at Baramulla, NC General Secretary Sheikh Nazir Ahmad said the party will never allow anybody to sell the interests of the people of the state. Nobody will be allowed to change the secular charactor of the state, he declared. But, he said, in 1947 the then Maharaja signed a conditional accession with the Centre.

Bhikkhus for Democracy will support Gen. Fonseka
Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)
The National Bhikkhu Front leader, Ven. Dambara Amila Thera, said yesterday that “Bhikkhus for Democracy” had taken a decision to support presidential candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka in order to establish democracy in the country. “The main goal of the country was to defeat terrorism; Gen. Sarath Fonseka has achieved it. The establishment of democracy is the next goal of the country,” the Elder said.

Buddhism by Numbers (Pew Survey)

Hoko Jan Karnegis
(Tricycle Magazine) When you think of the words "American Buddhist," what do you see? Someone White, middle-aged, no kids? An adult convert from Protestantism? Someone with a graduate degree, living in the western United States?

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life's "2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey," released in late February, may provide some new clues about what American Buddhists are like. The Pew Forum conducted more than 35,000 telephone surveys with adult respondents, 0.7% of whom identified themselves as Buddhist.

A caveat: While the resulting figures are interesting and may be useful in evaluating American Sangha development, care must be taken in relying heavily on them. The margin for error is +6.5%, and only 411 respondents identified themselves as Buddhist. Also, Hawaii, home to a significant number of Buddhists, was not included in the survey. Nonetheless, larger trends and themes emerge and help to point out where further study is needed. More>>

Kate Moss spends another New Year in Thailand
(Daily Mail Reporter) Kate Moss has escaped the gloom and grey of London at New Year and yet again swapped it for a New Year's break in Thailand.... [T]he slim model and boyfriend Jamie Hince spent New Year's Eve taking a boat trip and walking along golden sands together. More>>

Meditation for Very Busy People

( founder David Riklan explains the best ways to get started with meditation to apply -- no matter how busy your lifestyle! Steven Sashen is the official guide to meditation on, where you can view hundreds of free articles, website links, and other resources on meditation. Complete information on Steven Sashen as well as consumer products at or

Bring in new year with meditation, positivity

Maggie Downs • The Desert Sun • Dec. 31, 2009
Looking for a unique, positive way to ring in the new year? A new local Buddhist center has just the event for you: The “Prayers for World Peace” celebration is scheduled for 9 p.m. to midnight tonight at the Dharmachakra Buddhist Center in Palm Springs, California. The event features guided meditation, silent prayers, and Dharma teachings. Make new friends, enjoy snacks, and nonalcoholic drinks and get totally blissed out for New Year's. Best of all, this party is free and open to everyone. No registration or experience is necessary — just bring yourself.

The facility also offers classes based on the teachings of the Buddha from 7 to 9 p.m. every Thursday. "Suggested" donation is $10 per class.

An American on adapting to monastic life

Ajahn Sumedho, a Western student of Ajahn Chah in the Theravada Thai forest tradition, who now leads a mostly White Sangha in California at Abhayagiri monastery.

Q: Ajahn ["teacher"], you are an American that ended up in Northeast Thailand as a Buddhist monk in the 1960's. Can you share some of your experiences?

A: Being an American brought up with an egalitarian ideal of freedom and equality, I felt an incredible frustration in being suffocated by the system (Vinaya, the strict monastic codes). I was living in an hierarchical structure based on seniority. Because I was the most junior monk there, I had to perform certain duties for those who were senior to me.

Learning to acknowledge and to take an interest in performing them was quite a challenge. There was a selfish side in me that wanted to live a monastic life on my own terms. I was willing to perform duties if it was convenient for me, but much of the time it wasn't. I felt a kind of resistance and rebelliousness.

  • Answers extracted from the article "Life is Like This" by Ajahn Sumedho (
Q: For example?

A: The custom of washing the feet of the senior monks when they returned from the alms round. After they walked barefoot through the villages and rice paddies, their feet would be muddy. There were foot baths outside the dining hall. When Ajahn Chah would come, all the monks--maybe twenty or thirty of them -- would rush out and wash Ajahn Chah's feet.

When I first saw this I thought, 'I'm not going to do that -- not me!' Then the next day, thirty monks rushed out as soon as Ajahn Chah appeared and washed his feet -- I thought, 'What a stupid thing to be doing -- thirty monks washing one man's feet. I'm not going to do that.'

The day after that, the reaction became even more violent... thirty monks rushed out and washed Ajahn Chah's feet and... 'That really angers me, I'm fed up with it! I just feel that is the most stupid thing I've ever seen -- thirty men going out to wash one man's feet! He probably thinks he deserves it, you know -- it's really building up his ego. He's probably got an enormous ego, having so many people wash his feet every day. I'll never do that!'

I was beginning to build up a strong reaction, an overreaction. I would sit there really feeling miserable and angry. I'd look at the monks and I'd think, 'They all look stupid to me. I don't know what I'm doing here.'
  • Answers from "The Four Noble Truths" by Ajahn Sumedho
Q: Ajahn, those were pretty strong feelings?

