Breakthrough Research by Canadian Scholar Prof. Suwanda Sugunasiri
The Buddha is known as a Religious Teacher. But a cosmologist? A Darwinist? That is how he comes through in a Buddhist text known as the Agga¤¤a discourse, one of the Long Discourses (Digha Nikaya). This is the view one gets from a recent research by Canadian Prof. Suwanda H J Sugunasiri, published in the latest issue of Canadian Journal of Buddhist Studies (2013). He finds is a “historically and scientifically accurate characterization of the cyclical cosmic process of Devolution (saüvañña) and Evolution (vivañña).”
In Western Science, our universe has its beginnings in the Big Bang. In contrast to this linear model, with connotations of a first cause theism, it is, for the Buddha, the Devolutionary phase, one phase of the cycle.
So how does Evolutionary phase that precedes it end? When the ‘seven suns’ (as in a different Discourse) burns out everything – animal life, plant life, tallest of mountains, and the rivers and oceans dry up. The Big Bang is a big explosion spewing out heat.
The Big Bang, of 13.5 billion years ago, is followed by cooling period, after which the earth appears at 4.5 billion years ago. In the Buddha’s Evolutionary phase, ‘all is water’ and ‘it’s pitch dark’; no moon and sun, no constellation, no days and night are to be seen. This is followed by the earth.
While the Buddha is less specific in terms of years, he says ‘This world evolves’ to capture the change from Devolution to Evolution, and ‘This world evolves again’ when the earth appears.
It is in Biology and the Darwinian Theory of Evolution that we read about the evolution of life in Western Science. But the Buddha introduces sentient life in relation to the earth. Thus the Buddha identifies three types of plant life. The last is rice, that we have in supermarkets today, but an early variation, not forgetting that ‘all sentient beings are food-based’.
Enjoying the food, beings begin to be more complex. They come to be of different skin colour, and the bodies become coarser. In the end are ‘females and males’ (in that order) engaging in sex! If this marks the emergence of carnality, or passion, in humans, eating the food types earlier marks ‘craving’. So the Buddha not only introduces the process of sentient evolution, but also sentient characteristics.
Marking this relatively shorter period of time, the Buddha says that the sentient beings continue enjoying each of the food types ‘for a very long stretch of time’. No ‘evolution’ appears here. He’s clearly capturing the sub-phases.
“I was able to figure out the intent of the Buddha”, says Prof. Sugunasiri, “only by looking at the Text from the perspective of Western Science”. It was a breakthrough, since the text has been dismissed by leading Western Buddhist scholars as just ‘satire’ or ‘parody’.
The first Beings that appear during the Devolutionary phase are called âbhassara Beings in the Discourse. They are said to be ‘mind-based’ and ‘self-luminous’. While there is a traditional meaning for the term âbhassara, Sugunasiri takes it literally – as ‘hither-come-shining arrow’. What he sees here is a ‘photon’ – a ‘quantum of energy’, in the words of Einstein. Based both in the Canon and Western Science, what we have is a bold venture in successfully insighting the Buddha’s insights through the lens of Western Science.
———– Prof. Sugunasiri is Founder of Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies President of Buddhist Council of Canada. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Courtesy the Buddhist Channel, February 23, 2014
Live Webcasts: His Holiness in Washington, DC and the San Francisco Bay Area
There will be live webcasts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s talks and discussions from Washington, DC; Berkeley, California; and Santa Clara, California on February 20-24, 2014.
