Sunday, December 27, 2009

Buddhism's Lost Cause: Tibet and Others Pt4

In more recent times, yet another case of how Buddhists have lost their sacred sites and unable to control their spiritual heritage is the case of Tibet, where it was invaded by China in 1959. The heydays of Tibet is now gone. Potala Palace is now empty and is reduced to a tourist destination. There may be monks in most monasteries but most respected Lamas and Rinpoches are no longer there. Slowly but surely Tibet's spiritual heritage is losing its glorious splendour of the past. It is being replaced by a China that do not appreciate spirituality and the need to achieve enlightenment. How sad!

Another case is that of the destruction of the giant Bamiyan Buddhas by the Talibans in 2001. That site where the Bamiyan Buddhas once were, was once a properous Buddhist cultural meeting point. Again we have lost it to others.

Are there more to come? Probably. Already Buddhists do not value making pilgrimages to Lumbini and Kapilavastu. They might have been to Swayambu and Bouddha stupas and other shrines in Nepal many times, but not a single visit to the place where the Buddha was born. See how much importance Buddhists place on Lumbini? Its significance is slowly disappearing in the minds of Buddhists. Another 100 years, and that place will be probably forgotten ... AGAIN! Buddhists just donot realise that the holiness of Lumbini far exceeds that of the other holy Buddhist stupas and shrines in all of Nepal.

All the previously cited cases from Pt 1 to 4 points to one thing: the Dharma Ending Age and our own seriously deteriorating bad karma! Yes, we donot need to be attached to these "sites" and "heritages" but that does not mean we should not do our utmost effort in protecting and preserving them for the benefit of future generations.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Buddhism's Lost Cause: Hindu Opposition Pt3

NOTE: Before you read this Part2& 3, it is important you read Part 1, so that you are clear as to the intention of this post. This is not to cause any hatred or anger or revenge, but merely to educate and to strenghen the unity amongst Buddhists.

To counter the threat posed by the popularity of Buddhism and maintain their dominant position in the Chaturvarna or caste system, the Brahmins had come out with several puranas (mythology) sometime during the 8th century AD declaring the Buddha to be the ninth avatara (reincarnation) of Vishnu as a verse to this effect from 'Mastya Purana' is engraved ina monument at Mahabalipuram near Madras. The process was complete by the time of the Bengali poet Jayadeva's writing of his 'Gita Govind' and including Buddha's name in it as an 'Avatara' in the 12th century AD. According to Puranic tradition in the Mahabharata, the ninth avatar is Balarama, not Buddha. it was a ploy by the Brahmins to subvert the religion by creating confusion in the minds of the people and portray Buddhism as a branch of Brahmanism. Their objective was to win over the hearts of the people to Brahmanism and perpetuate the caste system. ...

The extermination of Buddhism in India was hastened by the large-scale vandalism and appropriation of Buddhist temples by the Hindus. In 1590 AD, the Mahabodhi Temple in Buddhagaya was taken over by a Hindy Mahant Gosain Giri, who converted it into a Shaivite temple. His succesors kept expanding the Math by illegally occupying all the land around the Mahabodhi Temple. Although Anagarika Dharmapala fought several legal battles for the rturn of the temple to Buddhists, the Bihar Government favoured the Hindus by enacting the Buddha Gaya Temple Management Act in 1949, which effectively ensured that the Hindus remained in control. The Makutabandhana Stupa or cremation stupa in Kushinagar was changed into a Hindu temple dedicated to an obscure deity named Rambhar Bhavani when discovered it in 1860. The locals still call it "Rambhar" after the deity. Even today, pilgrims who visit the Ananda Stupa in Hajipur will see a dilapidated Hindu temple on top of it. The place is called Ramchaura Mandir after the temple. ...