A: Yes indeed. But then I started listening. And I thought, 'This is really an unpleasant frame of mind to be in. Is it anything to get upset about? They haven't made me do it. It's all right; there's nothing wrong with thirty men washing one man's feet. It's not immoral or bad behavior, and maybe they enjoy it; maybe they want to do it -- maybe it's all right to do that... Maybe I should do it!'

So the next morning, thirty-one monks ran out and washed Ajahn Chah's feet. There was no problem after that. It felt really good: that nasty thing in me had stopped. More>>

Obama Family watches "Avatar" today (film)

The Obamas are on vacation in Hawaii and going to the movies. Today they're watching the awe inspiring 3D anti-war epic (by the maker of "Titanic") that has the whole world talking about American adventures in empire: "Avatar." Meanwhile elsewhere in Honolulu, fat, unhealthy Rush Limbaugh is rushed to the hospital with chest pains and told to adopt a better diet.

"Jesus" is a remake of Mithras

Ancient Roman carvings of Mithra – dated between 300-400 CE. Note similarity of this and ancient Vedic/Hindu representations of these deities/devas (

Jesus as a Reincarnation of Mithra
The Vatican (the seat of Roman Catholicism that is the Church of the Holy Roman Empire) was built on the grounds previously devoted to the worship of Mithra (600 B.C.). The Eastern Orthodox Christian hierarchy is nearly identical to the Mithraic version. Virtually all of the elements of Orthodox Christian rituals, from miter, wafer, water baptism, alter, and doxology, were adopted from Mithra and earlier Pagan mystery religions.

The religion of Mithra preceded Christianity by roughly six hundred years. Mithraic worship at one time covered a large portion of the ancient world. It flourished as late as the second century. The Messianic idea originated in ancient Persia, and this is where the Jewish and Christian concepts of a savior originated.

It must have been a very old idea since traces of it are found in Buddhism and Vedic Hinduism. The Bodhisattva (buddha-to-be) is said to have descended from Tusita heaven to turn the wheel of the Dharma. And the future buddha, Maitreya, is said to reside there now waiting until such time as the Dharma is lost, leading to messianic expectations by many Mahayana Buddhists. The concept runs more deeply with frequent stories of Sakka -- the lord of lords and king of kings (namely, the chief of the Tavatimsa devas and the king of the Four Great Kings of Catumaharajika deva world) stepping down from "The Heaven of the Thirty-Three" (Tavatimsa) to intervene in human affairs, particularly to uphold its sense of morality.

More shocking is the history of Sakka who -- as the "son of god" (devaputra), which is simply an expression that means "born among devas" (demigods, deities, "gods," extraterrestrials who are more like angels in JudeoChristian conception) -- is said to have cast out the "fallen angels" (Asuras) from Tavatimsa heaven. But an avatar ("incarnation of God" reborn on Earth in human form to help humans) is an age-old Hindu concept in Brahmanism and Indian philosophy.

Mithra, as the "Sun god" of ancient Persia [called Surya by Buddhists and Hindus], had the following karmic similarities with Jesus:

Identical Life Experiences
(1) Mithra was born on December 25th as an offspring of the Sun. Next to the gods Ormuzd and Ahrimanes, Mithra held the highest rank among the gods [devas] of ancient Persia. He was represented as a beautiful youth and a mediator. Reverend J. W. Lake states: "Mithras is spiritual light contending with spiritual darkness, and through his labors the kingdom of darkness shall be lit with heaven's own light; the Eternal will receive all things back into his favor, the world will be redeemed to God. The impure are to be purified, and the evil made good, through the mediation of Mithras, the reconciler of Ormuzd and Ahriman. Mithras is the Good, his name is Love. In relation to the Eternal he is the source of grace, in relation to man he is the life-giver and mediator" (Plato, Philo, and Paul, p. 15).

(2) He was considered a great traveling teacher and master. He had 12 companions just as Jesus is said to have had 12 disciples. Mithras also performed miracles.

(3) Mithra was called "the good shepherd," "the way, the truth, and the light," "redeemer," "savior," and "Messiah." He was identified with both the lion and the lamb.

(4) The International Encyclopedia states: "Mithras seems to have owed his prominence to the belief that he was the source of life [just as the Sun is], and could also redeem the souls of the dead into the better world... The ceremonies included a sort of baptism to remove sins [a common Indian practice, particularly in holy rivers such as the Ganges, which the Buddha called a superstitious ritual], anointing [also common particularly in knighting rulers in warrior caste clans], and a sacred meal of bread and water [called prasadam in Hinduism], while a consecrated wine [soma or amrita, nectar of the gods/devas], believed to possess wonderful power, played a prominent part."

(5) Chambers Encyclopedia says: "The most important of his many festivals was his birthday, celebrated on the 25th of December, the day subsequently fixed -- against all evidence -- as the birthday of Christ. The worship of Mithras early found its way into Rome, and the mysteries of Mithras, which fell in the spring equinox, were famous even among the many Roman festivals. The ceremonies observed in the initiation to these mysteries -- symbolical of the struggle between Ahriman and Ormuzd (the Good and the Evil) -- were of the most extraordinary and to a certain degree even dangerous character. Baptism and the partaking of a mystical liquid, consisting of flour and water [sura, a kind of beer or brew the Asuras were fond of prior to being cast out of the Tavatimsa deva world], to be drunk with the utterance of sacred formulas [mantras, japa, or prayers], were among the inauguration acts."

