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Mandala maker handles life’s shifting sands with art and kung fu

BY Ayala Or-el | PUBLISHED Jun 14, 2017
Jewish Journal

Not much had changed since Rafael “Rafi” Anteby was a little boy who played in the sand.

Sometimes his immaculate apartment looks like a big sandbox with dozens of bowls filled with colorful sands, which he collects from around the world: purple from Big Sur and Idaho, black and green from Hawaii, red and yellow from Israel, golden brown from Myanmar.

Anteby, 52, who was born in Israel, is a Los Angeles artist who uses sand of different colors to make Hindu and Buddhist ritual symbols known as mandalas. It’s an ancient art form that represents the universe. Some of Anteby’s involve symmetrical designs, while others have featured figures such as a tiger or peacocks. Monks in Tibet work on their mandalas for months at a time, only to discard each one once it’s finished, spilling it into the water.

“It’s their way of letting it go back to nature. Part of the meditation is the practice of letting go,” Anteby said.

His first exhibition of mandalas in Los Angeles is on display Thursdays through Saturdays through July 1 at 929 E. Second St. in the Arts District.

Anteby’s process is different, creating his mandalas using dozens of sand colors, minerals, gold, diamonds and semiprecious stones from the Himalayas and gluing the sand into a canvas so it remains in place. Like the monks, he uses authentic artisanal tools over hundreds of hours to perfect the tedious process of funneling the sand through a metal flute.

His discipline to the practice drew the attention of the Tibetan Lama Adzom Rinpoche, an avid mandala-maker himself. The lama came all the way from Tibet for the exhibition reception on June 4. A portion of sale proceeds are being donated to the lama’s Buddhist institute that educates hundreds of children from remote villages of the Himalayas.

Anteby was drawn to the Far East at first through his fascination with kung fu. He was introduced to martial arts at 14 in Haifa.

“I was a small kid and was often bullied by the boys; even the girls beat me up,” he said. “As a result, I got involved with the bad crowd in town, a group of kids who were troublemakers and everyone feared them. It wasn’t that I was a bad kid, but I felt safer with them. One day, a kung fu teacher came to our school and talked to us about it, and I knew that this is what I want to do.”

Days after he finished his military duty in the Israeli army, he flew to Hong Kong to study with his kung fu master for two years. “I studied in a monastery-style school, 10 hours a day. I also led a life of a monk during that time — no women, no alcohol. I hardly left the place.”

After his two years in Hong Kong, he moved to South Africa and joined a friend, Lance Von Erich, a former American professional wrestler, who had opened a gym. He asked Anteby to help him.

“I was a martial arts instructor at his facility and ended up staying there for eight years,” Anteby said. “During that time, I won the South African championship in kung fu as well as the Shaolin world tournament for kung fu in China.”

Back in the United States, Anteby was diagnosed in 2000 with macular degeneration. He was told that he had one year before he would become legally blind. Anteby refused to accept the verdict. “I told my doctor, ‘No way, not in my book; it’s never going to happen,’ and he answered, ‘I appreciate your positive attitude, but I still encourage you to start thinking about what it’s like being blind, because it is going to happen.’ ”

Anteby found the name of an expert in Chinese medicine in Arkansas, flew to see him and stayed for two weeks, undergoing intensive acupuncture treatment. “After that, I went to see my teacher in Peking, who sent me to a 104-year-old teacher of qigong meditation, which I practiced for six months at the Wudang monastery,” Anteby said. “Only then I went back to see the doctor who diagnosed me. He examined me and was shocked to find out that the disease had disappeared.” Continue reading

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Anthology to bring history of Ghantasala to light

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A smiling Buddha idol found in Ghantasala in 2014.

The Hindu
T. Appala Naidu
APRIL 27, 2017 00:00 IST

It will be released at Ghantasala Archaeology Museum on May 9

An anthology will be brought out by the State government on Ghantasala, a prosperous sea-borne trade centre where Buddhism flourished between the 1st century and B.C and 3rd century A.D. Marking Buddha Pournami to be celebrated on May 9, the Tourism Department in support of Buddhist monks and Krishna-district based historians will release the anthology, chronicling the rise and fall of the Buddhist site, which was first reported by renowned Archaeologist Boswell (1870-71).

