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Thứ Hai, tháng 10 30, 2006

No.1209 (Minh Chau dich)

A Million Light Offerings for Buddha

By JADE CHAN, The Star, October 27, 2006

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- The Losang Dragpa Buddhist Society (LDC) recently organised a Million Light Offerings event at the Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur.

The annual spiritual event was started in 2001 and is aimed at giving people the opportunity to give offerings to Buddha, which creates extensive merits for the person making the offerings.

A 20-foot structure bearing 840 images of the Buddha at the Mahaboudhi stupa in Bodhgaya was set up so that people could make offerings in the form of flowers, lights or incense.

The three-day event, starting from Oct 20, was presided by Ven KhenRinpoche Lama Lhundhup, the abbot of the renowned Kopan Monastery located at the foothills of the Himalayas in Kathmandu.

KhenRinpoche lit a light during the opening ceremony, a simple act that symbolised him bringing a prayer for all sentient beings.

He also presided over several pujas (prayers), including the Medicine Buddha Puja (prayers for health), Dzambala Pujas (prayers for wealth) and Tara Puja (prayers to attain success for specific projects) and blessed devotees during the first two evenings.

About 10,000 devotees were expected to visit the hall every day, which had been recreated to resemble the pure land with holy relics and objects, lights and flowers.

Devotees took part in various activities like circling the Buddha relics, which helps purify negative karma and creates cause for enlightenment, and spinning the prayer wheel, which resembles a person reciting mantras and helps clear their karma.

According to LDC spiritual co-ordinator Ven. Thubten Dechen, making offerings to Buddha earns merits to help a person overcome obstacles to attain good health and success in work and business.

“The merits can also be dedicated to family members and children so that all their hindrances can be overcome,” she said.

Ven KhenRinpoche said: “A person must establish good motivation when making the offerings. The offering is made not only for yourself but for all sentient beings.

“Only then can you achieve peace, joy and success for whatever you wish for, be it for health, family or business.”

According to him, the different offerings have their own significance.

“A light offering to Buddha signifies wisdom and enlightenment. By attaining knowledge and enlightenment, you’ll be able to easily remove obstacles and the main causes of ignorance.

“A person who makes light offerings is making dedications for everyone. Its benefit is not just for this life but for all future lives until you achieve enlightenment.

“A flower offering to Buddha creates cause for you to have good rebirth. When you get a rebirth, you are reborn as a human being in circumstances where you can practise kindness, such as having good health and good body to help people.”

“An incense offering allows you to be able to appease local deities and gives protection to all living beings. It also helps remove delusions, obstacles and negative actions in a living being’s mind.

“The incense’s good smell signifies pure conduct. When you remove negative karma, you’ll not harm others and try to help others if possible.”

The Mahayana magazine, LDC’s inaugural magazine which features stories and interviews related to Buddhism, was also launched at the event.

No. 1208

Report: Thai queen cautions against racy dancing at Buddhist ceremonies
Monday October 30, 2006

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) Thailand's queen thinks sexually explicit dancing and Buddhism do not mix and cautioned against lascivious behavior during Buddhist events in Thailand, media reported Monday.

Queen Sirikit saw television coverage of women gyrating in racy outfits at a Buddhist ceremony, prompting her to write the Culture Ministry saying: ``Buddhists in general should always bear in mind what is good for the image of the country,'' the Nation newspaper reported.

``Any shows or performances organized in association with any Buddhist festival should be held with respect for Lord Buddha and Buddhism,'' the paper reported the queen's letter as saying.

The Buddhist festival in northern Nong Khai featured performers known as ``coyote dancers'' wearing provocative dresses and dancing in a sexually explicit manner, the Nation said. The dancers are often hired to promote events or products.

In an apparent response to the queen's concerns, Thailand's Ministry of Culture said Monday it was issuing a regulation prohibiting female students aged under 20 to work as coyote dancers, the state Thai News Agency reported.

The ministry also ordered a crackdown on inappropriate shows in public places, the report said.

Scantily clad women are not uncommon in Bangkok, the capital, where prostitution is widespread and widely accepted. However, the countryside remains relatively conservative, with frequent speeches warning against the dangers of women wearing revealing clothes such as spaghetti-string tank tops.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

No.1207 (Minh Chau dich)

The man behind the mission

by NISSARA HORAYANGURA, Bangkok Post, Oct 29, 2006

Bangkok, Thailand -- Who's reading Ajahn Brahm's book? A very mixed crowd - Germans, Chinese, Thais, any number of people literate in the eight languages into which his book has been translated. Executives, students, psychologists, even Christian chaplains.