(6) Prof. Franz Cumont, of the University of Ghent, writes the following concerning the religion of Mithra and the religion of Christ: "The sectaries of the Persian god, like the Christians', purified themselves by baptism, received by a species of confirmation the power necessary to combat the spirit of evil; and expected from a Lord's supper salvation of body and soul. Like the latter, they also held Sunday sacred, and celebrated the birth of the Sun on the 25th of December....They both preached a categorical system of ethics, regarded asceticism as meritorious, and counted among their principal virtues abstinence and continence, renunciation and self-control. Their conceptions of the world and of the destiny of Man were similar. They both admitted the existence of a Heaven inhabited by beatified ones [devas, literally, "shining ones"], situated in the upper regions [two spheres of spaece just above the Earth], and of a Hell, peopled by demons, situated in the bowels of the Earth. They both placed a flood at the beginning of history; they both assigned as the source of their condition, a primitive revelation; they both, finally, believed in the immortality of the soul [the ancient Indian concept of reincarnation], in a last judgment, and in a resurrection of the dead, consequent upon a final conflagration of the universe" (The Mysteries of Mithras, pp. 190, 191).

(7) Reverend Charles Biggs stated: "The disciples of Mithra formed an organized church, with a developed hierarchy. They possessed the ideas of Mediation, Atonement, and a Savior, who is human and yet divine [a deva or extraterrestrial on Earth], and not only the idea, but a doctrine of the future life. They had a Eucharist, and a Baptism, and other curious analogies might be pointed out between their system and the church of Christ (The Christian Platonists, p. 240).

(8) In the catacombs at Rome was preserved a relic of the old Mithraic worship. It was a picture of the infant Mithra seated in the lap of his virgin mother, while on their knees before him were Persian Magi [a.k.a., the Three Wise Men] adoring him and offering gifts.

(9) He was buried in a tomb, and after three days he rose again [all astrological details hinting at the origin of the myth, namely, that the real reference is to the alignment of celestial bodies and the planet Earth cyclically returning to life every spring, as explained in the original Zeitgeist movie]. His resurrection was celebrated every year.

(10) McClintock and Strong wrote: "In modern times Christian writers have been induced to look favorably upon the assertion that some of our ecclesiastical usages (e.g., the institution of the Christmas festival) originated in the cultus of Mithraism. Some writers who refuse to accept the Christian religion as of supernatural origin, have even gone so far as to institute a close comparison with the founder of Christianity; and Dupuis and others, going even beyond this, have not hesitated to pronounce the Gospel simply a branch of Mithraism" (Art. "Mithra").

(11) Mithra had his principal festival on what was later to become Easter, at which time he was resurrected [all recurring celestial, not historical, events]. His sacred day was Sunday, "the Lord's Day." The Mithra religion had a Eucharist or "Lord's Supper."

(12) The Christian Father Manes, founder of the heretical sect known as Manicheans, believed that Christ and Mithra were one. His teaching, according to Mosheim, was as follows: "Christ is that glorious intelligence which the Persians called Mithras...His residence is in the sun" (Ecclesiastical History, 3rd century, Pt. 2, Chp. 5).

"I am a star which goes with thee and shines out of the depths." - Mithraic saying
"I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star." - Jesus (Rev. 22:16)

December 25 is whose birthday?

( There is ample archaeological, historical, and textual evidence that Mithraism was practiced by the ancient Romans. In fact, Ernest Renan says in his book The Origins of Christianity that if the growth of Christianity had been arrested, the world would have been Mithraic.

There are three types of religions in the world today: ones that do not care to convert others and treat all religions equally (like Hinduism); ones that promote themselves without demoting other religions (like Buddhism); and ones that promote themselves by demoting others (like the Christianity spread by evangelists and missionaries).

Mithraism and Christianity
Franz Cumont was the first scholar to observe the similarity between Christianity with Mithraism. He pointed out that Christianity borrowed iconographic themes from Mithraism...between the third and fifth centuries, not before that.

According to Cumont, the Christian story of Moses striking Mount Horeb (Sinai) with his staff to release drinking water was inspired by the earlier Mithraic reference to Mithras shooting arrows at rocks causing fountains to spring up. This again is a common event in the stories of Vedic deities in the ancient Indian texts. Read details about ancient Mithraism here.

Prison or Education?

A Pew report says 2,319,258 Americans were in jail or prison at the start of 2008 — one out of every 99.1 adults, more than any other nation.

States Spend More on Prisons than Education
Three strikes laws have overcrowded the nation's prison system. Here are the results of a new report by the Pew Center's Public Safety Performance Project. In the end we find that "getting tough on criminals" is a feelgood slogan that has only gotten tough on taxpayers.

For some groups, "the incarceration numbers are especially startling," the report said. "While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for Black males in that age group the figure is one in nine."

