HBV Newsletter — September 2020

Is Giving a Cause of Decline?
During one of his constant tours, the Buddha, with a large number of Bhikkhus, arrived in the city of Nalanda in the state of Kosala and was lodging in the Mango Grove. During that time, Nalanda was experiencing a famine. Trees and plants produced little fruit and crop. Food was not as abundant as before.This situation was not a problem for those spiritual leaders who starved themselves as a part of their religious practice, but the Buddha would not do so.  The Buddha, following the middle path, ate moderately, and he expected his ordained disciples also to eat moderately.

The Buddha’s and his ordained disciples’ regular routine was to go for alms once a day.  Wherever they stayed, they took an alms bowl and went from house to house every morning.  Once they received enough food, they returned to the dwelling and ate. When invited by a particular family for lunch, the Buddha and the Bhikkhus visited that house instead of going for alms from house to house.

Now that the Buddha and a large number of Bhikkhus had visited Nalanda during a famine, and that they were to go for alms every day, some opponents of the Buddha thought that they had an excellent opportunity to refute and discredit the Buddha.  They claimed that the Buddha, if he were kind to people, should not have visited Nalanda with a large number of monks during a famine.

After much preplanning, the Buddha’s opponents sent to the Mango Grove one headman of the city, asking him to challenge the Buddha in an argument.

After initial greetings, the headman sat down and asked his first question: “Sir, don’t you in many ways praise sympathy for families, protection of families, and compassion for families?”

“Yes, headman, I do, of course,” the Buddha replied.

“Then, why are you touring [here in Nalanda] with a large number of Bhikkhus at a time of a famine, scarcity, and drought?  You are [actually] working for the suffering and destruction of families [instead of their wellbeing]”

The Buddha replied that he had never known a family that had gone bankrupt because of giving away cooked alms. He indicated that giving itself is a sign of progress instead of being a sign of decline.

Elaborating further, the Buddha gave the following eight causes for the decline of families: confiscation of wealth by the king, robbery, fire damage and water damage to the property, failure to save wealth properly, mismanagement of wealth, having a wastrel in the family, and the universal law of impermanence.

Samyutta Nikaya 1V: 42. 9; The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: 1345-1346

Newsletter – August 2020

How to React to a Disagreeable Speech
Some profound statements of the Buddha remain unnoticed, and the following is just one of them:

“Some are extremely gentle, extremely meek, and extremely peaceful so long as a disagreeable speech does not touch upon them. However, only after a disagreeable speech reaches them, one can understand whether they are actually kind, gentle, and peaceful or not.”

This utterance indicates that one’s personality development can be tested by one’s reaction to opposing views and arguments. Any individual can be gentle when his or her views are approved by others, but the well-developed person remains pleasant even when his or her views are opposed by others.

Elaborating on what he meant by gentleness, the Buddha advised further:

“You must train yourself in the proper way [before responding to what people say]. They may talk to you at the right time or wrong time; they may tell you the truth or a lie; the way they talk may be gentle or harsh; their speech may be beneficial or useless to you; [finally,] they may speak with a wholesome intention or with an unwholesome motive.

However it is, you must train like this: “Our minds will remain unaffected, and we shall utter no unpleasant words; we shall remain compassionate for their welfare with a mind of loving-kindness, without inner dislike’”

What is most fascinating in these instructions is the Buddha’s view that the development of communication skills is not just an external act; rather, compassion toward the listener should predominate throughout the process of communication. Even though one speaks at the wrong time, tells lies, uses harsh words, offers useless and harmful instructions, and reacts angrily, still the skillful listener should keep the compassion towards the speaker intact.

Majjhima Nikaya: 21; Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, 217-223

Vihara news
Next YouTube Live-Stream Service on Sunday, Aug. 2nd

Maha Sangha will  conduct the next live-stream morning service on Sunday, August 2nd, at 9:00 am. We are requesting parents to mark the service on calendar and participate with their children.

