Paths of the Soul review: Blandly soothing, apolitical Buddhist ‘documentary’ quickly wears thin

Pilgrims on the 1200-mile trek through the Himalayas to Lhasa in Paths of the Soul. Photo: China Lion Entertainment

Sydney Morning Herald
OCTOBER 18 2017
Jake Wilson

(PG) 120 minutes

If you’ve never pondered the literal meaning of the word “kowtow”, you may have something to learn from the new film by Chinese director Zhang Yang (Shower), which follows a dozen or so Tibetan villagers on a 1200-mile pilgrimage through the Himalayas to Lhasa, as is Buddhist tradition.

This would be an arduous trek under any circumstances but, adding to the challenge, every few steps the pilgrims must drop onto their stomachs and touch their foreheads to the earth.

To protect their bodies, they wear leather aprons and have wooden boards strapped to their hands, generating a noise like the clicking of castanets. In the absence of a conventional score, this becomes central to the film’s soundtrack.

The pilgrims in Paths of the Soul, to protect their bodies, wear leather aprons and have wooden boards strapped to their hands. Photo: China Lion Entertainment
Paths of the Soul is not quite fiction, not quite documentary. Reports indicate that the journey we see is real, and that the non-professional cast members are playing versions of themselves.

But it also appears that Zhang has manipulated events in the manner of a reality TV producer – ensuring, for example, that a pregnant woman (Tsring Chodron​) was part of the group in order to build a sequence around the birth of her child.

Pilgrims on the 1200-mile trek through the Himalayas to Lhasa in Paths of the Soul. Photo: China Lion Entertainment

Continue reading

Two Buddhist Temples in Hong Kong Designated as National Monuments

Tung Lin Kok Yuen in Hong Kong’s Happy Valley. Photo by Bill Cox

from Buddhistdoor
By BD Dipananda
2017-10-20 |

The Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB) of Hong Kong has designated two Buddhist temples—Tung Lin Kok Yuen (TLKY) Temple on Hong Kong Island and Yeung Hau Temple on Lantau Island—as monuments under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, along with a Christian landmark—Kowloon Union Church.

“The Antiquities and Monuments Office considers that with their significant heritage value . . . the three historic buildings have reached the ‘high threshold’ to be declared as monuments,” said a representative of the AAB after the meeting in June. “Consent . . . has been obtained from the respective owners.” (South China Morning Post)

Installed in 1976, the AAB is a constitutional body of the Hong Kong government that evaluates old buildings for designation as monuments based on their historical or architectural merit. According to AAB chairman Andrew Lam: “Heritage is the fruit of a place’s culture and history. It not only reflects the historical facts but also carries our emotions. And the work of the Antiquities Advisory Board relies on professional judgment as well as public knowledge and awareness of the importance of heritage.” (Antiquities Advisory Board)

Yeung Hau Temple in Tai O. From

Located in Happy Valley on Hong Kong Island, TLKY was founded in 1935 by Lady Clara Ho Tung (1875–1938) and her husband, the prominent businessman and philanthropist Sir Robert Ho Tung (1892–1956). TLKY contains an ancestral hall, Dharma hall, dining hall, lecture theater, library, sutra hall, and dormitories for monastics. The temple also houses a valuable collection of calligraphy and Chinese couplets. The temple building shows the influence of Western engineering of the time combined with elements of traditional Chinese architecture, with its flying attics, brackets, and glazed tile roofs. TLKY is considered one of the more prominent Buddhist temples in Hong Kong and serves as a center for the Buddhist community and a place of education for monastics. Continue reading

NEW BOOK: Archaeology and Buddhism in South Asia

Archaeology and Buddhism in South Asia
By Himanshu Prabha Ray

© 2018 – Routledge India

140 pages | 12 B/W Illus.

Hardback: 9781138304895
pub: 2017-08-29

eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203728543
pub: 2017-08-31


This book traces the archaeological trajectory of the expansion of Buddhism and its regional variations in South Asia. Focusing on the multireligious context of the subcontinent in the first millennium BCE, the volume breaks from conventional studies that pose Buddhism as a counter to the Vedic tradition to understanding the religion more integrally in terms of dhamma (teachings of the Buddha), dāna (practice of cultivating generosity)and the engagement with the written word. The work underlines that relic and image worship were important features in the spread of Buddhism in the region and were instrumental in bringing the monastics and the laity together. Further, the author examines the significance of the histories of monastic complexes (viharas, stupas, caityas) and also religious travel and pilgrimage that provided connections across the subcontinent and the seas.

