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DateLine Wednesday, 16 May 2007

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Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Attachment to worldly objects far
stronger than iron chains

That which is made of iron, wood or hemp, is not a strong bond say the wise; the longing for jewels, ornaments, children and wives is a far greater attachment.
Tanha Vagga - The Dhammapada

Mara: embodiment of the death of spiritual life

Mara: We have heard about Mara, the Evil One from the story of the Buddha's courageous battle with his armies, minions, and daughters on the evening of his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.

As soon a Siddhartha started mediating, he was confronted with the figure of Mara, the Lord of Darkness. Mara tried to tempt Siddhartha into despair and in giving up his quest for enlightenment.

Mara's armies are: desire, lust, dislike for he higher life, hunger, thirst, craving, sloth and torpor, fear, cowardice, doubt, hypocrisy, obduracy, gain, praise, fame, honour, false glory, exalting self despising others. Mara's daughters represent: lust, greed, desire, pride and ignorance. Mara's hordes represent the sum total of our deepest fears.

Mara can be viewed as the embodiment of unskilfulness and the death of the spiritual life in all of us. The nuns at the time of the Buddha grappled with Mara. He would sneak into their hearts and thoughts, desiring to arouse fear, trepidation, and terror.

They, Uppalavanna, Cala, Soma, Alavika, Gotami, Vijaya, Upapacala, Sisupacala, Sela, Vajira, to name but a few of the nuns, caught Mara immediately and answered him with brilliant replies whereby Mara sneaks away, caught in the act, foiled again his tricks.

Several years ago, on Visakha Puja, Ajahn Amaro gave a brilliant Dhamma talk. He assumed the voice of Mara, as George Saunders, a British character actor who often played the role of an oily cad.

In this voice Mara confronts the Buddha and asks him who he thinks he is that he should be enlightened as he is a loser who abandoned his wife, son, and palace responsibilities. He couldn't even make it as an ascetic. He had to start eating again.

Mara shows up in all our lives whispering such things as: "You could have done better, why don't you have that piece of pie, you deserve it, I need a new I-Pod, you're no smart enough, I see it, I want it, I like it, I get it, If only I had a boy/girlfriend then everything would be alright, why me? I don't like it and it shouldn't be this way. I have really ugly thighs."

For the past many years, I too have started hearing Mara's voice. Humor and skirmishes have begun with this dark trickster. On the last evening of a past Thanksgiving Retreat with Ajahn Amaro, I composed a song dedicated to Mara based on the tune, "I'm Just a Gal Who Can't Say No." One line read "I'm in your terrible grip.

I always say 'come on let's go' just when I need to do zip." Another time, I wrote an article entitled "Hearing Mara on the Loop Trail" which addressed my fears of getting lost, getting stuck, encountering a mountain lion, falling off the mountain and missing the meal.

The latest battle with the Evil One was just a few months ago. I had a bone marrow biopsy and was waiting for the results which took two weeks.

There were four possibilities: nothing, something to be checked yearly, a quick exit from planet earth, or an extremely rare blood disease called Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia - which I later found out was the diagnosis. During the next two weeks, Mara's voice was a deep diabolic laugh and then the voice said, "Mettika, you're going to die."

Sometiems I was able to feel the fear in the belly which created awareness and then was able to see Mara and watch him slunk away. Sometimes I felt the pure dread of impending death. Mara was happy with that response.

So, Dhamma friends and wayfarers, be on the lookout for Mara in his many forms. The worst form of all is not seeing or hearing Mara's whisperings and becoming entangled, shackled, trapped, upset, blind, deaf, heedless, and unprepared.

We now have the opportunity to catch Mara's armies, minions, and daughters. Stay tuned and feel free to write to Mara's Desk if you too have had encounters. Drop me a line.

Cindy Mettika Hoffman is an upasika who has long been a part of the Abhayagiri community.

Please write to Mara's

Desk at [email protected]


Sri Lankan Bhikkhu undertakes major research project

Ven. Professor K. L. Dhammajoti is a leading scholar in the highly specialized field of Buddhist Studies known as Abhidharma, which deals with the metaphysical and epistemological doctrines of ancient Buddhism.

