--------------------------- TÌM KIẾM TRÊN BLOG NÀY BẰNG GOOGLE SEARCH ----------------------------


Click phải, chọn open link in New tab, chọn ngôn ngữ trên giao diện mới, dán văn bản vào và Click SAY – văn bản sẽ được đọc với các thứ tiếng theo hai giọng nam và nữ (chọn male/female)



Friday, June 15, 2012


BBC Documentary
BBC Documentary

Five hundred years before Christ a young prince set out on a journey. He would travel through pain and suffering to reach nirvana - the everlasting bliss we all dream of.
Symbol of peace
Symbol of compassion,
symbol of non-violence.

He was the Buddha.

He grew up in a palace surrounded by luxury. In his teens his privilege afforded him every indulgence.
But he gave all this up - to gain ultimate wisdom.

He would travel the darkest corridors of his mind to come face to face with the devil inside him. He founded the first world religion, followed today by over  million people - a religion where meditation is used to reach a state of complete peace and happiness.
Our own potential our own effort to know the ultimate reality.
And the events of his life make up one of the greatest stories ever told - and the Buddha the world's most enduring icon.
Two and a half thousand years after his death the Buddha's message lives on.

The Dalai Lama - the spiritual figurehead of Tibetan Buddhism - passes on the teachings of the Buddha - continuing a practice that began the day he died.

Buddhism has been adopted by many different cultures and has many interpretations.
The Buddha's teachings of a higher mental calm and clarity are seen by some as a religion, others a philosophy, even a psychotherapy. Some people describe Buddhism is not a religion but Buddhism is science of mind.
The Buddha's message is as relevant today as it was two and a half thousand years ago.
What has made Buddhism so popular is that it is insightful and largely true that the Buddha discovered
immensely important things.

Unlike other religions, Buddhism, which centers on the mind, has no supreme God.
Instead a great teacher - the Buddha or the Awakened One.
It seems very almost intuitive to an age in which psychology becomes for many people an alternative to religion it's the means it's a therapeutic means to dealing with the problems of life and so it seems very accessible to many people.

There are many representations of the Buddha - and Buddhists all have their own picture in their minds of what he was like.
Some kind of vibration of complete peace, non-violence I think that must be there. Until little more than
one hundred years ago the life of the Buddha remained unknown to the West.

By the time the British colonized India - the country of the Buddha's birth - Buddhism had all but died out, destroyed by Hindu kings and Muslim invaders.

The origins and the sites of the Buddha's life became lost to everyone.
It wasn't until British colonial archaeologists began to explore Northern India that their discoveries began to root the Buddha's life in historical fact. In the xxx 's, a series of archaeologists began to try and identify the sites associated with the life of the Buddha.

By the xxx 's many of these sites had been successfully identified within the Ganges area, but that time two of the great sites connected with Buddhism were still missing, the site of Lumbini, where the Buddha had actually been born, and the site of Kapilavastu which was the childhood home of the Buddha.

The area to the north of the Ganges was less well known, partly because of the very thick jungle there, tigers as well as malaria.

It took a breakthrough discovery to unlock the story of the Buddha's origins. In a remote village across the border in Nepal a pillar was discovered. A British expedition was sent out to decipher its inscription. The script is the early Brami script and the language is a local vernacular language of Northern India and indeed the inscription itself depicts that this is where the Buddha, the enlightened one was born.

This was the first piece of evidence to suggest that the Buddha was not just a legendary figure - he actually existed.
Ancient Buddhist texts had named the Buddha's birthplace as Lumbini and now the archaeologists had it located on the map.
Now they tried to find the Buddha's childhood home - an ancient city named in the texts as - Kapilavastu.
It was apparent that it was located to the west perhaps  or  kilometers to the west of Lumbini and that is where the search began to intensify.

Expeditions uncovered two possible sites for Kapilavastu - one in India the other in Nepal. For a hundred years archaeologists have argued over them.

