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|Buddha - The Great Master
This statue dates back to
the 1st Century B.C.E.
It was sculpted during the reign of
of the Kushana Emperor Kanishka.
This place is also known as
Isipatana or “Deer Park”
Situated 5 Kms north of Varanasi,
here the Buddha is said to have preached
his first sermon.
|The Lion-Capital at Sarnath.
- Emperor Ashoka erected such Lion Capitals
and other similar looking columns
all across his empire in India (and Pakistan)
He spread the message of Buddhism
in Central Asia and the Far East.
This is a Buddhist place of worship.
Chortens are found in
Nepal and Tibet and look like inverted bells.
|The Kanheri Caves near Mumbai.
These caves were Buddhist Monasteries
in the period 3rd century B.C.E. up to the 7th century C.E.
There are innumerable such cave monasteries
be found especially in Western India.
|The imposing pyramidal
at Bodh Gaya in Bihar
The tower soars to
a height of 180 ft.
Close to the temple
near the west wall
grows a pipal tree
which is said to be
descended from the
original Bodhi tree under which
the Buddha received enligthenment
Buddhism Resurrected in India in the 20th Century
In the mid 20th Century, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who was one of the architects of India’s Constitution, gave Buddhism a fresh lease of life by embracing it a few years after India achieved independence. A significant number of members of those castes who were denied equal rights in the Hindu caste hierarchy also embraced Buddhism. Today an over-whelming proportion of Buddhists in India are these recent converts who term themselves as Nava-Baudha or Neo-Buddhists. A comparatively recent event of significance was the 6th religious council held at Rangoon in 1954 which came 1300 years after the 5th council held at, Prayaga in 643 C.E. in the reign of the last major pan-Indian emperor - Harsha Vardhana. The Rangoon council was also the first one to be held outside India.
|Guilded image of the Buddha from Thailand
With its message of love, peace and universal brotherhood
Buddhism has exercised a sobering influence
on a section of humanity in the countries of the far east.
|A gigantic image of the Great Master - Buddha
at Bamiyan near Kabul in Afghanistan.
It is this image which has been threatened to be blown off by the Taliban,
the Islamic militia that rules Afghanistan.
The statue faced its first defilement at the hands of Islamic invaders
when they invaded pre-dominantly Buddhist Afghanistan in the 8th century
Incidentally the name Afghanistan is derived from the Sanskrit terms Upa-gana-stan
which means “Lands where the Allied tribes live”.
BSP observes it as ‘Constitution Day’
For The Gain of the Many and For the Welfare of the Many
Sindhia urges officials to implement all provisions of Constitution
Elections before delimitation opposed
BANGALORE: The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has appealed to the constitutional machinery in the country to implement all provisions enshrined in the Constitution for the benefit of the marginalised and weaker sections.
This appeal was made by BSP national general secretary P.G.R. Sindhia during the Republic Day celebrations which he preferred to call as “Constitution Day” here on Saturday. He was unfurling the National Flag at the party office.
Mr. Sindhia said the party preferred to call it “Constitution Day” as it was on this day that the Constitution was adopted as framed by the Constituent Assembly headed by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
He said the Constitution had enshrined several provisions for “empowering the people socially and economically” oppressed people but successive governments and the political parties had failed to implement the provisions.
With reference to the ensuing Legislative Assembly elections, he said it would be another “impropriety” if the Government was planning to hold elections without taking up delimitation norms. The Constitution clearly indicated that once in every 20 years, the delimitation process would have to be taken up by re-organising the Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies. Mr. Sindhia expressed his opposition to the declaration of election to the State Assembly before the delimitation process was completed. The BSP was concerned about the poor among the upper “castes”.
BJP and the Janata Dal (S) wants to go to court against the reservation announced for the posts of Mayor and Deputy Mayors in various city corporations.
