India has literally thousands of places that its rich and enduring civilization has adorned with magnificent monuments. Although Bodh Gayā has not attracted as much attention as Agra with its Taj Mahal or Khajuraho’s temples with their erotic sculptures, it is nonetheless one of the most interesting and significant of these places. Bodh Gayā’s historical significance it due to it having a longer and more complete history than almost any other place in the subcontinent, a history supplemented by epigraphical and literary sources from China and Tibet, Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Nor is this history merely an outline of events or a list of doubtful dates, as so often encountered in the study of India’s past. Rather, it includes detailed descriptions of Bodh Gayā’s now vanished temples and shrines, accounts of the elaborate ceremonies and doctrinal disputes that once took place there, and even details of how time was kept in its monasteries. This history is also made more interesting by the participation of some of Asia’s greatest personalities, from Asoka to Curzon, from Xuanzang to Anāgārika Dharmapāla.
Excerpt of the book:
Based on a talk given at the
Nilambe Meditation Center on the 4th anniversary of his passing away
Godwin Samararatna was born on the 6th of September 1932 in Kandy, Sri Lanka. His father was the chief clerk of a tea estate at Hantane in the hills above Kandy and his mother was a simple up-country housewife. A younger sister died prematurely and an older brother died in a car accident on the day of his wedding. Godwin was the youngest of the two surviving brothers, Felix and Hector and his sisters were Dorothy, Matilda and Lakshmi. The family lived in a modest house at 145 Peradeniya Road just a short walk from the heart of Kandy. Everyone agrees that Godwin showed an interest in Buddhism from his earliest time, due mainly to the piety of his mother. When she went to the local temple of Poya days he always accompanied her and would sit listening to the sermons rather than play games as the other children did. Once he turned up at home with two which he had surreptitiously picked from someone’s garden. His mother asked where he had got them from and when he told her she went with him back to the house and made him return the vegetables.
During the last hundred years it has increasingly been said that all religions are actually pointing to the same reality. Now there are numerous books claiming that the teachings of Jesus and the Buddha are just different versions of the same truth. Is this true or is it the outcome of a superficial examination of the facts or perhaps a genuine but misguided attempt to encourage inter-religious understanding? This book is the first in-depth comparison of the life and teachings of Jesus and the Buddha and presented in the New Testament and the Tipitaka, the Buddhist scriptures. The result is portraits of the two great religious figures very different from how they have traditionally been seen and the question ‘Are Christianity and Buddhism compatible?’ is answered in a way that may surprise many readers. Bhante Shravasti Dhammika is well placed to write this comparative study having been brought up a Christian and later becoming a Buddhist and a monk.
Before starting it will be necessary to make it clear what is meant by Buddhism in this article. As with other religions, Buddhism has a long history during which it has developed and evolved, branched into divergent schools and sects, and been interpreted in various ways by different philosophers, reformers and saints. And as with other religions it is not always easy to get agreement by Buddhists on every issue. However, Buddhism started with the experience of a particular individual, Siddhattha Gotama, and at a particular time in history, the 5th/ 4th century BCE. Without going into the complexities of the issues, this article takes the position that the earliest and therefore the most authentic account of the Buddha and his teachings is contained in the Pali Tipitaka, the huge body of literature now considered canonical by the Theravada school of Buddhism. While this article deals mainly with homosexuality it will also make some references to related states, gay adoption, transgenderism, etc.
Between 2008 and 2017, Bhante Dhammika maintained a blog commenting Buddhist doctrine, Buddhist culture and art, and current affairs from a Buddhist and sometimes a personal perspective. At its height it got some 12,000 visits a day. This eBook has a selection of what is some of the more interesting blog posts.
The life of the Buddha is more than an account of one man’s quest for and realization of the truth; it is also about the people who encountered that man during his forty five year career and how their encounter trans-formed them. If the Buddha’s quest and his encounters with others is set against the backdrop of the world in which these events were acted out, a world with its unique customs, its political intrigue and its religious ferment, it becomes one of the most fascinating stories ever told.
There is no law in history which guarantees that Buddhism will grow roots in the West or advance beyond its present infantile stage. But one would expect that it will grow more conscious of its own difficulties and Buddhists will awaken to the problems which Buddhism itself thrusts upon man as an essential part of its treasure. One would also hope that doubt should appear as the sign of a deeper conviction. – Luis O. Gomez
Ananda, there are four places the sight of which will arouse strong emotion in those with faith. Which four places? ‘Here the Tathagata was born’ this is the first. ‘Here the Tathagata attained enlightenment’- this is the second. ‘Here the Tathagata set in motion the Wheel of the Dhamma’ – this is the third. ‘Here the Tathagata attained final Nirvana without remainder’ – this is the fourth. And the monk, the nun, the layman or the laywoman who has faith should visit these places. And anyone who dies while making a pilgrimage to these shrines with a devoted heart will, at the breaking up of the body at death, be reborn in heaven. (1)
QUESTION: What is Buddhism?
ANSWER: The name Buddhism comes from the word budhi which means ‘to wake up’ and thus Buddhism can be said to be the philosophy of awakening. This philosophy has its origins in the experience of the man Siddhattha Gotama, known as the Buddha, who was himself awakened at the age of 35. Buddhism is now more than 2,500 years old and has about 380 million followers worldwide. Until a hundred years ago Buddhism was mainly an Asian philosophy but increasingly it is gaining adherents in Europe, Australia and the Americas.