Vas Aradhna on Monday, August 3rd

Vassa Aradhana (invitation to the rain retreat) will take place on Nikini full-moon day (August 3rd) at 8:00 pm.

Considering the wellbeing of the monks and the community, only a few Vihara members will physically participate in the event, and all of you can participate in it through Zoom Live. We will send the link Sunday.

Vassa observance Begins on August 4th

Vassa observance by Ven. Rahula and Sirirathana Theros will take place the following day, August 4th, and will end on Vap full moon day, Oct. 30th. The day of the Kathina ceremony will be announced later.

Vassana Programs

A special Dhamma speech will be given every Saturday, and a Bodhi Puja will be held every Sunday. Notably, several distinguishing members of Maha Sangaha in Sri Lanka and in the USA will give several of the Dhamma talks through Zoom Live.

Bhante Sathi Will Give the First Dhamma Deshana

The first of the Dhamma Deshanas will be given on Saturday, August 8th, by Ven.  Peradeniye Sathindriya Thero (Bhante Sathi), abbot of the Triple Gem of the North, Minnesota. Venerable Thero is well known to the Houston Vihara community.

Anuruddha and Irani Kulatunga family will sponsor this Dhamma program. The Vihara appreciates their sponsorship.

Sponsorship of Programs

Our faithful devotees may take sponsorship of each Dhamma Deshana and Bodhi Puja and receive enormous blessings, which may be shared with their departed loved ones, wishing them the ultimate bliss of Nibbana.

In the past years, sponsoring a program means a lot of activities, including preparing dinner for the participants. However, the current situation has simplified sponsorship this year.

In sponsoring a Saturday Dhamma Deshana, it is the responsibility of the sponsor family to:

1. Invite their friends and family members to participate in the live Zoom program.

2. Offer a Parikkara (donation) to the the Bhikkhu who gives the speech

In sponsoring a Sunday Bodhi Puja:

1. You may physically participate in the Puja with flowers and the like.
2. You offer a donation to the Bhikkhu who conducts the Puja

Several families have already volunteered to sponsor some programs. On the day of Vassana invitation, the Vihara will send the list of the Dhamma Deshanas and programs for your sponsorship.

Announcement 2020/08/21

Live-stream Dhamma Talk in English by Most Venerable  Udairiyagama Dhammajiva Maha Thero:
Saturday, August 22nd, at 8:00 pm
The 3rd of the Dhamma Deshana during the Vassana season will be given by Ven. Udaeriyagama Dhammajiva Thero in English. It begins at 8:00 pm. Ven. Maha Thero is a renowned meditation teacher.

Dhamma Deshana is sponsored by Anuruddha and Irani Kulatunga  family.

Please use the following zoom link to join.
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5087885805

Live-stream Bodhi Puja during Vassana Season by Ven. Sirirathana Thero:
Sunday, August 23rd at 8:00 pm
Venerable Karamidule Sirirathana Thero will hold the 3d of the live-stream Bodhi Puja series on Sunday at 8:00 pm. Pradeep and pramitha Matarage family will sponsor the program.

Please joint the Puja through this link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5087885805

The Vihara appreciates volunteering to sponsor each program by the two families. 
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Note: Please enable original sound for the best quality sound especially when there is chanting. Detailed instructions on how to change this settings is found below. It is necessary to create a free Zoom account.
https://youtu.be/v5fiCoc6nxE for PC Laptops

https://youtu.be/tUtStq289_0 For Mobile Devices

Wishing You the Blessings of the Triple Gem!

Newsletter – June 2020

There could be more than 30 Alien Civilizations in our Galaxy

Note: This research article draws our attention for two reasons:

1. The ancient Buddhist scriptures state that there are 31 planes of existence, You can learn about that teaching here:
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sagga/loka.html

2. Pali Buddhist texts state that life on earth, as well as the life of earth itself, is numbered. (Sattasūriya sutta in the Aṅguttara Nikāya AN 7.66) The following research article also agree that our civilization could be short lived.