The battle to regain control of the Mahabodhi Temple by Buddhists began in January 22, 1891 when Anagarika Dharmapala visited Bodhgaya...As a first step, he founded the Maha Bodhi Society of Buddhagaya in May 31, 1891 to garner support for this noble objective. Next he invited four Buddhist monks from Sri lanka to come and stay at Bodhgaya, namely Ven. Chandajoti, Ven. Sumangala, Ven. Pemmananda and Ven. Sudassana. They arrived at Bodhgaya in July 1891 and took up residence in the Burmese Rest House. As the Mahant had property rights to the land in Bodhgaya, he objected to their presence and in February 1893, two fot he monks were severly beaten up by hsi men. Two years later in 1895, when Anagarika Dharmapala attempted to install a Buddha image presented to him by the people of Japan on the upper floor of the Temple, he was assaulted and prevented to do so by the Mahant's men. So the image was kept in the Burmese Rest House. Still the Mahant and some Hindu organisations were not satisfied and tried to get the image removed from the Rest House but the Government did not yield.

In 1906, the Mahant filed a suit seeking to eject the Buddhist monks from the Rest House. Thereafter a long legal battle ensued between the Mahant and the Buddhists, which continued till 1949, when the State of Bihar enacted the Buddha Gaya Temple Management Act, which effectively transferred control of the temple land and other property to a Management Committee. Two things of the Bill were objectionable; one that the nine-man Management Committee of the Temple would have a Hindu majority, and the other that Buddhist members should be of Indian nationality. In spite of protests by the Maha Bodhi Society, the Bill was passed with an amednment for provision of an Advisory Board in which the majority should be Buddhists and not necessarily all of Indian nationality. This means that Buddhists can only advise on the management of the Mahabodhi Temple but the control and final say belongs to the Hindus!

To the Maha Bodhi Society, there is no justification for the Mahabodhi Temple to be controlled by non-Buddhists just as a Muslim mosque, a Christian church or a Hindu temple were to be controlled by persons of different faiths. Even Indian Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore objected by expressing hsi views as follows: "I am sure, it will be admitted by all Hindus who are true to their own ideals, that it is an intolerable wrong to allow the Temple raised on the spot where Lord Buddha attained His Enlightenment, to remain under the control of a rival sect, which can neither have an intimate knowledge of, nor sympathy for, the Buddhist religion and its rites of worship."

In his article entitled "The Vow Still Remains" in Sambodhi 1996, the late Ven. Pannarama Mahathera, Bhikkhu-in-charge of Buddhagaya Maha Bodhi Society, revealed the irony that even the Advisory Board which was supposed to be controlled by Buddhists, has only 11 Buddhists members but 14 non-Buddhist members! it is time that these non-Buddhists members should be replaced by representatives from Buddhist organisations, which are really concerned about the development of Bodhgaya, the place of Buddha's Enlightenment. Thus Dharmapala's vow is not fulfilled and it still remains.

Source: Khoon San, Chan. "Buddhist Pilgrimage". ISBN: 983-40876-0-8. Published for Free Distribution. 2009.

Buddhism's Lost Cause: The Fatal Blow Pt2

NOTE: Before you read this Part2& 3, it is important you read Part 1, so that you are clear as to the intention of this post. This is not to cause any hatred or anger or revenge, but merely to educate and to strenghen the unity amongst Buddhists.

The Turukas or Khaliji Turks from Afghanistan dealt the fatal blow to Buddhism in India at the close of the 12th century AD. They were fanatical muslims, bent on conquest and destruction. By then, they had conquered the western part of uttar Pradesh called the Doab, the region bordered by the Yamuna and the Ganges rivers, where they had settled themselveswith expansionist aims. Soon they began thier invasion, spreading terror and panic through all the towns and countryside in their path, and their advance posed a tremendous threat to all monasteries and temples of northern India. The whole doomed area in the east, ancient Magadha (Bihar) and North Bengal fell to the marauders. Especial ferocity was directed towards Buddhist institutions with huge Buddha and "Bodhisattva" images, which were systemmatically plundered, destroyed or vandalised. The shaven-headed monks wearing distinctive monastic robes were easily spotted and massacred wholesale as idolaters! (Note: Since the usual Muslim word for what they understand to be an 'idol' (budd) is in fact borrowed from the sanskrit 'buddha', one can imagine that these 'buddha' smashers on their fanatical campaigns took particular care to seek out and destroy Buddhist institutions.)