For Black women the news is even worse as...One in every 355 White women aged 35 to 39 is behind bars, compared with one of every 100 Black women in that age group. Using state-by-state data, the report says 2,319,258 Americans were in jail or prison at the start of 2008 — one out of every 99.1 adults. Whether per capita or in raw numbers, it's more than any other nation.

The report cited Kansas and Texas as states that have acted decisively to slow the growth of their inmate population. They are making greater use of community supervision for low-risk offenders and employing sanctions other than re-imprisonment for offenders who commit technical violations of parole and probation rules. More>>

How Severn Suzuki Saved the World

(Severn Suzuki) In 1992, at the age of 12, Severn Suzuki raised money with members of ECO, to attend the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Along with fellow ECO (Environmental Children's Organization) group members Michelle Quigg, Vanessa Suttie, and Morgan Geisler, Suzuki presented environmental issues from a youth perspective at the summit, where she delivered an impassioned and articulate speech to delegates.

(Teens' Speech) Severn's video has nearly two million views on YouTube and is popularly known as "The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes." I'd never seen the video before -- clearly coming to it rather late. It's not like the Teens' Speech film, which is a visual poem, documentary in style, but artistic at heart. It's also serious, because it's time we took young people seriously.

American Wars: "Generation Kill" (video)

Click to see video, produced by ABC Australia.

(Journeyman Pictures) What happens when Americans who've grown up on Hollywood war films and graphic video games are sent to the frontline? "It's the ultimate rush -- you're going into the fight with a good song playing in the background," states one soldier. This is a war fought by the first Playstation generation. As Rolling Stone journalist Evan Wright explains: "One thing about them is they kill very well in Iraq."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sariputra brings them to stream-entry

The Life of Sariputta, compiled and translated from Pali texts by Ven. Nyanaponika

Sariputra, foremost in wisdom, along with Maha Moggallana, foremost in psychic powers, was a great help to the Buddha in teaching male disciples. [Khema and Uppalavanna were the Buddha's chief female disciples who helped with the training of nuns]. Sometimes Sariputra would give both material help and the help of the Dharma together.

It is said that whenever Sariputra gave advice, he showed infinite patience. He would admonish and instruct a hundred or even a thousand times, until his pupil was established in the fruition of stream-entry. Only then did he discharge him and give his advice to others. Very great was the number of those who, after receiving his instruction and following it faithfully, attained enlightenment.

In the discourse "The Exposition of the Truths" (MN 141) the Buddha says: "Sariputra is like a mother who brings forth, while Moggallana is like a nurse of that which has been brought forth. Sariputra trains to the fruit of stream-entry, and Moggallana trains to the highest goal."

Explaining this passage, the commentary says: "When Sariputra accepted pupils for training, whether they were ordained by him or by others, he favored them with his material and spiritual help, looked after them in sickness, gave them a subject of meditation, and at last, when he knew that they had become stream-winners and had risen above the dangers of [possible rebirth in] the lower worlds, he dismissed them in the confident knowledge that 'Now they can, by their own energy and effort [viriya], produce the higher stages of sainthood.' Having thus become free from concern about their future, he instructed new groups of pupils. But Maha Moggallana, when training pupils in the same way, did not give up concern for them until they had attained full enlightenment. This was because he felt, as was said by the Buddha: 'As even a little excrement is of a foul smell, I do not praise even the shortest spell of rebirth, be it no longer than a snap of the fingers.'"

Although the commentary to the Middle Length Discourse says that Sariputra used to lead his regular pupils only up to stream-entry, in individual cases he helped monks attain the higher stages of enlightenment. The commentary to the Verses of Uplift (Udana), for example, says that "at that time monks in higher training (sekha) often used to approach the Venerable Sariputra for a subject of meditation that could help them to attain the three higher Paths." It was after taking instruction from Sariputra that the Ven. Lakuntika Bhaddiya ("the Dwarf") attained full enlightenment (Udana VII.1) having been a stream-winner at the time. There is also the case of the Ven. Anuruddha, whom he his final breakthrough to enlightenment, as recorded in the Numerical Discourses (Tika-Nipata No. 128).

It was in this manner that Sariputra gave the help of the Dharma. He was a great leader of men and an outstanding spiritual adviser. To the latter task he brought not only a keen and perceptive understanding of the human mind, but also a warm, human interest in others, which must have been a great encouragement to those under his spiritual guidance. He was able to give generous praise where it was due. He was also keen at all times to meet noble monastics, particularly those whom the Buddha had commended.

One such monk was the Ven. Punna Mantaniputta. When Sariputra learned that he had arrived on a visit, he went to meet him. Without telling him who he was, he listened to Punna's great discourse, the Stage Coach Simile (MN 24). And when it was ended, he gave it high praise.

Ministering to the physical as well as spiritual needs of the monks under his charge, restraining them with kindly admonitions and encouraging them with the praise their efforts deserved, guiding them on the path, and showing in all he did that vital sympathetic interest which draws forth the best from a pupil, Sariputra combined the qualities of a perfect teacher with those of a perfect friend.