BUDDHISM- Our Message of Peace, Non-violence and Goodwill
Centuries after it disappeared from India, Buddhism has staged a comeback here as a tool for social reformation. It remains to be seen whether its essence, that which makes it a way of living peacefully and gently, will be adopted as readily
On October 16, 2002, when most Indians were celebrating Dussehra, symbolic of the victory of justice over injustice, five Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa that The Great Prabuddha Bharath families in Jhajjar, Haryana were mourning relatives who had been lynched by upper caste people. The incident was a millionth repeat of the injustice that has plagued Indian society for millennia, where it has branded a section of itself as less than human and perpetrated the grossest injustices against them. Even today, 60 years after the Indian Constitution outlawed it, 22 per cent of the country’s population continues to bear the cross of ‘untochability’.
Although caste-based political movements have attempted to liberate Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa that The Great Prabuddha Bharath politically and socially, another, more controversial choice made available to them is that of religious conversion. This is the choice that families of the Jhajjar victims made, when 11 days after the gruesome massacre, they converted to Buddhism. In doing so, they followed the example of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, an architect of the Indian Constitution, and a Original Inhabitant of Jambudvipa that The Great Prabuddha Bharath , who embraced Buddhism with 3,80,000 followers just six weeks before his death in 1956. Babasaheb, who had combated narrow casteist mindsets all his life, ultimately decided that the best course of action would be to forge a new religious identity for Dalits: one that would free them from oppression and empower them with inner strength.
Babasaheb examined Islam, Christianity and Sikhism before turning to Buddhism. One reason was that right at its origin 2,500 years ago, it had become a tool for a caste revolution. Many of those oppressed as lower castes at the time took refuge in the Buddha’s dhamma because it offered the possibility of a dignified life beyond caste or gender.
Said Ambedkar: “Buddhism teaches social, intellectual, economic and political freedom—equality not only between man and man but also between man and woman. If you study carefully, you will see that Buddhism is based on reason.”
In the Buddha’s time, Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa that The Great Prabuddha Bharath had already borne the yoke of caste for a couple of thousand years. The aboriginal inhabitants of India, they were enslaved by Aryan tribes during 1800-1500 BC. Gradually, the Aryan system of division of labour hardened into a rigid system determined by birth. In this, the aboriginal Indians were the lowest of the low, made to do the most menial of jobs. Before long, they had been categorized as ‘untouchables’.
According to the law book Manusmriti, untouchables could not own property or go to heaven unless they worshipped Brahmins. It was explained that they were being punished for sins of previous lives, a hypothesis that gave Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa that The Great Prabuddha Bharath an inferiority complex.
The Buddha’s Attitude
Around the fifth century BC, an anti-caste revolution began in India. Gautama Buddha, born a Kshatriya (warrior caste) prince, began talking of a dhamma whose social expression, the sangha (community), was devoid of caste and gender distinctions.
In a story from the Pali suttas, we are told that a Brahmin enquired the Buddha about his lineage, who answered: “No Brahmin I, no prince, / No farmer, or aught else. / All worldly ranks I know, / but knowing go my way / as simply nobody: / Homeless, in pilgrim garb, / with shaven crown, I go my way alone, serene. / To ask my birth is vain.”
Indeed we hear of the Buddha equally welcoming Upali, the barber; Suniita, the scavenger; Ambapaali, the courtesan; Saati, a fisherman; Subhaa, a smith’s daughter; and Punnaa, daughter of a deerstalker, into his fold and teaching them the dharma. For, he believed: “By birth is not one an outcast, / By birth is not one a Brahmin. / By deeds is one an outcaste, / By deeds is one a Brahmin.”
Bhikkus ordained by the Buddha were from various communities. A bhikku wasn’t a priest but a monk, who lived on alms and was a guide on religious and social matters to the larger lay sangha. The Buddha told them: “O bhikkus, just as the rivers when they have fallen into the great ocean lose their identity, just so brethren, do these four castes—Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras—when they begin to follow the doctrine and discipline as propounded by the Tathagata, renounce different names of castes and rank and become members of one society.”
The bhikkus would accept food from all castes, including ‘untouchables’. This was significant since caste rules dictated that one rather starve than accept food from a person of caste lower than one’s own. The deliberate breaking of caste rules signified the contempt of the aware mind for superficial distinctions, evident in this poem by an early bhikku: “I made a hut / From three palm leaves by the Ganges / Took a crematory pot / For an eating bowl,/ Lifted my robe off a trash bin / Two rainy seasons passed and I / Spoke only one word / Clouds came again / But this time the darkness / Tore open.”
