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The Last Jedi put Star Wars Buddhist philosophy in the foreground – Polygon

Posted: December 14, 2019 at 10:44 pm


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Two hours and eighteen minutes into The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) projects his avatar from across the galaxy to confront Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and save the Resistance. Both times I saw the film theatrically, once in Mumbai, and then in New Delhi a thousand miles away, the image of Luke floating cross-legged, deep in meditation, was met with thunderous applause. This wasnt just a clever twist for fans of Force magic; for many eastern audiences, the image of the Jedi levitating cross-legged above a mound evokes depictions of Siddhrtha Gautama, the first Buddha, in sculptures and paintings across the centuries.

The climactic reveal of Luke, lost in deep meditation on Ahch-To (the site of his self-imposed exile, where he lives a similarly material-free life), takes the place of the typical cowboy shot, where a subject is framed from the thigh-up as they grab their weapon from its holster a technique Star Wars has used in the past. Instinctively, most audiences in the west know what this image means whenever it appears, especially if its accompanied by the camera pushing closer for emphasis (as it does on Rey when she first wields her weapon in The Force Awakens). Its a precursor to heroic action scenes; a familiar visual shorthand that tickles the senses, as all genre tropes do. But in The Last Jedi, as the camera pushes in on Luke, the shorthand of the climax is an image more familiar to viewers in South and Southeast Asia. For me, the image recalled an enormous statue of the Buddha in the Ajanta Caves, a series of rock-cut Buddhist monasteries built as far back as the 2nd century BCE.

Cross-legged depictions of the meditating Buddha are most often depictions of the revered monk achieving nirvana, a form of deep spiritual understanding in South Asian religions like Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. The latter, now the worlds fourth-largest religion, is believed to have been founded in the 5th century BCE by Siddhrtha Gautama, who most historians agree renounced the material world before embarking upon a journey of learning and teaching until his eventual death; more specific details are harder to verify, though most biographies cite his birthplace as Lumbini modern-day Nepal. In Buddhist traditions that arose in subsequent centuries, nirvana (or the great quenching) became one of Buddhisms central tenets, an escape from cycles of death and rebirth, achieved through deep concentration, helping others, and a state of peaceful, desireless living.

Despite its political and aesthetic touchstones, the Star Wars series philosophy has historically been a hodgepodge of eastern ideas, mixing Taoism, Buddhism and Zen. In the first film in the series, the Jedis belief in the Force and its light and dark sides mirrored the Taoist concepts of Qi (or Chi; a life force) and the yin-and-yang. Shortly thereafter, The Empire Strikes Back re-enforced, through characters like Master Yoda (Frank Oz), the idea that using the Force was akin to Zen or at least, the simplified version of Zen Buddhism that captured the attention of Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and leaked into the western zeitgeist of the 50s and 60s. In the west, the word Zen has since come to mean a state of calm attentiveness in which ones actions are guided by intuition, not unlike Lukes education on the Force. How will I know the good side from the bad? Luke asks, to which Yoda replies, You will know when you are calm. At peace. Passive.

However, the contradictory behavior of the Jedi would come to light in Return of the Jedi, when Obi-Wan insists that, in order to defeat the Emperor, Luke must vanquish Darth Vader in an act of physical dominance. This course of action would require Luke to detach himself emotionally from his own father, but it also contradicted the very things Yoda had taught him. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, Yoda said, never attack. By the end of the film, Luke rejects both extremes of the Force equation, neither buying into the visceral hatred of the Dark Side nor following the dispassionate Jedi dogma that wouldve also lead him to violence. After pummeling Vader in a fit of rage, Luke tosses his own lightsaber aside, and offers him a path to redemption.

By The Last Jedi, Luke has cut himself off from the Force, having failed to exorcise the darkness in his nephew Ben Solo. In flashback, we see Luke momentarily tempted by both sides of the equation once more: the violent potential within him that the Dark Side could draw out, and the Jedis dogmatic call to ascetic detachment in order to vanquish evil. In this moment, as in the moment Luke nearly took Vaders life, the Dark Side and the ways of the Jedi are one and the same. Luke thinks about (and nearly acts on) killing Ben. He doesnt follow through, but its too late: The betrayed Ben, denied the road to redemption by his own uncle, is set down on a dark path of his own. A second Skywalker villain is created by Jedi zealotry.

The greatest teacher, failure is, Yoda tells Luke, setting him on a path of amends. While simply appearing in person at the battle of Crait would have fulfilled the same plot function, the mechanics by which Luke appears, battles Ben (now Kylo Ren), and subsequently dies, serve to complete his story thematically. Luke uses the Force not to walk out with a laser sword and face down the whole First Order, as he jokes earlier in the film, but as means of spiritual communion, the way it manifests elsewhere between Kylo and Lukes new protg, Rey (Daisy Ridley). While Rian Johnson got the idea for force projection from the Star Wars reference book The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force, astral projection as a spiritual concept takes hold in Buddhist scripture. In the Samaaphala Sutta, or The Fruit of Contemplative Life, the Buddha says:

With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and inclines it to creating a mind-made body ... He appears. He vanishes. He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land. Sitting cross-legged he flies through the air like a winged bird.

The Last Jedis cut away from the duel to Lukes cross-legged meditation signals the achievement of a greater, clear-minded understanding. The concept of nirvana ties back to the central Buddhist idea of escaping cycles of life and death, or attaining moksha, i.e. salvation from pain; what pains Luke, it would seem, is the guilt of his failure. In Buddhism, in order to attain this moksha, one must ascend as Luke does from ceto-vimutti, a state of simple, desireless living, to paa-vimutti, the escape from physical suffering through vipassana, or meditation. The term nirvana, when literally translated, means blowing out, as in a candle. As Luke fades from physical existence, backed by the sun-drenched horizon, his life ends like a fading flame.

Fittingly, Lukes enlightenment, and his rejection of Jedi dogma, mirrors the rift between two major sects of Buddhism: Theravada, or the School of the Elders, and Mahayana, or the Great Vehicle. Theravada, the oldest and most orthodox form of Buddhism, teaches the path to nirvana as a strict endeavour embarked upon only by chosen monks living according to a rigid monastic code, whose enlightenment takes precedence over helping others. In response, Mahayana, which arose cir. the 1st century BCE, introduced newer, more lenient teachings considered inauthentic by many Theravadins. It allowed laypeople the chance to walk the path to enlightenment, and placed a greater emphasis on helping struggling humans, even if it meant delaying ones own nirvana in order to do so (Mahayana, as it happens, was also the origin of Zen Buddhism).

This divide also echoes the paradigm of the new Star Wars films, which dramatizes the tensions between the rigidity of bloodline legacy from Vader to Kylo Ren and the arrival of an outsider Rey, who uses the Force and upsets the established order.

Rey is also a key fixture in the films use of Buddhist imagery. Her own moment of enlightenment, while searching for her parents identity in the cave on Ahch-To, comes in the form of gazing into infinite mirrors. In some sects of Buddhism, the mirror is considered a point of spiritual reflection; seventeenth century Zen master Hakuin Ekaku considered the mirror a false or illusory reflection of reality. Similarly, the truth Rey seeks in these mirrors presents itself first as illusion two silhouetted figures, perhaps her parents, walking towards her before finally reflecting the reality of the world as it truly is. In seeing these two shadows merge into her own reflection, Rey, the girl who raised herself on Jakku, begins to accept that its neither the phantom parents she clings to, nor idols like Luke or Han to whom she runs, nor Kylo Ren by whom shes tempted, that will show her her path. Its something she must forge herself.

Rey isnt the only important outsider in The Last Jedi either. Rose (Trn Loan) and Finn (John Boyega) help a young stable boy (Temirlan Blaev) on Canto Bight, the Casino city frequented by the galaxys war profiteers. The capital is a nexus of violence and materialism, in contrast with the Buddhist tenets of ending suffering (dukkha) and detaching oneself from the material desires that cause it (samudaya). At the end of the film, a young slave boy who finds inspiration in a Rebel ring given to him by Rose, as well as in the legends of Luke Skywalker, appears to use the Force. In an immediate sense, this child is a symbol of the continuing rebellion, the birth of a new generation of Jedi, and like Rey, a spiritual successor in the Skywalker story.

But where does the Force go from here, after Lukes ultimate rejection of violence and the Jedi dogma? How will this mysterious tool and spiritual fabric be seen, and canonized, in and after The Rise of Skywalker? The answer may partially lie with the new live-action Star Wars show on Disney Plus, The Mandalorian. The series, currently six episodes in of a planned total of eight, introduces a character colloquially dubbed Baby Yoda. This mute infant, of the same species as the Yoda we know, exhibits sensitivity to the Force, and in his innocent moments, tries to use the Force to heal the Mandalorians wounds. The Force as a means of physical healing is a concept yet unexplored by Star Wars, though it feels tethered to Lukes use of the Force as a great vehicle for spiritual healing in The Last Jedi.