In the beginning of the 13th century, the structures of the Vikramalasila Mahavihara (probably sited near Colgong, District Bhagalpur, Bihar) were razed to the ground by the invaders, who out of wrath were said to have uprooted even the foundations and threw them into the Ganges. The same fate was met about this time b the Odantapuri Mahavihara (sited at Bihar Sharif near Nalanda), which had been turned into a garrison of muslim soldiers, who in about 1198 AD under Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khaliji committed such a savage massacre of the Buddhist bhikkhus of the Mahavihara that not a single human being was around to acquint the killers of the contents of books stored in the library! The story of this assault was told long afterwards in 1243 by a eye-witness to the Persian historian Minhaz. In his book, Tabaquat-i-Nasiri, he reported as follows (Ref. Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India, page 357):

"Most of the inhabitants of the place were Brahmanas with shaven heads (monks). They were put to death. Large numbers of books were found there, and when the Mahammadans saw them, they called for some person to explain the contents. But all of the men were killed. It was discovered that the whole fort and city was a place for study (madrsa): in the Hindi language the word Bihar (i.e. Vihara) means a college."

In the destruction of the University of Nalanda, the same historian recorded that thousands of monks were burned alive and yet more thousands beheaded, and the burning of the library continued for several months. Such was the savagery of the muslim invaders!

Source: Khoon San, Chan. "Buddhist Pilgrimage". ISBN: 983-40876-0-8. Published for Free Distribution. 2009.

Buddhism's Lost Cause: Lessons from History Pt1

Despite the much said popularity of Buddhism in the West and the revivalism of it in most Asian countries, there had been much decline in the state of Buddhism ever since the days of the Buddha. And I blame it on Buddhists themselves for not knowing the history of Buddhism and what causes its decline especially in her country of birth, i.e. India. If we are aware of history, we will know that Buddhists and Buddhist sites have been plundered, destroyed and taken advantage of by other religions. Many Buddhists texts and scriptures have been burnt and not even one was spared. For all we know, there could had been scriptures that had been lost forever. This is saddenning but I am going to make extracts of relevant paragraphs from one book by Chan Koon San entitled "Buddhist Pilgrimage" so that Buddhists all over the world may realise the fate that befell our Buddhist forefathers and the suffering they had to go through. And I hope that by sharing these historical facts, I pray that Buddhists are able to appreciate the Buddha's kindness to us and visit those holy Buddhist sites at least once in your lifetime. I know that many people had gone to Bodhgaya, but not many people have been to Lumbini, even though they had been to Nepal several times. And still even far far less people visit Kapilasvastu, the ancient capital of the Sakyans. It is so sad when I came to know that Buddhists have almost forgotten of Kapilasvastu. At least there was development around Lumbini with a few hotels there and several guesthouses. But Kapilavastu was almost left there alone in the middle of a jungle. No guesthouses, no hotels, no visitors! I understand that not many tour operators organise to go there because of the dirt and dust along the way. And it is quite a distance away from Lumbini.

I will not be surprise that this site and some of the surrounding sacred sites such as Kudan will soon be totally forgotten and it will suffer the same fate that befell Lumbini and Bodhgaya before these sacred sites were discovered in the 19th century. All the excavation by historians will all go to waste. And if Buddhists do not appreciate their own historical cultural sites, do you think other religions will pay much attention? They will not give a damn to our historical significance. Excuse me for my language. Even in Lumbini we can see Christians coming to establish schools there but their real intention is to spread their gospel. And when the muslim turks destroyed our monasteries and Sanghas, they were already successful in establishing the muslim community there at the Lumbini district. There are actually many muslims there today. In the article I will extract from the book I mentioned, you will read about the savagery of the turks and what they did to Buddhists and Buddhism. What I wrote about the turks is not my own creation. It is stated in the book. You can do your own research based on the extract. If the book is not correct, do let me know, ok?

But my intention is not to invoke in you a feeling of anger or anything like that. All that had happened, had happened and gone in the past. There is nothing we can do about it, but we can protect what we have now. What I mean is Tibet.

