Buddhists Take the ‘Gospel’ Music Path to Attract Youth

Photo credit: Buddhist Fellowship of Singapore.

Photo credit: Buddhist Fellowship of Singapore.

from Indepthnews.com
By Kalinga Seneviratne*

SINGAPORE (IDN | Lotus News Features) – Buddhist ideas and wisdom are being increasingly adopted by the West as part of a 21st century modern lifestyle, but in the East, youth are increasingly distancing themselves from their Buddhist heritage becoming “free thinkers” or even embracing Christianity from the West. A group of young Buddhist musicians from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have now come together to reverse this trend by using music to attract youth.

They staged a Buddhist musical show at the prestigious Esplanade arts centre here called “Sadhu for the Music” to mark the Vesak festival. The two shows on May 4 and 5 were a sell-out filling up all four levels of the large concert hall’s galleries.

The traditional method of getting the youth to come to the temple and listen to the Dhamma (Buddha’s teachings) is not working anymore argues Wilson Ang, President of the Buddhist Fellowship of Singapore (BFS), which organized the concert in collaboration with the Buddhist Gem Fellowship of Malaysia (BGFM) and Buddhist Fellowship Indonesia. The show was directed by the internationally acclaimed Malaysian Buddhist singer and musician Imee Ooi, who has recorded over 1,000 songs and 50 albums.

Ang told Lotus News, that at a recent conference here an academic has provided statistics, which showed declining interest in Buddhism in Singapore among the youth. “That caught my attention and I wanted to see how we can capture the interest of this younger generation as well as nominal Buddhists,” he explained. “Every youth today carry a mobile phone and they listen to music on it. Or watch movies. Probably we can use music as a starter to reach via the media they are closely associated with.”

Prof Victor Wee , President of BGFM agrees. “Before we can start telling people about Dhamma, our first challenge is to persuade them to come and listen,” he argues. “And good music certainly has the power of attraction.”

Buddhists in Asia are well aware of the power of Gospel Music that has helped to attract youth in the region to Christianity in large numbers. The production ‘Sadhu of the Music’ had a great influence of this genre of music in its presentation style but the lyrics were well crafted with Buddhist ideas and even chants from the sutras (Buddha’s sermons). Continue reading

China’s ancient Buddhist grottoes face a new threat — tourists

In a Mogao cave, lit by the flashlight of a guide, a Buddha statue surrounded by disciples dating from the Tang Dynasty. Dunhuang grotto art is a combination of architecture, painted sculpture and murals. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)

In a Mogao cave, lit by the flashlight of a guide, a Buddha statue surrounded by disciples dating from the Tang Dynasty. Dunhuang grotto art is a combination of architecture, painted sculpture and murals. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)

Washington Post
By Simon Denyer May 16

At the heart of the ancient Silk Road, on the edge of the Gobi Desert, lies a centuries-old place of pilgrimage: hundreds of caves hewn from a sandstone cliff containing some of the most exquisite Buddhist frescoes and figures in the world.

Abandoned for centuries, the Mogao Grottoes somehow survived everything that nature and man could throw at them, including earthquakes, floods and sandstorms. Marauding Muslim rebels, plundering European explorers and White Russian soldiers all left their mark. Rampaging Red Guards were turned away at the height of China’s Cultural Revolution.

Today, the caves outside Dunhuang, in western China, enjoy a new stature, at the heart of Communist China’s efforts to revitalize and rebuild the Silk Road as a testament to its growing power in Asia. They also stand as a symbol of Sino-American cooperation in China’s cultural preservation, thanks to pioneering work by the Getty Conservation Institute.

But the fragile wall paintings, some of which date to the 4th century and show stories from Buddha’s life and visions of the afterlife, face another threat — from a new army of tourists and the lure of profit.

“In the past 100 years, most of the damage has been done by nature, but visits by more tourists will break the original balance inside the caves,” said Wang Xudong, president of Dunhuang Academy, which runs, preserves and restores the site. “Constant entrance and exit changes the temperature and humidity inside the caves. Human bodies also carry micro­organisms, and if they start to grow inside the caves, it would be very scary.”