When the film begins, Luke has taken a dark path akin to Yodas didactic prophecy many years ago: Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And hate leads to suffering. But by the end, Luke breaks this painful cycle by finding an alternative to Yodas three-pronged mantra, one that echoes the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, the core of the Buddhas teachings: Suffering exists. It has a cause. It has an end. And there is a noble path to ending it. The future of the Force, it would seem, lies in the ending of suffering, rather than in answering the call to violence; or, as Rose puts it, Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.

The saga thus far has woven a harmonious fabric, in which Luke Skywalker, the young farm boy from Tatooine who just wanted to be part of something greater, fulfills his destiny by becoming one with the Force. Hes helped along his path by none other than Master Yoda, whose own enlightenment has seen him become one with nature; We are what they grow beyond, Yoda tells him, of their Jedi students. That is the true burden of all masters. As the saga leans further into Mahayana tradition, the goals of its wise Jedi, and its older generations, are to guide these new heroes and outsiders toward their own forms of spiritual understanding.

Luke does not appear in front of Kylo Ren to fight, but to guide others to safety. When his astonishing new abilities are revealed, they are a path to salvation for Kylo, for the entrapped Rebels, and for the Jedi master himself instead of bloodshed. When Luke is revealed floating on the mound, the awesome power audiences applauded was not violent fantasy, but a path to peace.

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How the Library of Congress Unrolled a 2,000-Year-Old Buddhist Scroll – Atlas Obscura

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Its not easy being a 2,000-year-old Buddhist scroll. A slight gust of wind, a particularly humid day, or even a simple exhalation could cause the scroll to crack or crumble into pieces. To unroll a scroll this old is almost unthinkablebut recently, conservators at the Library of Congress found themselves with no other option. They wanted to read the words scrawled inside the Gandhara scroll.

Before the scroll came to the library, it was buried for 2,000 years in a clay jar in a Buddhist stupa, or dome-shaped shrine, in the ancient region of Gandhara, now the Peshawar Valley in northern Afghanistan and Pakistan. The high-altitude, arid climate kept it from crumbling until it was excavated in the 1990s. In 2005, conservators received the scroll in a Parker Pen box on a bed of cotton. It was the most fragile object we have ever encountered, Holly Krueger, a retired paper conservator at the library, writes in an email. A year passed before the conservators felt ready to unfurl the scroll without destroying it completely.

The scroll, which was radiocarbon dated to the first century B.C., is one of a handful of surviving early Buddhist manuscripts from Gandhara, according to Jonathan Loar, a South Asia specialist at the library. Gandhara, situated on the Silk Road, served as a gateway to India, and the regions monks are credited with spreading Buddhism into Iran and China, Krueger writes in a 2008 paper in The Book and Paper Group Annual. It was written in Gandhari, a language related to Sanskrit, on birch bark, an ancient writing material that consists of thin layers held together with a natural gluealmost like ancient phyllo pastry. As it ages, this glue breaks down, leaving the layers extremely vulnerable to shattering with the slightest disturbance, Krueger says, adding that a scroll this unstable could have only survived in a jar.

Krueger consulted conservators at the British Library, who had successfully unrolled 30 scrolls, for their input. Without any ancient, coiled birch bark laying around for a trial run, she practiced on a baked cigar roll, teasing apart its wafer-thin layers with bamboo spatulas. It was not as fragile as the scroll proved to be, Krueger says. A few days before the unrolling, the conservators placed the scroll in a specially constructed, humidified chamber, which softened the birch bark so it would not break upon contact.

The actual unrolling happened in June, 2006, on a Saturday, to reduce the risk of air currents created by coworkers and better control the humidity and temperature of the librarys paper lab. Krueger was present with only two others: Yasmeen Khan, a senior rare book conservator at the library, and Mark Barnard, the chief conservator at the British Library. One cannot underestimate the nerves of steel required for such a project, Krueger says. We had only one chance for success.

Krueger and Barnard removed the scroll from its moist chamber and placed it on top of a pane of borosilicate glass. One turn at a time, using bamboo spatulas, they unfurled the birch bark, placing small glass weights on newly flat sections. Each fresh turn revealed new fragments, which the conservators weighed down to preserve their place in the text. If the scroll seemed on the verge of cracking, a conservator would mist the air with a preservation pencil.

It was a dramatic and silent affair: Everyone took shallow, controlled breaths. One misplaced exhale could scatter the scroll shards and render something translatable into something lost. I was doing the photography and informed the conservators whenever I was going to move so that they would be prepared for air movement and change, Khan writes in an email. When the whole thing was laid flat, Krueger and Barnard removed the glass weights and laid a second pane of glass on the whole revealed scroll, pushing down tiny pieces that popped up with the bamboo sticks.

Finally translated, the final scroll has no title, beginning, or end, but it does retain around 75 to 80 percent of the original textone of the better-preserved Gandharan scrolls in existence, Loar says. It tells the story of 15 seekers of enlightenment who came before and after Siddhrtha Gautama, the sage living in the 5th or 6th century B.C. who became known as the Buddha. Repeating these namesverbally, mentally, and or in writingis a powerful practice, Loar says, adding that it functioned as a meditative exercise.

Too fragile for public display, the scroll has been reburiedthis time in a box within the archives of the library. Theres also a drawer that holds all the tiny bits of dust that sprung from the scroll during the unrolling. Conservators now transport it around the library on a cart with vibration dampening to ease its journey, Krueger says. But this past summer, the conservators digitized the entire scroll, making it surprisingly easy to read a millennia-old account of the lives of buddhasthat is, if you read Gandhari.

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How the Library of Congress Unrolled a 2,000-Year-Old Buddhist Scroll - Atlas Obscura

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Dutch officials after church sale: ‘It’s better to have Buddhists than apartments’ – Crux: Covering all things Catholic

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What effect does the closure of a church have on a village? Is Catholic life in these villages disappearing together with the church? In the Dutch village of Afferden the local church was sold to a Buddhist movement from Thailand and converted into a temple.

Parishioners are happy with the new owners: The Buddhists invest an enormous amount of time and energy in the village.

When the Buddhist monks in their orange robes first walked through the Dutch village in the east of the country, the villagers were more than a little surprised. Mark van Dinteren is one of them. He used to work as a handyman for the church in Afferden. Two years ago this church was sold to the Dhammikaya movement from Thailand and subsequently converted into a temple by the Buddhist monks.

Van Dinteren often went to church. He does miss the weekly Masses. Yet he is also happy with the newcomers, who he believes are already well established.

The Buddhists are friendly people and already completely accepted by the villagers. I am happy that the church is still being used by people who have its best interest at heart, he said.

The sale of the church in Afferden is part of a lengthy process of church closures in the local parish of St. Francis and St. Clara. Only the church in the nearby village of Druten remains open, the four other village churches have all been closed.

During the process of church closures, various project plans were submitted by parishioners in order to keep these churches open. Ton Perlo, vice-president of the parish board, was one of the people responsible for the evaluation of these plans and concluded that they were all inadequate.

They did not meet the strict guidelines of the diocese and financially speaking were not sound. Then there is not much left for us to do, he explained.

The search for a new owner for the church in Afferden was not an easy one. After a long period of waiting, the parish board eventually received a bid from a party that was interested in taking over the church: the Buddhist Dhammikaya movement from Thailand.

That was a tricky one, admitted Perlo. Church guidelines do not allow non-believers to buy a church. He is referring to the guidelines of the Dutch Catholic Church, stating that if a religious party wants to buy a church building, it must also be a member of the Council of Churches, a partnership of eighteen Christian Churches in the Netherlands.

After extensive deliberation, the parish board finally managed to convince the Diocese of Den Bosch to make an exception to the rule. The fact that it would remain a spiritual center, even though it would be a Buddhist center, was the determining factor, according to Perlo.

It remains a spiritual building. Its better to have Buddhists in it than apartments, he said.

When asked if a church could then also become a mosque, Perlo said that would be another discussion.

No, Buddhists are different. They do not really have a religion, as Muslims do, he said.

Freek van Genugten, policy officer of the Diocese of Den Bosch, agrees that as a rule only religious parties affiliated with the Council of Churches can buy a church. Yet this case, he says, is an example of necessity knows no law.

An exception was made in this case because there were no other buyers. What weighed heavily in this case was the fact that a new party came in that corresponded with the function of the church, Van Genugten said.

He also emphasized that it will not become the custom in the future to sell churches to other religious groups, saying, This will remain an exception to the rule.

Luang phi (venerable monk) Sander Oudenampsen was surprised when he found the church.

As the only Dutch-speaking monk, he was actively involved in the search for a good location for a temple. He proudly gives a tour of his new prayer site and shows the huge golden Buddha statue it will be replaced by a larger statue from Thailand and the various paintings about Buddhas life.

The location of the church makes it very suitable for a temple, he said.

Originally we were looking for a location in Amsterdam. But its much quieter here. Ideal for meditation, the monk explained.

When asked if it was difficult for the Buddhist movement to buy the church, he replied it wasnt.

No, not at all. I know that the diocese has strict guidelines when it comes to reuse. We were allowed to buy it because, according to them, Buddhism is not officially a religion. But, to be honest, that has also been an administrative solution. We do see it as a religion, Oudenampsen said.