Times in Washington, DC are Eastern Standard Time (EST = GMT-5.00); times in California are Pacific Standard Time (PST = GMT-8:00)
February 20th: Panel Discussion– “Moral Free Enterprise – Economic Perspectives in Business and Politics”
His Holiness the Dalai lama, Arthur C. Brooks (AEI), Jonathan Haidt (New York University), Glenn Hubbard (Columbia University) and Daniel S. Loeb (Third Point LLC). will join in a discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. The live webcast can be viewed at http://dalaila.ma/1jMv4il
Time: 9:00am EST
February 20th: Panel Discussion – “Unlocking the Mind and Human Happiness”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Richard Davidson (University of Wisconsin), Diana Chapman Walsh (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Arthur Zajonc (Mind & Life Institute) join in a discussion co-hosted by the American Enterprise Institute and Mind & Life Insitute in Washington, DC. The live webcast can be viewed at http://dalaila.ma/1jMv4il
Time: 10:30am EST
February 23rd – Public Talk – “How to Achieve Happiness”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama will give a public talk sponsored by the Tibetan Association of Northern California at the Berkeley Community Theater in Berkeley, California. The live webcast can be viewed at http://www.dalailama.com/live-berkeley
Time: 9:30am – 11:00am PST
February 24th: Discussion – “Business, Ethics, and Compassion: A Public Dialogue”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be joined by the CEO of Dignity Health, Lloyd Dean, for a talk concerning the intersection of organizational life and compassion. His Holiness will also answer questions gathered from the public. The event is hosted by Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California. The live webcast can be viewed at http://dalaila.ma/1kPF7Ua
Time: 10:00am – 11:30am PST
February 24th: Panel Discussion – “Incorporating Ethics and Compassion into Business Life: A Conversation between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Academic and Business Leaders”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama will address a panel that includes four academic and business leaders for a discussion that will encompass religion, research, and business. The event is hosted by Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California. The live webcast can be viewed at http://dalaila.ma/1kPF7Ua
Time: 1:30pm – 3:15pm PST
For times in your region 10:00am EST on February 20th in Washington DC, is the same as 7:00am PST on February 20th in Berkeley, California; 8:30pm IST on February 20th in New Delhi, India, and 3:00pm on February 20th in London, England. Courtesy shambhalasun
His Holiness Vajirapanno Huot Tat is the last Supreme Buddhist Patriarch of Cambodia before the 1975 take over by communist Cambodian forces. He is the best friend of the late and renowned H.H. the Great Dr. Jotannano Chuon Nath. Video courtesy Ven. Pannapadipo Sophal Pat
Wat Kiri Jom Jamkaar Khnor located in Banteay Meanchey province (Formerly part of Battambang), Cambodia
Courtesy Nabb Moen
បុណ្យបញ្ចុះខណ្ឌសីមាប្រារព្វធ្វើ ៨យប់ ៩ថ្ងៃចាប់ពីថ្ងៃទី៩ដល់១៧មិនា២០១៤
នេះគឺជា Video ភាគទី២ នៃសកម្មភាពរបស់ ចលនាមាតាធម្មជាតិ ជួយសង្គ្រោះតំបន់អារែង ផុតពីគម្រោងវារីអគ្គិសនី របស់គ្រុមហ៊ុនចិន ឈ្មោះ China Guodian។ This is the second episode of the series Save the Areng Valley, which is fighting for the cancellation of the proposed Areng dam in Koh Kong province by the Chinese company China Guodian — at Areng Valley, Koh Kong, Cambodia.
Inaugural “World Buddhist Outstanding Leader Award” raises questions, credibility issuesBangkok, Thailand – The list of nominees of the first “World Buddhist Outstanding Leader Award” was recently released by the World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth (WFBY) and Thai National Office of Buddhism. They are a total of 72 individuals and organizations (50 international recipients and 22 Thais) slated to receive the inaugural award. The awards presentation will take place on Feb 15, 2014 at Buddhamonthol, Read more
Inaugural “World Buddhist Outstanding Leader Award” raises questions, credibility issues
Bangkok, Thailand – The list of nominees of the first “World Buddhist Outstanding Leader Award” was recently released by the World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth (WFBY) and Thai National Office of Buddhism. They are a total of 72 individuals and organizations (50 international recipients and 22 Thais) slated to receive the inaugural award. The awards presentation will take place on Feb 15, 2014 at Buddhamonthol, Nakornpathom, Thailand, in commemoration of the national Magha Bucha festival. << Buddhist Disneyland — Fireworks provide a Disney-esque touch to the culmination of the massive Dhammakaya gathering, Dec. 25, 2010 (Credit: Foreign Policy, Jan 20, 2011)
An event like this at any other time would have elicited general approvals. However, not all Buddhists are celebrating, unless if you happened to be associated with the recipients’ organizations or the organizers themselves. Apparently the key supporting organizer, the one providing logistics and venue for the event, is none other than the Dhammakaya Foundation.