He was ready to help in every way, in small things as in great. Filled with the virtue of the supreme life (brahmacharya) himself, he was quick to see virtue in others. He was expert in developing it in those in whom it was latent, and among the first to extol it where it was in full flower. His was no cold, aloof perfection, but the richest intermingling of spiritual exaltation with the qualities that are finest and most endearing in a human being.

Two stanzas in the Psalms of the Elders (Theragatha 995, 996) relate, in words ascribed to Sariputra himself, the way in which he attained enlightenment. There he tells us: "It was to another that the Blessed One was teaching the Dharma. To the Dharma-preaching I listened intently for my own good. And not in vain, for freed from all defilements, I gained release."

In the next two verses (996, 997) Sariputra declares that he felt no inclination to develop the five supernormal powers (abhiñña). However, elsewhere in the texts (Iddhividha-Katha, Patisambhida Magga) credits him with possessing the intensive degree of meditative concentration called "the power of intervention by concentration" (samadhi-vipphara-iddhi), which is capable of intervening in certain normal physiological processes or other natural events.

This is illustrated by the anecdote in the Path of Purification (Chp. XII), which records that once when Sariputra was living with Maha Moggallana at Kapotakandara, he was sitting meditating in the open with his hair freshly shaved when he was given a malicious blow on the head by a mischievous spirit. The blow was a very severe one, but at the time it was given "the Elder was absorbed in meditative attainment; consequently he suffered no harm." The source of this story is the Verses of Uplift (Udana, IV.4) which continues the account as follows:

Maha Moggallana saw the incident [with his psychic faculties] and approached Sariputra to ask how he fared. He asked him: "Brother, are you comfortable? Are you doing well? Does nothing trouble you?"

"I am comfortable, brother Moggallana," said the Venerable Sariputra. "I am doing well, brother Moggallana. Only my head troubles me a little."

Whereupon Maha Moggallana said: "O wonderful is it, brother Sariputra! O marvelous is it, brother Sariputra! How great is the psychic power and how great is the might of the Venerable Sariputra! For just now, brother Sariputra, a certain demon gave you a blow on the head. And a mighty blow it was! With such a blow one might fell an elephant seven or seven and a half cubits high, or one might split a mountain peak. But the Venerable Sariputra says only this, 'I am comfortable, brother Moggallana. I am doing well, brother Moggallana. Only my head troubles me a little.'"

Then the Venerable Sariputra replied: "O wonderful is it, brother Moggallana! O marvelous is it, brother Moggallana! How great is the psychic power and how great is the might of the Venerable Moggallana, that he should see any demon at all! As for me, I have not seen so much as a mud-sprite!"

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Teenagers Speak (video)

(Barnardosuk) The Teens' Speech project culminates with this powerful film highlighting the thoughts and opinions of teenagers in the United Kingdom. British teenagers face many issues. Here we see a snapshot of what it's like for young people today.

What is the Noble Eightfold Path?

Bhikkhu Bodhi (

Dukkha [all unhappiness], its origin, its cessation, and the way to its cessation -- these are the Four Noble Truths, the "elephant's footprint" that contains within itself all the essential teachings of the Buddha.

It might be risky to say that any one truth is more important than the others since they all hang together as an integral unit. But if we were to single out one truth as the key to the whole Dharma [Buddha's Teaching as a whole], it would be the fourth Noble Truth, the truth of the way, the path to the end of dukkha. And what is the path? It is the Noble Eightfold Path, the way made up of the following eight factors, which are divided into three larger groups:




We say that the path is the most important element in the Buddha's teaching because the path is what makes the Dharma available to us as a living experience. Without the path the Dharma would just be a shell, a collection of doctrines without inner life or the ability to propel us to happiness. Without the path full deliverance from suffering, or unhappiness, would be a mere dream.

Discovery of a Lost Path - The Way to Awakening - The Middle Way - Vision and Mission - The Two Kinds of Noble Eightfold Path - Not Mere Ethical Conduct

*Note on the word "right" (samma) in front of each term: It indicates that not any, for example, concentration will do. All of the expressions used here are technical terms with careful definitions to be unfolded in the discourses (sutras) and the commentaries (tika). One could spend a lifetime pursuing what s/he thinks constitutes "concentration" and get nowhere in terms of the Buddha's path. The Buddha defined "right concentration" as proficiency in the first four jhanas (absorptions). The Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga), a compendious commentarial work, goes into greater detail. "Right" means correct, effective, balanced, specific, defined, harmonious, as taught by the Awakened One. A shallow reading of the Dharma that leads one to grasp it wrongly can be quite a dangerous thing. Understanding that all Buddhist terms unfold and are never left unexplained or uncommented on saves us from resorting to our own biases, preferences, and opinions.

Meditation: Getting to Jhana

THE JHANIC EXPERIENCE (The four material jhanas)
Ron Wijewantha, Ph.D. (edited for Wisdom Quarterly)

ABSORPTION: The word jhana (Sanskrit, dhyana) implies, essentially, the process of unifying the mind and transmuting the lower states of consciousness into higher, transcendental states that lead to the summit of progress in meditative training. That summit is enlightenment.