New research by Dr Coningham and his team suggests the ancient city lay at modern day Tilaurakot - in Nepal.
It's an extremely exciting site because it is so well preserved, we conducted that a series of geo physical surveys and we then identified a series of roads laid out and it became a clear that the entire city in its final phrase had been laid out on a girded pattern.

At its centre lay a palace. It is here that the Buddha's story begins. Two and a half thousand years ago
Northern India was divided up into Kingdoms and republics.

The Buddha's father – Sudhodana - was the elected chieftain of the Shakya tribe. He ruled his kingdom from his palace near the foothills of the Himalayas. His queen was called Maya. Legend tells that on the night of the full moon she had an extraordinary dream.
It told that a special Being known as the Buddha was about to be born again on earth. The legend goes on that Four Guardian deities of the world carried Queen Maya up to the Himalaya mountains in her bed. They anointed her with divine perfumes and decked her with heavenly flowers.

A white elephant with six tusks descended from heaven, carrying a lotus flower in its trunk, and entered her womb. The Buddha would be born of Maya. If one looks at this story of the Buddhist conception and compares it to say the conception story of Jesus, where you have angels appearing. I suppose a similar basic idea is there.
That the forces which are beyond are signaling that something great is happening. Its said that the Buddha chose the time and the place that he would be reborn.
The baby boy was named Siddhartha - meaning 'every wish fulfilled'. But his mother fell ill after giving birth and died a few days later. Siddharta was brought up by his aunt. The family summoned Brahmin priests and then a trusted palace soothsayer to predict the young prince's future

We're told that he noticed the auspicious signs of a great being upon Siddhartha's body, including the mark of a wheel upon his feet. It's said that the Buddha was born with certain marks on his body the so called  marks of a great person. They are seen as appearing on the body of two kinds of people. One who will become the Buddha and one who will become a world Emperor. His father was quite keen on the idea that his son would become a great political leader.

So this is why it is said that he cosseted his son, to prevent him seeing things which might send him in a religious direction.
Everyone knew the signs meant Siddharta was exceptional, especially the King. But as he watched his inquisitive young son growing up he worried about these predictions - that one day his son would abandon the palace and become the spiritual leader rather than stay to become chief of the Shakyas. As Siddhartha grew older his father was delighted to see the boy's exceptional ability at the princely sports of fencing, wrestling and archery. But he also noticed that Siddharta was a deeply thoughtful and curious child. He appeared to be more interested in trying to understand the nature of the world around him than in military pursuits.

For the King these were the most important skills young Siddharta should learn if he was to become a leader of men.
Siddhartha was expected to become the future King and defender of Kapilavasthu - one of the very first cities in Northern India.

The Palace where Siddhartha grew up has long since crumbled away. Its mud and wood construction have left nothing for archaeologists to examine. But more durable materials have recently been discovered at Tilaurakot. We cut a trench  meters by  meters and eventually We had a very clear sequence at the site and then we began to be somewhat surprised by identifying a material known as painted greyware which is basically a flat bowl with black paint.
This tiny fragment has huge significance. Dr Coningham believes it was made in the xxx th Century BC - at the time Siddhartha was growing up in the palace. What we have is a centre of small industry - We are probably dealing with a settlement that we would even hesitate to call a city today - centered around a large
courtyard belonging to the ruler.

