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Yellow Robe, Red Flag A short biography of Rahul Sankrityayan

Yellow Robe, Red Flag A short biography of Rahul Sankrityayan

Most of this short book was written between 1990 and 1991 with the intention of publishing it for Rahul Sankrityayan’s birth centenary in 1993. However, I misplaced the manuscript and only rediscovered it amongst my late mother’s papers in April of this year, 2021. I had sent a copy to her but completely forgot having done so. At the time of writing the book, the only material in English I had at my disposal was Prabhakar Machwe’s Makers of Indian Literature; Rahul Sanskrityayan, Rahul’s Selected Essays, and the series of articles he wrote about his discoveries in Tibet for the Journal of the Bihar and Orissa Research Society. My other sources were Rahul’s friends and colleagues, including Bhadanta  Ananda  Kausalyayan, all of whom I had gone to India twice specifically to meet. I had also arranged to interview his wife Kamala but to my lasting regret the meeting had to be cancelled at the last moment. As soon as I rediscovered my manuscript, I obtained Alaka Atreya Chudal’s 2016 comprehensive biography of Rahul and have used it to correct some dates and the sequence of some events, and have also included a few episodes in Rahul’s life that I was previously unaware of

Like Milk and Water Mixed

Like Milk and Water Mixed

Love is not necessarily an easy subject to write about. Studies of the subject by philosophers, psychologists and sociologists usually focus on one or another of its forms, most commonly romantic or conjugal love, and often use the word “love” without making it clear what is meant by it. Popular writing and discourse on the subject characteristically get lost in flood of clichés and ecstatic claims that evoke uplifting feelings but do not necessarily encourage realistic thinking. I have tried to define love in a way that will be recognisable to most people and which encompasses most of the experiences usually thought of as love. I had originally intended to write mainly about universal or brotherly love, what the Buddha called mettā. But it soon became clear that this highest of loves is intimately connected with and perhaps necessarily preceded by other types. It is like pulling a thread out of a tapestry. As it comes it draws out so many other threads with it. Thus I was eventually led to explore six different loves. I could have included other types as well but decided to limit myself to those loves about which the Buddha had something to say or which are relevant to practising Buddhism.

The Edicts of King Asoka

The Edicts of King Asoka

This rendering of King Asoka’s Edicts is based heavily on Amulyachandra Sen’s English translation, which includes the original Magadhi and a Sanskrit and English translation of the text. However, many parts of the edicts are far from clear in meaning and the numerous translations of them differ widely. Therefore, I have also consulted the translations of C. D. Sircar and D. R. Bhandarkar and in parts favored their interpretations. Any credit this small book deserves is due entirely to the labors and learning of these scholars.

To eat or Not Eat Meat, A Buddhist Reflection

To eat or Not Eat Meat, A Buddhist Reflection

An issue that has long divided Buddhists is whether or not meat-eating is consistent with the Dhamma, the teachings of the Buddha.  Both ancient and modern scholars have debated the matter, sometimes with considerable rancour. In this book a well-known Buddhist monk revisits the various arguments for and against meat-eating and examines them from a very different perspective. In doing so he also dispels several common misconceptions about Buddhism, highlights some rarely discussed problems associated with being vegetarian, and details some of the good reasons for becoming one. This book will make you look at Buddhism very differently. It might make you look at your next meal very differently too.

Nature and the Environment in Early Buddhism

Nature and the Environment in Early Buddhism

The first attempt to identify the plants in the Tipiṭaka was made by Robert Childers in his A Dictionary of the Pali Language of 1876. Childers gave about 165 plant names and provided the Linnaean nomenclature for most of these. However, more than half these names are from Pali works composed in Sri Lanka and are not mentioned in the Tipiṭaka itself. Rhys Davids and Stede’s Pali English Dictionary published between 1921–25, includes about 420 Pali plant names with the botanical names for about a third of these. Included also are about 185 animal names of which only eight include the zoological names. It is unclear what authority Rhys Davids and Stede used for the nomenclature they did give but they seem to have relied heavily on Monier-William’s Sanskrit English Dictionary. A thorough compilation of material on flora, fauna and the environment from the Pali Tipiṭaka is more than justified. Despite being a rich source of information on these subjects Indian scholars have largely ignored Pali literature.

Mātṛceṭa

Mātṛceṭa’s Hymn to the Buddha, An English Rendering of the Śatapañcāśataka

For centuries people have stood in awe of the Buddha and his attainments and have strived to express their feelings in stone and bronze and with brush and ink. Some have been moved by what the Buddha said, its logical consistency, its scope and its humanism. Others have been inspired by the personality of the Lord himself, his manner and conduct, and even his physical form. The joyful faith and appreciation that is evoked on recollecting the Buddha’s personality and singing his praise gives such people the strength they need to walk the Path. For them the Dhamma comes alive through the life and example of the Buddha. Such a person was the poet Mātṛceṭa. He was born in India in about the first century A.D., and was converted from Hinduism to Buddhism by the great philosopher Aryadeva. He wrote about a dozen works, some of such beauty that he came to be regarded as one of India’s greatest poets.

Mt. Kailash, A Pilgrim’s Companion

Mt. Kailash, A Pilgrim’s Companion

After Mount Everest, Mount Kailash is the most celebrated mountain in the Himalayas. The name Kailash is derived from the Sanskrit kailāśā meaning ‘crystal’. It is 6,714 meters (22,028 ft.) above sea level and some 2000 meters above the surrounding plain. Technically Mt. Kailash is not in the Himalayas but in what is called either the Gangdise Range or the Kailash Range which runs parallel to the Himalayas. Despite its fame it is by no means the highest mountain in the Himalayas, not even the highest in the region.

Mount Potala

Mount Potala

After the Buddha himself, the most revered and universally popular figure in Buddhism is Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. Since his appearance in about the first century BCE this beloved bodhisattva has been worshipped with almost unparalleled fervor by the followers of all schools of Buddhism. Though accessible through prayer and supplication to anyone anywhere, Avalokitesvara was believed to abide on a mountain in a remote part of India where, from its lofty and cloud-decked heights, he could be as his name suggests, “the regarder of the cries of the world”. This mountain was called Potala or sometimes Potalaka. It seems that from about the first century CE pilgrims began visiting Potala although records are very scant.

Sri Pada

Sri Pada

Mount Sinai was considered sacred at a much earlier date, Mt. Fuji surpasses it in beauty and height, and Mt. Kilash evokes a far greater sense of mystery. Nevertheless, no other mountain has been revered by so many people, from such a variety of religions, for so many centuries as Sri Pada has. In Sanskrit literature Sri Pada is called variously Mount Lanka, Ratnagiri (Mountain of Gems), Malayagiri or Mount Rohana. This last name, like its Arab and Persian equivalent, Al Rohoun, is derived from the name of the south western district of Sri Lanka where Sri Pada is situated. In several Tamil works it is known as Svargarohanam (The Ascent to Heaven) while the Portuguese called it Pico de Adam and the English Adam’s Peak. In the Mahavamsa, the great chronicle of Sri Lanka written in the 5th century CE, it is called Samantakuta (Samanta’s Abode) while in modern Sinhalese it is often called Samanelakhanda (Saman’s Mountain).

The Navel of the Earth

The Navel of the Earth

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.