Nevertheless, he is convinced that Buddhism is closely linked to Christianity, and therefore corresponds well with the original function of the church building.

Theyre both focused on prayer, on meditation. Thats also what I hear from the people who visit the meditation evenings, he explained.

The Buddhist monks regularly organize free introductory evenings where the basic principles of meditation are explained. More and more villagers attend these meditation classes, said Oudenampsen, including many people who used to go to the church before.

Elderly people from the village come to him with questions about life as well. Just like the pastoral task of a Catholic monk, he sees it as his task to answer these questions and teach them about Buddhism. He notices that there is a hunger for more knowledge about the deeper meaning of things. I think Buddhism can provide many answers to these questions.

One of the visitors of the meditation evenings is the former parish priest of Afferden. Between 2005 to 2013, Father Gerard van Hoofd served in the village, after which he retired. His time as a parish priest in Afferden and the surrounding villages was one of the best times of his life. He remembers that the community in Afferden was a small but living community: It was a group of people that really believed in the church and really wanted to make something of it.

But after several discussions with the parish board and the diocese, Van Hoof noticed that parishioners slowly began to lose their faith in the church. After the church was closed, Van Hoof tried to motivate people to go to the church in the nearby village of Druten.

I went to Mass in Druten in the hope that people would follow me there. But they didnt. I only know two people from Afferden who go to Mass in Druten, the priest said.

Van Hoof is open and honest about his love of Buddhism and meditation. He is therefore pleased with the new role of the church and with the fact that former churchgoers can meditate there.

The Buddhists invest a huge amount of time and energy in the village, and put a lot of effort into being known and seen, he said.

Van Dinteren doesnt think its a problem that some of the other parishioners are now meditating in the temple. Yet he himself doesnt feel the need to do the same, nor, however, does he feel the need to go to Mass in Druten. He does still like to visit the Lady Chapel in the cemetery, a place that feels familiar to him.

Van Dinteren sees that the people in Afferden are trying to find their own way: For example, by lighting candles on All Souls Day.

The Catholic traditions are not likely to disappear in Afferden anytime soon, you know, he said reassuringly.

Even if the church is closed, we do find ways to practice our faith. The traditions will certainly continue to exist. But in our own way, he said.

What effect does the closure of a church have on a village? Is Catholic life in these villages disappearing together with the church? And what are the consequences of closing a church for village traditions, the involvement of volunteers and the solidarity among villagers?

There is still much we dont know about this. Therefore, the Dutch Catholic weekly Katholiek Nieuwsblad is currently carrying out extensive research, with the financial support of the Dutch Journalism Fund, trying to give a clearer picture of a growing problem in the Dutch and in the international Catholic community. Crux will be providing translations of these updates.

This article was written exclusively for Crux and translated by Susanne Kurstjens van den Berk.

Crux is dedicated to smart, wired and independent reporting on the Vatican and worldwide Catholic Church. That kind of reporting doesnt come cheap, and we need your support. You can help Crux by giving a small amount monthly, or with a onetime gift. Please remember, Crux is a for-profit organization, so contributions are not tax-deductible.

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Dutch officials after church sale: 'It's better to have Buddhists than apartments' - Crux: Covering all things Catholic

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You probably knew mindfulness could help you with stress. But did you know it could save your marriage? – ABC News

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Updated December 15, 2019 10:57:00

Eng-Kong Tan wants you to get used to disappointment it could save your marriage.

When the honeymoon period is over, he says, you need someone outside the relationship who can say: "It's OK. It's part of the journey of intimacy."

He's not trying to burst anyone's bubble. In fact, he wants to help people stay together.

The Buddhist consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist provides mindfulness-based couples therapy.

Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment without judgemental thoughts.

And he knows a thing or two about how to make love last he's been happily married for 48 years.

While his religion Buddhism and mindfulness are closely connected, he is careful to separate the two in his work.

He acknowledges that similar techniques exist in Western psychology, and that comparable spiritual practices can be found in other religious traditions.

"I don't even call it Buddhist, because mindfulness is now in the air," he explains.

The point of his approach is to find new ways for couples to relate to one another and weather the inevitable hardships that come with being in an intimate relationship.

The process of choosing our beloved is a small cog in the wheel of romantic partnership, according to Eng-Kong.

He says the real test of a marriage isn't how well we've chosen it's how well we survive "all the disillusionments".

He is wary of the way popular culture puts romance on a pedestal, and he doesn't appreciate saccharine love songs on the radio.

"'You are the one', 'you are perfect for me' no! That is because they're in love," he says.

"When we're in love, we project onto the other what is perfect for us. But the other is not that."

The key is to check our unconscious expectations.

"Sometimes we think we marry someone because we just want to love them," Eng-Kong says.

But deep down, we might be looking for someone who gives us the order we need, "emotionally and psychologically".

He advises against believing in the "storybook happily ever after". Instead, he says, couples should focus on how to work together through inevitable disappointment.

Eng-Kong says it's a good idea to look for someone who isn't only attracted to you, "but fundamentally you feel is a good person who wants to take care of you".

He calls the drive to care for other people a "fundamental ingredient", and says that even the most severe marital problems can be solved if it is present.

Eng-Kong starts and ends each session by meditating with his clients.

He says this gives them "five minutes of quiet self-reflection" to help imprint "what was good and useful" about the session for later use.

These meditations are integral to Buddhism, as mindfulness is one element of the eightfold path that Buddha described as a route to Enlightenment.

The path has three arms moral conduct, mental discipline and wisdom with corresponding actions that are all interconnected, like a wheel, a prominent Buddhist symbol.

Piyasoma Medis, a lay Buddhist teacher and preacher, says following the eightfold path is not a selfish pursuit it's designed to benefit the people around you.

"It's an outward-looking way of leading a Buddhist life," Piyasoma, who has also been married for 48 years, explains.

"In our relationship, my wife should be my priority. And she feels the same way about me."

Piyasoma says practising right thought detachment from malice and selfish desire inevitably leads to right speech.

"You choose your words really carefully without hurting others," he says.

Right speech influences compassion in dealing with other people, and the cycle continues.

Eng-Kong says the Buddhist idea of rejecting the inward-focused, singular, unchanging self is a deeply useful tool in understanding the way we relate to others, including a partner.

The spiritual self is "less and less I, me and mine", he says. "Meaning in life is not about what I want or what I own, or what is mine.

"What gives us meaning in life is to understand there is no substantial, permanent, fixed self. We're always evolving."

Problems arise when we try to fix or hold elements in place, like thinking: "I want to be forever young. I want to keep this money, and this money must never leave me."

When we understand that constant evolution is a natural state, Eng-Kong says we come to understand inter-being the recognition that we are all deeply connected.

"Yourself and myself, I'm not actually separate. We're part of the human universe. That is what we call the transcendental self."

He says relationships exist in the "area of the interbeing".

"When there is a relationship, we should be growing together, not in competition, and not in an outward way, but in an inward way."

Eng-Kong says he speaks publicly about his mindfulness work to normalise the practice of sharing and to help his clients develop healthy relationships.

"Mindfulness itself modulates emotions, and it's often when emotions are running all over the place or are too intense that communication breaks down," he says.

And he wants other people to know that they're not alone when it comes to having intense feelings.

"Even the Dalai Lama says: 'I get angry and I lose my head!'"

Topics: buddhism, psychology, psychiatry, relationships, marriage, emotions, sydney-2000, nsw, australia

First posted December 15, 2019 07:00:00

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You probably knew mindfulness could help you with stress. But did you know it could save your marriage? - ABC News

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The Buddhist Kathina Festival – The Good Men Project

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This month, October, marks the end of vassa or the Buddhist Lent, the three months rainy season retreat observed by the Sangha or Buddhist monastic communities. The end of vassa is celebrated by Buddhists with Pavarana, the inviting ceremony, followed by Kathina, the robe offering ceremony, which take place on Uposatha (Observance) day. At the end of Buddhist Lent, Buddhist monks are free to travel again, but before parting they should maintain monastic discipline and punish offenders, in order to purify the Sangha. At the Pavarana ceremony, each monk invites the other monks to point out to him any faults he has committed during the vassa retreat period.

Kathina robe-offering ceremony

The word kathina denotes a cotton cloth offered by lay people to bhikkhus (monks) annually, after the end of the vassa rainy retreat, for the purpose of making robes. On the termination of vassa, the Kathina robe offering ceremony is usually held at the monastery. This practice started quite early in Buddhist society, with the approval of the Buddha himself. When the Buddha was staying at Jetavana monastery at Savatthi, he granted permission for the bhikkhus to accept kathina robes from the laity, as several bhikkhus only had old and torn robes. It is the Sangha as a whole which receives these gifts of robes or plain cloth from the laity: the cloth must be offered to the whole Sangha, and not to individuals, and the bhikkhus will then decide which of the monks should receive the gifts. If the kathina offered is plain cloth, selected monks will do the cutting, sewing, and dying of the cloth in a single day. The gifts are then distributed to the individual monastics who have properly observed the rainy retreat.