A couple pose during a wedding photo shoot in front of the nine-story tower built around cave 96. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)

A couple pose during a wedding photo shoot in front of the nine-story tower built around cave 96. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)

Tourists visit the Crescent Lake, one of Dunhuang’s major tourist sites along with the Mogao caves. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)

Tourists visit the Crescent Lake, one of Dunhuang’s major tourist sites along with the Mogao caves. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)

A couple pose during a wedding photo shoot in front of the nine-story tower built around cave 96. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)
More than 1.1 million tourists visited the caves in 2015, a rise of 40 percent in just a year and a roughly 20-fold jump in the past two decades.
Continue reading

Eastward Expansion: The Ringling’s new Center for Asian Art

58692_standardfrom Yourobserver.com
MAY. 18, 2016 3 days ago

The center marks a new chapter in the museum’s mission for a global vision — and a fulfillment of John Ringling’s original vision.

by: Nick Friedman Managing Editor of Arts and Culture

At the end of a long hallway in The Ringling’s new Center for Asian Art in the Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt Gallery of Asian Art sits a Buddhist statue from 10th century China.

The stone figure is seated, its gaze calmly transfixed on the opposing end of the corridor, where the Greek Baroque sculpture of Lacoön and His Sons depicts a quite different scene: the Trojan priest and his sons are being attacked by sea serpents.

There’s something of a conversation going on between the two. On one end, the stoic Buddhist statue represents a bodhisattva — a person dedicated to achieving buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. Lacoön, on the other hand, is an iconic representation of human agony.

More than that, though, the juxtaposition represents a geographic and cultural shift for The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Traditionally known for its Baroque and Renaissance art, the museum’s new Center for Asian Art marks its dedication to a global vision — and a fulfillment of John Ringling’s original vision.

“The Ringling is not only dedicated to European art,” says Fan Zhang, the center’s curator. “We’re dedicated to showing off the talents of artists from all parts of the world. This new center is all about connecting cultures.” Continue reading

1st Century BC Buddhist remains found on hill in Amaravati

The Buddhist remains discovered from a hill top at Vaikunthapuram village in Amaravati region.

The Buddhist remains discovered from a hill top at Vaikunthapuram village in Amaravati region.

THe Hindu
P. SUJATHA VARMA

A clue given by residents of Vaikunthapuram, located in the capital Amaravati region, led veteran archaeologist E. Siva Nagi Reddy to Buddhist remains of 1st Century BC atop a hill in the village.

Based on information given by the villagers that a few brickbats and fragments of earthen pots were found atop the hill, Dr. Reddy, who is also CEO of the Cultural Centre of Vijayawada, embarked on a thorough exploration of the area.

Assisted by village residents Bhogineni Nageswara Rao, Subhakar Medasani and Chaitanya Ravela, he conducted a thorough search on the hill which yielded three mounds studded with brickbats and pottery in red colour. The mounds were formed on huge boulders on which a brick-built stupa was raised.

“The bricks used in construction of stupas and viharas measured 60x30x8 cm and 58x28x7 cm, invariably belonged to the Satavahana era (1st Century BC). A huge quantity of fragments of terracotta and brick tiles used to cover chaityas and viharas was also found,” explains Dr. Reddy. Continue reading

Buddhist sacred bone relics from Pakistan to arrive in Sri Lanka on Vesak festival

The Nation
May 18, 2016, 5:25 pm

COLOMBO: In order to be part of the most important annual Vesak Buddhist Festival falling on 21st May, the government of Pakistan is providing the most sacred bone relics of Lord Buddha to Sri Lanka for exposition throughout Sri Lanka.

The exposition is being organized on the request of the Sri Lankan government under the bilateral cooperation agreement in the field of Culture.

The relics will be arriving in Sri Lanka for an extended period on the auspicious day of Vesak on 21st May 2016 and will be exhibited until Full Moon Poson Poya Day.

The Sri Lankan Minister for Sustainable Development and Wildlife Hon. Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, Secretary Ministry of Buddhasasana Mr. Wasantha Ekanayaka, Venerable Thiniyawala Palitha Thero, Chief Incumbent Nalandramaya, Nugegoda along with other high level officials left for Pakistan today to bring the sacred relics.