And the majority of the population living in the agrarian hinterland. It was this hinterland, lying beyond the city walls that fascinated Siddhartha.
So when at the age of nine his father allowed him out to celebrate the annual ploughing festival he eagerly participated. His first glimpse of reality beyond the palace walls would open a door for Siddharta to a new vision of the world and would become the turning point of his life.
The story recalls that he watched a farmer ploughing. He saw the toil and effort, struggle and repetition of this back-breaking work, something he'd never seen in the palace. He managed to slip away from the festivities and be alone.
This first experience of real life had a profound effect upon him. To everyone else this was a celebration - but to Siddhartha it symbolized something quite different. He felt his mind leading him into a contemplative state. He watched the plough as it cut and parted the ground and noticed a bird eating a freshly unearthed worm. He asked himself why living beings have to suffer in this way.
If the farmer had not been ploughing the bird would not have eaten the worm. He realized that everything was connected and that all actions had consequences. This simple observation would become one of the corner stones of his teachings - known as karma.
As Siddharta's mind focused on these profound thoughts he slipped into a trance or jana - a mental state which would become his first step on the road to enlightenment. He was sat under a tree and he was just focusing on the plough going through the earth. And its said while doing that he fairly Naturally went into a meditative state called a first Jana. Which was very very joyful and happy. And which he later uses as part of his spiritual path.
The connection to Buddhist meditation is the focusing on something which has a calming centering effect. Possibly also the idea of compassion for the worms being killed as the plough went through the earth. So I suppose one would see this as just part of his rather special nature.

The young prince's behavior deeply unsettled the King. Brahmanism - the religious tradition of the time - insisted that sons should follow in the footsteps of their fathers. One of the things that I think makes this narrative so powerful is, again we can imagine this scene of his father trying to protect his son encountering any suffering.

Now the reason for doing this is that there has been a prophesy that he'll either become a universal monarch
or he'll become a renunciant who will gain enlightenment. His father of course wants him to become a king to follow in his footsteps.
As Siddhartha grew up his father did all he could to tempt him to stay inside the palace. He tried to create a perfect and seductive world for him to live in.
As was Customary for a prince, Siddhartha was offered beautiful maidens to entertain him with music and to pleasure him with their physical beauty.
When Siddhartha reached the age of sixteen the King even found him a beautiful bride - Princess Yasodhara. Siddharta had to compete for her hand and the King was delighted how skillfully his son fought off the competition.
The King began to convince himself that palace life was beginning to suit his son at last. But this was wishful thinking and Siddhartha pestered his father to allow him out of the palace. Unable to refuse his son's wishes any longer, the King desperately set about clearing every eyesore from the surrounds of the palace. Like a Hollywood film set, the sick, the poor and the old were all deleted from the fantasy presented to the young prince.

Despite his father's efforts, Siddhartha's first taste of the outside world would reveal stark realities. With the naivety of a child he set out with Chana, his charioteer, as his guide. The prince would make four journeys and see four signs - as predicted by the palace fortune teller. Early Buddhist texts place great importance on this point in the story as each journey would reveal to Siddhartha an aspect of life which had been deliberately hidden from him.

On his first trip Siddhartha went out into the country, away from his father's influence. He noticed an old man painfully making his way through a village. He asked Chana what was wrong with the man and Chana explained the process of ageing to him.

Siddhartha was alarmed when he learnt that ageing is inescapable and happens to us all. For Siddhartha, reality was beginning to unveil a cruel picture of the world. - Where misfortune and suffering appeared to dominate every aspect of life. The second sign was soon to follow when Siddhartha noticed a sick man, his features twisted with disease. He asked Chana if anyone could become sick and again he was shocked when he learnt the brutal truth that we all can.

The protective wall of fantasy around him was beginning to crumble. And the further the young Prince ventured the more of life's horrors confronted him. Now he saw a corpse, bound in linen, being carried to the funeral pyre - and the story records that Siddhartha is appalled to discover not only that all men are mortal, but also that it was a Brahmin belief that after death we are all reborn - to suffer and die time and time again.

There seemed no end and no solution to life's miserable and inevitable cycle. The Buddha's life is an allegory because the most important point in it is that here is a young man who is brought up with every luxury and he realizes that isn't enough because he has a shock.

He has a shock because for the first time he encounters old age, disease and death. It's not plausible to think that growing up as an intelligent youth he wouldn't have known anything about it. The point is rather to convey the tremendous impact that coming face to face with these fundamental facts of human existence, has and must have upon us, and that it's urgent that we do something about it.

