April 30, 2007

Middle Way...what way?

Chandrakirti based most of his pholosophy on what is called the 'middle way' or 'path' (forgive me if i am wrong) was he the philosopher who defended that all objects are merely temporary phenomena created by circumstances, which is heraclitan in some aspect where Heraclitus claimed that 'everything flows, nothing stays...'?

What is this middle way? It is the middle of what and what? the middle could be lying between 'there' and 'here', but where is 'there' and where is that 'here'? what is 'there' and 'here'? i do not think that 'there' is there and 'here' is 'here'. and most importantly, what is more important? there or here, both or something between 'there' and 'here'? but what is this 'middle' way?

April 21, 2007

Buddhism in the west and east - What Difference?

Back in the old days, we would have never dreamed that Buddhism would flourish in the west. yet interestingly, buddhism has taken its firm root in the western society, where they have different lifestyle and way of thinking altogether! over the years, buddhism in most part of bhutan and in the east has taken a newer and different dimension from what it actually could mean. as the buddhism in the east is complex with more focus on tantrisism and rituals, the buddhism in the west is simple, as buddha would have taught! so, in the long run, would the buddhism taught in the western countries be more pragmatic to practice than the buddhism in some of the eastern countries, mostly tibetan buddhism?

April 15, 2007

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

His Holiness the 14th the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, is the head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He was born Lhamo Dhondrub on 6 July 1935, in a small village called Taktser in northeastern Tibet. Born to a peasant family, His Holiness was recognized at the age of two, in accordance with Tibetan tradition, as the reincarnation of his predecessor the 13th Dalai Lama, and thus an incarnation Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion.

The Dalai Lamas are the manifestations of the Bodhisattva (Buddha) of Compassion, who chose to reincarnate to serve the people. Lhamo Dhondrub was, as Dalai Lama, renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso - Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom. Tibetans normally refer to His Holiness as Yeshe Norbu, the Wishfulfilling Gem or simply Kundun - The Presence.

The enthronement ceremony took place on February 22, 1940 in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

Education in Tibet

He began his education at the age of six and completed the Geshe Lharampa Degree (Doctorate of Buddhist Philosophy) when he was 25 in 1959. At 24, he took the preliminary examinations at each of the three monastic universities: Drepung, Sera and Ganden. The final examination was conducted in the Jokhang, Lhasa during the annual Monlam Festival of Prayer, held in the first month of every year Tibetan calendar.

Leadership Responsibilities

On November 17, 1950, His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power (head of the State and Government) after some 80,000 Peoples Liberation Army soldiers invaded Tibet. In 1954, he went to Beijing to talk peace with Mao Tse-tung and other Chinese leaders, including Chou En-lai and Deng Xiaoping. In 1956, while visiting India to attend the 2500th Buddha Jayanti Anniversary, he had a series of meetings with Prime Minister Nehru and Premier Chou about deteriorating conditions in Tibet.

His efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to Sino-Tibetan conflict were thwarted by Bejing's ruthless policy in Eastern Tibet, which ignited a popular uprising and resistance. This resistance movement spread to other parts of the country. On 10 March 1959 the capital of Tibet, Lhasa, exploded with the largest demonstration in Tibetan history, calling on China to leave Tibet and reaffirming Tibet's independence. The Tibetan National Uprising was brutally crushed by the Chinese army. His Holiness escaped to India where he was given political asylum. Some 80,000 Tibetan refugees followed His Holiness into exile. Today, there are more than 120,000 Tibetan in exile. Since 1960, he has resided in Dharamsala, India, known as "Little Lhasa," the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-exile.

In the early years of exile, His Holiness appealed to the United Nations on the question of Tibet, resulting in three resolutions adopted by the General Assembly in 1959, 1961, and 1965, calling on China to respect the human rights of Tibetans and their desire for self-determination. With the newly constituted Tibetan Government-in-exile, His Holiness saw that his immediate and urgent task was to save the both the Tibetan exiles and their culture alike. Tibetan refugees were rehabilitated in agricultural settlements. Economic development was promoted and the creation of a Tibetan educational system was established to raise refugee children with full knowledge of their language, history, religion and culture. The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts was established in 1959, while the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies became a university for Tibetans in India. Over 200 monasteries have been re-established to preserve the vast corpus of Tibetan Buddhist teachings, the essence of the Tibetan way of life.

In 1963, His Holiness promulgated a democratic constitution, based on Buddhist principles and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a model for a future free Tibet. Today, members of the Tibetan parliament are elected directly by the people. The members of the Tibetan Cabinet are elected by the parliament, making the Cabinet answerable to the Parliament. His Holiness has continuously emphasized the need to further democratise the Tibetan administration and has publicly declared that once Tibet regains her independence he will not hold political office.