"Last month, a Catholic priest in Adelaide phoned me especially to thank me for the book because he uses it in his chaplaincy work," Ajahn Brahm says, sounding both delighted and a bit amazed. "When you get praise from Christians, you think, wow, this book is actually making those bridges between different religions."

With his knack for presenting Buddhist teachings without being too "Buddhisty" - conveying their wisdom in universally relevant ways - he makes a skilful bridge-builder (if an imperfect bricklayer).

Whether travelling around the world giving talks or based at his monastery in Australia, where only two per cent of the population is Buddhist, Ajahn Brahm is actively involved in interfaith dialogue, although he would rather not use the term "dialogue".

"It's friendship, actually," he says.

He tells of a particularly close friendship he has with the Catholic abbot of a Benedictine monastery just north of Perth. Both being entertaining speakers, they regularly do public talks together as "The Two Abbots", a sort of two-man spiritual-comedy act.

The concept is catchy, but also inspiring. "People see a Buddhist abbot and a Catholic abbot sitting together, talking about similar things, and being obviously friends. And they love it."

The two abbots' close friendship also makes it possible to have that "interfaith dialogue" more effectively. Ajahn Brahm observes that at many interfaith gatherings, one has to "tread on eggshells" out of fear of causing offence.

"But our friendship has gone way beyond that now. We know each other well enough that we're not afraid to disagree. He can say whatever he likes. He's my friend and I refuse to be offended.

"He can say, 'I don't believe in reincarnation!' And I can say, 'I don't believe in God!' And we both win, because we know exactly what we mean," he says with a laugh.

Debates about God's existence aside, another sticking point some Buddhists - particularly orthodox Theravadans - may have in truly respecting other religions is their belief that the only way to achieve ultimate liberation is through the practice of insight meditation, which is not found in other religions.

When this point is raised, Ajahm Brahm immediately responds, "That's called conceit."

He then goes on to quote an inarguable authority - the Lord Buddha. "Once the Buddha was asked that question - 'Can you become enlightened in other traditions?' And he gave this beautiful answer: 'Wherever there's an eightfold path, wherever you practise a bit of meditation, some virtue, some wisdom, there you'll find people becoming enlightened."'

Still, that watch-word "meditation" was mentioned, was it not? Yes, but Ajahn Brahm is keen to demystify "meditation". Many times in his talks, he emphasizes that there is nothing magical or esoteric about it. Meditation is simply stilling the mind. "It's a fundamental freedom of all human beings." He likens it to getting out of a speeding car and walking. When you're riding in the car, you can only see the world whizzing by through the window, the details blurred. Once you slow down, once you still the mind, you can see more clearly.

Buddhism has no monopoly on meditation. He points out that meditation is so popular nowadays that there are meditation groups in Christian and other faiths, so non-Buddhists can practise it within a tradition they're comfortable with.

Nor does Buddhism, or any religion, have a monopoly on truth.

"Now, you can actually bottle water and sell it. But you can't bottle truth and sell it. Religions try to do that. [They say] 'We're the only ones who've got the truth. So we've got the franchise, and no one else can sell it."'

Just as water is the same, no matter what bottle it's in (and no matter what those clever marketers say), so truth is the same, no matter what religious container it's in - love, peace, harmony, forgiveness, freedom.

Making that distinction between the containers and the contents is the key to avoiding inter-religious strife, he says. So much conflict is instigated when others attack one's own containers - the symbols, texts, icons of one's religion. But one need not get upset if one can remember that they are just symbols, and focus on maintaining the contents, the teachings.

"When the Taliban destroyed the Bamyan Buddha statues, Buddhists did not allow themselves to seek revenge, because that would, in fact, mean the Taliban had succeeded not only in destroying the containers, but also the contents."

Similarly, he says, "A Muslim might say, 'I don't like those cartoons [referring to the controversy over offensive caricatures drawn of the Prophet Muhammad], but it's more important that we're friends. Forgiven.' Wouldn't it be wonderful if that happened?"

Following an incident where US soldiers allegedly flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet, Ajahn Brahm was asked what he would do if someone flushed a Buddhist holy book down a toilet.

"Call a plumber."