Buddhism and archaeology in Nepal

This video from Nepal says about itself:

Oldest Shrine Found Near Buddha’s Birthplace unearthed in Lumbini 26-11-2013

Earliest ever Buddhist Shrine unearthed in Lumbini

Archaeologists digging at Lord Buddha’s birthplace have uncovered remains of the earliest ever “Buddhist shrine”. They unearthed a 6th Century BC timber structure buried within the Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini in Nepal.

The shrine appears to have housed a tree. This links to accounts in Buddhist chronicles where his mother gave birth while holding on to a tree branch. This is the earliest evidence of a Buddhist shrine anywhere in the world. Tradition records that Queen Maha Maya gave birth to the Buddha while grasping the branch of a tree within the Lumbini Garden.

The narrative of Lumbini’s establishment as a pilgrimage site under Ashokan patronage must be modified since it is clear that the site had already undergone embellishment for centuries. The dig also detected signs of ancient tree roots in the wooden building’s central void — suggesting it was a tree shrine. It sheds light on a very long debate, which has led to differences in teachings and traditions of Buddhism.

By K. Kris Hirst in the USA:

Archaeology and the Buddha

December 8, 2013

December 8th is the traditional date for Bodhi Day, when the historical Buddha Siddartha Gautama is said to have reached enlightenment: when better to speak of the enlightening effects of archaeology?

Several recent archaeological studies associated with the life of the Buddha have been conducted, most recently excavations at Lumbini in Nepal, said to have been his birthplace. The oldest phase of the Maya Devi shrine at Lumbini is securely dated between 550-800 BC, making it the earliest shrine associated with the Buddha to date.

Coningham RAE, Acharya KP, Strickland KM, Davis CE, Manuel MJ, Simpson IA, Gilliland K, Tremblay J, Kinnaird TC, and Sanderson DCW. 2013. The earliest Buddhist shrine: excavating the birthplace of the Buddha, Lumbini (Nepal). Antiquity 87(338):1104-1123.

Buddhist monks protect endangered snow leopards

This video is called Full Documentary Natural World: Snow Leopard – Beyond the Myth.

From msnNOW:

Researchers find Buddhist monks protecting endangered snow leopards

7 September 2013

There aren’t many snow leopards left in Asia. Between 3,500 and 7,000 live high in the mountains there, with about 60 percent in China. Largely because their thick, warm fur is desired by humans and their organs are considered valuable in Chinese medicine, snow leopards have seen their numbers decline by 20 percent in the last 20 years.

Research published in the journal Conservation Biology last week suggests that more snow leopards are being protected in the Tibetan Plateau, where there are Buddhist monasteries, than in the nature reserve set aside for the cats. The monks patrol the area and prevent poachers from killing the animals. In addition, the monks are teaching the local people that killing snow leopards is wrong. “Buddhism has as a basic tenet, the love, respect, and compassion for all living beings,” George Schaller, a biologist with the endangered-cat conservation group Panthera, said in a statement.

See also here.

Burmese monks and sectarian violence

This video says about itself:

April 19, 2013

Buddhist monk uses racism and rumours to spread hatred in Burma. Thousands watch YouTube videos of 45-year-old ‘Burmese Bin Laden’ who preaches against country’s Muslim minority. His name is Wirathu, he calls himself the “Burmese Bin Laden” and he is a Buddhist monk who is stoking religious hatred across Burma.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Monks’ meet criticised over religious hate stance

Friday 14 June 2013

Buddhist monks were accused of stoking sectarian tensions in Myanmar today after hosting a meeting on preventing deadly communal conflicts.

Clashes between Buddhist nationalists and the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority have forced 140,000 people – almost all Rohingya – to flee their homes over the past year.

The monks’ assembly declared that it “sought peace” and accused the media of tarnishing its image.

But it dodged questions on whether it endorsed a proposal made by ultra-nationalist monk Wirathu that anyone who marries a Buddhist woman should be legally required to convert to Buddhism.

Conference spokesman Dhammapiya merely said: “The draft law was proposed at the wrong place and caused confusion.”

Wirathu is known for sermons inciting people against Muslims and has spoken of his admiration for British fascist outfit the EDL.

Petition against violence in Burma: here.

Ancient tombs discovery in Pakistan

This video from Pakistan is called Gandhara Civilization, Buddhist Remains Taxila.

From AFP news agency:

24 November 2012 – 08H46

Ancient tombs discovered in Pakistan‘s Swat

Italian archaeologists say they have discovered a cemetery that reveals complex funeral rites dating back more than 3,000 years in Pakistan’s Swat valley, recently controlled by the Taliban.

The Italian mission began digging in the 1950s at Udegram, a site of Buddhist treasures in Swat, the northwestern district formerly known as the Switzerland of Pakistan for its stunning mountains, valleys and rivers.

Archaeologists were aware of a pre-Buddhist grave site in Udegram, but only recently discovered the collection of almost 30 graves, tightly clustered and partially overlapping.

“Some graves had a stone wall, others were protected by walls and enclosures in beaten clay,” Luca Maria Olivieri, head of the Italian mission, told AFP.

“The cemetery… seems to have been used between the end of the second millennium BCE and the first half of the first millennium BCE,” he added.

Olivieri says the tombs point to the culture that predates the Buddhist Gandhara civilisation that took hold in northwest Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan from the first millennium BCE to the sixth century AD.

“The presence of a few iron fragments might be amongst the most ancient traces of this metal in the subcontinent,” he said.

Bodies were first laid to rest in open graves, fenced in by wooden railings. Then the graves were re-opened and the bones partially burnt before the graves were sealed and a burial mound built.

Men were buried with high quality flasks, bowls and cooking pots, and women with semi-precious beads, bronze hairpins, and spindles.

In October, the Taliban shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in the head in Mingora, the main town of Swat, in a case that sparked worldwide condemnation.

She is now undergoing treatment in Birmingham, England.

Vietnamese suicide monk’s photographer dies

In 1963, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk committed suicide by burning himself, in protest against the violent persecution of Buddhists by the United States-supported South Vietnamese dictatorship.

Malcolm Browne's 1963 image of Thich Quang Duc. Photograph: Malcolm Browne/AP

Today, from daily The Guardian in Britain:

Malcolm Browne: man behind iconic burning monk photograph dies aged 81

Browne was a hero of photojournalism whose best work was beautifully judged and infused with a dignified power

Malcolm Browne’s 1963 photograph of a monk on fire in Saigon retains its power even after half a century. Browne has died aged 81, but his most famous picture will endure as a classic. Violent history has continued to create violent pictures ever since. But the dreadful act of self-immolation seemed a new kind of protest then. …

Yet still, this photograph has tragic power.

This is partly because it is in black and white, a restrained palette that worked well for news in the past because of its dignifying effect. The monochrome flames engulfing the monk are somehow more a matter for the imagination than they would be in gory colour. This slight holding back of horror allows a brief moment of thought and reflection to the observer of what is, by any standards, a shocking scene.

Yet the power of the picture ultimately comes from the stillness and calm of the monk, Thich Quang Duc. His composure as he is engulfed by agonising, petrol-fuelled fire is profoundly unsettling. The contrast between his suffering and his meditative pose is unearthly, and Browne’s photograph serves the self-sacrificing monk perfectly, for the photographer too seems to have worked carefully, rather than simply seizing a shot. The balanced, calm composition of the picture is what allows it to do justice to the scene.

USA: in 1965 a 31 year old Quaker named Norman Morrison set himself on fire in front of the river entrance to the Pentagon to protest the use of napalm in the Vietnam war. Morrison doused himself in kerosene and set himself on fire below Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s office: here.