Tuesday, December 18, 2012

4000 British Troops to Visit Bodh Gaya and Sarnath

by Giridhar Jha, MAIL TODAY, December 10, 2012

Patna, India -- The British Army will send about 4,000 of its troops, who are followers of Buddhism, in a group of 100-150 people to spend a week at Bodh Gaya and Sarnath to seek peace after their prolonged involvement in the war zones in different countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. They will all meditate under the famous tree at Bodh Gaya, where Lord Buddha had attained enlightenment in 6th century B.C.

Mahabodhi tree has been declared a world heritage site by the Unesco in 2002.

"The British soldiers will start arriving in Bodh Gaya from early next year," Bihar's minister for tourism Sunil Kumar Pintu told Mail Today on Monday. "They will arrive in separate groups of about 100-150 people and meditate under the holy tree. They will continue to arrive here throughout the next year."

Pintu said that the troops will spend six days in Bodh Gaya and one day at Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh.
The minister said that the tourism department of the Bihar government had entered into an agreement with an international travel agency, to facilitate the trips during the World Tourism Mart held in London last month.
"Bihar had taken part in the World Tourism Mart for the first time which was held in London between November 5-8 this year," he said. "It was during that tourism fair that the officials of the British army got in touch with us through the travel agency. We had three rounds of talks in this regard."

Pintu said that the exact dates of the British troops had not yet been finalised yet. He stated that the state government would take care of the security of the British soldiers and facilitate their smooth stay in holy south Bihar town. "We will provide our wholehearted support to the British soldiers troops who want to meditate under the Mahabodhi tree," he said.
The tourism minister said that the British Army had about 4,000 troops who were followers of Buddhism. "Since Bodh Gaya happens to be the holiest of the holy places for the Buddhists, the British army has decided to arrange the trips for its soldiers," he added.

Stating that he had discussed the details of the trip with the British army officials, Pintu said that most of the British troops coming to Bihar had been deployed in the different countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in recent times. "The visit to Bodh Gaya and Sarnath is aimed at providing them peace and helping them distress them after their experiences in those countries."

He said that it was for the first time that such a visit has been organised.

Sushil Kumar Singh, managing director of the travel agency, said that his agency had signed an agreement in this regard with the British Army in London month. He said that Dr Sunil Karyakara, a Buddhist chaplain with the British army, had been made the coordinator for the trips. "We have entered into agreement with the British army to bring the stressed soldiers to various places on the Buddhist circuit," he said. "But they would spend most of the time at Bodh Gaya."
Singh said that the exact dates of the first round of the soldiers' visit had not been finalised but they would start arriving from early next year. "We will hold a meeting with the British army officials in January to chalk out the final itinerary in which Bihar tourism department officials will also be involved," he said. "The trips would continue in future as well."
Bihar has witnessed remarkable rise in the number of tourists from the foreign countries in recent years. Last year, the number of international tourists visiting Bihar was 8.70 lakh which was ten times more than what it used to be a decade ago. This year, 8.40 lakh had already visited the state till August and their number was expected to cross 10 lakh by the end of the year.

From the Buddhist Channel Web Site: http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=3,11226,0,0,1,0

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Battle-weary British troops find comfort in Buddhism

[From the Buddhist Channel. About UK Armed Forces but very relevant]

By Ian Drury, Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), Oct 21, 2012

London, UK -- Buddhism is experiencing an extraordinary upswing in popularity in the armed forces. Since 2005, the number of servicemen and women practising the religion has risen from 200 to 3,800. Around 2,800 are Gurkhas, whose home nation Nepal has pockets of Buddhism.
But the other 1,000 are British, with many converting since they joined the military. According to spiritual leaders, the reason behind the phenomenon is that Buddhism allows service personnel to escape the stresses and strains of military life.
Sunil Kariyakarawana, the Buddhist chaplain for the armed forces, said: ‘Buddhism has a different perspective about things.
‘The military is a very stressful place. People go to war, that is one factor, and have to fight.
‘Personnel see a lot of suffering in theatre. People are finding that Buddhism can help with these mental agonies.
‘It is laid back and they can practise their own way.’
Dr Sunil said Buddha, who lived 2,500 years ago, never ruled out force: ‘Sometimes you have to choose war as the least bad option.’
Lieutenant Colonel Peter Straddings, who heads up cultural diversity for the Army, said the society was ‘hugely important’.
He said: ‘British society today is hugely different from the Army I joined 25 years ago. Approximately 25 per cent of young people are no longer white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.
‘They are the future. They are the people who represented the country at the Olympics, at football and they are the people we need for the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force of the future.’
In 2005, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh chaplains were appointed by the armed forces for the first time.
The appointments reflect the increase in ethnic minority recruitment to the Army, Navy and RAF in recent years.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Since I'm working on some old projects, I'd like to see what the blogosphere thinks of a couple of them.
I have previously alluded to a set of running cadences that is in the works. I have this strange concept of incorporating the physical training into spiritual fitness, and at the same time making our physical training more spiritually-minded. I'd love to hear ideas that allow us to incorporate our practice in more aspects of our lives.