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By Adam Smith / The Independent UK

There could be more than 30 alien civilizations in our galaxy, researchers have found in a major study.

A new paper looked to understand how many planets in our neighborhood could be home to alien life, by assuming that life develops on other planets in a similar way to how it develops on Earth, and matching that to planets that could be home to similar evolution.

It found that there could be dozens of active civilizations waiting to be found in our Milky Way. But it could also shed light on our own fate, and suggest our prospects for long-term survival are lower than we may have thought.

“There should be at least a few dozen active civilizations in our Galaxy under the assumption that it takes 5 billion years for intelligent life to form on other planets, as on Earth,” Christopher Conselice of the University of Nottingham said in a statement.
“The idea is looking at evolution, but on a cosmic scale. We call this calculation the Astrobiological Copernican Limit.”

One is the ‘weak’ limit, which suggests that intelligent life forms on a planet any time after 5 billion years. The other is the ‘Strong’ limit where life formed between 4.5 billion and 5 billion years years ago.

The new research used the latter, and also assumed that these new species would need to develop in metal-rich environments. This is because human beings developed near a metal-rich environment, due to the metal present in the Sun.

Previous research from 2012 suggests a suitable “minimum stellar metallicity” required for the formation of planets that would be similar to Earth.

Researchers were then able to use those assumptions about where life may form to understand how many planets in our Milky Way would be able to satisfy those conditions.
Detecting any civilisations in our galaxy is strongly dependent on how well we can pick up signals being sent into space.

These include radio transmissions from satellites and television. If these technological civilizations last as long as ours, which has been sending out signals for the last century or so, then it is estimated there could be 36 ongoing intelligent civilizations.

While that might be the case, interacting with them would be difficult. The average distance to any possible civilization would be 17,000 light years, which makes communication very challenging.

The other scenario is that we are the only intelligent life in the galaxy, and that civilisations die out before we can detect them.

“Our new research suggests that searches for extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations not only reveals the existence of how life forms, but also gives us clues for how long our own civilization will last,” Professor Conselice said.

“If we find that intelligent life is common then this would reveal that our civilization could exist for much longer than a few hundred years, alternatively if we find that there are no active civilizations in our Galaxy it is a bad sign for our own long-term existence. By searching for extraterrestrial intelligent life — even if we find nothing — we are discovering our own future and fate.”

The new study was led by the University of Nottingham and published today in The Astrophysical Journal.

This is not the only recent news to imply the development of intelligent life in the galaxy. Scientists have found a potential habitable planet called ‘Proxima b’ around the star Proxima Centauri, approximately 4.2 light years from the Sun.

It receives comparable amounts of energy to that the Earth gets from the Sun. If there is liquid form on the planet, it could harbor life, but researchers said there is still much to be done before that can be confirmed, such as checking for the atmosphere and chemicals that could support life.

Vihara News

Monthly Sila Program and Dhamma Talk on Saturday, July 4th

Saturday, July 4, is the Esala full-moon day. The Vihara will offer two programs on July 4th for you to participate in from home. They both are through YouTube live streaming. You can join the programs here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLYkdpllIW2xEyis2G1ULUw

Once you are on the page, join the live programs by clicking.

7:00 am: Administering the Eight Precepts and morning Puja

7:00 pm: Dhamma Deshana in Sinhala and Terminating Sila observance

(Since Sila observants find numerous online sources that offer Buddhist programs for them to participate in from home, the Vihara will offer only these two program tomorrow.)

Vassana Retreat Begins on Nikini Full Moon Day

All the Nikayas in Sri Lanka have come to a consensus that the Vassa season begins immediately after the full moon day in August. Accordingly, resident monks at the Vihara will observe the rainy retreat on August 4, 2020, the day following the Nikini full moon day.

