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A Teenager's Discovery of Buddhism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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...

Living lightly on the earth

Although the interdependence of all things lies at the heart of Buddhist teaching, ecology as such is a modern formulation. We might certainly plead that it is a much needed restatement of the Buddhist vision in modern times, we might side with the poets (among them, the Buddha himself) and agree that truth gets lost in the words and therefore needs restating anew from age to age. It is still up to us, however, to prove our claim from traditional sources in order to carry everyone with us. For such a position to be convincing we need to look at...

Nuns experiences

On Saturday 12th July 2003 we four married women chose to experience life as Buddhist nuns. We were privileged to be the first group of nuns ordained in Birmingham. The occasion was made all the more auspicious due to the Sangha hosting the Veneration of the U.N. Relics of our Lord Buddha at the Pagoda. It was a very significant milestone on my Dhamma path. I have practised earnestly for eighteen years as a Theravadin devotee, learned to meditate properly, and have enjoyed Vipassana meditation as a way of life. To be ordained as a nun, even just for seven...

A Natural habit

I would like to write about the robes worn by Theravada Buddhist monks, taking my reference from the Pali scriptures. In the beginning of the Buddha's lifetime all the monks wore only the robes made of discarded pieces of cloth (panthukula civara) sometimes taken from rubbish heaps or even from the cemetery and sewed and dyed by themselves. Why did they wear such unattractive old robes? Because they wished to remove all the impediments to the solitary life. The number of Buddhist monks increased day by day. In later years the Buddha allowed monks to accept robes offered by people....