Snakes, Ladders, and Utopia, by Diana St Ruth

Fudō uses his sword to cut through ignorance and his lasso to reign in those who would block the path to enlightenment. © The Metropolitan Museum of ArtHave you ever noticed? If everything seems to be going right in your life, if everything seems to be perfect and you start thinking that this is the most perfect time in my life and it’s going to be wonderful from now on, your world suddenly falls apart. It’s a bit like that old board game of snakes and ladders where you throw the dice and climb the ladder to greater and greater heights, then encounter a snake and zoom down you go again, maybe even to a lower position than before.

Some people might say that this is a somewhat pessimistic view of life and that we should be more optimistic, but I have found that this sort of thing does happen quite often. The pinnacle of perfection is reached in terms of health and worldly well-being, our ambitions have been gratified, maybe just sometimes, it’s exciting, and then something awful happens and we plummet downwards into a difficult or even nightmare situation. The depths of despair, on the other hand, can equally as suddenly turn and life goes into the ascendant again. Mostly, we probably just jog along with less dramatic ups and downs — we’re relatively happy; we’re relatively unhappy; we’re relatively happy again. Continue reading

Dhamma – the way it is, by Ajahn Sumedho

Ajahn SumedhoAjahn Sumedho points to the real message of the Buddha’s teaching.

The talk (28 minutes) was given on 17 January 2010 at Uttama Bodhi Vihara in Selangor, Malaysia.

Eight Great Events from the Life of the Buddha

Stele with Eight Great Events from the Life of the Buddha

Most significant is the central Buddha touching the earth at the moment of his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya, indicated by the branches above his head. Surrounding him are scenes of his life, each one associated with a north Indian pilgrimage centre. From lower left, the Buddha is miraculously born out of Maya’s side as she grasps a branch of a sala tree in the Lumbini gardens. Next is the Buddha’s first sermon at Sarnath, and above that the Buddha is subduing the rampaging elephant Nalagiri. In the lowest register at right, a monkey offers honey to the Buddha, which ultimately led to his rebirth as a human, allowing him to reach enlightenment. Next the Buddha is performing miracles, though he is shown simply as a teaching Buddha, and above that the Buddha’s descent from Trayastrimsas heaven has been simplified to a standing Buddha. At the very top is the Buddha’s death at Kushinagara, marking the moment he entered nirvana. Continue reading

Part 2 Toward Nirvana and From Nirvana, by Professor Masahiro Shimoda

Twofold Depictions of the Buddha
Part Two

You can read part one here.

Model of the Mahabodhi TempleA fact that could surprise people who visit Buddhist remains on the Indian subcontinent may be this: monuments relating to the Buddha are concerned not only with the present life of the Buddha but also often with his previous lives, namely with the events connected with his earlier life as a bodhisattva. It seems almost impossible to understand this peculiar phenomenon, particularly for those researchers who are accustomed to regarding the Buddha exclusively as an historical person. However, when we remember the simple fact that throughout history the Buddha has been the one who has stirred deep within people’s hearts the desire to proceed to nirvana and continues always to help them in their purpose, this phenomenon ceases to seem strange. Even during his lifetime, the significance of the Buddha rested mainly in his efforts to strive for nirvana as a bodhisattva. For those who cannot see the corporeal existence of the Buddha, the Buddha appearing through the footsteps taken by the bodhisattva one by one appears much more significant after the Buddha’s parinirvana. Although they cannot directly meet the Buddha who affects this world from the state of ‘nirvana’, the Buddha’s figure as it strives ‘towards nirvana’ as a bodhisattva will be respected as something familiar and will be always widely sought after. Continue reading

Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture

Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum’s collection of Chinese Buddhist and Daoist sculpture is the largest in the western world. In this lavish, comprehensive volume, archaeological discoveries and scientific testing and analysis serve as the basis for a reassessment of 120 works ranging in date from the fourth to the twentieth century, many of them previously unpublished and all of them newly and beautifully photographed. An introductory essay provides an indispensable overview of Buddhist practices and iconography—acquainting us with the panoply of past, present, and future Buddhas, bodhisattvas, monks and arhats, guardians and adepts, pilgrims and immortals—and explores the fascinating dialogue between Indian and Chinese culture that underlies the transmission of Buddhism into China.
Continue reading

Dependent Origination, by Dalai Lama

The Dalai LamaShort talk by the Dalai Lama on the ‘law of causality and dependent origination’. About 25 minutes.

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