An interdisciplinary study, this book will be of great interest to students and scholars in South Asian studies, religion, especially Buddhist studies, history and archaeology.

About the Author

Himanshu Prabha Ray is affiliated to Ludwig Maximillian University, Munich, Germany, and is recipient of the Anneliese Maier research award of the Humboldt Foundation. She is former Chairperson of the National Monuments Authority, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and former Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She is Member of the Governing Board, The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. Her recent books include The Archaeology of Sacred Spaces: The Temple in Western India, 2nd Century BCE–8th Century CE (with Susan Verma Mishra, 2017); The Return of the Buddha: Ancient Symbols for a New Nation (2014); and The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia (2003). Among her earlier works are The Winds of Change: Buddhism and the Maritime Links of Early South Asia (1994) and Monastery and Guild: Commerce under the Satavahanas


Buddhist site discovered on hilltop in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh

By Express News Service | Published: 28th August 2017 09:06 AM |

GUNTUR: A new Buddhist site was discovered on a hilltop at a tiny village Putlagudem in Atchampet mandal on Sunday. A study team comprising E Siva Nagi Reddy, archaeologist, and CEO of The Cultural Centre of Vijayawada and Amaravati (CCVA), Subhakar Medasani, secretary of Vijayawada Buddha Vihara, and Govardhan, member, found the ancient Buddhist site while exploring villages in Atchampet mandal as part of the Preserve Heritage for Posterity campaign.

The team found broken pillars of a Silamandapa in front of a dilapidated Venkateswara temple on the hilltop, which is called Bhairava Gutta. The six limestone pillars bore half lotus medallions on top and bottom.

The carvings of friezes of animals and pattern designs on the pillars resemble Amaravati sculpture.

According to Siva Nagi Reddy, the Buddhist site at Putlagudem dates back to the 1st century AD of Satavahana period. Because of its location on the hilltop, the site belongs to the Seliya sect of Buddhist Sangha.

Some of the Buddhist pillars bearing half lotus medallions were used as door frames of the sanctum sanctorum of Venkateswara temple built on the hilltop some two centuries ago. Some of the pillars were appropriated as beams of the temple Maha Mandapam, which was recently demolished by treasure hunters. A broken Sivalinga and Nandi were also found at the Buddhist site. Siva Nagi Reddy appealed to the Department of Archaeology and Museums to protect and preserve the newly discovered Buddhist site for posterity.


Germany to help Myanmar renovate temple in ancient heritage zone

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-25 10:24:26|

YANGON, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) — Germany will help Myanmar renovate the Manuha Cave Temple in Bagan ancient heritage zone in Mandalay region, said a report of the official Global New Light of Myanmar on Monday.

Manuha Temple is one of the oldest temples in the Bagan cultural zone.
The repair work will begin in January 2018 with the use of German technology, an official of the Department of Archaeology and National Museum was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Myanmar is striving for enlisting Bagan as one of the world’s cultural heritages which lies in the central part of the country with thousands of religious edifices and pagodas.
Bagan is well-known for its historic and cultural wealth. With over 3,000 Buddhist temples, monasteries, stupas and monuments, Bagan is home for Buddhist architectures, signifying the unique morals aborning interior walls of the religious edifices.


12,000-year-old hidden village in Vavuniya

Posted on October 8th, 2017
By Mullativu Shashikumar Courtesy Ceylon Today

Historical evidence of the human history of our country is traced only as far back as the arrival of the Buddha and later the arrival of Prince Vijaya. Most historical facts are drawn from stone inscriptions that are dated back to ancient times. However, most of these inscriptions don’t go beyond 2,500 years. Hence, the discovery of evidence that tells of human activities that go beyond the recorded history of the country is of paramount importance.

It is in such a context it was reported that a group of Buddhist monks are engaging in excavation work in a remote village in Vavuniya, where evidence have been unearthed of a 12,000-year-old history and 1,300-year-old Buddhist history.

To reach the remote village of Kongrayamkulam one has to travel about 25 km from the Vavuniya town towards Settikulam Divisional Secretariat Division. From there it is a journey of about 16 km to the village. The excavation site is inside the jungle adjacent to the village.

When we got there, several monks attached to the Archaeology Department of the Bhikshu University of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura were engaged in the final excavation work.

Ven. Galwewe Wimalakanthi Thera, Lecturer and Head of the Department of Archaeology at the University, was leading the team of monks.

