Yet despite the many texts chronicling his life and teachings, it is still uncertain when he lived.
Estimates for his birth stretch as far back as 623 BC, but many scholars believed 390-340 BC a more realistic timeframe.
Until now, the earliest evidence of Buddhist structures at Lumbini dated no earlier than the 3rd Century BC, in the era of the emperor Ashoka.
To investigate, archaeologists began excavating at the heart of the temple – alongside meditating monks, nuns and pilgrims.
They unearthed a wooden structure with a central void which had no roof. Brick temples built later above the timber were also arranged around this central space.
To date the buildings, fragments of charcoal and grains of sand were tested using a combination of radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence techniques.
“Now, for the first time, we have an archaeological sequence at Lumbini that shows a building there as early as the 6th century BC,” said archaeologist Prof Robin Coningham of Durham University, who co-led the international team, supported by the National Geographic Society.
The holy site remained open for meditation while archaeologists excavated
“This is the earliest evidence of a Buddhist shrine anywhere in the world.
“It sheds light on a very long debate, which has led to differences in teachings and traditions of Buddhism.
“The narrative of Lumbini’s establishment as a pilgrimage site under Ashokan patronage must be modified since it is clear that the site had already undergone embellishment for centuries.”
The dig also detected signs of ancient tree roots in the wooden building’s central void – suggesting it was a tree shrine.
Tradition records that Queen Maya Devi gave birth to the Buddha while grasping the branch of a tree within the Lumbini Garden.
The exhibition “Framing the Sacred: Cambodian Buddhist Painting,” which opens Wednesday at the Institute of East Asian Studies in Berkeley, California, is a departure in many respects for this research institution.
“We are not a professional museum, and our primary criteria for exhibits is not aesthetic—though of course this is a factor,” said Caverlee Cary, the institute’s assistant director for program planning. “Our primary goal is educational. We saw this exhibit as an opportunity to both show traditional Buddhist scenes and less seen images.”
Oil painting on cloth featuring the Buddha attending to his dying father (Shaun Burgess)
The exhibition consists of episodes from the life of the Buddha painted on cloth or glass that were lent to the institute by Joel Montague, a U.S. expert in conflict-zone emergency relief and public healthcare who worked in Cambodia throughout the 1990s.
One painting on cloth shows the Buddha at his father’s deathbed. “This huge work—2.3 meters long by 2 meters high—is extremely rare,” Mr. Montague said. “I’ve only seen one that large in all my collecting.”
The oil-paint works on cloth are known in Cambodia as preah bot. “They were not sold: They were all given to the pagodas, to the monasteries, by people wishing to earn merits by doing so,” Mr. Montague said. “Then they just pile up. Pagodas get so many of these things that sometimes, officially or not officially, they sell them.”
Mr. Montague’s collection now includes around 60 preah bot and 50 Buddhist scenes on glass that were painted since the mid-1980s.
“I got the majority of them over the last 10 years in the Phnom Penh area…most of them, believe it or not, from dealers in the Russian Market,” he said. “Normally they are not hung on walls in shops, partly because they are considered religious art but also because that kind of thing does not really sell: There are very few people now who buy them.”
Some of the works were obviously painted by professionals who trained at the Royal University of Fine Arts, Mr. Montague said. But there is no way of knowing who they actually were since artists never sign their preah bot or paintings on glass, he said.
“That would be an effrontery to put their names on something which is a holy object.” On the other hand, the name of the donor who purchased the work to give to his pagoda often appears on it, he added.
“In the past these [preah bot] canvases were a substitute for murals in wooden viharas [sanctuaries] where murals could not be painted, or where there was no permanent vihara and the villagers prepared simple altars with preah bots suspended at the back of the altar,” write iconographer Vittorio Roveda and researcher Sothon Yem in their book “Preah Bot, Buddhist painted scrolls in Cambodia,” which is the only study ever published on those paintings.
Preah bot would occasionally hang in people’s homes during religious festivals, weddings or funeral rites, they write.
The paintings on glass, however, have been meant for private homes rather than pagodas, serving both as educational tools on the life of the Buddha and as votive objects in modest homes in the countryside, Mr. Montague said.
The 50 or so works in his collection were done by artists from Kampuchea Krom communities in Vietnam, he said. The scenes are painted on one side of the glass so they can be seen from the other side. This way, the painted side on glass serving as window is inside a house, protected from the elements, and the finished side is displayed for all to see outside.