In our time and age, Tibet's Buddhism is in danger of disappearing. For example, what used to be a triving palace with much activities, the Potala Palace is now very much like Lumbini. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is no longer there and it is only a place for visitors and tourists. For me, it is sad to see the palace empty, devoid of its spiritual practices and msot importantly devoid of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama. If Buddhists are not able to protect this palace, it may one day become like the palace of King Suddhodana in Kapilavastu, i.e. in total ruins. You can only see pieces of bricks of the foundation. But the Chinese Government is saying that they have brought development to Tibet. That may be true but material advancement has come at the expense of spiritual decline. Is that what we want?

So, my intention for this post and the next few parts is for us Buddhists (Therevadins, Mahayanists, Vajrayanists) is not to cause any hatred or anger or revenge, but merely to educate and to strenghen the unity amongst Buddhists. Once we are stronger and united, we could come together and support the causes that prolong the Buddha sasana such as in the case of Tibet. Hopefully the many holy monasteries in Tibet will still be there and not as ruins for our future generations to see, just as we now see the ruins of Lumbini and Kapilavastu. I pray that Buddhists come to their senses and realise the importance of being able to withstand the onslaught and pressures from others. If Buddhists are weak, Buddhism will be the first major world religion to disappear. Sometimes I think Buddhists have themselves to blame. When confronted with issues like the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, there are some Buddhists who even thinks this is in accordance with the teaching of Buddhism on impermanence and all these people do is watch and say " impermanence... impermanence...".

I am not saying we should involve in physical or verbal fights and, seriously we must be careful not to involve ourselves in any activities of revenge. The consequences of revenge could be even more dire to us. So, NO REVENGE, please. It is not the principle of Buddhists to fight or to wage any war. That's one reason Byuddhists are so easily exterminated by other religious faiths. We rather be killed than to kill. It is one of our strength but also our weakness. That's why in many cases, even recent ones, Buddhists are the ones who are at the receiving end of suffering. We could only watch and console ourselves by the reality that all things are impermanent. And leave things to karma. Indeed, the Buddhists karma is heavy. But heavier still are those who kill and plunder and destroy Buddhist images and sacred texts. I can't imagine their destiny. But we have to forgive them. It is not their fault. The fault is ignorance and we have that too, unfortunately. So we say it was due to our own weakness or karma, and stop at that. But that does not mean we cannot learn from history and strengthen ourselves internally. That is the challenge for us Buddhists.

However, what we could do is to make our voices heard louder in the international community. The World Buddhist Fellowship and other worldwide Buddhist organisations should play a stronger role in the international arena. Have a say on world issues (such as the global warming) if necessary. People may dispute this but in our age and time, I do think that the role of a Buddhist Sangha is no longer confined to the monastery. The Dalai Lama is one of the few prominent Buddhist playing that role. And yet there are Buddhists who raise questions about this role he is playing. You see what I mean? Buddhists are destroying themselves by not being in harmony.

As for me, I am playing my role here to educate the Buddhist masses with my blog.

Buddhist Groups Must be Patient & Smart

I have been away for sometime and I have much to update. Just be patient. For the moment, I have this to say.

Groups of Buddhists anywhere in the world intending to start a small centre or study group, should be patient. It will take years to build from a small group to a large one. My advice is not to be overly ambitious and start committing your group to buying huge properties that is beyond your financial means. Be smart and plan your finances. Don't commit yourself to building huge stupas, huge monasteries, etc etc and then start praying desperately to Arya Dzambala for wealth. When wealth doesnot come or people do not sponsor as much as you expect, or your membership does not grow as many, then you start lamenting why the blessings do not come from all your sutra recitations, all the mandala offerings you have made, all the prayers to Dzambala? There is a saying from other religions that God helps those who help themselves. This is true in our case too. The Buddha and Arya Dzambala help those who help themselves. Think first before you start on any ambitious plan for your Buddhist group...especially those plans that involve committing huge sums of money. I am saying this because I know of Buddhist groups that now have a huge headache of how to raise funds for the huge sum of liability they have committed in buying the property for their centre. They should have thought of buying a smaller premise... or rent instead of purchase.