Jivaka, the Buddhas physician, is described as the first layman to offer robes to Buddhist monks. Before that, Buddhist monks made their robes themselves from pieces of rag cloth. Jivaka also requested the Buddha to allow the monks to accept robes donated by lay people. The Buddha appreciated that it was very hard for the monks to make their robes themselves and he allowed his monks to accept kathina robes donated by the laity. British Library.

When the Buddha granted his disciples permission to accept kathina robes, lay people from the city of Rajagaha brought the garments and other requisites to the monastery. The Buddha is sitting at the centre, surrounded by monks and lay people. Rows of monastic gifts, such as kathina robes and other requisites, are depicted in front of the Buddha. British Library, Or. 14405, ff. 36-37

Dana, or giving, is a practice essential to Buddhism, and the offering of kathina robes is considered to be one of the most meritorious deeds. Offering kathina robes to the Sangha is thus valued as a way of keeping alive the true spirit of offering, as taught by the Buddha, and at the Kathina ceremony monks will chant the Kammavaca for Kathina robes. Kammavaca is a Pali term and it refers to collections of passages from the Tipitaka concerning ordination, the bestowing of robes and other rituals of monastic life. A Kammavaca is a highly ornamental type of manuscript, usually commissioned by lay members of society as a work of merit.

The manuscript shown above (Or. 12010A) contains the following Kammavaca texts: Upasampada (Official Act for the conferment of the Higher Ordination), Kathinadussadana (Official Act for the holding of the Kathina ceremony), Ticivarena-avippavasa (text for the investiture of a monk with the three robes), Sima-sammannita (Official Act for the Agreement of boundary limits), Thera-sammuti (Official Act to agree upon the seniority of theras), Nama-sammuti (Official Act to agree upon a name), Vihara-kappa-bhumi-sammuti (text of the dedication of a Vihara), Kui-vatthu-sammuti (Official Act to search and agree upon a site for a hut), and Nissaya-muti-sammuti (Official Act to agree upon relaxation of the requisites).

The Festival of Light This festival celebrates the anniversary of the Buddhas return from the celestial abode where he had spent Lent, giving the sermon on Abhidhamma or the Higher Doctrines to celestial beings and his former mother, who had been reborn as a deva. It was on the full moon day of the month of October that the Buddha descended from the Tavatimsa heaven to the abode of humans. Humans on earth therefore illuminate their homes, and paper lanterns dazzle the streets, to welcome back the Buddha, and candles and lighted little bowls of oil are placed on the terraces of the pagodas. The event is celebrated with lights, which is why it is called the Festival of Light. People pay obeisance to their parents and elders, following the example of the Buddha who paid a visit to his former mother to repay his debt of gratitude.

The Kathina festival held at the conclusion of the rainy retreat originated 2,500 years ago and is still celebrated by Buddhists, with alms giving and offering of robes to the monks who observed the retreat. Buddhists believe that the offering of kathina robes is a great act, but in addition to giving robes, lay supporters also consider the bhikkhus other needs. The bhikkhus who receive the kathina robes deliver sermons to the lay supporters. The Festivals thus bring ordinary people together with the Buddhist orders, in a joyful spirit of shared devotion. In some places fire balloons rise up in the sky in order to pay homage to the Culamani Pagoda in Tavatimsa heaven, where the relic of the Buddhas hair is believed to be enshrined. According to Theravada tradition, these offerings take place over a period of one month, from 19th October to 16 November.

This post was previously published on bl.uk and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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The Asian and African Studies blog is written largely by curators in Asia and African Studies, but also includes contributions from colleagues across the Library, with occasional guest contributions. The blog focuses on the extraordinarily diverse collections in Asian and African Studies which constitute one of the worlds finest resources for the study of Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

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Photos of the Week – Religion News Service

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(RNS) Each week Religion News Service presents a gallery of photos of religious expression around the world. This weeks gallery includes a shooting in a Jewish community in New Jersey, an annual procession in honor of the Virgin Mary near Los Angeles, and more.

Orthodox Jewish men carry Moshe Deutsch's casket outside a Brooklyn synagogue following his funeral, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 in New York. Deutsch was killed Tuesday in a shooting inside a Jersey City, N.J. kosher food market. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Bullet holes are seen on a piece of metal as people work to secure the scene of a shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, N.J., Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. The city's mayor says gunmen targeted the kosher market during a shooting that killed six people Tuesday. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama wears a ceremonial yellow hat of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism at the Kirti Monastery in Dharmsala, India, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. The Tibetan leader presided over a function marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the monastery in exile. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)

Exile Tibetan Buddhist monks perform by clapping their hands during a debate on Buddhist dialectics at the Kirti Monastery in Dharmsala, India, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama was on hand to mark the monastery's 25th anniversary. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)

Pope Francis prays in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary, near Rome's Spanish Steps, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, an annual tradition marking the start of the city's holiday season. In the background people look out from the balcony and windows of the Spanish Embassy. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi addresses judges of the International Court of Justice as Gambia's Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou, left, listens on the second day of three days of hearings in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. Aung San Suu Kyi is representing Myanmar in a case filed by Gambia at the ICJ, the United Nations' highest court, accusing Myanmar of genocide in its campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Hundreds of pilgrims hike up Mount Rubidoux, in Riverside, California, as part of a 2.5-mile procession to celebrate the Virgin Mary, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. The annual "El Camino de San Juan Diego" takes place the weekend before the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which falls on Dec. 12. RNS photo by Alejandra Molina

Pilgrims attend a Mass atop Mount Rubidoux at the conclusion the annual "El Camino de San Juan Diego" procession in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Riverside, California, on Dec. 7, 2019. RNS photo by Alejandra Molina

A child plays with a balloon as Kashmiri Muslim devotees offer prayers outside the shrine of Sufi saint Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. Hundreds of devotees gathered at the shrine for the 11-day festival that marks the death anniversary of the Sufi saint. (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill pays his last respect to former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov during a funeral ceremony at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. One of the founders of Russia's ruling United Russia party, Luzhkov, has died at the age of 83. (Sergei Vlasov, Russian Orthodox Church Press Service via AP)

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‘He was like, what?’: Why 4 women left their ‘normal’ lives to become Buddhist nuns – CBC.ca

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From left, Yvonne, Sabrina, Elena and Joanna are among about 450 Buddhist nuns on P.E.I.

Yvonne had always wanted to be the "perfect wife," so for her, she says, the hardest part about becoming a Buddhist nun was having to break up with her boyfriend.

For Sabrina, who grew up adoring boy bands like the Backstreet Boys, it was telling her father. She knew it would be a shock, so she waited until Christmas Eve to break the news.

Joanna saw herself spending her 20s soaking up the energy of New York, immersed in the colourful arts and culture scene. Not in rural P.E.I., wearing a beige robe day in and day out, her long, flowing hair shaved shorter than an army sergeant.

It wasn't a big stretch for Elena, however, given that her older sister was a Buddhist nun and her brother a monk.

The women are part of the Great Wisdom Buddhist Institute, a growing monastery on P.E.I. of about 450 nuns with an average age of 29. It is separate from the monks' Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society, but many, like Elena, Sabrina and Yvonne, have brothers there.

Family is a common thread among the nuns, they said. There are 66 pairs of siblings and cousins, and four sets of mother and daughter.

They come from different parts of the world, with different backgrounds.But at some point in their "normal" lives, they found a new purpose. They not only practise Buddhism in their everyday lives, but in the past few years have been invited to teach mindfulness and wellness workshops at businesses and organizations in P.E.I.,Ontario and the U.S.

They can come and go freely and communicate with their families, they said. Many have had their families visit them at the monastery.

The nuns can leave the monastery permanently at any time, though they say only two per cent of ordained nuns ever do.

Here are the stories of how and why four highly-educated women, while in their 20s, decided to give up their dreams of family and a career for a life of celibacy, study and devotion to Buddhism.

Yvonne was born in Taiwan and spent her high school years in New Zealand. She moved to the United States to study businessat Purdue University.

She had a loving boyfriend, and talked about getting married and settling in the U.S.It was all good.

"I never thought that I would become a nun," she said. "I thought I wanted to become a perfect wife and a successful businesswoman just like my mom."

Things began to change, she said, during a management lecture at Purdue. The professor asked the class what they thought was the most important thing in their lives, and all 600 students went silent, blank looks on their faces.

"At that moment I was really shocked. I was like, 'So what's the most important thing for my life?' I want to know."

After speaking with her professor and her parents, she decided to leave the business program and find her dream. Maybe go to Africa and help women.

First, she went to visit her parents in Taiwan. This was big news. Buddhists themselves, they suggested she attend a Buddhismdiscussion group.

"Surprisingly, it really hit me," she said. "To me it was not like a religion, but it was more like a tool that I can make myself happier."

She wanted to pursue it further, and made plans to join the monastery.But first, she had to tell her boyfriend.

"That was the hardest part, because we didn't break up because we had any problem," she said.

"Of course, he was very sad. So every single time we talked about it he would cry and I would cry. But we said goodbye and then I joined the monastery after that."

Fifteen years later, she said she has no regrets.

