E-Learning Courses on Women in Buddhism

20 Row of Bhikkhunis

Another great free summer course on gender and Buddhsim from the University of Hamburg, building upon past courses on women in Buddhism:

The Numata Center for Buddhist Studies in cooperation with Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts offers an e-learning course on the topic of Asian Buddhist Women. The course consists of a series of lectures by a group of international scholars who will present their research on the situation of women during various periods in the history of Asian Buddhism, based on textual studies and archaeological evidence. Participation is free of charge but requires online registration. The registration period will be from the 15th of February until the end of March.


Lama Chime Rinpoche’s Tribute and Prayers for David Bowie

As reported in Lion’s Roar:

“I cannot express in words,” he says. “I am so sad.” Rinpoche goes on to tell of meeting Bowie in 1965 — a story Bowie told his version of in 2001 at Tibet House — and also of knowing Bowie’s producer and collaborator, Tony Visconti. Then, before issuing prayers, Rinpoche says, “I’ll meet him again in the next life.”

Donating organs produces ‘good karma’?

From the BBC:

Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thero is the founder of the Mahamevnawa Buddhist Monastery in Sri Lanka.

Thousands of followers around the world are attracted to the pure form of Theravada Buddhism he preaches.

The monk is a champion of the idea that donating body parts after death creates good karma which increases the chances of being reborn into a better life.

This belief has helped Sri Lanka become one of the world’s leading suppliers of corneas (the clear front part of the eye).

But while most Sri Lankans wait until they die before giving their parts, Kiribathgoda is doing it while he is still alive.

From the main Mahamevnawa monastery in Polgahawela, Sri Lanka Kiribathgoda explained more.

Video produced by: Ross Velton, with the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

‘Bone Relic’ of the Buddha

From The Irrawaddy:

Buddha Bone Tours Burma’s Sacred Sites

A sacred relic said to be a bone from the body of the Buddha has arrived at Rangoon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, where devotees will be able to pay homage to the object through Friday.

The relic arrived in Mandalay last week from northern India, and was taken to the Sitagu International Buddhist Academy in Sagaing Division. The bone then traveled to Naypyidaw, Meikhtila, Okpo and Taunggoo.

The tour was facilitated by Burma’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and Sitagu Buddhist monasteries.


(Photos: Myo Min Soe / The Irrawaddy)

American Academy of Religion: Conference Paper


American Academy of Religion Conference: Atlanta, 21st November 2015

Buddhism Section and Buddhist Philosophy Group

Theme Dṛṣṭi: The Problems of Views and Beliefs in Buddhism

Paul Fuller, University of Cardiff, United Kingdom

Actions speak louder than words: The danger of attachment to views in the Pali Canon and engaged Buddhism


The notion of ‘view’ or ‘opinion’ (diṭṭhi) as an obstacle to ‘seeing things as they are’ (yathābhūtadassana) is a central concept in Buddhist thought. In the study of diṭṭhi there is a dilemma. Early Buddhist texts talk about it as ‘wrong’ (micchā) and ‘right’ (sammā). The aim of the path is the cultivation of ‘right-view’ (sammā-diṭṭhi) and the abandoning of ‘wrong-views’ (micchā-diṭṭhi). However, there is also a tradition of Buddhist thought that equates ‘right-view’ with ‘no-view’ at all. The aim of the Buddhist path is here seen as the overcoming of all views, even right-view. This paper will analyse the description of ‘views’ in the Pali Canon and consider how it impacts on engaged Buddhism. Using a discussion in the Pāṭali-sutta , I will suggest how the Buddhist who acts politically can only do so if his actions exhibit right-view itself.


OPINION: Buddha Bar trio did not blaspheme


Published in the Democratic Voice of Burma, 11th October, 2015:

The case of Phil Blackwood, Tun Thurein and Htut Ko Ko Lwin has highlighted the issue of blasphemy and Buddhism. The three were imprisoned for an image of the Buddha they allegedly produced, wearing headphones with a psychedelic ambience, which caused offence to some Buddhists.

In a previous article to DVB, I suggested the reasons that insensitive images of the Buddha might cause offence. The basic idea I put forward was that an image of the Buddha is in religious terms, much more than a simple depiction of the Buddha. These images have a meaning far beyond a simple representation. A Buddha has a very real power, through his ethical and meditative activity, and this power can help and protect his followers. Misuse of his image can cause very real offence.

The image of the Buddha and other Buddhist religious artefacts are more complex in the cultural and religious context than is often appreciated in the Western imagination. In that imagination, Buddhism is reduced to a simple set of principles and much of its sacredness is downplayed. In many ways the romantic idea of Buddhism, the sacredness, is completely removed and the form of Buddhism as used in the media and advertising is often unrecognisable from the way Buddhism is practiced in Asian societies.

As Prof. David I. Steinberg has suggested: “The Western schoolbook approach which views textual Buddhism as pacifistic, meditative and non-violent misses the dynamic of Buddhism in Myanmar as a socio-political force. It is as naïve as interpreting the history of Western Europe on the basis of the Sermon on the Mount.” [Myanmar’s militant monks smash stereotypes, East Asia Forum, 13 November, 2014]

Having suggested these ideas, there is very little in the Pali Canon which would justify any form of blasphemy, and certainly not punishment for producing images of the Buddha. In fact, the two famous passages that mention offence being made against Buddhism it is clearly argued that those practicing the path to awakening will not take offence at any perceived insult to Buddhism.

Before considering these two passages a brief explanation of ‘intention’ (cetana) might be helpful. As is well known, one of the key features of Indian religious teaching, which the Buddha adopted and clarified, was the notion that ‘actions have consequences’ (kamma/karma). In the Buddha’s discussion of ‘action’, he clearly stated that action is to be understood as ‘intentional action’. The notion of ‘intention’ is central to any Buddhist understanding of an action having a consequence. It is for this reason that many Buddhists are not vegetarian, namely, they did not intend depriving the animal of life. If, without intent, one kills a living being, there is no negative consequence to that action. The same argument can clearly be extended to describe any offence caused unintentionally. If the intention to cause an offence is absent then, clearly, on purely philosophical grounds, no blame should be levelled against those who have caused offence.

In several passages from the Pali Canon the Buddha is very clear. His condemnation is not aimed at those who cause offence, but at the negative and unwholesome states of mind of those who take offence. The message that is repeated throughout the Buddha’s teachings is that the Buddha’s teachings are concerned with the overcoming of suffering. A major obstacle to this is not external factors, in others praise or disparagement, but in controlling feelings of anger and resentment.

It is in this context that the case of Phil Blackwood, Tun Thurein and Htut Ko Ko Lwin is better appreciated. All three have clearly not had any unwholesome intentions to insult Buddhism. Further, all three have offered sincere apologies.

The attitude taken by the Buddha in the Pali Canon and the advice he offers is quite clear. If disparagement, negative comments and offence are aimed at Buddhism then the Buddhist should not allow negative and unwholesome states of mind to overwhelm them. The aim of the Buddhist path is to practice in such a way that one performs ethical activity, calms the mind, and cultivates wisdom and metta. Such behavior seems a much better Buddhist response than to act with offence and anger when none was intended.