I'll tell you what went wrong if your prayers to Dzambala didnot result in substantial wealth. It's not because the sutras did not work. It's not because Dzambala did not listen. It's not because the mantras didnot work. The truth hurts and what I am going to say may potentially hurt the feelings of some people, but it is better to start recognising the truth now than later. It was because of our own ego and financial ignorance that we may have committed ourselves to liabilities that are beyond our means of funding. Did we do a proper financial projection? Did we do a proper 5-year or 10-year plan? Just as smart businessmen would prepare a comprehensive Business Plan before they embark on any business to check its viability, so should Buddhist groups prepare a Project Plan before they embark on any project involving a large sum of funding. Otherwise, it could potential be destined for failure. A word of caution though: a project plan is no guarantee to success but it is better having one than none at all.

This is also part of risk management that I touched on in my previous posts. You reduce your probability of failure by doing a proper financial project planning before going on a ego trip of buying large premises for your group/centre or constructing huge stupas/buildings. But if your group is already big and has a large pool of sponsors/members, including wealthy or influential patrons, then by all means, if you are confident enough to forego the Project Plan, then its a different matter altogether. However, it is also wrong to embark on too many projects or more than you could manage.

These are only my thoughts since I have a little knowledge on financial matters. If this is sound advice, please heed it. If not, ignore it. Think about it, ok? Sarvam mangalam.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Referring to this news:

I was glad I made the effort to be there despite the fear of getting caught in the crowd. But my desire to be part of this historical event just made whatever fear of the crowd insignificant. By the time I reached there , it was about 9 something am. Nearly 10. The monks and Tan Sri Dr Koh, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha and Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng are all there at the pavillion. I missed the beginning and the crowd was huge but smaller than I had expected. Perhaps everyone feared the crowd until they decided that attending such a significant event wasn't important. The most important part for me was when the Mahayana monks from China, Taiwan, Japan, and various other Asian countries circummambulated the Kuan Yin statue and sprinkled the water while they recited the Great Compassionate Dharani. And I was right in the front seat when each of them came down the stage in one long line of bhikkhus and bhikkunis and circumambulated Kuan Yin in a clockwise manner. Some of the water got sprinkled on my head. I was very delighted as I am one firm believer in the powers of this dharani. O-yes, I forgot to mention something significant a Christian did. The Penang chief minister, who is a Christian bowed to the Buddhist Sanghas and bowed to Kuan Yin. He will definitely benefit from this single act in the longer term, and perhaps ultimately gain his liberation.

As I was sitting among the Taiwanese sponsors, they must have thought my wife and I were sponsors too and we had the fortune to be invite to sit down on tables with food prepared and laid on the table. We need not have to queue for the lunch. I also took the opportunity to kiss HE Khamtrul Rinpoche on the hand after the event. I did not have a khata at that time. I bowed to both the protectors standing wrathfully just outside the Kuan Yin pavillion before I headed back home on that Sunday 6th December 2009. O-yes, the organisers distributed key chains with the image of the Kuan Yin and the pavillion. The pewter 1 foot height image of the pavillion and kuan Yin was even more beautiful. They gave one to each of the chief monk, I think. I am sure it will be available for sale alter and it will nto be cheap, I am sure. We considered getting one later, depending on the price. :)

In conclusion, it was a good trip and a blessed event. Everyone who visit Penang should visit this Kuan Yin to pay homage to it. DO you know that the newsmedia never report one important thing about the pavillion. On top of the pavillion they built 8 stupas surrounding one slightly bigger stupa and around the roof, they carved images of OM MANI PADME HUM in sanskrit letters all around the octagonal roof pavillion. This is truely beneficial because a sthe wind blows and touches the mantra letters, all the beings that get touched by the wind will benefit from it. So all Penangites will not only benefit from the tourism dollars but more importantly from the blessings from this statue. One word to describe this statue (despite the criticism of too much commercialising) - it's just simply AMAZING!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hidden masters

There was a comment by someone that hidden masters are like Pacceka Buddhas - selfish and unable to help people. This is not true. You should not slight Pacceka Buddhas with such comments. Hidden masters can be any stage of attainment, they are just not known publicly. In fact most masters are hidden and there are countless ones whom we do not even suspect to be highly realised masters. This is because they appear like ordinary people, like you and me. For example, who would possibly suspect me to be a hidden master? They could be normal working people with no active role in the Buddhist circles. But in their midst of activity, they help numerous people.