The sacred relics will be handed over by the Pakistani authorities to the Sri Lankan side in a special ceremony to be held at Taxilla on 19th of May 2016 Continue reading

Gold crown dug up at Moghalmari in West Bengal

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 11.00.13 AMTimes of India
TNN | Mar 8, 2016, 09.48 AM IST

Kolkata: Excitement and expectation over the Moghalmari excavation site near Dantan in West Midnapore peaked on Monday as the state archeology department, which is digging up the ancient Buddhist vihara ruin, confirmed that it has found a portion of a gold crown over the weekend.
Archaeologists say the find is extremely rare since gold and silver ornaments have almost never been dug up at Buddhist excavation sites. The recovered piece, 7.5x4cm in size, looks like the tip of a crown set in a chunk of terracotta, probably part of a Buddha statue. It has been sent to the state archeology museum at Behala for further examination.

The Moghalmari vihara is gradually emerging as one of the oldest in the country, dating back to at least 6th century if not older. A large number of statuettes, pottery fragments and bronze items have been recovered from the mound since excavation re-started in January. Recently, gold coins bearing the name of Samachar Deva, a king of the pre-Pala dynasty, were dug up.
“We were stunned to find the portion of the gold crown.We feel it was part of the main Buddha statue of the vihara. Gold ornaments were normally not part of Buddha statues. But the Vajrayana sect of Buddhism worshipped what was known as the Crown Buddha. It seems this gold crown was worn by a Crown Buddha,” said Prakash Maity , the chief archaeologist at the site.
“It is possible that the Moghalmari vihara received royal patronage during the pre-Pala times from Samachar Deva, a local satrap who came into prominence in south Bengal after the fall of the Guptas in 550 AD. Notably, king Shashanka had not emerged on the scene yet.Again, while this crown might be indicative of religious harmony , Shashanka was a Shaiva and might not have been too kind towards other religions. Naturally , these matrices have to be studied while establishing the antiquity of the vihara,” Maity said.

He went on to suggest that since Moghalmari was part of an important trade route, the gold ornaments might have been gifted by traders. Two important seals have already been discovered that suggest the name of the vihara was `Sribandaka vihara’.

[link]

1st Century BC Buddhist remains found on hill in Amaravati

THe Hindu
P. SUJATHA VARMA

The Buddhist remains discovered from a hill top at Vaikunthapuram village in Amaravati region.

The Buddhist remains discovered from a hill top at Vaikunthapuram village in Amaravati region.

A clue given by residents of Vaikunthapuram, located in the capital Amaravati region, led veteran archaeologist E. Siva Nagi Reddy to Buddhist remains of 1st Century BC atop a hill in the village.

Based on information given by the villagers that a few brickbats and fragments of earthen pots were found atop the hill, Dr. Reddy, who is also CEO of the Cultural Centre of Vijayawada, embarked on a thorough exploration of the area.

Assisted by village residents Bhogineni Nageswara Rao, Subhakar Medasani and Chaitanya Ravela, he conducted a thorough search on the hill which yielded three mounds studded with brickbats and pottery in red colour. The mounds were formed on huge boulders on which a brick-built stupa was raised.

“The bricks used in construction of stupas and viharas measured 60x30x8 cm and 58x28x7 cm, invariably belonged to the Satavahana era (1st Century BC). A huge quantity of fragments of terracotta and brick tiles used to cover chaityas and viharas was also found,” explains Dr. Reddy.

Further excavations revealed that the Buddhist monks relied for drinking water mainly on two tanks spread in an extent of half an acre and two rock-cut cisterns.

Villagers informed that a few years ago, treasure-hunters dug up at the centre of the stupa and found a relic casket with a gold leaf, which was later handed over to the then Collector of Guntur district.

“The Buddhist remains like stupas, chaityas and viharas yielded on Vaikunthapuram hill show that Buddhism existence from 1st Century BC to the 5th Century AD, but later the region came under the influence of Saivism in the Vishnukundin era and under Vaishnavites between the 13th and 17th centuries AD. This is evident in the existence of two Venkateswara temples —one at the foot of the hill and another on the hill top,” said Dr. Reddy.

He said a 1{+s}{+t}Century BC rock-cut cave on the hill top was installed with the idol of Lord Venkateswara during the 17th century AD.

Villagers said Deepak Joe of Andhra Pradesh State Department of Archaeology had inspected the site some time back.

Dr. Reddy also stumbled upon two Siva lingas on the Krishna river bed. It appeared that the lingas surfaced recently due to receding of the river water. These Siva lingas, he said, portrayed stylistic ground art of 5th century AD (Vishnukundin era).

[link]