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Buddhist Frontiers: At the Edges of the Buddhist World

Buddhistdoor Global | 2015-12-25 |
A Buddhist monk on the Kalmykia steppe. From rtd.rt.comA Buddhist monk on the Kalmykia steppe. From rtd.rt.com

The idea for this special issue originated a year or so ago in our editorial chief executive’s office on the ground floor of Wang Fat Ching She, the Buddhist temple in Hong Kong where Buddhistdoor Global is based. The temple is under the auspices of Tung Lin Kok Yuen, a Buddhist philanthropic organization founded in the 1930s by Lady Clara Lin-Kok, the second wife of the entrepreneur Sir Robert Ho Tung and a dedicated Buddhist practitioner. Although today Hong Kong could hardly be called a “Buddhist Frontier,” it was something of the kind when Lady Clara set up a diverse array of religious and charitable projects and invited a number of eminent monks from China to teach and lead retreats here, thereby playing “an important, pioneering role in supporting the resurgence and propagation of orthodox Buddhist teachings in early colonial Hong Kong society.”*

Somewhat in this spirit, for this special issue we consider some pioneering Buddhist projects and groups around the world in more recent times. We kick off, however, with an article on the progenitors of the tradition—the nucleus, so to speak. Buddhism in our era originated in the Magadha area of India some 2,500 years ago with the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, whose name means “Sage of the Shakyas.” Does the Shakya clan survive today, and are they practicing Buddhism? Jennifer Yo takes a look.

From Magadha, Buddhism has spread to many corners of the globe, some of them quite remote. We go first to the Finnish hinterland, where an experiment with pyramids led to the construction of a stupa—the northernmost in the world. Nova Scotia is next, with an insider’s perspective on the Shambhala community in Halifax. What was it like to grow up there? Hasta Colman shares her story. Buddhism is making inroads in Africa as well, and Venerable Ugandawe Buddharakkitha tells us about his center in his homeland, Uganda.

Various Buddhist schools have filtered into Brazil, but here we offer a glimpse of Humanistic Buddhism via Zu Lai Temple—a Buddhist temple in Cotia and the largest in South America. And have you heard of Celtic Buddhism? Find out more in our interview with its founder, the Venerable Seonaidh Perks.

There are many Buddhist centers in Australia, but an early one is a retreat center in the Burmese tradition in the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney. Have they adapted the teachings, or do they remain authentic? Finally, Raymond Lam explores the history of the Kalmyk people on the Eurasian steppe, whose faith in Buddhism has coexisted and clashed with the Russian state since imperial times.

We hope you enjoy the articles. Happy holidays from the Editorial Team!

*Tung Lin Kok Yuen

Explore our Special Issue:

The Shakya Clan in India: A Rediscovered Heritage

The Shakya clan, to which the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, belonged, has a long history. Both before and during the Buddha’s time, there were three main Shakya cities: Kapilavastu, near the Nepalese border, Devdah, in Nepal, and Sankisa in Uttar Pradesh, India. Today, the Shakya people live mainly in Nepal and around Sankisa.

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The Siikainen Stupa: The Northernmost Stupa in the World

The “Siikainen Stupa,” named after its location in the Siikainen Municipality, in the Satakunta region of western Finland, is the northernmost stupa in the world. This is the story of its construction.

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The Wisdom of No Escape: Growing up in the Remote Kingdom of Shambhala

I was just listening to a talk Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939–87) gave in the early 1970s. He was talking about how people feel towards their parents for having given birth to them. He said, “Whether you are trying to get away by being vengeful or by being smoothly thankful, you can’t get away . . .” 

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A New Wave: The Birth of Buddhism in Uganda

The growth of European Buddhism is well documented, yet the mention of African Buddhism still raises eyebrows. However, in countries such as Congo, Nigeria, and Uganda, monks in saffron robes now walk among the uncountable peoples that inhabit the most diverse of the world’s continents. 

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Zu Lai Temple: The Largest Buddhist Temple in South America

Zu Lai Temple is the first branch of Fo Guang Shan Monastery (Buddha’s Light Mountain Monastery) in South America, and is acknowledged as the largest Buddhist temple on the continent. Situated in Cotia, a rural area of São Paulo in Brazil, the temple belongs to the Humanistic Buddhism movement founded in 1967 by the Chinese master Hsing Yun (b. 1927).

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Celtic Buddhism: A Confluence of Two Ancient Traditions

Celtic Buddhism, a little-known and somewhat eccentric permutation of the Buddhist tradition, was founded in Vermont in the United States in the late 1980s. We talk to the founder of Celtic Buddhism, Venerable Seonaidh Perks, to find out more about this unique Buddhist lineage.

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The Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre: Forging an “Australian Buddhism” near Sydney

The Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre (BMIMC) is a Theravada Buddhist retreat center in the small village of Medlow Bath in the upper Blue Mountains, a two-hour drive from Sydney, Australia. 

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Kalmykia: Lore and Memory at the Far Side of the Buddhist World

One could be forgiven for imagining the Buddhist republic of Kalmykia to be an uneventful and empty place. A Russian federal subject of less than 300,000 people, the distances between its sparsely populated cities are long. Bumpy, uncomfortable roads stretch across spacious, windswept plains that appear the same wherever one looks. 

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