For instance, why do you think HE Ling Rinpoche's visit to Malaysia could be suddenly approved? His visa could not even be approved on time for the first event, which was the Malaysia Mon Lam prayers. It was made to understand that it was only after one person who wrote to the Prime Minister and pleaded to him to intervene in the matter that the travel visa to HE Ling Rinpoche was approved. Even with letters of support from the Home Minstry and a few other high level persons could not get the travel visa, so who else could be higher than a minister? The travel visa got approved a few days after the message was sent. It was a surprise because the organisers had prepared to do without Ling Rinpoche. However nobody knew about this intervention and the person who had helped remained largely anonymous. But it was clear that he had benefitted so many beings who will benefit from Rinpoche's visit. However, one repercussion for him was that this person found out that the consequence of him helping Ling Rinpoche's travel visa to be approved was that he himself was unable to make it to the Medicine Master puja held. It was a consequence he had to accept. The thing is he had wanted to go to the puja to benefit his mother who was sick. So, in consequence it was his mother who could not receive the benefit.

Friday, December 4, 2009

How to Enjoy Samsara without Feeling Guilty?

When I first heard of this topic, I felt that it was a little bit strange. True enough, when HE Ling Rinpoche heard the topic his immediate reaction was that he did not have anything to say. That’s because almost everything is enjoying samsara without feeling any guilty. People already know how to do that.

But then, there were subsequent questions that clarified why the topic was posed. A senior practitioner wanted to clarify if he could still watch TV, take first class business flight and go for sumptuous feasts, etc and not feel guilty about all these. It was a logical question to ask, but still a bit strange. It was strange because I thought that this person should know better than me that Kyabje Lama Zopa had taught that our daily activity should be infused completely with dharma. In other words, dharma practice is not just confined to the half-an-hour, one hour or two hours daily puja/meditation/chanting that we do before or after working hours. Even with shopping, he advised that we should shop with bodhicitta. Similarly with watching TV, we should likewise watch with bodhicitta, regardless of what programme we are watching. I feel that this is a more practical approach than to ask laypersons not to watch televisions or go to the movies, and that whatever time you should devote to your practice. It goes to show that the people who have this kind of thinking still thinks “practice” is a special time allocated within the 24 hours that we have for formal practice. If that is the case, only by becoming monks/nuns can we truly practice since they do not watch TV or listen to music, etc. Then anyone who has this thinking must have this misconception that you need to become a monk/nun before you can truly practice. Then wouldn’t laypersons have no hope at all for liberation? This is not true.

So how do you watch movie with bodhicitta? I am not in a position to be advising this, and you should ask Kyabje Lama Zopa this question. But one thing is for certain, if you know how to practice dharma while watching a movie, then you wouldn’t feel guilty going about other activities in your daily life in samsara. Everything then becomes your bodhisattva activity. But being imperfect sentient beings at the moment, I think it is important to recognize this fact and not try to do things we cannot achieve at the moment. In other words, don’t try to be a hero when you are not. Don’t discard your TV and entertainment set immediately. We are not super beings like certain lamas who are reported to not need any sleep. We feel tired easily. And some types of music can really induce peace and calm in the mind. Go gradually, step by step. That’s why in our lineage, it is called the Graduated Path or Stages of the Path. You do what you are able to at your spiritual level. There’s no “one size fits all” approach in Buddhism.

The other way to "enjoy" samsara without feeling guilty is when we are able to see samsara and nirvana as the same in its mode of abiding. But can we do that now? If not, try the earlier method.

These are just my thoughts about the topic above. You think about it and check it up.