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The New Believers
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From Darwinian evolution to the New Age revolution, belief in God has changed, and so has the way we understand the nature and the purpose of humanity. The New Believers is a series which features revolutionary individuals who have charted the new spiritual territory. Follow this link to The New Believers website. The series begins with renowned primatologist, Frans de Waal, who shares the findings of 30 years of research with primates. Demonstrating moral sentiments, reconciliation processes, strategic power plays, and cultural ways, the higher primates reveal more than the aggression that is usually attributed to them. De Waal argues...

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Vaishnavas worship Vishnu in his various forms and are one of the three major groups of Hinduism, the others being Shaivas and Shaktas. In the trinity of Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma, Vishnu is the sattva quality of a centripetal tendency towards light and truth, which holds the universe together by pervading all existence. Vishnu comes from a root meaning "to pervade," and he is known as the Pervader. Thus Vishnu dwells in everything and defeats the power of destruction. Shiva is the centrifugal tendency of destruction and as life depends on death so Vishnu and Shiva are interdependent. As Vishnu...

In the Spirit of Tradition
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"Tradition" in academic circles has come to signify old fashioned customs, archaic cultural practices, ossified ideas handed down from the past and articulated to the letter by naļve, simple minded neo-Luddites. In popular discourse, to be traditional is to adamantly cling in the past. Those espousing traditional values are often lumped into the same category as the tree-huggers and angry protesters hurling insults at the towers of free-trade, liberalization and globalization and in the process braving the batons and pepper-spray of heavily armed policemen. From this perspective, tradition is not only diametrically opposed to modernity; it represents a distinct historical...

A Teenager's Discovery of Buddhism
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I became a Buddhist at the age of fifteen when I went through a simple ceremony in a large house on the outskirts of London. I would like to share what led me to take that step and try to suggest what goes on in the mind of a teenager who is discovering Buddhism. My family weren't Buddhist, they were Jewish, and I had had a Jewish upbringing. It is not that I disliked Judaism, but when I got to my teenage years I started to ask questions. I wanted to know if the Bible stories were really true when...

Investigation on the modern history of Buddhist nuns
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Lineage is important in both Buddhism and some of the Christian churches. An Anglican priest must be ordained at the hands of a properly consecrated bishop in a line that goes back to Jesus. It does not matter that divisions have taken place within the body of the Church, so that a Russian Orthodox priest, say, has radically different practices from an Anglican or Catholic, as long as the lineage remains unbroken. In Buddhism the emphasis on lineage extends even into lay ordination. At the Zen Jukai ceremony, the devotee is presented with a scroll that illustrates how the teaching...

Walking with the Buddha
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Journeying in Asia with a receptive mind was a large factor in my taking up Buddhism. To visit the principal pilgrimage sites therefore seemed a natural thing to do. Planning is always a fun part of any trip. In talking to fellow Buddhists and the monks – especially Bhante Nagasena, for whose guidance and guidebook I was particularly grateful - my original intention just to visit the sites changed. The word pilgrimage came up time and time again. What was all this, I thought. I had seen pilgrims at a Christian site going up hundreds of steps on their knees;...

Turning the wheel of the law
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Ever since I began to practice Buddhism after my first experience with it at the St. Louis Thai Temple in Winter 1998-9, I have wondered what it would be like to take the robe. Then university and family obligations did not allow enough time. It was not until I got to Birmingham that the opportunity arose. I had two main reasons for ordaining. To begin with, since I have often thought about monkhood as a vocation, I wanted to see from first-hand experience if the life was a good one for me. Then I wanted to have the opportunity to...

Spring Cleaning For Life
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Whether you are a beginner or have lots of meditation experience, whatever form your practice takes, preparation is crucial. Just as a boxer warms up, focuses his mind and determines to give of his best, so too there are ways a meditator can prepare. If you start with a mind full of thoughts, feelings and memories, or longing to achieve peace or alleviate anxiety, depression or stress, you are starting with ego and handicap your practice. If you are aware of your mental state and aspire to remove such handicaps, again you are producing ego. This is not a good...

Global Buddhism
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Even while he was on his deathbed, the Buddha continued giving his followers advice. He was already preparing himself for the final moment when he told his monks not to bother themselves about the disposal of his remains. These could safely be left to the devoted care of lay followers. His ashes might be housed in a stupa built in his honour and there 'people will make offerings of flowers or incense or scented powder, or will pay homage, or will feel reverence in their minds. To such people benefit and happiness will accrue for a long time.' (Mahaparinibbana Sutta,...

Knowing why you are here
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I am always very happy to see you come to meditation class. By coming you show you have the desire to practice. Perhaps you have heard that meditation helps rid you of anxiety, fear, agitation, stress or depression. I can acknowledge to you that it does help and, of course, you are welcome to come for this reason. But as your teacher I would like to point out that Vipassana has a greater objective and greater rewards. Vipassana enables you to understand the Buddha's teachings, the Dhamma, and by doing so see into the reality of all your experiences. Let...