Author: Vishvapani

Rediscovering the Buddha in Thailand

What did the Buddha look like? And why does it matter? At the Rediscovering the Buddha Seminar in Bangkok Vishvapani joined leading scholars to advise a Thai artist  on the Buddha’s appearance.   23-28 November 2017 I have just returned from Bangkok, where I participated in a seminar entitled ‘Rediscovering the Buddha’ along with a group of scholars from around the world. This was a distinctive event: a gathering of academics (along with me and a Chinese Buddhist teacher, who aren’t academics), but not an academic conference; and the occasion for a discussion of historical issues concerning the Buddha, but with an overarching aim that isn’t really historical at all. The underlying impetus was artistic and religious. Sunti Pichetchaiyakul is reportedly the most famous artist in Thailand, a young man who works in the Thai hyperrealist tradition and takes it to new levels of care and detail. He made his name with an uncannily lifelike sculpture of a well-known Thai monk, which shows him warts, wrinkles, pockmarks and all. The statue sat beside us in the seminar room, eerily resembling an extra participant. Sunti’s aim is to create a similarly realistic image of the Buddha, which means showing him as an historical figure; and just as his sculpture goes to extraordinary lengths to recreate physical detail, his project has turned into six years (and counting) of research into the...

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Can We Create A Mindful Society?

Can We Create a Mindful Society? http://www.wiseattention.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Can-Mindfulness-Change-Society-Vishvapani.mp3 Society faces an array of challenges that require us to attend to our minds and mental states. The mental health crisis, the wellbeing agenda, the attention economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution all challenge our capacity to cope with – let alone flourish within – modern society. Can mindfulness help, and is this what lies behind the dramatic rise in its popularity? A talk by Vishvapani given at the Buddhafield Green Earth Awakening Festival, September 21...

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Burmese Atrocities: The Problem With A Buddhist State

http://www.wiseattention.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/tftd170912.mp3 In Burma Buddhists are committing atrocities against Muslim Rohingyas. We must speak out, not just against the violence, but the very idea of a Buddhist nation that underpins it. Thought for the Day 12.09.2017 When I hear about the horrific repression that’s being inflicted on the Muslim Rohingyas, I share many of the outraged feelings that others are expressing. But I feel something extra as well: shame that these things are being done by my fellow Buddhists for the sake of a Buddhist state and with the support of many Buddhist monks. How did we get here? I don’t want to over-simplify the situation in Rohingya, or generalise the responses of all Burmese Buddhists. But the question remains: the Buddha said that ‘hatred is never overcome by hatred, but only by love’; so how has the faith he founded become associated with such brutality? It won’t do to set a pure, spiritual ‘essential Buddhism’ against the distorted version that’s endorsed by Burmese generals. No doubt, distortion occurs, but our ideals have to be judged by their effects. In practical reality, Buddhism isn’t just about spiritual teachings; the domain of Buddhism includes whatever is done in its name or by its adherents. If there’s a contradiction between Buddhist teachings and this reality, it’s important to understand how it arose. I would  begin by questioning  the very idea of a...

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