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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.
Remembering Godwin Samararatna

Remembering Godwin Samararatna

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.

Jesus And The Buddha

Jesus And The Buddha

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.