But it was the fourth sign that would definitively point to Siddharta's future - a man wearing a simple robe with a begging bowl before him. Why should anyone want to give up the pleasures of the world to wander the countryside, begging?

Asked the prince.
Chana explained that the man had renounced such pleasures in order to confront reality and seek answers to this painful existence. The account of the four signs I see as quite an effective story way of putting certain existential realizations we all know we are going to get old we all know we are going to get sick we all know we are going to die in our heads but its very different to sit down on day and realize here no is not just other people who get old sick and die its I'm going to get old I'm going to get sick and I'm going to die and I think the story accounts are trying to portray that moment of existential realization where you see it for the first time you are going to die and you know it and you taste it.

When Siddartha returned to the palace after this fourth journey his mind was reeling with his new understanding of the world. The fruits and flowers around him would rot and wither away. Even the walls of the palace would one day crumble.

His wife had just given birth to a beautiful child. But they would both one day grow old, become ill and die. It was inevitable. He had learnt the meaning of impermanence and saw it in everything around him. Siddharta knew he had to leave his family to seek answers to the questions that tormented him, even though this meant abandoning his wife and son. Against the tradition of his family and the Brahmin religion, Siddhartha left home to find his own answers to life's suffering.

One story recalls how a hypnotic mist sent the guards to sleep allowing him to escape with Chana, through the Eastern Gate of the palace. It is said that beside the river Anoma, he removed his jewellery, exchanged his robes for rags and cut off his long hair. He asked Chana to carry them back to the palace. Siddhartha was alone for the first time. He had at last escaped the false world of palace life where suffering had been swept out of sight. Now he needed to come face to face with reality, if he was ever to find a solution to the pain of existence. Siddhartha was confronted by suffering on a scale he'd never seen before when he arrived in the cities.

And within those cities people were being thrown together, at times there was perhaps an increase in disease and suffering. Some people have seen this as a particular trigger for the Buddha's emphasis on suffering.
It accentuated a universal problems that any human being in any society faces. Siddhartha realized that if he was to find an answer to the suffering surrounding him, he would have to challenge the Brahmin religion under which everyone lived.

What the Brahmins had was sacred knowledge this sacred knowledge centered on knowing certain texts called the Vedas the word Veda itself simply means knowledge and the implication is that that was the only knowledge which was really worth having.

With their sacred knowledge, Brahmin priests oversaw every stage of life, from birth to death. Their blessing was essential but their knowledge could only be handed down to their sons. The position of Brahmin families remained assured - until a new wave of thinkers began to challenge this. It was a time when Brahamism, early form of Hinduism was being questioned, it was a little bit like the time of the ancient philosophers such as Plato and Socrates in Ancient Greece.

People debating arguing with people and the Buddha tried to cut a way through that. He described the context as a welter of views a jungle of views. As Siddhartha explored this jungle he realized that the solution to life's suffering needed to be available to everyone, rather than an exclusive few - like the Brahmin tradition.

The Buddha disagreed with the Brahmins and he said one does not become a Brahmin by birth one becomes a Brahmin by living well one does not become an outcast by birth one becomes an outcast by living badly.

Now that's a wonderful and important thought its like saying in our society a true gentleman is not one who is born into a particular family but one who behaves properly. Siddhartha traveled further on his search into Northern India. He was looking for an alternative way of life that attempted to overcome the suffering he'd seen around him.

He was interested in all the new philosophies but he wanted to go further - to reach deeper into his mind. He now decided to focus on the technique of meditation and sought out the leading gurus of the day. There been broadly speaking two kinds of meditation in ancient India. Which consisted in putting yourself under various kinds of pressure by controlling your breathing or sometimes fasting or undergoing other forms of discomfort and the aim is really to obtain what we call altered states of consciousness. So they would think that they had climbed to very high plains in the universe.

They're not taking this literally, its not that they think that they go five thousand feet up in the air, so to speak but they think that there are certain planes which become more and more abstract such things as the plane of infinity of space and that's followed by the plane of infinite consciousness as you got and then the plane of infinite nothingness, these were the sorts of things the Buddha definitely must have learnt from his teachers.