Before she became a Buddhist nun 13 years ago, Sabrina said she had a "very normal" lifein southern California.

She grew up a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, and like many teenage girls at the time, fawned overboy bands like the Backstreet Boys. She once saw 'N Sync play live!

She loved going to Disneyland, especially when she could get in for free as part of a youth orchestra that played there twice a year.

"I had a pretty happy childhood," she said. "My family was very loving and I had a lot of fun growing up."

As she got older, she realized not everybody did,that with all the joys in life, "there's always a sliver of pain and suffering."

She thought the best way to help people would be to study psychology. In her second year of university in San Diego County, she asked three accomplished psychologists if they could do it all over again, would they?

"Each of them told me no. I was like, 'What?' I got really confused."

So in her third year she decided to study abroad and, on the advice of her mother, check out a Buddhist retreat in Taiwan.

Little did her mom know that a year later Sabrina would come home and tell her she wanted to become a Buddhist nun.

"She thought I would just go to the retreat and that was it."

After the initial shock, her mom, who is Buddhist, came around, especially after Sabrina told her she would go on to graduate school if it didn't work out.

Her dad, who is not a Buddhist well, she had to wait for just the right time to tell him.

That time was Christmas Eve, right after supper.

"He was like, 'So you're about to graduate university. Do you have any plans in mind?'" she recalled.

"I was like, you know, dad, I was thinking maybe after I graduate university I'd become a Buddhist nun and he was like, 'What?... Um, go upstairs I need to talk to your mom for a bit.'"

She waited upstairs with her brother, Matthew, for about an hour when she was finally called back down. Her mom put out a plate of apples.

"I could see my dad was a little teary eyed. He had cried I think," Sabrina said.

"First he double-checked to see if I was crazy and then he realized I was being serious and then he just started thinking, well what can I do for you."

She knew he had finally accepted her decision when he bought her a new pair of thermal underwear, which shewears under her robe during the cold P.E.I. winters.

In 2017, after graduating from med school at Berkeley and working as a doctor for 10 years in Los Angeles, Sabrina's brother Matthew moved to P.E.I. to become a Buddhist monk at GEBIS.

Joanna grew up an only child in northern California, but it was always her goal to live in New York City after graduating university.

"I loved the energy, I loved the vibe of the city, I loved the culture and the arts there and I really wanted to surround myself with that," she said.

She said her "eyes were opened" when she went to university to study health psychology.

"My best friend growing up as a child suffered from severe depression and I always wanted to find a way to help her because I really didn't know what to do when I was 14, 15, 16," she said.

"I realized that there were a lot more problems in the world than just my friend and then I suddenly felt very small and that I didn't really know how I could contribute and what I could do for the world."

She knew people friends and family who were well educated and had good careers but still seemed unhappy and dissatisfied with life.

She began studying Buddhism as a way of helping others find joy. Her mother, a Buddhist, had always wanted this path for her, she said, but eventually gave up on the idea given her "way of life before joining the monastery."

"I surprised a lot of people," she said. "I wanted a family. I knew how many kids I wanted. I probably had their names figured out."

Before becoming a nun, she said she would spend hours on her hair and picking out clothes.

"Now I save all that time because it's just very simple. It allows us to focus on the things that we want to focus on and for us that's studying and improving ourselves and becoming better people."

She's been a Buddhist nun for six years, and has "not regretted a day." That was reaffirmed on a recent outreach trip to New York, she said.

"New York was again full of arts, full of culture, full of diversity. But coming back to P.E.I., coming back to the monastery I was like, 'You know, no, this is where home is and this is where I belong.'"

Elena was born and raised in Taiwan. As a kid she travelled around Asia and Europe a lot with her parents.

She studied foreign languages and literature. Shecan speak multiple languages, including French.

Her older sister became a Buddhist nun in 2006, not long after hearing the Dalai Lama speak in India.

"She was really moved because she is always someone who wants to perfect herself," Elena said.

Elena said she and her younger brother were sad at first because theywere a very close family. Then, in 2008, her brother became a Buddhist monk.

"He thought that some of the things the monks are learning are really interesting. For instance, what he found most fascinating was that debate, he found that can really sharpen your thinking."

After her siblings joined, Elena began to think more and more about joiningas well.

Then some tragedies struck. She learned an old high school classmate, who became a talented musician, had died of leukemia. And one Christmas morning while staying with family friends in France, she came downstairs to see them hugging and crying after learning their neighbour had died by suicide the night before.

"These events really shocked me because I started to really think this is something that everyone might encounter, the struggling times in life," she said.

"I always only looked at the happy side, like travelling or learning new things or making new friends. But what can I really do for my life and for the ones I love? Or maybe even more people? And how can I really make good use of my life?"

She found those answers six years ago, she said, when she became a Buddhist nun.

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December 14th, 2019 at 10:44 pm

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Grassroots Buddhism Flourishes in the Outskirts of Bangkok – IDN InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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By Kalinga Seneviratne

This article is the 37th in a series of joint productions of Lotus News Features and IDN-InDepthNews, flagship of the International Press Syndicate. Click here for previous articles.

BANGKOK (IDN) On a Saturday morning a couple drives into the Santi Asoke community in the north-eastern outskirts of Bangkok, and walks into a large warehouse stacked with clothes, shoes, books, electrical goods, mobile phones, washing machines, furniture and other household items. The couple inspects a stack of clothes scattered on a mat, picks some up and puts it in a basket. It is then taken to a volunteer cashier, who weighs it and quotes a price.

This is a type of a Buddhist supermarket where almost all goods for sale are second hand, donated by the devotees and sold here to raise money for Santi Asoke TV station. They make about Bhat 800,000 to 600,000 (USD 19,000-26,000) a month.

People donate whatever they dont need. We have no set price. They will come and collect the pieces they want to buy, like in wholesale, and we quote a price, explained community leader Samdin Lersbusway, while taking Lotus News on a tour of the community.

> Secondhand clothes being sold at a Buddhist supermarket in Santi Asoke community in the north-eastern outskirts of Bangkok. Credit: Kalinga Seneviratne | IDN-INPS.

The shop sells everything from clothes to air conditioners. Things that cannot be sold directly, we repair and sell. We also recycle paper, plastics and sell to recyclers, he added. Anyone can donate stuff to us. Sometimes we get new goods from the rich.

Taking a lift to the third storey of a multistorey block we visit the modest facilities of Santi Asoke TV station where only their Liaison Officer Thongkaeo and her cameraman a student was present. They dont have a station manager or a program manager, but they broadcast 24-hours a day on satellite and when the need arises live on Facebook and LINE. Its operations are coordinated by the Liaison Officer.

A recorded feature was being broadcast when I visited them.

We have run the TV station for 10 years. We work as a family, says Thongkaeo, adding, I plan schedules, do interviews, arrange visitors to be interviewed, and during school term students help us. She invites me to take part in a discussion with her about Lotus Communication Network with the help of an English interpreter. But, before we start the interview she points out, we may be the only TV station in the world where no staff is paid. All staff has to be multitalented.

Samdin adds further that they work on the basis everybody-works-for free and the money they earn from their labour goes to a central fund which is managed by the Santi Asoke community. They have seven communities across Thailand, with the largest one and their headquarters in Ubon Ratchathani in north-east of Thailand near the Laos border.

Santi Asoke was founded by Bodhiraksa, a famous television entertainer in the 1970s, who became a monk in the early 1980s. He was not happy with the behavior of many monks who were non-vegetarian and involved with black magic rituals. Thus, he left the temple with a group of followers and set up a third sect of monks outside the control of the State. They became an outlawed sect in the tightly controlled Thai clergy.

But, when Santi Asoke member Major-General Chamlong Srimuang was elected as the Governor of Bangkok in 1985 and later showed interest in joining national politics there was a systematic campaign to demonise the group. Chamlong was extremely popular as a Governor, regarded as a Mr Clean, who lived modestly according to the Asoke teachings, ate one vegetarian meal a day, rejected tobacco and alcohol, and did not gamble or visit night-clubs, noted Mahidool University Professor Marja-Leena Heikkila-Horn in a study on Santi Asoke.

Chamlong had a potential to clean up the corrupt political establishment of the kingdom with a Buddhist moral movement that could appeal to the population, where 95 percent claim to be Buddhist.

In order to prevent Chamlong from taking to the national stage in politics, his Buddhist affiliations needed to be declared illegal, explains Prof Heikkila-Horn. Bodhiraksa was detained in June 1989 and all the Asoke monks and nuns were detained for one night in August 1989. A court case was filed against them that year; it lasted until 1996.

The economic crisis of 1997, where excessive greed and borrowing was identified as the root cause of the problem, stocks of Santi Asoke began to rise, because they have always been critical of greedy capitalism and promoted the concept of Buddhist economics known as bunniyom (meritism).

The purpose of having a business here is not to make money. We make contacts in doing business to practice the dhamma (virtues), says Samdin. Business here is viable because people want food. Take little profit so that they can continue to take a little wage.

He was explaining this principle to Lotus News while walking through their weekend market where the farmers (who dont use chemical inputs in their farms) sell their vegetables and fruits at a modest profit. There were also a number of vegetarian restaurants that were selling meals virtually for free.