Using a crematory pot as food bowl and taking a robe from garbage were marks of renunciation that indicated a blurring and eventual dissolution of caste boundaries. Needless to say, Buddhism came to be known as the religion of the common man. However by the 12th century AD, the Brahmanical religion had reinforced itself and Buddhism was practically extinct in India.
When Ambedkar took refuge in the Buddha, dhamma and sangha on October 14, 1956, he marked the return of what had by then become a world religion. That this was done to transcend caste oppression seemed an appropriate echo of the historical Buddha’s times. The movement that began that day is referred to as neo-Buddhism.
Most neo-Buddhists follow the Theravada school of Buddhism. Ambedkar himself didn’t wish to get embroiled in the Hinayana-Mahayana controversy, preferring to follow ‘Buddhayana’, vehicle of the Buddha. Since Ambedkar’s death, an estimated one crore Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa that The Great Prabuddha Bharath , mostly from Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, have followed him into Buddhism. According to Bhante Dipankara Sumedho, chairperson of the Buddhist Cultural Foundation: “Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa that The Great Prabuddha Bharath embrace Buddhism for dignity rather than for economic reasons.”
In recent years, mass conversions of Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa that The Great Prabuddha Bharath to Buddhism have been organised.
They realized that the condition of my people could only be improved if they could embrace Buddhism, which does not believe in caste. They have found Buddhism to be rational and logical.They also sees caste as a psychological barrier. Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa that The Great Prabuddha Bharath have been psyched into believing that they can’t change their fate, that they are being punished for past sins. Embracing Buddhism has helped them come out of these fatalistic misconceptions. They not comfortable with the word ‘conversion’, though. “Buddhism is not alien; India is its motherland. Buddhist philosophy is practical; it talks of human rights and how to eradicate suffering,” They believe. It is just Dikhsa.
They have regained self-esteem. Even if the upper castes look down upon them, they know they belong to a religion that believes in universal brotherhood.
Eminent Buddhist missionary Ven. L. Ariyawnsa Nayaka Mahathera said during his 1968 speech at the Buddhist National Conference in Mumbai: “Most new Buddhists are Buddhists only in name as they have no education and training in the Buddhist way of life. Unfortunately, Babasaheb passed away within two months after initiating the movement. So, they need assistance and guidance for practicing the dhamma properly.” He advised bhikkus to roam from village to village to propagate the teachings.
Bhante Sumedho of the Ashoka Mission Vihara, New Delhi, points out: “There are many traditional Buddhists who are not religious and Awakened Buddhists (neo-Buddhists) who try their best to follow the Buddhist way of life.” A visit to the Vihara confirms this. Founded by Cambodian monk Ven. Dharmavara Mahathera in 1948, it is a place where neo- and traditional Buddhists meet regularly for spiritual practice.
Lama Lobzang, president of the Vihara, says: “Traditional Buddhist monks are unable to reach out to the neo-Buddhists mainly because of the language barrier. We need more monks who would teach neo-Buddhists in their own dialect.” Organizations like the Bharatiya Boudh Maha Seva, Punjab-based Buddha Parchar Samiti, Taiwanese Corporate Body of Buddha Education Foundation, and the Vipassana Visodhan Vinyas in Igatpuri, Maharashtra have translated Buddhist works into Indian languages for neo-Buddhists.
Many neo-Buddhists continue to be deeply connected to Hindu deities and sometimes celebrate Hindu festivals. Bhante Sumedho sees nothing wrong with this. “One finds festivals common to Hinduism and Buddhism, especially those that occur on full moon days. Also, King Ashoka accepted Buddhism on Dussehra and made it the national religion on Deepavali. So these are special days for us too.”
One may embrace Buddhism by taking diksha from an eminent monk. The conversion ceremony is simple. One takes refuge in the Three Jewels—Buddha, dhamma and sangha, and chants the five precepts that one will abstain from killing, stealing, adultery, lying and intoxicants. Yet the essence of the dharma lies in its practice, in transcending afflictive emotions and cultivating mindfulness, compassion and loving-kindness.