Most followers of the Theravada tradition hold the jhanas in awe, for they believe that attaining them is not within the capability of lay persons. Fortunately during the last few decades, there has been a resurgence of insight practice (vipassana) by lay meditators, some of whom are reported to have been quite successful in their endeavors.

However, they are yet diffident in even attempting to extend their meditation practices to the field of the jhana. This may perhaps be due to the scarcity of monastics and lay teachers adept at achieving even the first four (of eight) jhanas.

The Jhanic Journey
The purpose of this essay is to give an explanation, substantiated by textual information, of how one should be able to attain the first four jhanas by proper application and striving. But there is one proviso. It is that the person who wishes to proceed along this path should be conscientious and dedicated to the task in hand and not discouraged by the pace of progress.

The journey could be short or long, depending on individual temperament, mentality, and dedication. Nevertheless, success in the end is within a person's reach. It must also be kept in mind that there can initially be no "instant jhana." One can attain jhana only by exercising unlimited patience and proper application, and by having the constant guidance of an experienced and accomplished teacher.

Finally, a meditator should also have previously had some experience in vipassana meditation so as to be familiar with the five hindrances that prevent a meditator from concentrating and remaining collected without straying from the object of meditation or scattering the mind to diverse thoughts. The Five Hindrances are:

  1. Sensual desire (kamacchanda)
  2. Ill-will (vyapada)
  3. Sloth and torpor (thina-middha)
  4. Restlessness and scruples (uddhacca-kukkucca)
  5. Doubt or perplexity (vicikiccha)

It is appropriate to briefly discuss the hindrances that need to be eliminated before discussing the mental factors that characterize jhana.

Meditators will have experienced the Five Hindrances to varying degrees in their daily meditation on in-and-out breathing (anapana-sati). With practice they will then have learned to temporarily rid themselves of these hindrances to concentration and insight. But a deeper understanding is necessary. Because without coming to terms with these hindrances, meditation leading to jhana is impossible. Bhikkhu Bodhi discusses these hindrances in the following manner:

Two methods
"The elimination of the hindrances prior to attaining jhana is brought about by means of two methods, one specifically directed to each hindrance separately, the other applicable to all at once. The former is to be employed when a particular hindrance obtrudes itself with persistent force, the latter on other occasions when no one hindrance seems especially conspicuous.

"The specific method involves the reversing of the causal situation out of which the hindrance develops. Since each defiling factor is a conditioned phenomenon coming into existence through distinct causes, the key to its elimination lies in applying the appropriate antidote to its causal base:

Sensual desire arises on account of unskillful attention to the attractive features of things, to alluring objects and physical bodies. It is attenuated by considering the impermanence of the objects of attachment, and by reflecting on the repulsive nature underlying the attractive appearance of the bodies that arouse desire.

Ill-will or anger also springs up from unskillful attention, in this case to the unpleasant aspects of persons and things; it is reversed by developing loving-kindness towards disagreeable people and patience in the face of unfavorable circumstances.

Sloth and torpor become prominent by submitting to moods of sloth and drowsiness; they are dispelled by the arousal of energy.

Restlessness and worry and regret arise from attending to disturbing thoughts and are eliminated by directing the mind to an object conducive to inner peace.

Doubt or perplexity, grounded upon un-clarity with regard to fundamental points of doctrine, is dispelled by clear thinking and precise analysis of the issues shrouded in obscurity.

To further comprehend the hindrances, there are similes in the discourses illustrating the manner in which they obstruct mental clarity, summarized as follows:

Imagine a pond of clear water with a rare gem lying at the bottom. A number of bright dyes are added to the surface, which swirl into psychedelic patterns. The colors are entrancing, beautiful and intricate, and the depths cannot be discerned.

  • Sensual desires can be compared to these colors.
  • Anger, ill will, and aversion can be compared to boiling water. Water that is boiling, as in a geyser, is very turbulent, and we cannot see through to the bottom.
  • Sloth and torpor are like the pond getting covered by a dense layer of algae. One cannot possibly penetrate to the bottom.
  • Restlessness, worry, and regret are like a windswept pond. The surface is agitated and the bottom is impenetrable.
  • Doubt is like turbid water that has become all muddy obsucring the bottom.

The First (material) Jhana
There are in the first jhana five mental factors namely:

  1. Applied attention (vitakka)
  2. Sustained attention (vicara)
  3. Rapture (piti, euphoria, happiness in the mind)
  4. Joy (sukha, bliss, happiness in the body)
  5. One-pointedness (ekaggata)

These factors can bring about a complete (temporary) suspension of fivefold sense activity. Entry (or absorption) into the first jhana is then possible. These factors simultaneously expel from the mind the Five Hindrances (pancha nivarana) to jhana. Absorption is a purified, undistracted, powerfully wholesome state of mind.