> Chef Glang Din at the Indian restaurant with the notice board with keys for free meals on he left on the wall. Credit: Kalinga Seneviratne | IDN-INPS.

An Indian vegetarian restaurant run by a Thai chef was giving food free of charge to monks, nuns and residents of the lay community here who have to come before 10.30 am to eat. Other people pay. They may also leave a donation to give one a free meal, chef Glang Din explained, pointing to keys on a noticeboard he said, key is on a board to show how many free meals are available. If you want to get one, take a key and give it to me for a free meal. Anyone can do it. He added that if you donate 4,000 Bhat (USD 130) I will give free meals for the day to everyone who wants a meal here.

At the height of the economic crisis in 1998, the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej famously advised Thais to follow a sufficiency economics model of contented economic self-reliance. This was what Santi Asoke has been practicing since its inception.

When business tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra came to power in 2001, Santi Asoke got the opportunity to preach their economic ideal to the rural masses. He delegated to Santi Asoke the government-financed training of tens of thousands of indebted farmers in Asoke centres. Farmers came in groups of about 100 and stayed for five days. They learnt about organic farming, recycling and reusing, and were obliged to listen to sermons on the virtues of vegetarianism and bunniyom.

Each Santi Asoke community, like the centre here, whose leafy 7 acre property is surrounded by creeping high rise buildings of developers, has in addition to the warehouse, the market space and restaurants, two multistorey apartment buildings housing lay followers, kutis (cottages) for monks and nuns, a school building, a health centre, departmental store selling mainly organic and herbal products, and a 4-storey unfinished temple in concrete with an artificial water fall behind a Buddha statue. They have been constructing the building in stages for 30 years, when we have money to do it says Samdin.

Interestingly, they dont have the large Buddha statues and lavish shrine rooms Thai temples normally have. Our community has 3 sections temple, school and community. All 3 are integrated, says Prouputt Kaodura, English interpreter for the community.

We dont worship Buddha the way others do. Buddha statues remind us of his teachings. Its not true that we dont respect Buddha, she adds. Chipping in Samdin says, Buddha statues means 3 things to us about worldly things, being knower of the world, having compassion.

Thus, the rooms and floors that surround the Buddha statue are areas for retreats, classes, conference rooms, meeting rooms and a library. It is a place for people to work, a very practical path, says Prouputt.

The Santi Ashoke communities are self-sustained Buddhist communities. Monks and people live according to the teachings of Buddha and they have developed a system of sustainable living, says Thai television producer Pipope Panitchpakdi who has reported on the community many times.

It is something good for todays world facing climate change and political divisions, etc, he says, pointing out that because Santi Asoke believes that capitalism is against humanity, the commercialized mainstream media shuns them.

* A video documentary on the Santi Asoke community can be viewed on Lotus Comm Net https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooQHk16Owlc [IDN-InDepthNews 09 December 2019]

Photo (top): Farmers selling their vegetables and fruits from organic farming at a modest profit in the weekend market. Credit: Kalinga Seneviratne | IDN-INPS.

Photos (in text): 1. Secondhand clothes being sold at a Buddhist supermarket in Santi Asoke community in the north-eastern outskirts of Bangkok. 2. Chef Glang Din at the Indian restaurant with the notice board with keys for free meals on he left on the wall. Credit: Kalinga Seneviratne | IDN-INPS.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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Diss Tech Buddhists All You Wantbut Read This Book First – WIRED

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In Silicon Valley, you are always an iPhones throw from a Buddhist. Some of them will have arrived at their Buddhism the usual wayfamily, culturebut a fair few will have adopted it later in life, as a piece of their adult identity. Even if theyre not checking the Buddhist box on the census, youll know them by their Zen meditation retreats, their references to the Middle Way, their wealth of Steve Jobs trivia. Did you know that Steve Jobs was a Buddhist who studied under Zen priest Kobun Chino Otogawa and once wandered India in search of a guru? Did you know Jobs swiped Apples famous Think different slogan from the Dalai Lama? Did you know Buddhism and tech companies have a grand historical synergy? When I moved to California from the East Coast, I did not. After living and working in San Francisco for a few years, I see Buddha everywhere.

In a place as secular and science-minded as Silicon Valley tends to be, finding room for Buddhism at work might seem like a stretch, but it isnt. High-profile examples of in-office Buddhism, like Googles Search Inside Yourself course, permeate the Valley. Bringing Buddha to work is, in fact, the point of a new book by a Facebook (and Microsoft, Instagram, YouTube, and Google) alum, data analyst and Zen priest Dan Zigmond. Its called Buddhas Office. In essence, its a book on Buddhism disguised as a self-help text aimed at office workers, and if that makes you want to close this tab, dont.

Buddha's Office by Dan Zigmond | Buy on Amazon

When I first met Zigmond at San Francisco lunch spot HRD, I was skeptical too. Not because Im opposed to tech workers being interested in and even practicing Buddhism. Full disclosure: Im married to a Buddhist-ish man who once gave up everything for a spider-infested Sri Lankan monastery and now works at a tech company. I was skeptical because I had real doubts that someone who lived in the South Bay and had held positions at a string of highly successful tech companies could possibly be living life along the Middle Way, the first teaching Buddha gave after his awakening, which basically amounts to avoiding extremes of any kind.

The lifestyle surrounding tech companiesparticularly the ones Zigmond has worked foris nothing if not extreme. Maybe toxically so. I had watched my partner wrestle with this truth for years and came to feel it myself. Then in came Zigmond, purporting to have all the answers, while owning a house in one of the most expensive regions in the country and suggesting we meet at a restaurant best known for burritos stuffed with barbecued meat. (Buddhism generally encourages vegetarianism.) How could he be anything but the stereotypical Silicon Valley Buddhist, the ones who preach productivity as if it is enlightenment?

Well, some of that was pretty unfair of me. For one, Zigmonda small, trim, bespectacled man with kind eyes and quiet mannersis a vegetarian after all. When we sat down together over eggplant katsu, the first thing he said to me was, What can I do for you? The second was something about how much he liked my colleague Cade Metzs coverage of his last book, Buddhas Diet, which recommends fasting intermittently like Buddhist monks, some of whom dont eat after noon. Zigmonds understated asceticism is disarming, though. He takes extremely neat bites, even of uncooperative foods like slippery deep-fried eggplant and cabbage salad. I started trying to twirl my cabbage shreds around my fork like spaghetti.

Zigmond comes from a Jewish background, but hes been a Buddhist for three decades, since college. After graduating, he left the United States for Thailand, where he lived at a Buddhist temple and taught English at a refugee camp. (His Facebook banner image looks to be from that time: Hes skinny, wearing sunglasses, a bandana, and a blue tie-dye shirt.) Even after returning to the States, he planned to remain a full-time Buddhist. While I was at the San Francisco Zen Center, I met my wife, I fell in love, and I had to get a job to support the family I wanted to have, he said. For a long time, I kept work and Buddhism separate. Work was what was keeping me from this other dream I had.

That changed when he left Google and began working at Facebook. (Zigmond acknowledges Googles embrace of Eastern philosophy with programs like Search Inside Yourself but also said that while working there he would go practice real Buddhism on the weekends.) When I got to Facebook, they made this big deal about bringing your authentic self to work, Zigmond says. I was really impressed by that. That really moved me. He began working in what he calls Buddhas office, a working life inspired by the teachings of Buddhism, and, over time, he decided that the practice was a book in its own right. Zigmond, like many people, sees sickness in contemporary working culture. He remembers a time when the only people always on-call were doctors and drug dealers, whereas now he feels like even baristas are tethered to their email. Buddhism, ultimately, is all about balance, he says. To Zigmond, we all look pretty wobbly.

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December 6th, 2019 at 11:43 pm

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Annihilation Of Caste: Why Dr. Ambedkar Rejected Hinduism And Chose Buddhism – Youth Ki Awaaz

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Manuraj Shunmugasundaram is the National Media Spokesperson for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party. He is the Chair of the Steering Committee for Australia India Youth Dialogue. He is also a lawyer and practices at the Madras High Court. He is also a part of the Steering Committee for the School of Policy and Governance.

In the past, he has also served as a Policy Advisor to Members of Parliament. In November of 2010, Mr. Shunmugasundaram was selected as a Fellow of the Legislative Fellows Program, organized by the U.S. State Department, in 2010. He also participated in the European Union Visitor Program in 2013 as well as the Australia-India Youth Dialogue in 2014. He was a part of Project Interchange Indian delegation to visit Israel & Palestine in 2017.

Mr. Shunmugasundaram works to advance the cause of responsible politics, participatory governance, and evidence-based public policy. He is a regular contributor to The Hindu, Times of India, Indian Express, Huffington Post and The Print.

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Vasundhra is a fifth-year student at National Law University, Delhi. She is a core member of the research being conducted by Project 39A on issues of mental health of death row prisoners. As part of this, she has travelled across the country to meet and interview death row prisoners as well as their families.