It is said that Siddhartha, so excelled at mediating that he attracted a group of five followers and his teachers asked him to stay on and take over their schools. But Siddhartha decided that this practice alone was not the answer to the problem of suffering and rebirth or reincarnation.

He set out to explore other techniques - this time focusing on his body. So he then goes to try another method which is harsh asceticism. This involved things like fasting, not washing, meditations where you hold your breath for a very long time and its very forceful willful way. Ascetics may starve and even mutilate themselves. For them the physical body is a barrier to spiritual liberation. By shedding their attachment to the body they will cleanse the mind and liberate the soul.

Siddhartha tried to achieve this state of liberation. He fasted for so long his life hung by a thread. 'All my limbs became like the knotted joints of withered creepers, my buttocks like a bullocks hoof, my protruding backbone like a string of balls, my gaunt ribs like the crazy rafters of a tumbledown shed.

My eyes lay deep in their sockets, their pupils sparkling like water in a deep well. As an unripe gourd shrivels
and shrinks in the hot wind, so became my scalp. Just as Siddhartha was about to die of starvation a young girl saved his life by giving him a bowl of rice and milk. He now realized that if he starved himself again he would simply die having achieved nothing.

And the story says that he is living on one grain of rice a day. He's practically starved himself to death and realizes that disciplining the body through extreme self renunciation, aestheticism inflicting pain upon the body that doesn't solve the problem.

When his five followers saw Siddhartha had given up his fast they lost faith in him. They no longer believed he had the strength to live up to his spiritual convictions and abandoned him. He feels he tried what's on offer, they haven't worked, and its at this stage that he remembers meditation that he went into spontaneously in his teens/ and he thinks, maybe that is a way through to awakening because its not taken up the desires of the body but it is very joyful and happy.

By chance Siddharta came across a musician tuning his sitar. When the string was too slack it would not play. When it was too tight it snapped. Somewhere in the middle lay tuneful harmony. Siddhartha realized that this simple observation signified something of great importance. It was the middle way that would lead him to the state of mind he was looking for - to a state of tuneful harmony - enlightenment.

But how could he achieve it?
And the way that Buddha eventually uses is what one could call mindfulness or awareness of the body, which neither ignores it nor tries to forcefully master it, but it's a kind of middle way. The middle way led Siddhartha through the countryside. He had been traveling for six years, He had experienced pain and suffering and had stretched the boundaries of his mind.

But he'd still not found the inner peace and harmony he was searching for. The state of absolute wisdom and
everlasting bliss known as Enlightenment. Siddhartha arrived at Bodh Gaya. Here his torment would end. He sat down beneath a tree and vowed not to leave until he had reached ENLIGHTENMENT.

'Flesh may decay, bones may fall apart, but I will never leave this place until I find the way to enlightenment.' He's no longer giving himself a hard time, he's not stressing himself unbearably, he's not undergoing anything painful, he thinks, well life is painful without taking the trouble to make it more painful, but let me just calmly think things out, think of how life works.

He starts to focus the mind by attention to the slow movement of the breath coming and going out a refined sensation which exists in the body just around the nose in a way which starts to lead to the mind quietening, stilling, settling, gathering, purifying.

Siddhartha's mind was now so focused that he could successfully enter the darkest reaches of his unconscious. It was now that he would face his final and greatest torment. The demon Mara - the Lord of Ego and illusion appeared before him. He could make any horror real in Siddhartha's mind. It's very important to remember that Mara this demon king is not like the Christian Satan because he isn't a tempter and he isn't any kind of counterpart to God, he is purely psychological forces which we have within us, Mara unleashed an army of demons to attack Siddhartha.