“It requires a lot of skills to do these things because you are painting in effect not only on the reversed side, but you do everything in reverse,” Mr. Montague said. “It’s an art which, I believe, is now lost in Cambodia.”
One of the glass paintings in the exhibition features the Buddha preaching from a throne of lotus flowers, surrounded by deities.
The style of those contemporary works on cloth or glass has not changed, which makes the works all the more difficult to date. “The Buddha is always shown in monastic attire, having dispensed with all his regalia and other princely emblems,” Mr. Roveda and Mr. Sothon write. “The image of the Buddha respects local canons of beauty that require a face with radiant skin.”
Works done since the 1980s do not feature references to today’s life and clothes, which, they write, “demonstrate that the Buddhist visual tradition is deeply rooted and unaffected by modernization in Cambodia.”
Some scenes in the exhibition are, Ms. Cary said, “unusual in the Southeast Asian tradition…especially the scene of the Buddha’s stepmother “Mahapajapati Gotami’s Offering of the Triple Robe”…which reminds us of the establishment of an order for women among Buddhist devotees.”
To stress the fact that these works are part of religious practice in Cambodia, a Buddhist monk will hold a blessing ceremony Wednesday at the exhibition opening, Ms. Cary said.
The exhibition will also include a panel discussion on January 31 with speakers such as Penny Edwards, associate professor and chair of the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Ms. Edwards, who initiated the exhibition, is the author of the 2007 book “Cambodge, The Cultivation of a Nation, 1860-1945.”
In addition to Mr. Montague’s preah bot and glass paintings, the exhibition, which will run until March 20, will include photographs illustrating how Cambodians display those works today.
Bodhgaya, India — India’s Mahabodhi Temple, one of the world’s holiest Buddhist shrines, is to have its dome inlaid with 300kg of gold donated by Thailand’s king and other devotees, officials said on Thursday.
<< GOLD CAP: Thai workers applying gold inlay to the spire of India’s Mahabodhi Temple.
The gold would be worth around US$14.5 million (S$18 million) at the current international price.
The precious metal arrived late on Monday on a special flight from Bangkok and is under armed guard at the temple in Bodh Gaya, a holy town about 100km from Patna, the capital of Bihar state.
“A 40-member team including experts and two dozen commandos from Thailand have arrived at Bodh Gaya with gold in 13 boxes,” Mr Arvind Kumar Singh, a member of the temple management committee, told AFP.
The work at the complex, which was rocked by a series of crude bombs in July, is likely to be finished in about a month.
WORLD HERITAGE SITE
The Mahabodhi temple, built about 1,500 years ago, is a Unesco world heritage site and marks the place where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment in 531 BC.
Mr N. Dorjee, secretary of the temple committee, said about 100kg of gold had been donated by the Thai king and the rest by Buddhist devotees.
The decision to offer gold for the dome was taken last year by King Bhumibol Adulyadej after which permission was sought from the local authorities, Mr Dorjee said.
He said: “The first phase of the work involved chemical treatment, which was completed in August. It prepared the foundation for gold plating.
“Stairs have been now installed around the temple’s dome to enable experts to reach the top of the structure and inlay it with thin gold sheets.” Courtesy The New Paper, November 17, B.E.2557 A.D.2013
Kandy, Sri Lanka — The Prince of Wales paid his respects at Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist shrine – containing a tooth from the Buddha.
Charles was ushered into the inner sanctum of a temple complex containing the sacred artefact – but even he did not see it.
The left wisdom tooth is only brought out into the public once every five years for just over a week, with up to 50,000 people making the pilgrimage to catch a glimpse of it.
When the prince arrived at the Temple of the Tooth in the Sri Lankan town of Kandy he was mobbed by people visiting the shrine.
He shook hands that were held out to him and waved at the crowds.
The chief lay custodian of the shrine, Pradeep Nilanga Dela Bandara, who wore an elaborate red velvet jacket with gold braid and had a ceremonial dagger tucked into his belt, led the prince through two ornate silver doors with a handful of monks.
Charles carried a bowl of flower petals into the shrine and emerged a few minutes later.
The relic was smuggled to Sri Lanka in the 4th century by an Indian princess who hid the tooth in her hair and has been kept at the temple since B.E.2136 A.D.1592.
Courtesy the Buddhist Channel, November 18, B.E.2557 A.D.2013
Buddhist monks trek 25 kilometres through dense jungle to protest dam project. Luc Forsyth 15 Nov 2013
Areng Valley, Cambodia – Buddhist monks from Phnom Penh have marched 25 kilometres through dense jungle into western Cambodia in protest against the environmental destruction of one of the country’s few remaining pristine rainforests.