In Washington, D.C., at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1987, he proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan as a first step toward resolving the future status of Tibet. This plan calls for the designation of Tibet as a zone of peace, an end to the massive transfer of ethnic Chinese into Tibet, restoration of fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms, and the abandonment of China's use of Tibet for nuclear weapons production and the dumping of nuclear waste, as well as urging "earnest negotiations" on the future of Tibet.

In Strasbourg, France, on 15 June 1988, he elaborated the Five-Point Peace Plan and proposed the creation of a self-governing democratic Tibet, "in association with the People's Republic of China."

On 2 September 1991, the Tibetan Government-in-exile declared the Strasbourg Proposal invalid because of the closed and negative attitude of the present Chinese leadership towards the ideas expressed in the proposal.

On 9 October 1991, during an address at Yale University in the United States, His Holiness said that he wanted to visit Tibet to personally assess the political situation. He said, "I am extremely anxious that, in this explosive situation, violence may break out. I want to do what I can to prevent this.... My visit would be a new opportunity to promote understanding and create a basis for a negotiated solution."

Contact with West and East

Since 1967, His Holiness initiated a series of journeys which have taken him to some 46 nations. In autumn of 1991, he visited the Baltic States at the invitation of Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis of Lithuania and became the first foreign leader to address the Lithuanian Parliament. His Holiness met with the late Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1973. At a press conference in Rome in 1980, he outlined his hopes for the meeting with John Paul II: "We live in a period of great crisis, a period of troubling world developments. It is not possible to find peace in the soul without security and harmony between peoples. For this reason, I look forward with faith and hope to my meeting with the Holy Father; to an exchange of ideas and feelings, and to his suggestions, so as to open the door to a progressive pacification between peoples." His Holiness met Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1980, 1982, 1986, 1988 and 1990. In 1981, His Holiness talked with Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie, and with other leaders of the Anglican Church in London. He also met with leaders of the Roman Catholic and Jewish communities and spoke at an interfaith service held in his honor by the World Congress of Faiths: "I always believe that it is much better to have a variety of religions, a variety of philosophies, rather than one single religion or philosophy. This is necessary because of the different mental dispositions of each human being. Each religion has certain unique ideas or techniques, and learning about them can only enrich one's own faith."

Recognition and Awards

Since his first visit to the west in the early 1973, a number of western universities and institutions have conferred Peace Awards and honorary Doctorate Degrees in recognition of His Holiness' distinguished writings in Buddhist philosophy and for his leadership in the solution of international conflicts, human rights issues and global environmental problems. In presenting the Raoul Wallenberg Congressional Human Rights Award in 1989, U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos said, "His Holiness the Dalai Lama's courageous struggle has distinguished him as a leading proponent of human rights and world peace. His ongoing efforts to end the suffering of the Tibetan people through peaceful negotiations and reconciliation have required enormous courage and sacrifice."

The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision to award the 1989 Peace Prize to His Holiness the Dalai Lama won worldwide praise and applause, with exception of China. The Committeeีs citation read, "The Committee wants to emphasize the fact that the Dalai Lama in his struggle for the liberation of Tibet consistently has opposed the use of violence. He has instead advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people."

On 10 December 1989, His Holiness accepted the prize on the behalf of oppressed everywhere and all those who struggle for freedom and work for world peace and the people of Tibet. In his remarks he said, "The prize reaffirms our conviction that with truth, courage and determination as our weapons, Tibet will be liberated. Our struggle must remain nonviolent and free of hatred."

He also had a message of encouragement for the student-led democracy movement in China. "In China the popular movement for democracy was crushed by brutal force in June this year. But I do not believe the demonstrations were in vain, because the spirit of freedom was rekindled among the Chinese people and China cannot escape the impact of this spirit of freedom sweeping in many parts of the world. The brave students and their supporters showed the Chinese leadership and the world the human face of that great nations."

A Simple Buddhist monk

His Holiness often says, "I am just a simple Buddhist monk - no more, nor less."

His Holiness follows the life of Buddhist monk. Living in a small cottage in Dharamsala, he rises at 4 A.M. to meditate, pursues an ongoing schedule of administrative meetings, private audiences and religious teachings and ceremonies. He concludes each day with further prayer before retiring. In explaining his greatest sources of inspiration, he often cites a favorite verse, found in the writings of the renowned eighth century Buddhist saint Shantideva:

For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.

