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Thứ Hai, tháng 9 25, 2006

No. 1150 (Hạt Cát dịch)

Pak committed to maintain and preserve ancient Buddhist sites
21 Hours,50 minutes Ago

Islamabad, Pakistan has said that it was committed to maintain and preserve the Buddhist sites in the country.

During a meeting with visiting Sri Lankan monks, Federal Minister for Culture Dr GG Jamal said Pakistan would endeavour to provide adequate facilities to visitors at the shrines.

"We shall provide every facility at the sacred places, including accommodation, to the visitors," the Dawn quoted Jamal as saying.

He said Pakistan and Sri Lanka enjoyed cordial relations in every field, and efforts must be made to explore new avenues for enhancing cooperation in culture and archaeology.

Both sides agreed to exchange cultural delegations and intellectuals to enhance cooperation in the field of archaeology, and to forge people-to-people contacts between the two Asian countries.

As a token, Jamal presented a replica of a Buddhist stupa and books on Gandhara to the monks' delegation.

No. 1149 ( Minh Châu dịch)
Award winning writer to embrace buddhism
Hidustan Times, Sept 24, 2006

Mumbai, India -- Nomadic author Laxman Mane, whose autobiography Upara (Outsider) is revered in Marathi Dalit literature, will embrace Buddhism along with lakhs of his supporters next month.

The move is expected to create ripples across Maharashtra’s religious structure and comes half a century after the framer of the Indian Constitution, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, called on the lowest Hindu castes to abandon their religion and become Buddhists.

“It’s my small effort to realise Dr Ambedkar’s dream,” Mane said.

Asked why he chose Buddhism, Mane (55), the youngest winner of the Sahitya Academy Award, said that tribals were “unknowingly” following Lord Buddha’s teachings. “But now we’ve realised that our practices are pretty close to Buddhism.” Mane, now associated with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), said the conversions would protest “government apathy”. He said: “Forget a decent standard of living, most of us don’t even get shelter and proper food. Our literacy percentage is a mere 0.06.” There are around 350 million Buddhists worldwide, a growing number in the West. Maharashtra has 5.8 million Buddhists, according to the 2001 census, the highest in India, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.

Mane expects a “sizeable number” from Maharashtra’s 42 nomadic tribes to embrace the new faith.

“We’ll organise a mass diksha (ritual of initiation) rally in Mumbai on December 16,” he said. Initially, 100 representatives will convert on October 2. The two-month conversion movement will start on October 16 at Chandrapur, a tribal district in eastern Maharashtra.

However, Mane refused to term the move ‘conversions’. He said: “We (tribals) have never followed Hinduism and its social norms. So there’s no question of relinquishing any religion.” While Mane denied any political agenda, experts said his conversion would benefit the NCP. He was recently appointed as chief of the Nomadic Tribal Welfare Board, a government undertaking. A close friend of NCP boss Sharad Pawar, Mane works in tandem with Pawar’s daughter and Member of Parliament Supriya Sule for tribal welfare.

Mane’s conversion will be held on Dhamma Parivartan Din, the day of conversion traditionally celebrated on Dussehra, in Nagpur’s Diksha Bhoomi on October 2 this year.

Ambedkar embraced Buddhism on the same day, which fell on October 14 in 1956. But he died the same year, before he could give diksha to his followers on December 16.

No. 1148 (Hạt Cát dịch)

Buddhist growth brings a temple

RAYNHAM - The building at 382 South St. East is an average-looking New England house, for now.

The property is home to Thai Buddhist monks who use it while awaiting the building of the Wat Nawamintararachutis temple. Once completed, it will be the larger of two Theravada, or traditionalist, Buddhist temples in the state. The other is in Malden.

The monks bought the $1.5 million lot earlier this year and are working on plans for the temple. A little more than a dozen monks live in the one-family house, sharing their living space with temple activities.

For these monks, maintaining a traditional way of life has not been easy in America, but the growing Buddhist community in this country works to preserve their culture. In an average week the temple will see 200 patrons in search of a place to meditate or for a lesson from the monks.

Bristol County's population is only 1.7 percent Asian, according to U.S. Census data, but the monks say they draw visitors and support from Asian and non-Asian Buddhists from throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

One family working hard to keep their culture strong are the Kijsurachais, owners of Spizy, a Thai restaurant on Route 44.

"We moved here from Thailand with our children, and our restaurant is one of many that brings the monks food," said Sam Kijsurachai, a leader in the local Asian community. "In Thailand, the monks walk through villages and ask for food, but here we bring the food to the temples."

With interest in Buddhism increasing among westerners, Kijsurachai says that the small temple gets support not only from the Thai community, but also from a growing number of Americans.

"We get many Americans at the temple because they are seriously interested in studying Buddhism and want to learn about our culture," he said. "It will be very nice to have a bigger temple, because now we have many monks and visitors that are crammed into the house."

Though plans are not yet finalized, representatives from the temple met with the town planner Tuesday to discuss preliminary design ideas.

"As I understand it from the monks, the building will be a pretty traditional-looking temple, like a pagoda in appearance," said the planner, Richard McArthy. "They have brought in an example of what it might look like and it is smaller than I had expected, but very interesting."

The temple would be have a footprint between 30,000 and 40,000 square feet, with two or more stories, but McArthy says the monks will use a good portion of the 51-acre lot for outdoor activities.

The monks will celebrate a major holiday Oct. 21 under a tent. According to McArthy, at this celebration they will be host to a high-ranking holy man from Thailand who will help them hone the temple's design.

"The temple has to be traditionally accurate, and once it is built we will be able to teach Thai-language classes and have ceremonies with about 200 people," Srisak Sihatrai, director of the temple. "This property is something we looked for for a long time because it is big enough and has many trees and a small stream on it."

The monks are scheduled to meet again with the town planner after their celebration. The site plan should be settled then.

While Buddhists such as the Kijsurachai family wait for word on the temple, they must continue visiting the house on South Street East.

"It will be very nice to have a place to gather and be together," Kijsurachai said.

Like many men from Thailand, Kijsurachai became a monk after graduating from school.

Becoming a monk is not a lifelong commitment. Many Buddhist men serve as a monk for the three-month Buddhist Lent running from mid-July through the beginning of October, according to their lunar calendar. Although demanding employment and changing lifestyles make for fewer lifelong monks, the majority still become ordained as a cultural rite of passage.

"It was a very happy time for me to be a monk for three months," he said.

Although for Kijsurachai the days of being a monk are behind him, for his son, Jazz, a student at Bridgewater-Raynham High School, the decision to be ordained, even for three months, is still to be made.

"We do not force our son to become a monk, but it is a great opportunity for people to really learn about Buddhism," Kijsurachai said. "It cannot be explained, because the meaning of Buddhism is something that every person must find for themselves."