Rampant development has affected forests and waterways across Southeast Asia, and the monks have decided to push back.
“I think life is created from the environment itself. If I lose part of the environment, I lose part of my life,” said monk But Buntenh, who organised the event.
The monks marched towards Pra Lay, a small village deep in the remote Areng Valley. Together with a dozen or so youth volunteers, the monks said they hope to encourage residents of the valley to stand up to the Cambodian government and foreign corporations planning to build a hydroelectric dam on the Areng River.
The Stung Cheay Areng dam project, proposed by the China Guodian Corporation, will create a reservoir that would flood about 20,000 hectares of rainforest and displace the valley’s estimated 1,500 residents.
But before the 40 monks began their protest, they first needed to reach Pra Lay – only accessible by a 25km journey through inhospitable territory.
The monks were of varying ages and fitness levels, and the lead walkers were forced to stop periodically to allow the rest to catch up. As is the norm for Buddhist monks, they had not eaten since noon. Most had brought only a little water.
Several elderly monks, overwhelmed by the rigorous trek, needed to be rescued by a fleet of motorcycles dispatched from the village. Some did not arrive until 4am.
Despite exhaustion, the monks remained in high spirits, playing Khmer pop songs from smartphones that doubled as flashlights.
Despite their late arrival, the monks awoke with the sun the following morning and unfurled their main instrument of protest – an 80-metre-long saffron cloth that they wrapped around large trees as part of a Buddhist blessing. By blessing the trees, the monks said they hoped the residents of the Areng Valley would see their natural environment as holy, and therefore resist development offers made by foreign corporations.
“Most people in Cambodia don’t understand about the importance of trees. Trees bring rain. With no trees, I am afraid that Cambodia will become like the Sahara,” said 30-year-old monk Koem Bunloerum.
If constructed, the dam would devastate one of the most biologically diverse areas of rainforest left in Asia, the monks said.
According to environmental watchdog International Rivers, the flooding created by the dam’s reservoir would destroy the habitat of more than 30 endangered species, including tigers, elephants, and the critically endangered Siamese crocodile.
A document released by the activist group Save Areng Valley also described how the influx of workers required for such a large project would likely bring about an increase in illegal hunting, fishing, and logging.
China Guodian is not the first foreign company to propose damming the Areng River. Local media reported earlier this month that a rival energy giant, China Southern Power Grid, had already explored a project but cancelled plans because of what it viewed as unacceptable human and environmental impacts.
China Guodian did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Spanish-born environmental advocate Alejandro Gonzales-Davidson has visited the Areng Valley for years, and dedicated himself to protecting it from environmental degradation through his non-profit organisation Mother Nature.
“Even though, allegedly, they wouldn’t make any money from this dam, they would build a relationship with the government and the relevant ministries, so that in the future they could build more dams. That’s where the profit would come from,” Gonzales-Davidson told Al Jazeera.
Monk Ngim Saosam Khan, 33, said he was optimistic about making a difference.
“In Cambodia, monks have power and can stand up to the government if something is wrong,” he said. “So the government and many companies are not happy with our work because we are disturbing their [quest for] money.” Courtesy Al Jazeera
This documentary by award-winning filmmaker David Grubin and narrated by Richard Gere, tells the story of the Buddha’s life, a journey especially relevant to our own bewildering times of violent change and spiritual confusion. It features the work of some of the world’s greatest artists and sculptors, who across two millenia, have depicted the Buddha’s life in art rich in beauty and complexity.
In the far west of Tibet, there is a mountain some call the CENTER OF THE WORLD …
Nine-Story Mountain charts the journey of three western researchers, on a path of self-discovery, from Lhasa, Tibet to Mount Kailash, as they set out to understand the secrets of a mountain and landscape that have magnetized millions of people for centuries.
Film Credits Augusta Thomson – Director Chelsi Bullard – Producer/Editor Lara Yeo – Associate Producer Don Nelson – Photographer Pauline Yu – Illustrator Monica Rivera – Graphic Designer Tim Guerkink – Sound Engineer Music Curtesy of Otti Albeitz
We obtained permission from Six Degrees Records and Steve Tibbetts to use the song “Chenrezi” in our trailer. Courtesy BuddhaDharma
His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks encouragingly to hundreds of exiled Tibetan Buddhist nuns in India about the importance of their roles in preserving the Buddhist teachings and as future teachers. (Photo taken on Nov 3, 2013 by Tenzin Choejor, Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama)
It was a moment that Tibetan Buddhist nuns dream of — to be in the presence of the Dalai Lama and to hear his words of encouragement about their studies. Many of the nuns had risked their lives fleeing Tibet to see the Dalai Lama and to find the freedom to practice their Buddhist faith.