According to available literature, a mound (112 meters dia and 23 feet height) in Ghantasala was first excavated by archaeologist Alexander Rae, bringing the structural remnant of a Mahachaitya to light. Deputy Speaker Mandali Buddha Prasad on Wednesday told The Hindu that the anthology on the Ghantasala village and its Buddhist connection would be released at the Ghantasala Archaeology Museum on May 9.

Historians, archaeologists, epigraphists and others including academicians who shared their association with the Buddhist site will contribute their work to the anthology. Narratives on the limestone panels, coins, antiquities and sculptural panels found here during the early excavations would be documented. Presently, the village has two locations — Museum and mound — which attract the visitors from across the globe.

Conservation

A smiling Buddha statue which was sighted by the locals in an agricultural field was handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India in 2014 while a Buddha stone foot was collected from a mound and being conserved in the village.

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Illuminating Buddhism in a high-tech light

Gyosen Asakura performs a “techno hoyo” ritual in Fukui. He said he hopes that the ritual will invoke the Buddhist version of paradise in each attendee. (The Japan News/File)

THE JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
TOMOYUKI HAMAHATA
Fukui, Japan | Mon, April 17, 2017

Faced with declining attendees among the young, one temple priest in Fukui has found a unique way to help them see the light. His “techno hoyo” fuses traditional religious images projected in brilliant lights with Buddhist sutras set to a techno beat.

Gyosen Asakura, 49, the master of Shoonji temple in the city, has experience as a DJ. Using his high-tech equipment, his ritual expresses images of life after death in the paradise that Buddhism says awaits us.

With many young Japanese shunning religion these days, Asakura hopes this creative take will stoke interest in Buddhism.

“Priests are publicity agents for Buddha,” he said. “I want to reach out to people in my own way.”

Asakura became interested in music around the time he was a first-year student in junior high school. His father, who also loves music, gave him a stereo system.

At that time, “Rydeen,” a piece by the techno music group Yellow Magic Orchestra, was all the rage. The priest was fascinated by it.

After graduating from high school, Asakura got a job in a club in Kyoto, working on the lighting staff on weekdays and as a DJ on weekends. He immersed himself in music.

At 24, he returned to Fukui and began working as a Buddhist priest. Since then, he has noticed a decline in families supporting the temple and worshipers. Most worrying to him was the lack of young temple supporters.

With encouragement from his family, Asakura decided to use his skills to promote Buddhism after he succeeded his father as the 17th temple master in 2015.

In Buddhism rituals, candles are used for lighting altars.

“After someone saw how the gold leaf on altars can shine so beautifully when bathed in light, people started to illuminate it with candle flames,” Asakura said.

If the olden days found their lighting through candles, Asakura thought modern times could find its lighting through colorful illuminations. Continue reading

The Buddhist art of living in Nepal : ethical practice and religious reform

41HB8vuNeZL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Buddhist Art of Living in Nepal Ethical Practice and Religious Reform
By Lauren Leve
2016 – Routledge
268 pages
Hardback: 9780415617345
pub: 2016-07-28

Theravada Buddhism has experienced a powerful and far-reaching revival in modern Nepal, especially among the Newar Buddhist laity, many of whom are reorganizing their lives according to its precepts, practices and ideals. This book documents these far-reaching social and personal transformations and links them to political, economic and cultural shifts associated with late modernity, and especially neoliberal globalization.

Nepal has changed radically over the last century, particularly since the introduction of liberal democracy and an open-market economy in 1990. The rise of lay vipassana meditation has also dramatically impacted the Buddhist landscape. Drawing on recently revived understandings of ethics as embodied practices of self-formation, the author argues that the Theravada turn is best understood as an ethical movement that offers practitioners ways of engaging, and models for living in, a rapidly changing world. The book takes readers into the Buddhist reform from the perspectives of its diverse practitioners, detailing devotees’ ritual and meditative practices, their often conflicted relations to Vajrayana Buddhism and Newar civil society, their struggles over identity in a formerly Hindu nation-state, and the political, cultural, institutional and moral reorientations that becoming a “pure Buddhist”—as Theravada devotees understand themselves—entails.

