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10/28/11
420 LESSON 29 10 2011 Visakha Sutta: To Visakha
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420 LESSON 29 10 2011 Visakha Sutta: To Visakha

 

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Ud 8.8

PTS: Ud 91

Visakha Sutta: To Visakha

translated from the Pali by

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

© 1994–2011

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying in Savatthi at the Eastern Monastery, the palace of Migara’s mother. Now at that time a dear and beloved grandson of Visakha, Migara’s mother, had died. So Visakha, Migara’s mother — her clothes wet, her hair wet — went to the Blessed One in the middle of the day and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As she was sitting there the Blessed One said to her: “Why have you come here, Visakha — your clothes wet, your hair wet — in the middle of the day?”

When this was said, she said to the Blessed One, “My dear and beloved grandson has died. This is why I have come here — my clothes wet, my hair wet — in the middle of the day.”

“Visakha, would you like to have as many children and grandchildren as there are people in Savatthi?”

“Yes, lord, I would like to have as many children and grandchildren as there are people in Savatthi.”

“But how many people in Savatthi die in the course of a day?”

“Sometimes ten people die in Savatthi in the course of a day, sometimes nine… eight… seven… six… five… four… three… two… Sometimes one person dies in Savatthi in the course of a day. Savatthi is never free from people dying.”

“So what do you think, Visakha: Would you ever be free from wet clothes and wet hair?”

“No, lord. Enough of my having as many children and grandchildren as there are people in Savatthi.”

“Visakha, those who have a hundred dear ones have a hundred sufferings. Those who have ninety dear ones have ninety sufferings. Those who have eighty… seventy… sixty… fifty… forty… thirty… twenty… ten… nine… eight… seven… six… five… four… three… two… Those who have one dear one have one suffering. For those with no dear ones, there are no sufferings. They are free from sorrow, free from stain, free from lamentation, I tell you.”

Then, on realizing the significance of that, the Blessed One on that occasion exclaimed:

The sorrows, lamentations, the many kinds of suffering in the world, exist dependent on something dear. They don’t exist when there’s nothing dear. And thus blissful & sorrowless are those for whom nothing in the world is dear anywhere. So one who aspires to be stainless & sorrowless shouldn’t make anything in the world dear anywhere

Mayawati protests Jairam bid to ‘score political points’

Four days after Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh openly accused the Mayawati government of abetting in embezzlement of MGNREGS funds, the Chief Minister rejected the demand for a CBI probe and accused him of trying to score “political points” and pursuing a “preconceived agenda.”

Ms. Mayawati on Friday said the Minister was suggesting a CBI inquiry as “if the State government does not have its own agencies.”

Taking a strong view of Mr. Ramesh’s October 24 letter, in which “conclusions were arrived at without taking any cognisance of the various steps taken by the State government for the effective implementation” of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, she said the Union Minister’s step was “politically motivated.” Uttar Pradesh had been a pioneer in the implementation of the scheme and its performance was way above most of the States, she claimed.

In a strongly worded letter, addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ms. Mayawati complained of the “utter disregard of propriety shown by the Rural Development Minister, who, through his letter, has attempted to score political points by alleging misuse of funds received by U.P. under the MGNREGS.” Mr. Ramesh’s letter being leaked to the media even before her office received it “further confirms the intentions of the Minister.”

On his seeking her approval for a CBI inquiry, Ms. Mayawati said the State’s agencies were capable of investigating cases of corruption.

Her letter to Dr. Singh was released to journalists at a press conference here addressed by Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh.

Fiscal federalism

On the option mentioned by Mr. Ramesh of withholding release of funds under the MGNREGS, the Chief Minister said it betrayed his “lack of understanding of the fiscal federalism inherent in the Constitution.” The Minister should realise that funds released to the States for various schemes were not a largesse bestowed by the Centre but formed part of the revenue sharing mechanism.

Ms. Mayawati also complained to the Prime Minister about the parallel drawn (by the Minister) with the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) probe. This was in “utter disregard of the ‘Rules of Business’ and had no connection with the Rural Development Ministry.”

Ms. Mayawati said Uttar Pradesh had been placed in the top performing bracket in the last three years. Dismissing Mr. Ramesh’s allegations as being “baseless,” she said action-taken reports on 49 national-level monitors’ (NLM) reports had already been submitted to the Rural Development Ministry. Action on the remaining 18 NLM reports was in progress.

Suspensions and disciplinary action had been taken against 18 Class I officials,13 Class II officials and 43 Class III officials along with 236 field-level functionaries. Seventy-one FIRs had been lodged in cases of financial irregularities, the Chief Minister said.

In a specific reference to the anomalies in MGNREGS implementation in the seven districts mentioned by Mr. Ramesh, Ms. Mayawati said action had been initiated against six chief development officials, eight project directors, 30 block development officers and 52 field-level officials. While action against two district magistrates was pending consideration, action was taken against 28 gram pradhans and 16 junior engineers, and 10 FIRs were lodged. An inquiry by the Economic Offences Wing had been ordered into financial irregularities in Balrampur, Gonda, Mirzapur and Mahoba districts.