They fired flaming arrows at him. But mid flight Siddhartha turned them into lotus blossoms and they fell harmlessly around him. Having failed Mara then tried to seduce Siddhartha with his tempting daughters. He's assailed by the demon king who is the same time death and desire very Freudian that in a way desire is death, death is desire and in fact the Demon king offers him his three daughters who are both passion or lust and aversion where it is equally bad if you shy away from this and say it is disgusting you are also a slave to passion - and he can be completely calm and indifferent and just gaze at them without any feelings of attraction or repulsion.

The faces of Mara's daughters began to rot before Siddharta's eyes. The evil daughters then disappeared into the earth. It is in fact you could say the Buddha's very recognition that Mara is an aspect of himself the total recognition of that is his enlightenment. The earth is said to have trembled as he dispelled the devil. Siddhartha, now aged, passed through four Janas to reach enlightenment and become the Buddha - or Awakened One.
He then spent  days beneath the tree in a meditative state of absolute bliss. This is seen as a state where the mind is incredibly refined and sensitive, and an image might be of a lake, which is totally still, which would register even an insect on the surface.

So this is seen as a state where the mind is very, very powerful as an instrument of knowledge, very sensitive. In this highly attuned state, the Buddha saw way to escape the inevitable cycle of old age sickness
and death. He realized that if we remove desire we can remove dissatisfaction and suffering from our lives. A key cause of the painfulness and frustration of life is craving kind of demanding desires.

So There's a general mismatch between how you want things to be and how they actually are. The insight the Buddha attained beneath the tree was the birth of Buddhism - a religion followed today by million people. The Buddha summed up his wisdom in four noble truths which are the foundation of all Buddhist beliefs.

The first noble truth recognized that there is suffering in life. The second diagnosed the cause of that suffering - desire. In the third truth, like a doctor, the Buddha revealed that there was a cure for desire. And in the fourth noble truth he gave the prescription - how to cure the illness and achieve Enlightenment or Nirvana.

The ultimate aim was to reach a state of mind completely free of craving, ignorance, greed, hatred and delusion, thereby free of all the causes of future rebirth when an enlightened person dies they're seen as going beyond rebirth to a state beyond if you like space and time and not coming back so that is seen as a state of liberation.

The Buddha would further teach that morality, meditation and wisdom were the stepping stones to enlightenment. He would dedicate the rest of his life helping others to follow this path - towards freedom from suffering.

As his followers grew in number he went on to set up a school or Sangha Today a temple stands beside a descendant of the very tree under which the Buddha became enlightened. The monks here have become a living library of the Buddha's teachings. Chanting his sacred words beneath the Bodhi tree of Enlightenment is seen by Buddhists to give special power to their practice.

The chief monk is responsible for preserving this tradition at the temple. The most important thing is the practice of his teachings. Practice diligently, be ever mindful. So now I say I explain Buddhism in two words, practice mindfulness. The path to enlightenment begins with the focusing of the mind and following a number of commandments. Morality, meditation and wisdom. So not to kill, not to steal, not to have any sexual misconduct, not to tell a lie and not to have indulge in intoxicating drinks or intoxicants. This was the way of life established by the Buddha in the very first sangha.

After eight years he went back to the palace and the family he'd abandoned. We're told his father now forgave the Buddha for the deep hurt he had caused. King Sudhodhana now realized the importance of his son's quest. His stepmother even begged to join his sangha and she went on to become history's first nun. The Buddha is justified in the eyes of all Buddhists of even leaving his wife and child to go on his solitary journey to try and find what the solution to life's problems is and how life should be lived and for him how life should be lived is the question infinitely more important than having any possessions or even the company of loved ones.

The Buddha was to abandon his family again. He set out to teach, for forty years - passing on to his followers the wisdom he had attained beneath the bodi tree. But before he left he ordained his son as a monk. The Buddha encouraged his followers to live together in a monastery or Sangha - to help them focus on the path to enlightenment. Some people become a monk purely to meditate, purely to practice meditation, purely to practice the life of a recluse. Some become a monk to work for the propagation of the religion.