He is well-versed in all the Buddhist Scriptural languages, including Classical Chinese, Sanskrit, Pali and Tibetan and, as such, his expertise is highly sought after by academic institutions around the world, including the University of Calgary, which awarded him the prestigious Numata Chair of Buddhist Thought in the year 2000.

He is the author of five books on Buddhist doctrines and has written many academic papers on his specialty. Professor Dhammajoti is also the editor of the internationally-renowned Journal of Buddhist Studies, dedicated to Buddhist research.

Since joining the Centre, Professor Dhammajoti has been guiding a group of both local and foreign research students in textual studies, which has involved comparative sources of all the scriptural languages.

He is currently undertaking a major research project which involves the compilation of a dictionary of Sanskrit-English Abhidharma terminology. When completed, this dictionary will provide a valuable contribution to Buddhist scholarship.

Professor Dhammajoti, a graduate of the University of Kelaniya, in Sri Lanka, joined the University's Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies in 1982 as a senior lecturer, and went on to Buddhist Literary Sources in 1992, a position he held until 2004, when he became a venerable professor at the Centre of Buddhist Studies of the University of Hong Kong.

The centre was inaugurated at the University of Hong Kong in 2001.

It promotes the study of and research into all aspects of Buddhism and its relevance to the world today, and offers a platform for academic and cultural exchange between east and west.


The first ever English medium Encyclopedia of Buddhism

Encyclopedia: Completion of 2500 years of the Buddhist Era (Buddha Jayanti) fell in Vesak 1956. To commemorate this unique event Buddhists all-over the world drew up programmes to celebrate the occasion in a fitting manner.

The Buddhists of Myanmar (Burma) under the leadership of premier U-Nu, decided to hold the sixth Buddhist convention (Chattha Sangayana) in Myanmar to revise and cleanse the Pali Tipitaka (The Buddhist canon).

Elaborate arrangements were made by the government of Myanmar for this purpose. A massive Meeting Hall was put up with State funds to accommodate the many thousands of Buddhist clergy and lay Buddhist scholars and leaders and other dignitaries who were invited from other Theravada Buddhist countries to participate in this grand historic event.

A team of many erudite Buddhist bhikkhus and lay Buddhist scholars conversant with all aspects of Buddha Dhamma and its culture represented Sri Lanka in this convention.

The Sri Lankan delegation was led by Professor Emeritus G.P. Malalasekera, the world acclaimed Buddhist scholar and national leader. The convention continued for nearly two years and the whole Tipitaka was carefully rehearsed and cleansed.

India, where Buddhism was born and nurtured, joined in this unique celebration by volunteering to perform three grand tasks.

The first of them was to re-edit and print many Buddhist Sanskrit works composed by reputed ancient Indian seers and scholars.

The second of them was to publish book titled '2500 years of Buddhism' under the editorship of Professor P.V. Bapath, on many facets of Buddhism and its culture, containing scholarly articles written by reputed Indian scholars.

The third was to publish a large book of photographs with descriptive notes of temples the Buddha and Bodhisattva statues, Buddhist shrines, Buddhist art, Buddhist sculptures and paintings culled from many countries where Buddhism and its culture spread, during a long period of time.

The book was titled 'The Way of the Buddha'. The indian Prime Minister at the time, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, who was a great admirer of the Buddha and his teachings, personally inspired and gave leadership to these activities.

Sri Lanka which has been acclaimed as the centre of Thervada Buddhism in the world, volunteered to undertake three major activities as its contribution to the Buddha Jayanti Celebrations.

The first of them was to translate into Sinhala the Buddhist Canon (Tripitaka) which was first brought to Sri Lanka by Arahant Mahinda Thera in the 3rd Century B.C........ and subsequently written down in ola leaf books at Aluvihara in Matale in the 1st Century B.C.... The translation was to go under the appellation 'Buddha Jayanti Tipitaka Grantha Malava'. The translation was to be handled by a panel of highly experienced and qualified Buddhist monks.

The second of them was to compile a comprehensive general Encyclopedia in Sinhala.

Professor emeritus D.E. Hettiarachchi, the most experienced and highly qualified Professor of Sinhala at the time, was entrusted with the planning and execution of the project.

The third of them was to compile a comprehensive Encyclopedia of Buddhism in the English medium, to cover the complete range of Buddhism, its expansion and its development from its inception up to date. The veteran and highly qualified Buddhist Scholar and national leader at the time.