The Cabinet Secretary said 60 per cent of MGNREGS funds had been spent and proposals sent for release of the second instalment.

In the war between temples and trees

GREEN INVASION: Many idols at Ta Phrom are now in the firm grasp of tropical trees. Photo: Karthik Subramanian

The Bayon Temple. Photo: Karthik Subramanian

GREEN INVASION Many structures at Ta Phrom are now in the firm grasp of tropical trees Photo: Karthik Subramanian

GREEN INVASION: Many idols at Ta Phrom are now in the firm grasp of tropical trees

The Angkor Archaeological Park offers enough for the child as well as the adult in you. The thrill of discovering a lost empire is matched by the realisation of the vagaries of human nature

Over twenty full-grown tropical forest trees stand over the Ta Phrom temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park. It appears like a war has broken out between the tropical jungle and the magnificent temples of the Great Khmer Empire. For now, the forests seem to have the upper hand, looking like giant wrestlers just moments away from crushing their foe with bare hands.

The sights at the Ta Phrom temple, more popularly known as the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple because of its popularity after the Angelina Jolie-starrer “Lara Croft: Cradle of Life” was shot here, in many ways explain both the splendour and the tragedy of the region.

It begs the question how could such magnificent temples built by one of the greatest empires in the region, one that flourished between the 9th and the 13th centuries, fell to utter ruins. How could such a magnificent city, once inhabited by over a million people, be abandoned for more than three centuries?

The trip to the Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia is not just only about the appreciation of the temples there, but also serves as a discovery of the vagaries of human nature. It is not only about great kings who built temples and cities but also about leaders blinded by their own beliefs, bringing to dust the humanity around them and with it all things connected.

The first thing that strikes you about some of the lesser known by equally impressive temples of the region is the tones and the colours. At Preah Khan, an extensive Buddhist complex, full of carvings and photo opportunities, the tone is one of decay. The stones are covered with lichens and it is hard to say where nature has not made its presence felt. The village was once known as ‘Nagarajayshri’ (city blessed with victory) but today it is anything but. It is almost like walking straight into a Sepia-toned photograph of the temples as the French found it in the mid-19th century.

Our Cambodian guide Koeu Kheuler points at a bas relief at Preah Khan featuring the statues of meditating Hindu saints. While the statues of the Hindu saints, differentiated by their cross-legged squatting posture, remain intact, the statues of the boddhisatvas (Buddhist monks) the once decorate the panel opposite are missing. “The successor to King Jayavaraman VII, who built this temple, turned to be a Hindu fanatic and chopped off the statues. Jayavarman VII was a Buddhist himself but his brother Jayavarman VIII banished Buddhism from the region. This led to civil unrest and the neighbouring Kingdom of Siam (present day Thailand) attacked at the opportune moment. That was the beginning of the end of the Great Khmer Empire.”

The downfall of the Khmer Empire meant almost all the temples were continually ransacked both by the invaders from Thailand and their neighbouring long-time foes the Chams (region of North Vietnam). The temples were continuously pillaged for precious stones and statues.

In the years that followed, the Khmer people founded another capital for themselves near the present day Phnom Penh. The tropical climate of the region and the fertility of the soil, influenced by various factors such as the freshwater Tonle Sap Lake nearby, allowed natured to completely take over the region. This is no more obvious than at the Ta Phrom temple, where the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is undertaking a joint conversation project with the Apsara Authority of the Cambodian Government which handles the Park.

Members of the Archaeological Team explained to me that the fertile grounds of the region, once its strength during the golden era of the Khmer Empire, also became its curse when the region was abandoned. There was nothing to stop the trees from completely taking over giant complexes of buildings. And since they were built with sandstone, and not granite, like in India, they succumbed faster to the growth of trees.

The eastern gallery in Ta Prohm was reduced to rubble, but thanks to the efforts of ASI today it stands a lot closer to its ancient glory. “As many as 20 full grown trees are there standing on top of the temple here. The conservation work is very tough,” says D.S.Sood, who heads the ASI team at Ta Phrom now.

The other magnificent yet crumbling temple one should not miss is the Bayon Temple or the State temple of King Jayavarman VII. With over 200 giant faces of Buddha staring at you from every corner, it was perhaps the last architectural masterstroke from the great craftsmen of the region.

The Angkor region near Siem Reap in Cambodia has not just survived the downfall of the Khmer Empire but also one of humanity worst genocides in the 20th century under the Communist regime of the person people refer to as ‘Pol Pot’ (his real name was Saloth Sar). He ruled Cambodia for less than four years or “three years four months and 12 days” as our Cambodian guide recalled several times during our visit. “But he destroyed it more than any one else”.

He wiped out nearly 20 percent of the country’s population and mired it in civil war until the late 1990s. Though Angkor region is today safe, there are still parts of Cambodia that have landmines. Visitors to the temples in the Angkor Park will often find physically disabled musicians playing traditional Cambodian instruments. They are victims of landmine trying to earn a living with some dignity.

Pol Pot tried to recreate the magic of the Great Khmer Empire. And yet all he succeeded was catch the madness of the last of the rulers who ruined that Empire.


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