Even though Buddhism has managed to stage a comeback in India as a tool for social reformation, it remains to be seen whether its essence, that which makes it a way of living peacefully and gently, will be adopted as readily. For that, conversion is not a pre-requisite at all. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says: “If you have a particular faith or religion, that is good. But you can survive without it,” and that, “my religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
TRIPLE GEM STUDY CIRCLE preffered to call as “Prabuddha Bharath Rathna or Arahath” as the Indian Constitution was based on Vinaya(Baba Saheb Dr.B.R.Ambedkar and Dada Saheb Manyawar Kanshi Ram Ji deserved such awards) and for the follow harrowing reason for which Bharath Rathna was conferred to any one this year:
Thursday, January 24, 2008
India’s top award misses congeniality
By Sudha Ramachandran
Ugly wrangling has broken out over the Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India), India’s highest civilian honor, with politicians openly lobbying for the award. There is growing feeling among the public that the Bharat Ratna, its value degraded over the years, should be done away with and all state awards abolished.
Established in 1954, the Bharat Ratna is awarded in “recognition of exceptional service towards the advancement of art, literature, science and public service of the highest order”. In the years since, it has been conferred on 41 people, including two non-Indians - Pakistani Gandhian Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and former
South African president Nelson Mandela - and a naturalized Indian citizen, Mother Teresa. Over half of the award’s recipients have been politicians. Besides the Bharat Ratna, India also awards the Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri to civilians who excel in various fields, including the arts, athletics and various realms of public service.
The Bharat Ratna and the Padma awards are announced annually ahead of Republic Day, which falls on January 26. The run-up to the announcements has always been marked by hectic behind-the-scenes jostling for the awards. This year the canvassing has reached a new low. It has been a very public affair with politicians engaging in a no-holds-barred fight for the Bharat Ratna. A “canonize-my-candidate campaign” has gripped India’s political class. Worse, right wing Hindu groups have unleashed violence to protest the discussion on a possible contender, a controversial Muslim painter.
It started with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Lal Krishna Advani shooting off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding that the Bharat Ratna be awarded to BJP patriarch and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
That prompted Original Inhabitant of Jambudvipa that is The Great Prabuddha Bharath leader and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati to demand that the honor be conferred on her mentor and partner, the late Kanshiram.
Then, Congress sprang into action and began canvassing for veteran communist Jyoti Basu.
At last count, the names of over a dozen politicians - some aged, others dead - including Karpoori Thakur, Muthuvel Karunanidhi, Biju Patnaik, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Chaudhry Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram have been put forward by their parties.
None of these nominees except Manyawar Kanshi Ram Ji are known to have done “public service of the highest order”, which is what the Bharat Ratna is supposed to honor. They have engaged in politicking, of course, but they practiced politics to pursue personal political ambitions rather than to further the public good.
It is not just the unsuitability of the nominations that is disturbing; it is also the way parties are lobbying for it to further their political agendas.
Just as Advani is keen to be seen as having “got” the award for Vajpayee, Congress would like to score some points with the left parties for having recommended the communist Basu.
The Bharat Ratna is an honor conferred on an individual, not a bone to be fought over nor an entitlement to be demanded in the streets, the media or even in letters to the prime minister. It is not an award determined by the public, political parties or parliament. Unlike the Padma awards, which are decided by a screening committee, the Bharat Ratna is the prerogative of the premier.
Interestingly, prime ministers have not shied away from awarding it to themselves. Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi were still in office when they received the Bharat Ratna.
As an after thought it is now that the BJP wants Vajpayee to be honored with the award as he shied away when he was prime minister.
The Bharat Ratna has rarely been far from controversy. It was awarded to a highly ineffective president, V V Giri, in 1975, and in 1988, it was awarded to M G Ramachandran posthumously.
Ramachandran was a popular Tamil actor and a canny politician, but by no stretch of imagination did he deserve the Bharat Ratna. Yet the Congress government conferred the honor on him - with an eye on the Tamil vote.