The nuns had just completed a one-month debate session with participants coming from eight different nunneries in India and Nepal. These sessions have been an integral part of the nuns reaching the level of excellence in their studies that they have. His Holiness called them up to his residence after its conclusion and gave them a brief talk and then posed for a photograph with the nuns of each nunnery and then with the entire group.
The nuns have been helped on their path by the Tibetan Nuns Project and its network of global supporters. Headquartered in India and will a small office in Seattle, this 501(c)3 charity was established in 1987 under the auspices of the Tibetan Women’s Association and the Department of Religion and Culture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The Tibetan Nuns Project has helped to re-establish nunneries in India and currently provides education, food, shelter and health care to over 700 Tibetan Buddhist nuns from all schools of Tibetan Buddhism and ranging in age from pre-teen to mid-80s.
Venerable Lobsang Dechen, Co-Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project and a nun herself, recalls the early days of the Project:
“When the nuns arrived in India, they were ill, exhausted, traumatized and impoverished. Many nuns had faced torture and imprisonment at the hands of the Chinese authorities in Tibet and endured immense physical and emotional pain. The existing nunneries in the struggling Tibetan refugee community in India were already overcrowded and could not accommodate them.”
“Most refugee nuns escaping to Northern India have had no education in their own language, nor have they been allowed education in their religious heritage while in Tibet. Many were illiterate on arrival and could not even write their own names.”
Now, thanks to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to the many learned monks who have shared their knowledge to teach the nuns and to supporters of the Tibetan Nuns Project, the Tibetan Buddhist nuns are now receiving educational opportunities previously available only to monks.
“Education is the key to empowerment,” says Dr. Elizabeth Napper, Co-Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project. “We have made huge progress since 1987. In 2013 we reached an historic milestone when 27 nuns sat the first part of the Geshema exam, like a PhD in Tibetan Buddhism.”
Tibetan nunneries were well established in Tibet from the 12th century, with traditions reaching back as far as the 8th century. Before the Chinese invasion in 1949, there were at least 818 nunneries and nearly 28,000 nuns living in Tibet.
Chinese Communist policies have attempted to destroy traditional Tibetan culture, particularly its unique religious heritage and rich tradition of spiritual practice and scholarship. In an attempt to eliminate Buddhism in Tibet, more than 6,000 monasteries and nunneries were destroyed between 1959 and 1980.
The Dalai Lama concluded his address to the nuns by calling on them to take leadership roles:
“The Dharma [Buddhist teaching] is at a critical juncture. You might think that it would be good to spend the rest of your life as a hermit, but we also need qualified people to teach others. Once you complete your studies we need some of you nuns to teach. Until now you have relied on monks to teach you, but in future it will be very important that there are also nuns to teach nuns.”
These brave and dedicated women who risked everything to pursue their faith are helping to preserve Tibet’s unique culture and religion.
You can learn more about the Tibetan Nuns Project at www.tnp.org Courtesy the BuddhaDharma November 13, B.E.2557 A.D.2013
A Dhamma Talk on Vipassana and mindfulness meditation by Vipassana Gossalaya Jotannano Hong Keo, Vipassana Buddhist Master during a 10-Day Meditation & Vipassana Retreats at the Buddhist Meditation Center, Wat Kiryvongsa Bopharam on the 11th Waxing Moon – 7th Waning Moon of Jeṭṭha B.E.2560 equivalent to June 15 – 26, A.D.2016 in Leverett, Massachusetts, U.S.A. in 2016.
ក្រុងសាវត្ថី Sāvatthī or Śrāvastī
Vipassana chanting by Meditation Master Ketodhammo Som Bunthoeun. Footages from 2016 Vipassana classes at the Buddhist Meditation Center – Wat Kiryvongsa Bopharam in Leverett, Massachusetts, USA.
SAMDECH CHUON NATH
Khmer literature and Dhamma talk by His Holiness Jotannano Chuon Nath, the Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia Buddhism. His Holiness was born on March 11, 1883; passed away on September 25, 1969
MAHA GHOSANANDA SERVICES
Extraordinary Funeral and Memorial Services for His Holiness Samdech Dr. Maha Ghosananda