You will receive a separate message with details about the Vas Aradhana, programs during the Vassana season, and the Kathina ceremony.

Next Live-Stream Service on Sunday, July 5th

Maha Sangha will conduct the next live-stream morning service on Sunday, July 5th, at 9:00 am. We are requesting parents to mark the service on calendar and participate with their children.

Newsletter – April 2020

Who Am I?

Now that the Vesak 2563 is approaching, it is timely to draw the reader’s attention to who the Buddha is as explained by the Buddha himself.The mission launched by the Buddha during the 6th century B.C. after attaining the Buddhahood is the most rational, compassionate, and spiritual guidance the human being has ever witnessed. Over nearly 26 centuries, the Buddha’s teachings have influenced all major religions, philosophy, rational thought, and literature all over the world.

The Buddha expounded such an incomparable teaching by going beyond the human level. The following encounter shows that:

During one of his long journeys, the Buddha was walking along a connecting road between two cities. After travelling a certain distance on that road, he then decided to take a short rest. Having spotted a secluded and peaceful place nearby the main road, the Buddha thought it was an ideal place for him to relax. He entered that place, sat in lotus posture under a tree, and began his relaxation.

While travelling on the same road, a prominent Brahmin in that area, by the name of Dona, saw the Buddha sitting in a meditation posture under a tree. Fascinated by the Buddha’s magnificent appearance, Dona began to wonder whether the Buddha was actually a human being or a deity. As he continued watching the Buddha, all the different kinds of higher beings that he had read about in his holy texts came to Dona’s mind.

After a short while, Dona walked towards the Buddha, intending to talk to him. Dona had heard about three kinds of deities, and he wanted to know if the person sitting just in front him were one of them.

“Are you a Deva?” Dona asked the Buddha respectfully, referring to one of the deities he had heard about, and the Buddha replied, “No, I am not a Deva.” Then, Dona asked whether the Buddha was any of the other two kinds of deities, but again the Buddha said, “No.”

Finally, Dona asked, “Then, are you a human being?” and, to his utter surprise, the Buddha replied, “No, Brahmin, I am not a human being, either.”
Surprised, as well as confused, Dona said, “You are saying that you are neither a deity nor a human being. Then, who are you?”

The Buddha gave the following answer:

“Brahmin, A lotus flower or a lily flower is born in [muddy] water and grows in water, but it soon rises above water and lives untouched by water. In the same way, I was born in the human world and grew in the human world, but I have arisen above the human world [of greed, ill-will, and illusion], and I live untouched by the human world.”

Anguttara Nikaya 11: 4.1.4.6

Online stream of events – YouTube and Zoom

New Year Blessing Service Monday (04/13/2020) at 9:00 am

The live-stream New Year blessing service will be held at the Vihara tomorrow (April 13th at 9: 30 am).  According to Sri Lankan time, the New Year dawns Monday 13th of April at 08.23 pm, which means that it is 9:53 AM Monday in Houston. The Maha Sangha will be chanting when the New Year dawns.

You can participate in the blessing service through YouTube or Zoom live-streaming. On YouTube, please open the link and click on live-steaming event.

HB Vihara YouTube link:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLYkdpllIW2xEyis2G1ULUw
Live streaming event direct link: https://youtu.be/9HfZngdf8sQ
Zoom Link:
https://us04web.zoom.us/j/5374337077?pwd=MG5sWmJzRjVQY1llRVlZeFpaMnJJQT09

Live-Stream Dhamma Programs from the Vihara

Beginning from April 12th, the Vihara will begin live streaming of the daily chanting that the Maha Sanga continued ever since the corona-viral infections escalated. Chanting will begin at 7:00 pm every day. Please open the following zoom link Sunday and send a request to join so that we can add you to the live chanting. If any technical problems arise, we will fix them Sunday morning.

you can also attend daily chanting today at 7:00 pm through either YouTube or Zoom live steaming. Today’s chanting direct link on YouTube:  https://hbvihara.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=0f1e55dfde3129b61119dd3be&id=233c75ecd9&e=b5cce0e53f 

Besides, Sunday’s morning service on children’s Dhamma class days will also be live streamed at 8:30 through Zoom or YouTube. We will confirm later this week. The next Dhamma class day is April 26.