April 14, 2007

Book Review - What Makes You not A Buddhist

What Makes You Not A Buddhist
ISBN 978-1-59030-406-8
By Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse
Shambhala Publications, December 2006

Dzongsar Khyentse is one of the most creative and innovative young Tibetan Buddhist lamas teaching today. The director of two feature films with Buddhist themes (the international sensation The Cup and Travelers and Magicians), this provocative teacher, artist, and poet is widely known and admired by Western Buddhists.

Moving away from conventional presentations of Buddhist teachings, Khyentse challenges readers to make sure they know what they’re talking about before they claim to be Buddhist. With wit and irony, Khyentse urges readers to move beyond the superficial trappings of Buddhism—beyond a romance with beads, incense, and exotic people in robes—straight to the heart of what the Buddha taught.

In essence, this book explains what a Buddhist really is, namely, someone who deeply understands the truth of impermanence and how our emotions can trap us in cycles of suffering. Khyentse presents the fundamental tenets of Buddhism in simple language, using examples we can all relate to.

From What Makes You Not A Buddhist

Sometimes out of frustration that Siddhartha’s teachings have not caught on enough for my liking, and sometimes out of my own ambition, I entertain ideas of reforming Buddhism, making it easier - more straightforward and puritanical. It is devious and misguided to imagine (as I sometimes do) simplifying Buddhism into defined, calculated practices like meditating three times a day, adhering to certain dress codes, and holding certain ideological beliefs, such as that the whole world must be converted to Buddhism. If we could promise that such practices would provide immediate, tangible results, I think there would be more Buddhists in the world. But when I recover from these fantasies (which I rarely do), my sober mind warns me that a world of people calling themselves Buddhists would not necessarily be a better world.


By writing this book, it is not my aim to persuade people to follow Shakyamuni Buddha, become Buddhists, and practice the dharma. I deliberately do not mention any meditation techniques, practices, or mantras. My primary intention is to point out the unique part of Buddhism that differentiates it from other views. What did this Indian prince say that earned so much respect and admiration, even from skeptical modern scientists like Albert Einstein? What did he say that moved thousands of pilgrims to prostrate themselves all the way from Tibet to Bodh Gaya? What sets Buddhism apart from the religions of the world? I believe it boils down to the four seals, and I have attempted to present these difficult concepts in the simplest language available to me.

April 11, 2007

How Buddhist am I?

I am a Buddhist by virtue of being born into a Buddhist society like any other Bhutanese. But, where do I stand as a real Buddhist? How much do I really know about Buddhism? When someone asked me about Buddhism, I am lost for any answer. I do not even know the fundamental principles and precepts of Buddhism. Should I be ashamed of myself to be called a Buddhist? My knowledge about Buddhism is very very limited. What about the youngsters now who tend to believe and incline more towards hippy cultures? Do we qualify ourselves to be called Buddhist? Moreover, our concept and understanding of Buddhism has interlapped with other religious beliefs. It's said that the concept of God is non-existent in Buddhism, but we use this conceptual gods as much as we use salt in our dishes. We even use words like 'sin' and 'sinner' like household utensils in our conversation on Buddhism, which is alien to Buddhist termonology. Has Buddhism in Bhutan being imperialised and colonialised, especially in the minds of the younger generation?

April 6, 2007

State Religion of Bhutan

Mahayana Buddhism was the state religion, and Buddhists comprised about 70 percent of the population in the early 1990s. Although originating from Tibetan Buddhism, Bhutanese Buddhism differs significantly in its rituals, liturgy, and monastic organization. The state religion has long been supported financially by the government through annual subsidies to monasteries, shrines, monks, and nuns. In the modern era, support of the state religion during the reign of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck included the manufacture of 10,000 gilded bronze images of the Buddha, publication of elegant calligraphied editions of the 108- volume Kanjur (Collection of the Words of the Buddha) and the 225-volume Tenjur (Collection of Commentaries), and the construction of numerous chorten (stupas) throughout the country. Guaranteed representation in the National Assembly and the Royal Advisory Council, Buddhists constituted the majority of society and were assured an influential voice in public policy.

In 1989 some 1,000 monks (lam, or gelong, novices) belonged to the Central Monastic Body in Thimphu and Punakha, and some 4,000 monks belonged to district monastic bodies. The hierarchy was headed by the Je Khenpo, who was assisted by four lonpon or masters, each in charge of religious tradition, liturgy, lexicography, or logic. The lonpon, one of whom, the Dorji Lonpon, normally succeeded the current Je Khenpo, had under them religious administrators and junior monastic officials in charge of art, music, and other areas. Gelugpa monks were celibate, but Nyingmapa monks were not so restricted and could marry, raise families, and work in secular occupations while performing liturgical functions in temples and homes. In all, there were some 12,000 monks in Bhutan in the late 1980s. There were also active congregations of nuns, but no figures were readily available.