Monks from all over the world come to live in monasteries established around the temple of the Bodi Tree. Non-Monks or lay Buddhists, come here too, to learn from them. Monks must be celibate and give up every selfish desire. And that is the one part of the training to get rid of self tendencies, tendencies to always think about yourself and put yourself fully in the context of the community of the sanga Then when all the sacrifices have been made the hard work begins - committing long chants or mantras to memory.

Mantras such as this have a purpose - they are designed to test the monk's memory, concentration and commitment to the Buddha's teachings. Over the centuries his message has evolved into a number of different traditions, with their own interpretations and monastic practices. But the Buddha taught that lay people can also follow the path to eternal bliss and ultimate wisdom.

Most westerners are not drawn to Buddhism as a way of leaving society behind they're drawn to the practical
of meditation as a way of being more effective within society and that's a way in which the message of Buddhism takes on a very different caste because it becomes a form of self improvement a way of dealing with the stresses of life a way of clarifying your goals and objectives.

Many westerners are especially attracted to Buddhist meditation. I think all of us sometimes glimpse that magic and mystery of the moment what meditation does is to help us touch that more often, it helps us to be more calm and controlled in our mind and we can create conditions that allow us to come into a state of awareness of interdependence, of impermanence, of nirvana.

Some schools of Buddhism believe the Buddha was superhuman a magical figure who consorted with gods and performed miracles. Others that he was no more than a human being and they believe it is this that adds power to his message.

There is no doubt that the Buddha wished to be remembered as a human being with human frailties not perhaps frailties of the intellect or moral frailties but certainly physical frailties and the Buddha suffers from back pain towards the end of his life he suffers from various physical complaints and weaknesses.

The Buddha would die at the age of eighty from a common illness - food poisoning. It is said that before passing away he fell into a deep trance on his journey from this world to Nirvana - a state of eternal bliss - free at last from rebirth, free at last from suffering and death.
A council was assembled to record for posterity the Buddha's teachings. These were learnt by heart and handed down the centuries by generations of monks. The Buddha's body was cremated. And his remains were preserved. They were enshrined two hundred years later by India's first Emperor King Ashoka who converted to Buddhism. He built vast monuments or stuppas and erected pillars to mark the key sites of the Buddha's life.
Asoka then becomes an absolutely key figure, both in terms of the actual spread of Buddhism but then as a model for future Buddhist leaders throughout Asia they look back to Ashoka as the kind of ideal king and supporter of Buddhism.

So far as we know the Emperor Asoka who ruled over two thirds of modern India in the middle of the 3rd century BC, helped monks to send out missions to countries bordering India, missionaries were sent up into Kashmir to Nepal and certainly Sri Lanka. They converted the king, the king give his patronize to Buddhism and Sri Lanka has therefore been a Buddhist country from that day to this.

And in country after country we know over many centuries that this is the way that Buddhism was successfully implanted. Ashoka's pillars outlived Buddhism in India - they withstood Muslim invasions and survived to catch the attention of the first colonial archaeologists.

This gave a very significant impetus to the revival of Buddhism - the desire to go back to the places associated with the Buddha. Imagining Buddhism for people in the West but these investigations also become the basest for a revival within Buddhism in Asia. Today the sites associated with the Budha's life attract tourists and pilgrims flock to Bodh Gaya to follow in the Buddha's footsteps, hoping to find, as he did, eternal peace and happiness and a cure for suffering and death. It's a great irony that after the Buddha's death the person who preached of the uselessness of ritual and also the uselessness of personality cult became the object of ritual worship and as big a personality cult as has ever existed in history.

Buddhist temples have been built in Bodh Gaya representing the different traditions from around the world. Buddhism, in all its forms, has come home, to the Bodi tree, to the place where once a prince reached enlightenment and became the Buddha. The Buddha attained enlightenment on that fleeting moment of a wink, this moment, fleeting moment is the time that takes to realize that moment cannot be explained. That special moment gave birth to the first world religion - A religion without a God where the path to Nirvana lies in the mind of each and every one of us.