She is also part of the core team at Parichay, which is a collaborative legal aid clinic spread across law schools in the country. It aims to assist those excluded from the NRC list in filing appeals. She has also founded a queer straight alliance on campus, which facilitates important conversations surrounding gender and sexuality. Part of being a law student, she believes, is a duty to use the law as an agent for progressive change in society, focusing especially on groups on the margins of society.

Talk to her about her dog and her favourite saxophonists.

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Shikha Mandi is a 26-year-old belonging to the Santhal tribe the third largest tribe in India. She is Indias first RJ who hosts an entire programme in Santhali. Her two-hour radio show Johar Jhargram on Radio Milan has become widely popular in the past year. It covers a wide range of local issues, including Adivasi culture, festivals, and the challenges faced by tribals.

Supriya Paul is the co-founder of Josh Talks, an impact media platform headquartered in Gurgaon, Haryana. Using the power of storytelling, Josh Talks is on a mission to create an ecosystem to help the youth go from where they are to where they want to be.

Josh Talks is proactively doing so by providing exposure to the youth by giving them access to role models and equipping them with skill sets so they can be empowered to take control of their lives. On 25th January 2019, Josh Talks was awarded the National Media Award by Honourable President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind and was named in a list of Top 50 Startups of India for 2017 by Economic Times.

Supriya is listed in the Forbes magazine Asia 30 Under 30 list for 2018 and received the SheThePeople Digital Women Award17 for Best Content Creation.

Dr Aditi Kaul is the Head of the Arts-Based Therapy Program with Fortis Healthcare under the National Mental Health Program. She is a grade 5 UNESCO and CID certified arts-based therapist who has run the programme pan Fortis for the last 7 years which includes working with persons diagnosed with Trauma, anxiety, depressive disorders, disorders of childhood, adolescents as well as stressors of day to day life using psychotherapeutic techniques including visual art, movement, writing and storytelling.

She has done over 500 preventive mental health workshops with schools colleges and NGOs across the city and has been teaching an Expressive Arts in clinical practice course for the last 6 years in collaboration with UNESCO and the Council of International Dance, amongst other short term courses.

Saurabh Dwivedi is a senior journalist with over 10 years of experience. Currently the Editor of The Lallantop, he has previously worked with Star News, Live India,Navbharat Times, Dainik Bhaskarand Aaj Tak.

The Lallantop is Indias leading digital first Hindi news media platform, with over 10 million subscribers on YouTube.

Mohammad Shams Aalam Shaikhis an international Para Swimmer. He won Bronze at the 2016 Can-Am Para Swimming Championships held in Gatineau, Quebec in the mens 100m Breaststroke SB4 category and also represented India at the2018 Asian Para Gamesin Jakarta, Indonesia. Shams currently holds the world record for longest open sea swimming by a paraplegic. He has received several accolades, including the Bihar Khel Ratna Award in 2018 and Jewel of Nation Award 2017

Shubham Gupta is an award-winning Mobile Journalist. He is the Head of Storytelling at People Like Us Create. Shubham has produced more than 2000 stories and his stories have also been shared by publications like Hindustan Times and Al Jazeera.

Tamseel Hussain is the Founder of People Like Us Create. He is a mobile storyteller & social media expert. With over a decade of experience, he has previously worked with organisations like Change.org, Oxfam, Greenpeace, civil society groups, media houses, tech-startups, and politicians. Tamseel helps build award-winning platforms, citizen-led campaigns, youth-focused public engagement, placemaking to building an ecosystem for community first storytelling in India, the middle east and Southeast Asian countries.

He also co-founded letmebreathe.in Indias largest pollution storytelling platform, it now has more than 300 storytellers from 11 Indian cities. They host 25 decision-makers via city-specific sessions and their partners include Twitter India and UN Environment amongst others.

Shubham Guptais an award-winning Mobile Journalist. He is the Head of Storytelling at People Like Us Create. Shubham has produced more than 2000 stories and his storieshave alsobeen shared by publications like Hindustan Times and Al Jazeera.

Mary Sebastian is a justice professional working for the elimination of violence against women and children with special focus on victims of sex trafficking in the State of Maharashtra. Mary briefly worked in the corporate law field before joining the development sector. She is currently working with a global anti-trafficking organization, International Justice Mission, where she assists law enforcement officials in the rescue of survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and provides legal representation through court proceedings. Mary supports systemic interventions and advocacy efforts on the survivor justice-related issues at the state government level and has organized a national level consultation on the arrest of demand for commercial sexual exploitation. She is currently undertaking a research study with the Maharashtra State Child Rights Protection Commission to analyse the functioning of childcare agencies under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 in six districts in Maharashtra. Mary also works towards generating awareness and sensitivity on the issue of trafficking perspectives through thought leadership initiatives.

Shantanu currently leads the Venture team at Ashoka Innovators for the Public, South Asia. Responsible for identifying and engaging the worlds largest and most powerful network of Social Entrepreneurs, Shantanu has worked with hundreds of innovators to enable powerful ideas to reach a systems-level change. Shantanu was previously an IDEX Global Social Enterprise Fellow, where he subsequently also a representative on their board of advisors. Prior to his time at Ashoka, Shantanu has worked extensively in the fields of youth mental health in Australia, youth civic participation and youth participation in diplomacy for national and international organisations, such as the Asia-Europe Foundation. Shantanu has a keen interest in reading, writing and the opportunity to engage with new groups of people.

Vishak G Iyer, a 2011-Batch IAS officer, is currently the Special Secretary to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Prior to this, he was the District Magistrate and Collector of Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh.

Hailing from Idukki, Kerala, Vishak has previously held the post of District Magistrate & Collector of Bhadohi, Hamirpur and Chief Development Officer of Meerut, and Varanasi.

An alumnus of MG University College of Engineering, Thodupuzha and a Chevening Fellow from Said Business School, University of Oxford, he has pursued B.Tech in Electronics & Communication Engineering and MA in Public Policy.

Vishak was instrumental in reviving the river Mandakini with community participation, during his stint as District Magistrate Chitrakoot. Chitrakoot district received National Water Awards-2019 under the category River rejuvenation for the effort.

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Samir Saran is the President of Observer Research Foundation (ORF), one of Asias most influential think tanks. Working with the Board, he provides strategic direction and leadership to ORFs multiple centres on fund raising, research projects, platform design and outreach initiatives including stakeholder engagement.

He curates the Raisina Dialogue, Indias annual flagship platform on geopolitics and geo-economics, and chairs CyFy, Indias annual conference on cyber security and internet governance.

Samir is also a Commissioner of The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, member of the South Asia advisory board of the World Economic Forum, and a part of its Global Future Council on Cybersecurity. Along with that, he is the Director of the Centre for Peace and Security at the Sardar Patel Police University, Jodhpur, India.

Samir writes frequently on issues of global governance, climate change, energy policy, global development architecture, artificial intelligence, cyber security, internet governance, and Indias foreign policy. He has authored four books, several academic papers, and is featured regularly in Indian and international print and broadcast media.

Virali Modi is a disability rights activist, motivational speaker, and model who has spearheaded a campaign around accessibility #MyTrainToo for accessible railways, which she started in 2017. Her petition on change.org has over 200k signatories.

She has been recognized by the BBC and was named as one of the most influential and inspirational women of 2017 by BBC 100 Women.

Virali was Miss Wheelchair India runner up 2014, has worked alongside Salman Khan for the Being Human Campaign, and has been the showstopper for Bombay Times Fashion Week, FBB, and Jewels Of India.

As a quintessential Bangalorean, the initial part of Vaidehis career involved paying her dues to the IT industry as a Software Engineer, both in India, and for a year, overseas. On returning from the United States, she waved farewell to her corporate job and took off to the mountains. She also volunteered as a teacher in an eco-school called SECMOL in Ladakh. Next stop, was Vietnam, where she volunteered yet again, as an English teacher in an NGO that rehabilitates tribals in the mountains of Sapa and also had a brief stint as a writer for Humans Of Bombay, and its sister page We The People. Wordplay has travelled with her throughout her journey, and she found that Twitter was a convenient medium to journal her thoughts and ideas. Vaidehi has over 5000 puns on her Twitter handle till date, and around 12.5K wordplay aficionados who follow her. It also landed her at her current job as the Social Media Content Lead at Dunzo a hyperlocal delivery app.

Ritu Jaiswal contested and won the election for the position of Mukhiya from Gram Panchayat Raj Singwahini in 2016 by a huge margin. Since then, she has completely transformed the village by establishing education centres, building toilets to tackle open defecation, installing solar lights and building water capacity and building roads. She continues to work with the residents and runs awareness campaigns around menstrual health, biogas management and vocational training. Ms Jaiswal was conferred with the Uchh Shikshit Adarsh Yuva Sarpanch (Mukhiya) Puraskaar 2016 at the 7th Bharatiya Chhatra Sansad by the Maharashtra Institute of Technology, and was among the 5 Mukhiyas selected to represent Bihar for the Capacity Building Program for Sarpanch & Panchayat Secretaries by The Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India.