Based on more than 20 years of anthropological fieldwork, this book is an important contribution to scholarly debates over modern Buddhism, ethical practices, and the anthropology of religion. It is of interest to students and scholars of Asian Religion, Anthropology, Buddhism and Philosophy.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction: Seeing Things As They Are

Chapter 2: ‘A Garden of Every Kind of People:’ Newar Buddhists in Hindu Nepal

Chapter 3: The Revival of “Pure Buddhism”

Chapter 4: What Makes A Theravada Buddhist?

Chapter 5: Becoming “Pure Buddhist” (1): Practices of Personhood

Chapter 6: Becoming “Pure Buddhist” (2): Vipassana Meditation and the Theravada Care of the Self

Chapter 7: The Best Dharma for Today: Post-Protestant Buddhism in Neoliberal Nepal

Conclusion: The Buddhist Art of Living, in Nepal and Elsewhere

8 rock carvings from the Tubo period found in Tibet

180373d2873019fef5f608By Palden Nyima in Lhasa | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-02-03 12:08

Eight rock carvings found in the Tibet autonomous region’s Markham county have been confirmed as dating to the Tibetan Tubo Kingdom more than 1,000 years ago, according to the county’s cultural relics bureau.

A survey of the archaeological finds began in the second half of last year and was carried out by four experts from Sichuan University’s Tibetology Institute while working alongside representatives from the county’s cultural relics and tourism bureaus.

“More than 20 people took part in the survey, as the carvings are distributed across eight sites in the county’s three townships,” said He Fanhua, from the cultural relics bureau.

“Our bureau will now propose to higher cultural relics units that measures be taken to protect the petroglyphs.”

He said preservation was essential because some of the petroglyphs are located less than 600 meters from the nearest villages.

Many stone carvings have been uncovered in Markham county over the years, including a giant statue of the Vairochana Buddha found in 2011 – one of the three biggest in the whole of Tibet.

Zhang Yanqing, or Palchen Dorjee, a professor at Sichuan University’s Tibetology Institute, said the petroglyphs dated to either the reign of Tibetan King Trisong Detsan (AD 755-797) or Tride Songtsan (AD 798-815).

“They include cliffside carvings, circular engraved statues, ancient Tibetan texts, and Mani stones,” he said.

The carvings reflect the long history of cultural exchange in the region and are influenced by a number of styles ranging from Indian to Chinese, according to Zhang.

“As both Buddhist art and a historical find, these carvings are of great value and should be protected,” he added.

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Jamal Garhi Buddhist complex, Mardan, Pakistan (2nd Century AD)

 

Salvaging Rajagala from being lost forever

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Daily News (Sri Lanka)
Friday, October 7, 2016 – 01:00
Zahrah Imtiaz

Within the dense forests of Rajagala in Ampara, a team of Archaeologists from the University of Sri Jayawardenapura are uncovering an 800 year old Buddhist monastery, bringing it back to life- one dig at a time.

The site spanning over 1,025 acres of forest, rocky hills, Stupas, Refectory, Uposathagra (Building devoted to religious observances), a hot water bath house and cave dwellings is said to have been built during the 1st Century BC. The team has been successful in discovering over 50 cave dwellings, leading them to believe that around 500 monks would have resided in them.

“It is interesting that some of these caves have the inscription “Seethalena” which depicts the name of cool cave,” said Director of Conservation and Maintenance, Prof Prashantha B. Mandawala.

According to Prof Mandawala’s research, the monastic complex was vacated due to the South Indian invasions in 1215 AD and it has since then gradually deteriorated due to natural causes and also due to vandalism by treasure hunters in the recent past.

Among other unusual inscriptions found at the site, Prof Mandawala also highlighted that they had found inscriptions on one of the Stupas which read that, the ‘ashes’ or ‘relics’ of Arahat Mahinda was enshrined within the stupa. Continue reading