The majority of Bhutan's Buddhists are adherents of the Drukpa subsect of the Kargyupa (literally, oral transmission) school, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, which is itself a combination of the Theravada (monastic), Mahayana (messianic), and Tantrayana (apocalyptic) forms of Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism holds that salvation can be achieved through the intercession of compassionate bodhisattvas (enlightened ones) who have delayed their own entry into a state of nibbana, or nirvana, enlightenment and selfless bliss, to save others. Emphasis is put on the doctrine of the cosmic Buddha, of whom the historical Buddha--Siddhartha Gautama (ca. 563-ca. 483 B.C.)--was only one of many manifestations. Bodhisattvas are in practice treated more as deities than as enlightened human beings and occupy the center of a richly polytheistic universe of subordinate deities; opposing, converted, and reformed demons; wandering ghosts; and saintly humans that reflects the shamanistic folk religion of the regions into which Buddhism expanded. Tantrism contributed esoteric techniques of meditation and a repertoire of sacred icons, phrases, gestures, and rituals that easily lent themselves to practical (rather than transcendental) and magical interpretation.

The Kargyupa school was introduced into Tibet from India and into Bhutan from Tibet in the eleventh century. The central teaching of the Kargyupa school is meditation on mahamudra (Sanskrit for great seal), a concept tying the realization of emptiness to freedom from reincarnation. Also central to the Kargyupa school are the dharma (laws of nature, all that exists, real or imaginary), which consist of six Tantric meditative practices teaching bodily self-control so as to achieve nirvana. One of the key aspects of the Kargyupa school is the direct transmission of the tenets of the faith from teacher to disciple. The Drukpa subsect, which grew out of one of the four Kargyupa sects, was the preeminent religious belief in Bhutan by the end of the twelfth century.

Monasteries and convents were common throughout Bhutan in the late twentieth century. Both monks and nuns kept their heads shaved and wore distinguishing maroon robes. Their days were spent in study and meditation but also in the performance of rituals honoring various bodhisattvas, praying for the dead, and seeking divine intercession on behalf of the ill. Some of their prayers involved chants and singing accompanied by conch shell trumpets, thighbone trumpets (made from human thighbones), metal horns up to three meters long, large standing drums and cymbals, hand bells, temple bells, gongs, and wooden sticks. Such monastic music and singing, not normally heard by the general public, has been reported to have "great virility" and to be more melodious than its Tibetan monotone counterparts.

To bring Buddhism to the people, numerous symbols and structures are employed. Religious monuments, prayer walls, prayer flags, and sacred mantras carved in stone hillsides were prevalent in the early 1990s. Among the religious monuments are chorten, the Bhutanese version of the Indian stupa. They range from simple rectangular "house" chorten to complex edifices with ornate steps, doors, domes, and spires. Some are decorated with the Buddha's eyes that see in all directions simultaneously. These earth, brick, or stone structures commemorate deceased kings, Buddhist saints, venerable monks, and other notables, and sometimes they serve as reliquaries. Prayer walls are made of laid or piled stone and inscribed with Tantric prayers. Prayers printed with woodblocks on cloth are made into tall, narrow, colorful prayer flags, which are then mounted on long poles and placed both at holy sites and at dangerous locations to ward off demons and to benefit the spirits of the dead. To help propagate the faith, itinerant monks travel from village to village carrying portable shrines with many small doors, which open to reveal statues and images of the Buddha, bodhisattavas, and notable lamas.

April 2, 2007


Before the introduction of Buddhism, animistic worship, generally categorized as Bon in the Himalayas, was prevalent in Bhutan. The sun, moon, sky, and other natural elements were worshiped, and doctrine was transmitted orally from generation to generation. Bon, from a Tibetan word meaning invocation or recitation, has priests--bonpo--who perform exorcisms, burial rites, and divinations to tame threatening demons and to understand the wishes of the gods. Imported from Tibet and India, perhaps in the eighth century, Bon doctrine became so strongly reinvigorated by Buddhism that by the eleventh century it reasserted itself as an independent school apart from Buddhism. Conversely, Bon influenced popular Buddhism, infusing it with an appreciation for omens and demons felt to influence daily life profoundly. Bon established a canon of teachings and continued to be practiced in modern Bhutan.