Sunday, November 4, 2007

Buddhist Culture and Art Fest 2007 (Part 2)

As mentioned in Part 1 of this article, this fest has lots of great activities and many Buddhist societies are present.

The most attractive of all is the attempt to achieve the Malaysian Record for the Largest Lotus made Buddha Footprint. Exactly 84,000 lotuses were used to make this footprint which resembles the 84,000 teachings in Buddhism. Also present was a carving of a footprint which is the reference for the lotus footprint. Lotus represents the purity of the mind, body and actions; it also associated to the Buddha himself.

There's a section in this fest which is quite interesting. It is a booth which is fully covered, leaving 2 openings (1 for entrance and 1 for exit). As we enter into the booth, there a large sign asking this question "Where is Buddha?". As we walk through the corridors of this booth, there were lots of answers on both sides of the wall (all by children, what's more hand-written by them as well). Some of this answer are really funny, such as Buddha is in Brickfield's temple cause I saw him there; Buddha is in my class sitting beside me; What is Buddha is it a type of food? ...etc. At the end of the booth, there are 2 cupboards which has "Buddha is here" written on them. Guess what...after opening the cupboard, all we see is a reflection of ourself in a mirror. It sure was an interesting way to say "Buddha is in ourselves and our hearts!"

Another activity which also attracts lots of female visitors was the copying of the Chinese Mantras and Sutras. It is said that merits are gain if one sincerely copy and distribute the teachings of Buddhism (Mantras and Sutras). Here visitors get to show off their skill in Chinese calligraphy. To tell the truth, some of them really are wonderful.

The picture beside is the entrance for this Chinese Mantras and Sutras copying section.

Others are the Wishing well and Bathing of Buddha. Bathing the Buddha is belief to bring blessings to the ones who do it sincerely. As for the Wishing well, personally I think it is an influence from cultural beliefs, because in Buddhism we should not wish for anything but accept and appreciate what we have and what we are.

Another highlight of this fest are the live musical performance on the life of well-known Bodhisattva, such as Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin).

Others activities there are, free distribution of posters, calenders, books and etc. There are items which are sold for charity, such as T-shirts, CDs, DVDs, souvenirs, vegetarian food and etc.

It was a wonderful experience this year, I'll be looking forward for the next Buddhist Art and Culture Fest (hoping it would be held again next year).

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Buddhist Culture and Art Fest 2007 (Part 1)

It was a busy week at Malaysia International Exhibition & Convention Centre (MIECC) situated just beside the Mines Resort City, Malaysia. There were lots of participants which consists of both local and foreign Buddhist and Buddhism Enthusiasts. It is also one of the days were MIECC is packed with people.

The crowds main intention was to attend Buddhist Culture and Art Fest, 2007. This event lasted for 5 days in a row, 6th - 10th June, 2007. It was a fest that Malaysian Buddhist world could be proud of as different branches of Buddhism came together for the first time in Malaysian history to bring the largest Buddhist fest (in Malaysia) to life.

As I was from a Buddhist family, automatically it just drew my attention. To think back that I've been there for 4 out of the 5 days. It sometimes surprises myself, but there were no regrets as it was a great experience for me and my family.

As far as I know, there were at least 4 different cultured Buddhism during the fest, Malaysian, Taiwanese, Sri Lanka, and Tibetian. But most of my time was spend at the Tibetian section as my uncle was a member for one of the Tibetian Buddhist society in Malaysia. It was amazing as it was my first time to actually see a Sand Mandala create and destroyed in that fair.

As the sand of a Sand Mandala is said to aid one to stay healthy; me and my family just didn't want to let this opportunity go, so we each grabbed a spoonful of the sand as it was given to the public. During my time spent there, I got to meet and received blessings from Dalai Lama's Cousin who is now a Rinpoche in the United States. I've also received a pendant from him. Kind of lucky for me.

Other great experiences in this fest were Sutras copying activities, exhibitions, prayers etc. More will be mentioned in part 2.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wealth or Happiness, which is more important?

After hearing from friends, relatives or even successful people, we tend to get the idea that wealth is the major part in life. Some even go as far as to say Wealth, Status and Money is the reason for them to exist of live.

Yes, it is true that without any money, one cannot survive. In fact, everything in this world has a cost for it, we need money to buy things, food, clothing etc in order to survive. Wealth is just a word to describe, a person's Worldly Happiness (External Happiness). The more one's wealth is, there's a higher chance he/she is able to own more worldly things (things that are unable to be brought together with us when we leave this world - after death).

From a Buddhist Dharma talk, I got to know that, to attain True Happiness (Inner Happiness) which most probably we can bring along with us even after death; we need to follow and practice certain steps.

