Tea House

Daily Perspectives and Stories on Buddhist Trends, People, and Ideas

Tag: india

Bodh Gaya

A poem about the life of the Blessed One. By Tom Donovan

Bodhi Tree by Maranda Russell

It is a place and nothing more,
No different to behold despite particulars
Than any village in the district.
Still it is here,
In the public park,
Under the pipal tree,
On my mat of kusa grass,
I have apprehended the sorrow
Of myself and of all people,
And have understood the Unforgiving Law,
Seen the bleached and desolate fullness of it,
The devouring hungry emptiness of Craving.

And it is here that Mara has come to me,
In his fever to tempt my mind from its new way,
And I wonder that this bloated demon
Has not seen these wide eyes,
Which bid men open up their view,
To see between the dead habits of the Brahmin,
And the living folly of the poor Samana,
Between their expansion and reduction,
Between the cruel formal and the cruel nil,
Straight to Chanda,
The line through vain desire,
Through the irrelevant beginnings and ends of things,
The acceptance of the ambiguous and the unanswerable.

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Myanmar: Another Square on the Buddhist Chessboard

Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda

From 5-6 August, the Vivekananda Foundation and the Tokyo Foundation will be hosting the second Samvad conference* at Sitagu International Buddhist Academy (SIBA), Yangon. I reported on Samvad’s first symposium two years ago in New Delhi, and it was then that it became clear India’s government was trying to manoeuvre among different Asian countries – Japan, Mongolia, and now Myanmar – to establish for itself a solid bloc of Buddhist support that could rival China’s plans for Buddhist development. Samvad is one of the main organs through which Indian PM Narendra Modi hopes to accomplish this.

I can make this relatively bold assertion with confidence because the Vivekananda Foundation and the Tokyo Foundation are open about what they do. The former, as stated on its website, “is a New Delhi-based think tank set up with the collaborative efforts of India’s leading security experts, diplomats, industrialists and philanthropists under the aegis of the Vivekananda Kendra. . . . to kick start innovative ideas and thoughts that can lead to a stronger, secure and prosperous India playing its destined role in global affairs.” Its advisory board and executive council are filled with political grandees, analysts, and advisors and senior military figures. The Tokyo Foundation is broader in its foci, from tax to social security and constitutional reform, but one of its core interests is maritime defence, and the foundation has published numerous research papers about Japanese security concerns.

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Buddhism is Bhutan’s Key to Working with the Great Buddhist Powers

India and China are right now locked in a dispute over a plateau (known as Doklam in India and Donglang in China) that lies at a junction between China, the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim, and Bhutan. My focus today is not on the technicalities of the border dispute (this analysis by Wangcha Sangey, a retired civil servant and former managing director of Bhutan Times, lays out the situation far better than I can), but rather how Bhutan could play its cards over the long term through the piety of its Buddhist people and its Buddhist royal family.

HRH Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck with Bhikkhu Sanghasena

In an age where landlocked Bhutan’s behemoth neighbors, China and India, are going all in with Buddhist diplomacy (not to mention regional neighbors like Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka), the Himalayan country’s Buddhist heritage grants it a unique and priceless asset. This is because the idea of “Buddhist kingship” or chakravartin-hood is embodied in its monarchy. I venture to propose that without Buddhism, the moral authority of the royal house of Wangchuk would be diminished whilst one of the country’s key soft power exports (such as its concept of Gross National Happiness) would be compromised. Nowhere else, except perhaps in Thailand, is there a monarchy invested with such a Buddhist mandate.

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Indian Buddhist Diplomacy: Some Musings

Raymond Lam

Narendra Modi making offerings at the Maha Bodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, 5 September 2015

In 2014 I began to cover the role of Buddhism in the diplomacy of Modi’s India. I have really just one gentleman to thank for setting me along this path. Prashant Agrawal was serving as consul general to Hong Kong and Macau when he organized an exhibit on ancient Indian Buddhist art in the district of Wan Chai. I always thought that the Indian diplomats’ approach to promoting Buddhism was the right one. Because they were serving on the ground in local Chinese cultures, their efforts to promote Indian Buddhism or Buddhism’s heritage in India emphasized the narrowing of differences and broadening of common ground. They didn’t seem as forced as the work of those who are aligned with the Hindutva ideology of Narendra Modi’s party, the BJP.

The diplomats’ method of showcasing information and exhibiting artifacts tends to emphasize the integral role of Buddhism in the evolution and story of Indian civilization. In contrast, attempts within India itself to sell Buddhism have perhaps inevitably coalesced around the personality and self-promotion of Modi (I have heard people, including some Buddhist figures, ridiculously comparing him to a modern-day Ashoka). It comes as no surprise to me that the government’s domestic attempts to project itself as an advocate of Buddhist interests have sometimes fallen flat—especially to Buddhist representatives visiting India during any of the expensive and lavish conferences it has hosted for this purpose.

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Acclamation from the Buddhist Community: West Bengal Gets a Holiday on the Day of Buddha Purnima

BD Dipananda

On 15 February, Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, India, declared “Buddha Purnima” as a state holiday this year onward. The Buddha Purnima usually falls on the full moon in the month of either in April or May in the Gregorian calibration which marks the important events of the Buddha’s life: his birth, enlightenment and great demise (mahaparinibbana). This year the day falls on 10 May.

The Buddha Purnima is one of the biggest religious festivals of the Buddhist community in the world. Although India has been celebrating this important day for centuries, except the gazetted holiday in all Indian Central Government departments, the celebration did not turn into an official occasion in West Bengal until Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced Buddha Purnima as the state holiday.

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Border Dancer

Steve Braff

border-dancer-1

– to 4/4 swing at a 140 tempo –

Left Deer Gods’ land by way Siddhartha
cemented Highway six lanes south
bused on bumpy from Lumbini
Buddha born by Maya Devi
hip right holy to Shravasti
hit the border, pay the Levi
waiting, waiting toll booth stall
India sign some four foot small
drivers peering silent leering
spy the damsel up the by way
sari swathed she stand sway tall
slow her dancing lane to lane
wistful flowers bright for telling
prayers for selling, selling all.

Note: ‘Border Dancer’ is my homage to the woman who danced, blossoms for rupees, just past the tollbooths straddling the Nepal/India border.

Click here to listen to Steve’s reading of this poem on his Bandcamp profile.

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