There has been in my mind an idea for some time, based on my interactions with Venerable Zhen Guan (2LT, chaplain candidate) the idea of a television series (sit-com) titled, "The Monk and the Soldier". Basically, it revolves around a Soldier helping a monk learn physical fitness and the often comedic adventures that that has entailed. i'm wondering what our community might think about such a show?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Book Recommendation

Throughout the course of the last couple of weeks, I've been fighting some sort of stomach bug that finally got the best of me. As a result, I've been on quarters for the past two days. Since one can only sleep so many hours out of the day, I decided to pick up where I left off reading Sakyong Mipham's "Running with the Mind of Meditation".

As military members, we are most likely all running as part of our physical fitness requirements, and as Buddhists we are all probably engaged in a meditation practice. This book, although quite short (less than 200 pages) wonderfully outlines the correlation between the stages in mental development as you practice meditation, and the stages in which you develop your body as you train by running. As the leader of the Shambhala tradition the Sakyong draws heavily from the Tiger, Lion, Garuda, Dragon concept, but the underlying messages of appreciation, cultivation, and progression will not be lost on the practitioner of any Buddhist tradition. I'd recommend it to those who are not Buddhist, and non runners as well, since these concepts can be applied to any activity in which you choose to engage.

In these two short days, this book has had a profound effect me. I share this with you all in hopes that you too may share in its' delight.  Here is the link:  http://runningmind.org/ 

Ki Ki So So!

- Veronica

Monday, August 27, 2012

Praise and Blame: the Worldly Truth

Recently, there was a young man came to my office and complained about his boss. This man got very angry toward his supervisor because his boss blamed very hardly on him for what he said that he did not make any mistake. This young man was crying and complaining that it's not right to get blamed for what he hasn't done any wrong. I listened to him quietly and gave some advices. One of the advise I gave was that there is no one who is absent from praise or blame. This is the worldly truth. If we accept this truth, there will be no suffering out of this matter. This reminds me of the Dhammapada (the Path of Truth) verse 228:
There never was
There never will be
Nor does there exist
A person who is wholly blamed or praised
Censure, blame and criticism are things no one wants to hear but all are unavoidable at one time or the other. Even a perfect person such as Buddha and etc. could not avoid this worldly truth. Ordinary people must go through adverse criticism on a daily basis. As an inevitable worldly truth, we must learn how to deal with it wisely. Not knowing how to deal with it, we are bound to suffering unnecessarily.
In the Dhammapada, it is advised that if anyone gives you criticism, censure or blame, you should thank him for his time pointing out your flaws to you. If what he points out is true, you should make amends. If not, you should generate loving-kindness toward him. Anyone who often gets angry when berated, censured or criticized should turn his way of thinking around and adopt a positive thought.
We should learn to think positively that censure (including criticism) has more worth than praise, as it makes us see our own flaws, faults, failings and failure, thus showing us the way to self-improvement. If what they criticize is not true, we should remain indifferent, as we are not what they say we are. What we are is the result of our own actions. We should adopt the attitude that a person is not good because of what he says, not a thief because of what he says but we are who we are and word of mouth cannot change that.
Those who are censured, blamed or criticized, if viewed positively, are fortunate and important. If we are not important enough, who will care enough to waste their time and energy to criticize us? The well-known thinker Dale Carnegie must have been well aware of the truth of the matter because whenever he was censured, blamed or criticized, he kept reminding himself that;
“Nobody kicks a dead dog.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Zen and Pain Management


As a cognitive neuroscientist and Soto Zen Buddhist, I find these studies fascinating (see link). Does anyone have any experiences (on and off of the cushion) relevant to pain they would like to share? Personally, I find that my threshold for discomfort in my hips and feet while sitting in zazen for long periods has increased. I believe that zazen has invaluable potential if applied to our soldiers as a means for managing physical and psychological discomfort (and the interaction of the two).
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