We are also considering  having children’s classes, monthly Dhamma talks, and the Sri Lankan New Year blessing service through live stream. Dr. Kumari Weeratunge taught her Dhamma class through Zoom last Sunday, and it was a great success.

Stay well and healthy during these difficult days.
May you be blessed and Protected by the Triple Gem!

New Preventive Measures at the Vihara for April

New Preventive Measures at the Vihara for April

In an effort to safeguard the well-being of the resident monks and the community, the Vihara is extending the preventive measures taken previously.

Accordingly,

1. No classes or services will be held at the Vihara during April

2. Sri Lankan New Year festival and the food fair planned for April 19th has been cancelled.

3. Other than for exceptional reasons, visiting the Vihara will not be encouraged. If any of you expect to visit, please call 713 944 1334.

4. Dayaka families of the monthly Dana list are requested not to bring cooked or raw food until April 15th. Depending on the situation in mid-April, we will either continue with this decision or change it. The monks will prepare the Dana, and they have enough stocks of all raw food.

5. Daily chanting to bless the community will continue without participants from outside. Resident monks will chant everyday from 6:30 to 7:30 pm.

Please note that these measures are for the month of April only. We do not know what the trend of the country will be. Depending on how things turn out to be, we will inform you later.
May you stay well and healthy! 

Corona Endemic: Current Situation and Our Preparations towards Near Future

Corona Endemic: Current Situation and Our Preparations towards Near Future
Corona virus is raging in the USA, and the death rate is skyrocketing. At the moment of writing this message (on April 4th at 4:30 pm), total infections in the USA have passed 300,000 and the deaths 8,000. Each of the last two days, daily deaths exceeded 1000, and today by this time it is already 946, which means that today seems to be worse than yesterday.Comparatively, infections in Houston area are less, and thankfully, no known infections are there in our community so far, but we all have to be extremely cautious. I do believe and insist and implore that you take the situation seriously and follow the guidelines strictly. I am glad that our community has already taken the situation very seriously.

Extreme Fragility of the Human Being

Nothing has exposed the fragility, stupidity, and meaningless of arrogance of the human being more than what the present infections have done. We adamantly believe that we are the best and the most privileged living being on earth. Based on that belief, we manipulate everything–nature and all other forms of life–at will, just for our own comfort, easiness, and indulgence. Global devastation caused by coronaviral infections has humiliated us and brought us to the enormously embarrassing realization that our attitudes and actions are profoundly erroneous. We have to eat a humble fie.

When we blatantly abuse other living beings and nature, we believe that to do so is our right, and that they can do nothing against us. However, we have now been disillusioned. We have been mercilessly counterattacked, and when it rains, it pours.

Of course, an angry herd of lions, tigers, or elephants does not have the ability to take revenge against us—simply because we have destructive weapons, but the enemy is more innovative and tactful. It is an invisible living being that has launched this enormously effective counterattack. We are pathetically helpless.

Preparation towards Near Future: One Specific Practice

This endemic has opened our eyes and drawn us towards two practices that Americans have long forgotten: home cooking and home gardening. For most of them, eating means going to restaurants so that home cooking and home gardening are not a part of their life. Most of you, of course, do home cooking and home gardening, and this is the time to take both of the practices more seriously than ever before.

Spending time on gardening during these at-home days will not only help you beguile the tedium of your daily existence but also save your hard-earned money throughout summer and fall. Early this week, when I visited an Indian grocery store—with all precautions, of course—to buy groceries for the Vihara, I was surprised by the enormously inflated prices of vegetables. One pound of Karavila was $3:99, Vatakolu $3:99, and all vegetable prices were up by over 50%.