Skateboarding Buddhist Monk? (video)

Chinese monk skateboarding on temple grounds; monk doll below (

Text by Deborah Jiang Stein (Huffington Post, Dec. 28, 2009)
A monk [not the first] skateboards inside an historic temple and causes controversy in China. In Sichuan province near the top of Mount Emei, the highest of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China, stands the Dafu Temple. Here, a monk on a skateboard has stirred controversy about whether his skateboarding is appropriate behavior for a monk. Many are asking: Is this the way monks ought to live? Clad in his gray cloak and true skater form, the monk twists his legs, leans forward, and skateboards in the temple. More>>

Monks on Skateboards Wisdom Quarterly COMMENTARY

Is skateboarding appropriate behavior within the monastic code of conduct (Vinaya)? Technically, this behavior is fine in private. But in terms of decorum, it is pushing the envelope. On one occasion monks were bathing in a reservoir and splashed each other playfully. This innocent act offended a prominent disciple of the Buddha, who complained to him about how this might look to others. The Buddha then established a monastic rule barring playing in water.

  • PHOTO: Tibetan Buddhist monk tries skateboarding at Arou Temple in Arou, Qinghai Province, China (Rob Thompson).

One could easily imagine that the Buddha would also deem recreational skateboarding out of bounds. But as it did not come up, he did not. It is therefore left to the abbot or the local Sangha to decide. Until such a decision is handed down, the bhikshus might consider a stint on the Warped Tour. After all, if that's the worst thing they're doing, we should rejoice.

Skateboarding has already met Christian "spirituality" in Australia and elsewhere. We know firsthand that Ven. Thanissaro (Wat Metta, California), who is known as "Tan Jeff," hikes, camps, and photographs every chance he gets -- and he's the author of the English version of the Buddhist monastic code.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Int’l Buddhist Women Conference opens

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - The 11th Sakyadhita International Conference on Buddhist Women (SICBW) opened here today, Dec. 28, attracting the parti-cipation of more than 2,000 Buddhist women from more than 47 countries and territories around the world.

Vice State President Nguyen Thi Doan was also present at the opening ceremony of the conference. The week-long event will discuss the role of Buddhist women in the world and ways for them to perform well in various areas.

The participants will discuss the most burning social issues, including environ-mental pollution, women and child trafficking, and domestic violence. The conference will also provide an opportunity for participants to exchange views on Buddhist women’s role in promoting friendship and solidarity worldwide.

In a letter sent to the conference, State President Nguyen Minh Triet spoke highly of the 2,000 year history of Vietnamese Buddhism. He stressed that the Vietnamese State always respects and ensures the people’s right of religious freedom. Mr. Triet expressed his wish that Vietnamese Buddhist women, together with their peers around the world, would make active contributions to preventing conflicts and contradictions, eliminating poverty, and highlighting the Buddha’s teachings on social life.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, President of the Vietnam Women’s Union Nguyen Thi Thanh Hoa suggested that Buddhist women continue to share and cooperate with various women’s organizations to help them improve their behavior. Source

The Killing of Maha Moggallana

Crossroads by Martin Liebermann (c) (Zeitspuren/

One who does harm with weapons to those who are harmless and should therefore not be harmed will soon come to one or more of these ten consequences (Verse 137):

One will be subject to severe pain, impoverishment, injury to the body (i.e., loss of limbs), serious illness (e.g., leprosy), lunacy, misfortunes following the wrath of a ruler, wrongful and serious accusations, loss of relatives, destruction of wealth, or the loss of home by fire or lightning. After the dissolution of the body, the foolish perpetrator will be reborn in the plane of continuous suffering (niraya) (Vv. 138-140).

The Story of Elder Maha Moggallana (Dhammapada Story, Maha Moggallanatthera Vatthu)
While residing at Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verses 137-140 of this book with reference to Ven. Maha Moggallana.

Once, the Nigantha [Jain] ascetics planned to have the great chief disciple assassinated. They thought that by doing away with him, the fame and fortune of the Buddha would be diminished. So [it is said] they hired some men to kill Maha Moggallana, age 84, who was then staying at Kalasila near Rajagaha.

The assassins surrounded his quarters. But Maha Moggallana, with his supernormal power [of bodily mastery], escaped through a keyhole and then through the roof. The would-be killers could not get hold of the elder for two months. When the assassins again surrounded him on the third month, Maha Moggallana, recollecting that he had yet to exhaust the woeful karma for an unwholesome deeds done by him during one of his past births, did not exercise his supernormal power.

He was caught. The assassins beat him until his bones were pulverized and left his body for dead in a bush. But the great elder, through his jhanic power, revived himself and went to see the Buddha at Jetavana. When he informed the Buddha that he would soon realize parinirvana (the final passing of an enlightened being) at Kalasila, the Buddha told him to go only after expounding the Dharma to the congregation of monastics, as that would be the last time they would see him. So Maha Moggallana expounded the Dharma and left after paying obeisance seven times to his beloved teacher the Buddha.

The news of Maha Moggallana's passing at the hands of assassins spread like wildfire. King Ajatasattu ordered his men to investigate and apprehend the culprits. The assassins were caught and burned to death.

The monastics felt great sorrow over the death and could not understand why such an exalted personage as a chief disciple of the Buddha should die at the hands of assassins.

The Buddha explained, "Monastics! Considering that Moggallana had lived a noble life in this birth, he should not have met with such a death. But in one of his past births, he had done a great wrong to his own parents, who were both blind: In the beginning, he was a very dutiful son. But after his marriage, his wife began to make trouble and suggested that he should get rid of his parents.