Professor Emeritus Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera was selected to plan this Encyclopedia and execute the project. He was also the pioneer Editor-in-Chief. In the preface Professor Malalasekera wrote to the 'Volume of specimen articles' released in 1957, he says; "Buddhism covers a vast expanse, both of time and space.

The Encyclopedia aims at giving a comprehensive account of the origins of this world-religion and developments that have taken place during a period of twenty five centuries.

To deal with Buddhism is to deal with a whole civilization, in fact, a whole series of civilizations, which have influenced the lives of myriads of human beings in many lands.

A satisfactory treatment of the subject should, thus, include information about the doctrines of Buddhism and their growth, the story of their spread and expansion, accounts of the numerous Buddhist Schools and Sects, their origins and subsequent ramifications, descriptions of Buddhist rites and ceremonies as found in many lands, the history of the fine arts-painting and sculpture, architecture, music, dance and drama - under the influence of Buddhism, in various countries; details of Buddhist shrines and places of pilgrimage and of the vast literatures connected with Buddhism which developed in many languages, both ancient and modern, and biographies of persons who, in the course of Buddhist history, played important parts. Even so, the list of topics would not be exhausted".

The office of the Encyclopedia of Buddhism was set up in Colombo during the latter part of the year 1955. Towards the end of that year the office was transferred to the University of Peradeniya.

The Peradeniya University atmosphere was very congenial for the compilation of the Encyclopedia of Buddhism.

The Peradeniya academic staff at that time consisted of many professors and lecturers who were experts in Pali, Sanskrit, Indian Philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, Western philosophy, Archaeology, Indian and Ceylon history and many allied fields of study.

The Peradeniya library at that time was equipped with valuable books on Buddhism, Buddhist Philosophy, Western and Indian philosophies, art and architecture and many more invaluable books on allied subjects and internationally recognized journals and periodicals in the allied subjects that are indispensable for the compilation of the needed articles for the Encyclopedia of Buddhism.

The Encyclopedia of Buddhism has been planed to be completed in eight volumes and an Index volume. Each Encyclopedia volume is to contain approximately 800 printed pages. For the convenience of printing the Encyclopedia of Buddhism is released in Fascicles, each Fascicle to consist of around 200 pages. Four such fascicles from one Encyclopedia Volume.

I have been associated with the Encyclopedia of Buddhism project, as an assistant Editor, since 1960. To add a personal note, I happened to belong to Professor Malalasekera's last batch of students at the Peradeniya University, who specialized in Pali and Buddhist studies.

In 1987 I was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia of Buddhism, with an extremely depleted internal editorial staff. In spite of the many obstacles I had to dabble with, from 1987 up to date, I was able to complete and release 14 fascicles of the Encyclopedia of Buddhism.

The total number of fascicles released so far stands at 28, which comprise 7 Buddhist Encyclopedia Volumes. To complete the project we have to compile and print the remaining four fascicles of Volume VIII and the index Volume.

The first fascicle of Volume VIII is now in the process of being printed and we expect to release it by the end of June 2007.

About 90% of articles for the last 3 fascicles are also complete now. We are working with a well-planned schedule to complete the project by the end of the year 2008.

The writer is Editor-in-Chief of Encyclopaedia of Buddhism


Call for Papers: Third National Conference on Buddhist Studies

Papers: The Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka in association with the Buddhist Times Trust and Bodu Sahana Aramudala will be holding the Third National Conference on Buddhist Studies on 12th - 13th July 2007 at the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7.

Academics and researchers are invited to present papers relating to Buddhism from a variety of disciplines such as Philosophy, Civilisation, History, Psychology, Sociology, Buddhist Scriptural Languages and Literature and other related disciplines in Humanities and Social Science. They can be presented in both English and Sinhala.

Abstracts of papers should not exceed 350 words and must include Title, Author(s), Affiliation, Address, Tel/Fax, E-mail address (if available). Abstracts can be sent by e-mail to [email protected] as attachment in Word, or by fax to Fax No: 2580610/2502943 or by post to the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka, 214 Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7.

A committee of Buddhist scholars will be selecting the papers, and acceptance will be notified. Deadline for submission of abstracts is 31 May 2007. Participation is open to members of the public.


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