Buddhist Teachings Part 2

People grasp at things for their own imagined convenience and comfort; they grasp at wealth and treasure and honors; they cling desperately to mortal life.

They make arbitrary distinctions between existence and non-existence, good and bad, right and wrong. For people, life is a succession of graspings and attachments, and then, because of this, they must assume the illusions of pain and suffering.

Once there was a man on a long journey who came to a river. He said to himself: “This side of the river is very difficult and dangerous to walk on, and the other side seems easier and safer, but how shall I get across?” So he built a raft out of branches and reeds and safely crossed the river. Then he thought to himself: “This raft has been very useful to me in crossing the river; I will not abandon it to rot on the bank, but will carry it along with me.” And thus he voluntarily assumed an unnecessary burden. Can this man be called a wise man?

This parable teaches that even a good thing, when it becomes an unnecessary burden, should be thrown away; much more so if it is a bad thing. Buddha made it the rule of his life to avoid useless and unnecessary conversations.

Buddhist Teachings Part 1

My reading style since I graduated from college has generally been to maintain a steady diet of constant Internet reading between translations while slowly making my way through 3 books or so that are interesting but not “inspiring” on the back burner, reading each occasionally until I finish them, get more into one of them, or discover something else entirely that excites me enough to finish it in a few sittings. Now that I have recently finished Bob Woddward’s State of Denial (Rumsfeld was a jerk), I’m currently in the middle of 3 books: Matsumoto’s Suicide Notes, a repring of a series of columns by comedy duo Downtown foil Hitoshi Matsumoto, Business Nonsense Dictionary by the late Ramo Nakajima, and finally The Teaching of Buddha, left in my Penang hotel room by “The Society for Promotion of Buddhism.” Maybe now that I’ve posted my reading material publicly it’ll get my ass off the computer chair for a bit to actually read this stuff in earnest.

But for now I’ll just post a couple interesting bits from the Buddhist teachings book:

At one time there lived in the Himalayas a bird with one body and two heads. Once one of the heads noticed the other head eating some sweet fruit and felt jealous and said to itself: “I will then eat poison fruit.” So it ate poison and the whole bird died.

Continue reading Buddhist Teachings Part 1

Murals of Wat Phra Kaew

Sure, the shiny gold buildings, freaky demon statues, and annoying Korean tourists at Wat Phra Kaew, the royal temple of Bangkok, were plenty fun, but what really did it for me were the fantastic murals that cover the entire inner wall. What exactly is going on, or what saga it is based on, I have no idea, but I do know that I want Peter Jackson to make a movie version of it, starting tomorrow.

Update: From the Wikipedia article in The Ramayana.

Thailand’s popular national epic Ramakien is derived from the Hindu epic. In Ramakien, Sita is the daughter of Ravana and Mandodari (T’os’akanth (=Dasakand) and Mont’o). Vibhisana (P’ip’ek), the astrologer brother of Ravana, predicts calamity from the horoscope of Sita. So Ravana has her thrown into the waters, who, later, is picked by Janaka (Janok). While the main story is identical to that of the Ramayana, many other aspects were transposed into a Thai context, such as the clothes, weapons, topography, and elements of nature, which are described as being Thai in style. It has an expanded role for Hanuman and he is portrayed as a lascivious character. Ramakien can be seen in an elaborate illustration at the Wat Phra Kaew temple in Bangkok.

You can read an English translation of the Ramakien online here.

These images cannot be appreciated in such a small space, so please click on them for a larger file.

Japan Times infiltrated by Soka Gakkai?

Weekly Friday printed an article in their July 21 issue taking a look at the controversy surrounding Soka Gakkai leader Daisaku Ikeda’s recent series of op-eds in the Japan Times, the “only independent English-language newspaper in Japan.” Let’s have a look:

FRIDAY, 2006.07.21

Indicting Reportage: Internal conflict arises at Japan Times over “Daisaku Ikeda” columns

Field reporters lodge fierce protests, claiming “promotional articles for giant religious group Soka Gakkai”

In our last article, we reported the behind-the-scenes power struggle that is ripping Soka Gakkai apart, but a “Soka scandal” has also embroiled the Japan Times, the English-language newspaper boasting the longest history in Japan (founded 1897).

It all started when the paper started running a serial column by Daisaku Ikeda (78), honorary chairman of Soka Gakkai. This column runs on the 2nd Thursday of each month, with 12 columns planned in total. But Japan Times emloyees have fiercely protested and it has reached a state where they have requested that the upper management cancel the series. A Japan Times employees explains:

“Soka Gakkai has been dubbed a cult in France, and it is united with a specific political group (New Komeito). It is absurd for us to let the leader of a religious group with these kinds of issues to write promotional articles and on top of that give him our serial space. Even from the perspective of journalistic impartiality, it isn’t to be permitted.”
Continue reading Japan Times infiltrated by Soka Gakkai?