The following are just a Buddhist Guidelines to True Happiness:
  • Be Content with what you have and who you are: People in this modern society often chase after latest fashion, technologies, and other trends. They place importance when it comes to outer appearances. They feel inferior when they do not have worldly things that their friends, relatives, or even other people around them have. These people often wont feel contented, resulting them to feel pressured, stressed and in some cases depressed when they fail to obtain what they wanted. This condition worsen, if the people were to do anything (even using wrong methods) to obtain things they wanted.
  • Keep yourself away from as many Mental Suffering as possible: Mental Suffering consist of Sensual Desires, Anger/Hate, Worries, Sloth/Laziness, and Doubtfulness/Suspicion.
  • Follow the Basic Precepts of Buddhism : Don't Kill, Don't Lie, Don't Commit Adultery, Don't Steal, and Don't take intoxicants. Precepts can be said to be rules or guidelines in Buddhism. For monks and nuns the amount of precepts are increased.
  • Do more Good Deeds instead of Bad ones.
  • Practice Meditation whenever possible. There's many benefits from meditation, such as we get to rejuvenate ourselves, our mind get to be more focused etc.
  • Practice the Noble Eight Fold Path:
  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Thoughts
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Actions
  5. Right Live hood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Meditation
  8. Right Concentration
Sadu, Sadu, Sadu.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Origins of Surangama Mantra

The Surangama Mantra, also known as the White Umbrella Dharani, is the sacred mantra mentioned in the Surangama Sutra. It has 427 phrases, the last eight of which constitute the Heart Mantra. According to the Surangama Sutra, the Surangama Mantra was chanted by the Buddha to save Ananda. It was long a part of the morning incantations performed in the rural monasteries of China. *Reference

As I know, this mantra originated to save Ananda (Buddha's most trusted disciple). The story began, as Ananda was traveling through India alone (because Buddha had to attend an event somewhere else); he passed by a prostitution house. Upon passing this place, one of the prostitutes happened to be looking out the window. She fell in love with Ananda at first sight.

Knowing that Ananda is a monk, and surely wont accept her. She went to seek help from a witch, who then placed a spell upon Ananda. Though Ananda still had a clear mind, that spell made Ananda lost control of his body which brought him to that prostitute. It made him suffered, as he knew that what he was doing was against his precepts as a monk; just that his body was controlled by the witch's spell.

At this moment, Buddha who is far from Ananda felt Ananda's sufferings. The Awaken One then assigned Manjusri Bodhisattva, to aid Ananda by delivering the Surangama Mantra to him. As Ananda started to practice this mantra, the witch's spell weaken each day, and finally Ananda was freed from the grip of that prostitute.

In turn, that prostitute was convinced by Buddha and repent for her sins (at later stage she too became Buddha's disciple). As the teachings go on, it's was later brought into China and now worldwide.

Sadu, Sadu, Sadu.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Branches of Buddhism

As my first post, I'll just post some introductory in the 2 major types of Buddhism which I know.

Let's see the 2 types are Theravada and Mahayana.

Theravada Buddhism, the "Doctrine of the Elders," (Pali: thera "elders" + vada "word, doctrine") is the school of Buddhism that draws its scriptural inspiration from the Tipitaka, or Pali canon, which scholars generally agree contains the earliest surviving record of the Buddha's teachings. *Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction (fifth edition) by R.H. Robinson, W.L. Johnson, and Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Belmont, California: Wadsworth, 2005), p. 46.

What we call Theravada today is the sole survivor of those early non-Mahayana schools. Because Theravada historically dominated southern Asia, it is sometimes called "Southern" Buddhism, while Mahayana, which migrated northwards from India into China, Tibet, Japan, and Korea, is known as "Northern" Buddhism. *A third major branch of Buddhism emerged much later (ca. 8th century CE) in India:Vajrayana, the "Diamond Vehicle." Vajrayana's elaborate system of esoteric initiations, tantric rituals, and mantra recitations eventually spread north into central and east Asia, leaving a particularly strong imprint on Tibetan Buddhism. See Buddhist Religions, pp. 124ff. and chapter 11.

For many centuries, Theravada has been the predominant religion of continental Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, and Laos) and Sri Lanka. Today Theravada Buddhists number well over 100 million worldwide.

Key Teachings of Theravada
Shortly after his Awakening, the Buddha ("the Awakened One") delivered his first sermon, in which he laid out the essential framework upon which all his later teachings were based. This framework consists of the Four Noble Truths, four fundamental principles of nature (Dhamma) that emerged from the Buddha's honest and penetrating assessment of the human condition and that serve to define the entire scope of Buddhist practice. These truths are not statements of belief. Rather, they are categories by which we can frame our direct experience in a way that is conducive to Awakening: Life Contains Suffering, Suffering is Caused by desire ( Particularly selfish desire), there is an end to suffering, The end is the 8 fold Noble Path.

Mahayana Buddhism, Sanskrit for "Greater Vehicle," along with Theravada Buddhism, are the two principal branches of Buddhist belief. Mahayana originated in India and subsequently spread throughout China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, Central Asia, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Followers of Mahayana have traditionally regarded their doctrine as the full revelation of the nature and teachings of the Buddha, in opposition to the earlier Theravada tradition, which they characterize as the Lesser Vehicle (Hinayana).

In contrast to the relative conservatism of earlier Buddhist schools, which adhered closely to the recognized teachings of the historical Buddha, Mahayana embraces a wider variety of practices, has a more mythological view of what a Buddha is, and addresses broader philosophical issues.

Two major Mahayana schools arose in India: Madhyamika (Middle Path) and Vij├▒anavada (Consciousness Only; also known as Yogachara). With the spread of Mahayana Buddhism beyond India, other indigenous schools appeared, such as Pure Land Buddhism and Zen.

*Information in this post consists references to data from other sites and text.