In March 2017, Ridhima filed a petition against the Government of India in the National Green Tribunal (NGT), asserting that the Indian government has failed to fulfil its duties towards the Indian people in mitigating climate change. In September, she joined Greta Thunberg at the Global Climate Strike in New York and also the International conference organized by Notre Affaire a Tous in Paris.

Along with fifteen teenagers from across the world, Ridhima has filed a complaint against five countries (Argentina, Turkey, Germany, France and Brazil) in the UN for not doing enough to address climate change.

Presently, she is spreading awareness in different cities of India to inspire others to protect the environment.

Aman is a class 11 student at Modern School, Vasant Vihar, N- Delhi. Inspired by his love for nature & the environment, 16-year-old Aman Sharma launched a petition on Change.org in May 2019 asking the government to declare a National climate emergency, which has reached 330,000 signatures now. It urges India to reach net zero-carbon emissions by 2030, stop all fossil-fuel expansion by 2020, stop deforestation for needless urban projects and provide its citizens the right to clean air and water.

Aman represented India at the first-ever youth and climate summit at Oslo Pax, Norway by the Nobel Peace Prize Center in September 2019 and his petition was later presented at the UN youth and climate summit in New York as a part of All in for Climate Action campaign which has 1.6 million signatures and 90 countries as part of it. He is a part of and striker with Fridays for Future India and avid birdwatcher, conservationist and wildlife photographer.

Ashok Malik is the former Press Secretary for the President of India. He began his career in the Telegraph newspaper in Kolkata in 1991 and subsequently worked for many leading publications, including The Times of India, India Today and Indian Express. In 2006, he embarked on a career as a self-employed columnist, serving at different points as a consulting editor to the Pioneer and Tehelka. In 2015 he joined the Observer Research Foundation. He has been appointed to the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, a think-tank focused on corporate social responsibility. He is a Member of the Rajghat Memorial Committee, which oversees the Memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. In 2016, he was awarded the Padma Shri, Indias fourth-highest civilian honour.

Karnika Kohli is the audience editor at Scroll.in. She was previously with TheWire.in, where she led the social media desk, worked on campaigns to raise funding and was part of the team that organised events. Her main focus is on amplifying the reach of Scroll.ins work and building an engaged audience by bringing data, insights and strategies to the newsroom. She has also worked with the Times of India and NewsX.

Neha Arora is the founder of Planet Abled, which provides accessible travel solutions and leisure excursions for people with various disabilities and the elderly. Planet Abled was awarded as one of the best innovative practices by Zero Project Conference at United Nations Vienna. Planet Abled has also been the recipient of India Responsible Tourism Award by Outlook Traveler and World Travel Market, London Best Innovation in Travel & Overall Winner and NCPEDP Mphasis Universal Design Award. This year, Planet Abled was also the recipient of the National Award for the most unique and innovative tourism product by the Ministry of Tourism Government of India.

Planet Abled has also represented India as a major accessible travel destination on global platform like ITB Berlin, Global Sustainable Tourism Council Conference in Thailand and International Congress on Tourism and Technology in Diversity in Malaga, Spain.

Neha is a Global Good Fund Fellow and India Inclusion fellow and a graduate of Nasdaq Entrepreneurial centre MMI program, for her work at Planet Abled. Neha also conducts sessions and workshops in corporates, universities, incubators and various forums for amalgamation of people with disabilities in mainstream via the medium of travel.

Mir is an officer of the 2011 batch of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), serving in the state of Kerala.

He was posted as District Collector of Kannur in August 2016. As District Collector, he was the prime mover behind the transformation of Kannur into Indias first plastic/disposable-free district.

His most recent initiative is a timely project titled Satyameva Jayate (Truth Alone Triumphs) that trains teachers and students to identify, vet and respond to misinformation and fake news online. The programme was implemented in over 200 schools in Kannur, covering over 80,000 children making it the first of its kind in the country. His work was widely covered by the national media in India and international networks in Britain, China & Japan.

Under his leadership, Kannur received five Kerala e-Governance Awards, including best e-Governed district from the Chief Minister of Kerala in January 2019.

He has led large projects that have singularly focused on creating value and convenience for citizens. The core driving force of his work has been efficiently bringing together stakeholders from the government, private sector and members of society, in the interest of achieving important social goals.

After a successful three year stint as Kannur Collector, he recently took charge as Director, Kerala State Suchitwa Mission that oversees the implementation of waste management schemes across the state

Malini has 15 years of experience across3 industries IT, media and travel. She is a voice-over artist and the Founder/CEO of F5 Escapes, an experiential travel company, with a vision to redefine the way women travel India. She is not only passionate about working towards and promoting India as a safe destination for women but also a firm believer in sustainable living and travel. She believes in the power of peer learning and hence loves motivating women returning to the workplace and early-stage entrepreneurs.

Gulesh studied till ninth grade and was married off at 17. She was content being a homemaker until one day when in 2003 her husband was killed in an accident and it became absolutely necessary for her to become financially independent. She started with doing a few odd jobs like cooking at peoples houses, selling vegetables, frying pakoras at a roadside stall, etc., but it wasnt sustainable. About 3-4 years ago, she started her journey as an Uber driver. Today, she is financially independent and supporting her sons education.

Abhinav Agrawal, 27, an ethnomusicologist, musician and social entrepreneur is also the Founder Director of the Non-Profit Organisation, Anahad Foundation. Abhinav is working towards creating and reviving the diminishing folk music industry in India by creating self-reliant models that generate livelihoods, pride and dignity for stakeholders connected to this art form.

He is generating demand and value for cultural folk music through building respect, recognition, identity and self-confidence of folk musicians, and in parallel creating a self-sustainable economic environment where an artist can distribute their productions directly to the public without an intermediary. In doing so, Abhinav is helping create a Folk Music industry that is a sustainable art form and an industry that is musician-led.

Abhinav is also an Ashoka Fellow, and has been featured under Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list. He has also been awarded with the Karamveer Award.

Anshul is a social entrepreneur and a young media influencer, who founded Youth Ki Awaaz (YKA), Indias largest social justice media platform for young people to address and engage on critical issues, at the age of 17.

Over the last 11 years, Anshul has gained extensive experience in citizen-powered media, and participatory movement building, with YKA stories often starting nationwide movements creating impact.

An Ashoka Fellow, INK Fellow and Young Innovator (United Nations ITU), Forbes 30 Under 30, Anshul has helped several high-impact organisations engage young people in a variety of important conversations, from politics and gender to art and culture.

He is also on the Civil Society Advisory Group of UN Women for India and has previously served on the board of Jhatkaa, a campaigning organisation committed to building grassroots citizen power across India, and Collectively, a World Economic Forum and Unilever collaborative non-profit to build a sustainable future.

Basit Jamal is facilitating young people to understand the concepts of conflict resolution. He is repurposing the power of religion to be a solution rather than a roadblock to conflicts which has already seen millions die the world over. He works with students from schools, colleges, madrasas and worshippers in the mosques. He also promotes interfaith dialogue to better understand the other. Basit Jamal is the founder of Brotherhood of humanity. He was given Ashoka Fellowship in 2017. He was a co-author of UNESCOs youth waging peace manual. He was also given membership of the worlds biggest interfaith organization United Religions Initiative.

Ashish Birulee is an activist, independent journalist, content creator for Adivasi Lives Matter and power user on Youth Ki Awaaz. He belongs to the Ho Adivasi community and is from Jadugoda in Jharkhand. As a photojournalist has has worked to disclose damages caused by the uranium mines located just 500 meter from his home in Jadugoda. His work on the impact of radiation in Jadugoda has been featured at the 3rd and 9th International Uranium Film Festival in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil 2013 and 2019, as well as the World Uranium Symposium in Quebec City, Canada 2015, Hiroshima 2015 and Osaka 2017.

Apar Gupta is a lawyer and the Executive Director of the Internet Freedom Foundation an Indian digital liberties organisation that seeks to ensure that technology respects fundamental rights.

Since 2015, he has been working extensively on public interest issues which include strategic litigation and organisation of campaigns and collectives. In courts, his work as a lawyer includes key digital rights cases on privacy and censorship.

He is a part of key constitutional challenges on Section 66A, the Right to Privacy and Aadhaar representing public interest litigants. Beyond court work he has worked extensively with activists and set up digital campaigns such as those on Net Neutrality (SaveTheInternet.in), fight against defamation laws (SpeechBill.in) and safeguard privacy (SaveOurPrivacy.in). Aparis committed to protect the constitution and fight a digital dystopia.

Mr. Kailash Satyarthi is an internationally acclaimed child rights activist who has been a tireless advocate of childrens rights for four decades now.

His interventions are spread across over 140 countries in the world in an endeavour to protect children from slavery, trafficking, forced labour, sexual abuse and all forms of violence. He has been instrumental in bringing the issues of children in the global and national development agendas besides leading worldwide movements against child exploitation and upholding the rights of children for peace, safety, health, wellbeing and education.

His unrelenting efforts for restoring the rights of the most marginalized and exploited children in the world won him the Nobel Peace Prize in the year 2014.

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December 6th, 2019 at 11:43 pm

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