"He took his blind parents in a cart into a forest. And there he killed them by beating them and making them believe that it was some thief who was beating them. For that evil deed he suffered in niraya for a long time. And in this birth, his last, he has died at the hands of assassins. Indeed, by doing wrong to those who should not be wronged, one is sure to suffer for it." Then the Buddha spoke in verse (Dhp. Vv. 137-140).

The Death of Maha Moggallana in detail
Hellmuth Hecker (information gathered from various canonical sources)

The Buddha, surrounded by many of his disciples, passed away peacefully during a series of meditative absorptions, which he entered with perfect mastery. Sariputra's death in his parental home, likewise with his disciples in attendance, was similarly serene, though...he had been ill before his end. Ananda died at the age of 120, before which he entered with meditative skill the fire element so that his body vanished in a blaze, as he did not wish to burden anyone by his funeral.

Considering the serene death of the Buddha and these two disciples, one would have expected that, in the case of Maha Moggallana too, the final dissolution of the body at death would take place in external circumstances of a similarly peaceful nature. But in Moggallana's case it was very different, though the gruesome nature of his death did not shake his firm and serene mind.

He passed away two weeks after his friend Sariputra, on the new moon day of the month Kattika (October/November). The Great Demise of the Buddha took place in the full-moon night of the month Vesakha (May), six months after the death of his two chief male disciples. The Buddha was in his 80th year when he passed away, while both Sariputra and Maha Moggallana died at 84. These were the circumstances of Moggallana's death.

After the death of Nathaputta [Mahavira, the founder of Jainism], the leader of the ascetic Order of the Jains [Note 10], there arose among the Jains bitter contentions about his teaching, and consequently there was a loss of devoted adherents and of support. The Jains had also learned what Moggallana reported from his celestial travels: that virtuous devotees of the Buddha were seen to have a heavenly rebirth, while followers of other sects lacking moral conduct, had fallen into miserable, subhuman states of existence. This, too, contributed to the decline in the reputation of other sects, including the Jains.

Particularly the very lowest type of Jains in Magadha were so enraged about that loss of public esteem and support that they wanted to get rid of Maha Moggallana. Without investigating the causes in themselves, they projected blame externally and concentrated their envy and hate on Maha Moggallana. Hesitating to commit murder themselves, they conceived another plan. Even in those days there were professional criminals ready to kill for a fee. There are always unscrupulous men willing to do anything for money. So some wrong-minded Jains hired such a gang and ordered them to kill Maha Moggallana.

At that time, Maha Moggallana lived alone in a forest hut at Kalasila. After his encounter with Mara [MN 50] he knew that the end of his days was near. Having enjoyed the bliss of liberation, he now felt the body to be just an obstruction and burden. Hence he had no desire to make use of his faculties and keep the body alive for the rest of the [kappa, the life expectancy, which was then 120]. Yet, when he saw the assassins approaching, he just absented himself by using his supernormal powers. The gangsters arrived at an empty hut, and though they searched everywhere, they could not find him.

They left disappointed but returned on the following day. On six consecutive days Maha Moggallana escaped from them in the same way. His motivation was not the protection of his own body, but saving them from the fearsome karmic consequences of such a murderous deed, necessarily leading to rebirth in the dismalest of hells. He wanted to spare them such a fate by giving them time to reconsider and abstain from their crime.

But their greed for the promised money was so great that they persisted and returned even on the seventh day. Their persistence was "rewarded," for on that seventh day Maha Moggallana suddenly lost the magic control over his body. A heinous deed committed in days long past (by causing the death of his own parents) had not yet been expiated, and the ripening of that old karma confronted him now, just as others are suddenly confronted by a grave illness.

Maha Moggallana realized that he was now unable to escape. The assassins entered, knocked him down, smashed all his limbs, and left him lying in his blood. Being keen on quickly getting their reward and also somewhat ill as ease about their dastardly deed, they left at once, without a further look.

But Mah Moggallana's great physical and mental strength was such that his vital energies had not yet succumbed. He regained consciousness and was able to drag himself to the Buddha. There, in the Buddha's the source of the deepest peace, Maha Moggallana breathed his last (Jat. 522E). The inner peace in which he dwelt since he attained to sainthood never left him. It did not leave him even in the last seven days of his life, which had been so turbulent. But the threat of doom was only external.

This is the way of those who are finally "healed" and holy and are in control of the mind. Whatever karma of the past had been able to produce a result in his present life, nevertheless, it could affect only his body, but no longer "him," because "he" no longer identified himself with anything existing only impermanently. This last episode of Maha Moggallana's life, however, showed that the law of moral causality (karma) has even greater power than the supernormal feats of this master of magic. Only a Buddha can control the karmic consequences acting upon his body to such an extent that nothing might cause his premature death.

Sariputra and Maha Moggallana were such wonderful disciples that the Buddha said the assembly of monastis appeared empty to him after their death. It was marvelous, he said, that such an excellent pair of disciples existed. But it was marvelous, too, that, in spite of their excellence, there was no grief, no lamentation on the part of the Buddha, when the two had passed away [Note 11].