There is no sign that this trend will come back to normal. If farmers cannot grow now, you will experience a scarcity of your popular vegetables. Nobody can predict what will happen next, and you can grow now to face that uncertainty.

We have many gardening specialists in our community, and you may communicate with them to learn and share the most effective methods of gardening. In fact, we can grow most of our vegetables, including kale, collard green, varieties of eggplants, many kinds of peppers, tomatoes, okra, spinach,  leeks, cucumber, Karawila, Pathola, vatakolu, beans, long beans, gotukola, pumpkins, and many others. We can grow even potatoes, onion, ginger, garlic, and many spices. Self-sufficiency in vegetables not only saves your money but also make you feel proud about yourself and give you clean vegetable without harsh chemicals.

Separately, here are some interesting links that will be helpful to you:

Stay well and healthy.

May you be blessed and Protected by the Triple Gem!

Newsletter – February 2020

Seven Noble Principles for a Nation to Prosper
The Sutta Pitaka shows that King Ajatasattu, the ruler of Magadha kingdom, never had a close relationship with the Buddha.  Ever since Ajatasattu became a patricide, the Buddha showed no interest in a close relationship with the king.  Ajatasattu, in the meantime, openly insulted the Buddha and attempted to destroy the Buddha’s reputation.  He would support various thinkers and religious leaders, but not the Buddha.However, over the time, the Buddha reached the pinnacle of his popularity as a great spiritual leader while the king had become a nuisance to the neighboring states as a war monger. Ajatasattu’s next preparation was to attack and destroy the Vajji Kingdom, a powerful state.

The king was not that much confident, anyway. He was well aware that Vajji was a powerful kingdom, and that an invasion of that state would not be that easy. However, his enormous power hunger ever increasing, Ajatasattu had no intention to give up the enticing attack.

Now, all of a sudden, Ajatasattu began to think about the Buddha—not as a source of moral support to subdue his uncontrollable hunger for power but as a possible prophet to predict about his war victory!  The king summoned Vassakara, his chief minister in the state of Magadha, and assigned him the following duty: “Visit the Buddha and show him my respect. Then, inform him my intended invasion of Vajji Kingdom.  Keep in your mind what the Buddha will say and report it to me immediately.”

This plan of king Ajatasattu is very shameful and unbecoming indeed if, at least, he remembered what the Buddha had told him during their only meeting many years ago. While explaining his and his disciples’ moral practices, the Buddha asserted on that occasion that he would never make predictions about victories and defeats of kings who would fight in wars. However, Ajatasattu, in his desperation, was now choosing the same Buddha to make a prediction about the war he intended to fight in.

When Ajatasattu’s chief minister visited the Buddha and conveyed to him the king’s message, Ven. Ananda was also there. After listening to the visitor, the Buddha turned to Ven. Ananda and addressed him. He reminded Ven. Ananda the seven noble principles of Vajjis, the principles that the Buddha himself had taught to them.

The following is the list of those seven principles:

  1. They hold regular and frequent meetings.
  2. They meet in harmony, leave in harmony, and carry on their work in harmony
  3. They refrain from imposing new rules and respect and follow the existent rules.
  4. They respect their elders and seek guidance from their elders.
  5. They refrain from abusing and ill-treating women.
  6. They show respect to and protect their religious places.
  7. They facilitate the leaders of other faiths to visit their kingdom and care about those who have already visited there.
After elaborating on these seven noble principles of Vajjis, the Buddha then turned to the minister of king Ajatasattu and said, “Because the Vajjis are placed on these seven great principles, one should expect only their progress, not their decline.” In other words, the Buddha implied that King Ajatasattu would never be able to defeat Vajjis.

Sri Lankan Food Fair – April 19th 2020

Unfortunately this event is cancelled!