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Violence in Sri Lanka and Thailand, Natural gas revenue in Burma April 8, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in Burma, News, Theravada.
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Burma’s trade hit an all-time peak last year: $8.7 billion, much of it in natural gas exports to Thailand, according to the Bangkok Post. (UPDATE: Danny Fisher has a great post on remembering Burma today, with an amazing, Pulitzer-prize winning photo by Reuters photographer Adrees Latif as well.)

The Tamil Tigers ask Norway to intervene in the vicious Sri Lankan civil war. They say a 400-year-old Catholic shrine is threatened by the actions of the Sri Lankan military.

Violence continues in southern Thailand, and ordinary people, as always, suffer:

Housewife Malee Kwansawad no longer leaves her home after five o’clock in the evening.

Like many in Thailand’s insurgency-torn south, the 41-year-old Buddhist says she lives under constant fear of drive-by shootings and bomb attacks. Security forces cannot protect her from separatist militants, she says.

All she can do is keep a vigilant eye out for any possible attack in a shadowy insurgency with a death toll that this week topped 3,000.

“I always look around very carefully whenever I go outside,” says the mother of two teenage boys in Pattani, one of three Muslim-majority southern provinces wracked by violence since 2004.

Her 20-year-old nephew was among the dead. He was gunned down last year by two unidentified men in a drive-by shooting, forcing home the grim reality of the southern violence.

“This is my country. But I don’t feel safe,” says the Pattani native.

Makha Bucha Day, Wat Dhammakaya, and the Metta Center February 20, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in Dalai Lama, Events, News, Theravada.
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Makha Bucha Day is a major holiday in Thailand and it falls tomorrow, February 21.

According to Buddhist scriptures, nine months after Siddharttha Gautama attained enlightenment, on the full-moon day of the third lunar month, a total of 1,250 disciples of the Buddha from various places spontaneously assembled at Veluvan in Magadha to pay respect to the Buddha. This meeting is considered very significant in Buddhist history because first, it was done without previous appointment and was therefore a miracle, and secondly, all the disciples had been ordained by the Buddha himself and had attained sainthood and become arahants.

Wat Dhammakaya’s website will let you experience Makha Bucha from the comfort of your own home. It helps to speak Thai, though.

Not to confuse anyone, but here’s the website of the Dhammakaya Foundation, a worldwide organization based in Thailand. Check out the pictures of this place, especially the crowd in the meditation space. Now that’s a whole lotta Buddhists.

Meanwhile, in Ithaca, New York, the North American seat of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is being expanded. He must also have somewhere to hang his hats in Atlanta, as he is an honorary professor there.

And here’s the website for the Metta Center for Nonviolence Education, which shares an interest in Gandhi with the Satya Graha Forum.

A Handful of Leaves—For Free January 23, 2007

Posted by jshaheen in Books, Theravada.

The Buddha taught far fewer things than he knew of. He told his disciples:

“[T]hose things that I have known with direct knowledge but have not taught are far more numerous [than what I have taught]. And why haven’t I taught them? Because they are not connected with the goal, do not relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. That is why I have not taught them.”

He likened what he did teach to a handful of leaves in the forest, which has inspired forest monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu to name his 4-volume anthology of translations from the Pali Canon just that—A Handful of Leaves (a fifth volume is soon to appear). You can’t buy it, but you can have the entire set for free. Than Geoff, as the Bhikkhu is known, offers a range of Buddhist titles at no cost in the spirit of dana, or generosity. This particular anthology can be orderd from the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies (SCBS), a northern California nonprofit that supports the study of Buddhist teachings.

Than Geoff is abbot of the Metta Forest Monastery, near San Diego. MFM covers the printing costs and SCBS covers shipping. Other titles on offer are numerous. “We’ve got a good number of books, some titles in the hundreds, some in the thousands,” Than Geoff told me. The many works include engaging essays, insightful dharma talks, and learned commentaries in the Theravadin tradition. All titles except for A Handful of Leaves can be ordered directly from MFM. Write to Metta Forest Monastery, PO Box 1409 Valley Center, CA 92082.

Another great—and accessible—dana book is Gil Fronsdal’s The Issue at Hand. Gil earned his Ph.D. in Buddhist studies at Stanford. Formerly a Zen monk, he now teaches in the Vipassana tradition at the Insight Meditation Center, in Redwood City, California. You can read the entire book at the link above; you can also order it through Insight Meditation Center’s website, or write to IMC at 1205 Hopkins Avenue, Redwood City, California 94062. Gil recently told me that there are plenty copies available. (Gil’s IMC is closely linked to the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies and hosts all of its events, although both organizations remain independent.)

Turns out it’s true that the best things in life are free. With a Handful of Leaves you needn’t fear a handful of dust….

James Shaheen, Editor