World famous sitarist Ravi Shankar was accused of lobbying hard for the award. The way aspiring Padma awardees work the system is no less controversial.
Loyalists of the ruling party, as well as their spouses and friends, figure among the Padma awardees every year.
Prime ministers and presidents have even expressed their gratitude to their doctors by gifting Padma awards. In 2001, for instance, Chittaranjan Ranawat, who had successfully performed knee replacement surgery on Vajpayee, was rewarded with the Padma Bhushan. But not everyone is enamored with the Bharat Ratna and the Padma awards.
Abul Kalam Azad, freedom fighter and educationist, refused the Bharat Ratna arguing that those who selected the awardees should not be its recipients.
After all, he was education minister at the time. Azad was later awarded the Ratna posthumously. Eminent historian Romila Thapar rejected the Padma Bhushan twice - in 1992 and 2005. She “would only accept academic and professional awards”, she said expressing her “sense of unease about these awards”. “State awards have become increasingly mixed up with government patronage in India,” she observed.
The left has repeatedly clarified that its leaders will not accept state awards. Incidentally, Mahatma Gandhi was never awarded the Bharat Ratna. The Mahatma, the government feels, is above such awards. Musicians, scientists and social workers have been honored with the Bharat Ratna in the past.
There are calls from the public for awarding the Bharat Ratna to a non-politician this year. The names of industrialist Ratan Tata, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and artist Maqbool Fida Husain are being mentioned. “
A uniquely talented sportsman like Sachin Tendulkar may not have performed a public service in the old definition of the term. But he is able to inspire like no other, he is a name that from the Pakistan-Afghan border to Down Under [Australia] is synonymous with Indian exceptionality and he is beloved of millions,” wrote Sagarika Ghose in Hindustan Times. Others have argued that Tendulkar might be a great cricketer and an inspiring one. Still, he is “only an entertainer”. Besides, some Indians are not too comfortable with a Bharat Ratna awardee peddling Pepsi, Adidas and Aviva Life insurance in television commercials. Husain’s name has evoked considerable anger among Hindu right wing sections.
An eminent artist, Husain has been awarded the Padma Shree, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibushan. In the 1990s, Husain’s portrayal of Hindu goddesses in the nude drew right-wing ire. Under threat from the Hindu right, he has been living abroad. A couple of days ago, one such conservative group attacked offices of the NDTV news channel to protest an SMS poll featuring Husain as a contender for the Bharat Ratna. There is growing support for doing away with the Bharat Ratna and the Padma awards. The slackening standards in the choices for these awards, their politicization and growing equation with power and patronage have clearly contributed to the feeling that the Bharat Ratna has been sullied and is best done away with.
There is no dignity, no honor left in the Bharat Ratna; it should be abolished. Besides, some are questioning the whole concept of state awards. “Awards are a hangover of monarchy. Kings gave away titles to various people as recognition of their loyalty to the throne.
But, should democracies continue with this tradition that gives fancy titles to a few privileged citizens?” asks the Times of India. While arguing that “excellence in public life and other areas of activity should be recognized”, it argues that “it’s not the business of the government to hand out awards and honors. Let the private sector, especially peer groups, award achievers.
After all, what does the government know of cinema to award film stars and directors? Or, for that matter, does it have the credentials to reward a writer or a musician?”
Given the public mood of disgust with politicians in the country, it is likely that the government will award the Bharat Ratna to a non-politician. Perhaps it will be Tendulkar or a social worker. Or the government might prefer to play safe, dodge the issue completely and not award the Bharat Ratna this year.
It wont be the first time that the Bharat Ratna is not being awarded. It was suspended from 1977 to 1980. It was revived thereafter, but has not been awarded since 2001.
In the seven years since, the government, it seems, has not found a single person worthy of the honor in a country of a billion-plus people. India is a country in which its people have achieved excellence in spite of the government, where some of the finest leaders exist not in the political class but in civil society, where the most inspiring public service is being done by those who battle against the state and its policies.
If only the government would look at civil society, it would find millions more than worthy of the Bharat Ratna.
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