While the event takes careful consideration not to be associated with this controversial movement, the proceedings clearly indicates a joint effort by the “Dhammakaya Foundation (DKF) and the Buddhist Youth Leadership Training (BYLT)” in organizing the opening ceremony on February 13, 2014. The venue of the opening will be held at Wat Dhammakaya itself, famed for its golden domed, UFO shaped pagoda.
Recipients of the award are also expected to participate in the Magha Puja event held the very next day, which will also take place at Wat Dhammakaya.
For the uninitiated, the Dhammakaya Foundation is known for its extravagant “pujas”, where tens of thousands or even millions of followers gather around the central shrine in elaborately choreographed Nuremberg-style rallies. Its flamboyant ceremonies have become increasingly bold displays of power, leading some to question its cult-like nature.
Promises of material gains begets material support
The movement’s notoriety in Thailand stems from its aggressive fund raising activities, where its members are urged to donate “generously” as means of merit making. This follows it’s credo that says “To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance”. Some devotees have been found to be heavily indebted just to meet their obligations to support the movement.
It’s core “business” is a foundry that makes little golden Buddhas which entices donor to fork out at least Thai Baht 30,000 (US$ 1,000) to have their names engraved on it and then having it displayed at the UFO pagoda. There are at least a million of these Buddhas in the temple’s vicinity.
This does not include the lucrative amulets business, where owners are often found giving testimonies at functions, telling prospective buyers how their lives changed once they wore them. Devotees are told of “millionaire forever” programs, where meditation (their own unique method) is practiced not just for the sake of attaining calm and peace, but to use that peaceful state as a launch pad to become successful materially.
Consolidation of a religious behemoth
Due to its immense public appeal and marketing prowess, Dhammakaya has over the last few years consolidated itself into a financial behemoth. Since the acquittal of its leaders from financial misappropriation – which could have landed them in jail in 2006 – Dhammakaya has not only gained financial muscle but has also made inroads in influencing the political elite, both in Thailand and globally.
However, despite having its own 24-hour satellite TV station, it has diligently worked to avoid the limelight. Until now.
This inaugural “World Buddhist Outstanding Leader Award” is a step towards that awakening.
For an award as prestigious sounding as this, it is a wonder that none of the well-known global Buddhist luminaries, such as the likes of the Dalai Lama, Lama Zopa, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Kyentse Rinpoche (famed film producer), Ven Cheng Yen (founder of Tzu Chi Foundation), Bhikkhu Thannisaro (sutta translator of “Access to Insight”), Ven Pannyvaro (Buddhanet), Robert Thurman, Joseph Goldstein, Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Brahm, Ayya Khemma, Ani Choying, Sulak Sivaraksa, Ananda Guruge – to name a few – are not in the list. These individuals have deeply influenced the development of Buddhism and Dhamma propagation throughout the world, over many decades. Surely they are worthy of being noted as “outstanding world Buddhist leaders”.
Instead, what is obvious is that persons and organizations affiliated with the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) and World Fellowship of Buddhists Youth (WFBY) form a bulk of the recipients. Among the Bhikkhu Sangha, four of them are directly associated with Dhammakaya. People will generally want to know the criteria used in selecting these individuals and organizations for the awards.
Make no mistake. The time has come where “the temple of profit” has decided to come out of its shadows and announce its presence to the world. Award recipients from 10 different countries shall bear witness to this rise, bowing with salutation while being handed their personal recognition.
Dhammakaya Foundation has certainly realized the value of riding on the extensive youth network developed over the years by WFBY. Laying their tentacles on just this one organization gives them an outlet to reach out to millions of youth all over Asia.
It is very likely that the presentation of this award is an approach by Dhammakaya to draw Buddhist leaders from various countries to their home base, providing them with some form of “shock and awe” so as to win over their approval. While wealth and power may bring quick access in the short term, truth and insight shall reveal the true nature of Dhammakaya’s motivations.
Let’s just pray that the award recipients have the awareness and wisdom to actually see through the real purpose of this event. By Anunttee “Riley” Thawatchai, February 12, B.E.2557 A.D. 2014. Courtesy the Buddhist Channel
A Dhamma Talk by the late and renowned Vipassana Buddhist Master, the Maha Thera Ketodhammo Som Bunthoeun giving on the occasion of the Māgha Pūjā មាឃបូជា. His life is for Cambodia and Buddhism. Courtesy Khmer Buddhist Network
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