India

  • Angulimala and Tantric Buddhism Paid Member

    The British scholar of Buddhism Richard Gombrich has a seemingly endless supply of insightful readings of texts that we as Buddhists assume we know through and through. Take Angulimala (please). The standard story is one of the most famous in all of Buddhism. A fierce robber and murderer named Angulimala cuts off the fingers of unwary travelers in his forest. He wants to get 1,000 fingers and already has 999 sewn together in a monstrous necklace (hence his name: anga, finger + mala, garland/necklace). Along comes the Buddha. Angulimala chases him and though the Buddha simply walks at a slow and stately pace and Angulimala runs as fast as he can, the villain can't catch up. Amazed by this and by the Buddha's calm in the face of danger, Angulimala renounces his evil ways and becomes a devoted Buddhist. More »
  • Mayadevi and the Birth of the Buddha Paid Member

    The birth of the Buddha was preceded by portents: In a dream, a white elephant holding a lotus circumambulated the Buddha's future mother, Queen Maya, three times before striking her on the right side with his trunk and disappearing inside her. The Buddha was later born in Lumbini, as recounted in our Mother's Day post last year: At the time of the Buddha's birth more than 2,500 years ago, Lumbini was a grove of natural grandeur, bursting with rare and beautiful flowers, where bees of five different colors hummed. Queen Maya Devi was passing through this earthly paradise on the way to her parent's house in Devadaha, capital of the Koliya kingdom, from Kapilavastu when the pangs of labor hit. After bathing in a nearby pond the queen walked 25 paces, took support of a Saal tree branch and gave birth standing up. She died a week later. More »
  • Pico Iyer on Tibet's Quiet Revolution Paid Member

    Pico Iyer writes on the Dalai Lama and Tibet's "quiet revolution" in a blogpost for the New York Review of Books: More »
  • Indian government softens hardline position on 17th Karmapa Paid Member

    The Indian government in New Delhi has softened its hardline position on the status of Ogyen Trinley Dorje, one of two claimants to the title of 17th Karmapa. (The other is Trinley Thaye Dorje.) His travel restrictions, among other issues, have eased. Asia Times Online has an extensive article on this issue, which begins: More »
  • The Council of Lhasa (792-794 CE) Paid Member

    The Council of Lhasa did not take place in Lhasa, but rather at the Samye monastery, which is located 3-1/2 hours away from Lhasa by bus these days. Samye is said to be the oldest monastery in Tibet, built in the middle of the 8th century at the request of King Trisong Detsen (one of the three Dharma Kings of Tibet) with the help of Padmasambhava, who brought to the local spirits to heel, and the scholar-monk Shantarakshita. The grounds at Samye are laid out in a mandala pattern and the main building is said to be based on Odantapuri, one of the great Buddhist universities of India, now destroyed (Odantapuri's high walls caused it to be mistaken for a fortress by the general Khalji, who conquered Bihar and Bengal at the end of the 12th century. Though if it had low walls, he might have knocked them down too.) More »
  • The Dalai Lama wants to step down from his political role but keep his religious one Paid Member

    The Tibetan parliament-in-exile next meets in March in Dharamsala, and the Dalai Lama is expected to announce his desire to resign from his political duties as head of the Tibetan government while retaining his religious ones at that time. (In religious terms, the Dalai Lama is not the highest-ranking lama in Tibetan Buddhism, nor is he even the head of the Gelugpa school of which he is a part. That responsibility falls to the Ganden Tripa.) More »