“We wanted to look into the activities of pre-historic humans who lived in the Dry Zone, particularly on the right bank of Malwathu Oya. We commenced this task with the belief that we would be able to find archaeological information on the activities of the pre-historic humans and their settlements in Sri Lanka. Very little attention has been paid to this site in the past. Now we have found out the historical significance of this place,” the Thera said.

Stone inscriptions

He also said, “By now we have discovered seven ancient stone inscriptions, which can be dated back about 1,300 years. One of these stone inscriptions mentions a chaitya, halls of statues and Bodhi Mandapa as well as ruins of statues of the Buddha. Another stone inscription states ‘batha giri thisaha lene’, which means the cave of Ayushmath Giritissa Thera.” The most significant discovery was inside the cave. There was enough evidence there to come to the conclusion that this was indeed a site inhabited by pre-historic humans of this country.

The monks engaged in the excavation activities said the images found on the cave walls tell of the life of pre-historic humans.

“The images can be dated back to 12,000 years. We can assume that the images of animals are the ones that these pre-historic humans had hunted for food,” a monk said.

They have also found remains of various weapons, presumably used by the pre-historic humans for hunting.

Ven. Wimalakanthi Thera said, “This is a valuable archaeological site. We were able to find from one site evidence of ancient Buddhist worship as well as evidence of human settlement that goes as far as 12,000 years. With this evidence we can come to an idea how the pre-historic humans lived and hunted. We have already sent samples of these findings to an American Institute for carbon dating. Once we receive the report we will be able to publish the final findings by December.

According to Ven. Wimalakanthi Thera this is the first excavation of this scale that has been done in the Northern Province. “We have discovered weapons made of stone, some weapons made of animal bones and even small stone tools. Especially due to the absence of metal we can safely assume that these discoveries date back 12,000 years. Stone weapons are basically made up of kahanda and thiruvana. We also found two human bones. We believe that once carbon dating is finalized we can give an exact time frame to these findings.”

Analyzing evidence

At the moment, the monks are engaged in dating the stone weapons. Apart from that they are also analyzing pottery fragments, bricks and roofing tiles. “We have already completed reading the stone inscriptions. In one inscription it says that King Bhathikabhaya made a donation to the chaithya.”

It is also mentioned that there was a large aramaya in 300 BC, that is, subsequent to the arrival of Arhant Mahinda in the island.

“This is mentioned in seven stone inscriptions found in this site. We have also found Chaithya, Bodhighara, marble Buddha statues, monks’ rooms, and alms halls. Unfortunately, treasure hunters have destroyed most of these. Although the historical value of this site is undeniable, this place has been destroyed by these treasure hunters.”

Ven. Wimalakanthi Thera expressed gratitude top Mahopadyaya Professor Kanaththegoda Sadhdha Rathana Nayake Thera of the Anuradhapura Sri Lanka Bhikshu University for allowing them to carry out the excavation work.

If not for the devastating 30-year war, these discoveries would have been made much earlier. The war was the main reason why these places were destroyed. Now that evidence of pre-historic human settlements has been found in this remote village in Vavuniya, it can shed light on the evolutionary process of man from ape.


Mega theme park to celebrate the heritage of Buddhism

The drum and dome of the Maha stupa, a replica of the Amaravati stupa, in its finishing stage. It measures 21 metres and has a diameter of 42 meters at Buddha Vanam in Nagarjunasagar.
All designs of Buddhavanam inspired from the Buddha’s Ashtangamarga or noble eight-fold path

B. Pradeep NALGONDA, SEPTEMBER 09, 2017 23:13 IST

Once upon a time, there lived King Vessantara, who ruled Sivirattha (land of Sivis). A virtuous man, he wanted to attain perfection and so donated all the precious things he had. On learning this, a ‘wicked brahmin’ from the neighbouring kingdom of Kalinga asks the king for the magical rain-bringing elephant, Peccaya. Vessantara gives it away, but earns the wrath of the people. Compelled by anger, his father Sanjaya banishes his son from glory, to the forests.

Vessantara over time also donates his chariot, horses and children to the wicked brahmin. Marvelled at his conduct, it was time for the Gods to test his generosity. This time, Lord Sakka in the guise of an ugly man appears before Vessanatara and asks for his wife, Maddi. The rest of the story is the prince’s attainment of perfection.

Of the 547 Jataka tales in Buddhism, and 10 perfections, Dana-sila (conduct of charity) by Vessantara is believed to be the last one.

The Jataka tales, life instances of the Bodhisattvas (the enlightenment being or the Buddha-to-be) are narrated by monks to devotees on full moon days. They are integral to the Buddhist culture.
Continue reading