Pali for Peace

OhMyNews, Feb 25, 2007

Back to old-school Buddhism at international chanting ceremony

Bodh Gaya, India -- The Second Tipitika Chanting Prayer Ceremony opened in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India on Feb. 12. Over 500 monks and nuns, representing the six nations home to Theravada Buddhism (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand), are participating in 10 days of dawn-to-dusk chanting of the Tipitika, the collected teachings of the Buddha, in the sacred Pali language.

<< Theravada monks chant beneath the Bodhi Tree.

Sponsored by the Venerable Tarthang Tulku's California-based Light of Buddhadharma Foundation International (LBDFI), and co-organized by the Mahabodhi Society, this is the second in a series of annual events. Last year's ceremony, inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, marked the first time in 700 years that monks have gathered here to recite the Pali canon in the place of Buddhism's origin.

Ancient sounds of "Namo tasso bhagavato arahato sammasambuddhasa" ("I bow to the blessed, perfect, enlightened one") ring as they did in centuries past from beneath the sacred Bodhi Tree, where the Buddha sat and achieved enlightenment some 2,550 years ago.

Under One Tree

The chanting ceremony grew out of the Tibetan Rinpoche Tarthang Tulku's desire to revitalize Buddhism within the Indian sangha, the "Aryadesha" (Noble Land) of its origin.

"It is my father's wish to bring back the original teachings of the Buddha to their original place, and join the sangha under a single umbrella, chanting together in an Indian language," said the Tulku's daughter, Wangmo Dixey, who is chairman of the LBDFI.

Tarthang Tulku also founded the Nyingma Monlam Chenmo Prayer Ceremony, which also started rather small in 1989 with 500 participants. It is now attended annually by some 7,000 monks and nuns.

As Tarthang Tulku is a teacher of the Vajrayana School, the event represents a non-sectarian bridge between the sometimes-disparate Buddhist denominations of Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. "We are here as supporters and donors for the Theravadin chanters. It is a great blessing for us to support the chanting of the early dharma texts," says Dixey from her seat beneath the Bodhi Tree's leafy branches. "To have six nations under the one sacred tree maximizes the impact of chanting these first three volumes of the Tipitika."

Diasporic Differences

<< Cambodian monks at Mahabodhi Temple.

Monks from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are seated together, while the Thais, Myanmar and Cambodians all chant in separate pavilions. This arrangement accommodates the differences in pronunciation, script and chanting style that have occurred over the past two eons of the Buddhist diaspora. The near future may find all the monks chanting in unison. "It is our great hope," says Dixey, "to eventually have a unified chanting style for such occasions." Last year, the Pali Tipitika International Council was formed; among its efforts will be the standardization of a uniform Pali chanting style.

Behind the tents, volunteers boil water and bring cups seasoned with lemon and honey to soothe the monks' tired vocal cords. The LBDFI provides housing and food for all 500 monastic participants.

All ceremony participants receive high-quality bound copies of the scripture, reprinted on durable ink with acid-free paper, designed to last 300 years. Amazingly, many monks had been persevering with dog-eared, photocopied texts, some of which were barely legible and not durable.

Copies of the Pali text in Romanized (English) script are also available to facilitate learning for Western students. And every evening under the Bodhi Tree are lectures in English, by senior Theravada scholars from Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Australia, where an international crowd of clergy and laypersons brave the mosquitoes to gain greater understanding of the Buddha's words.

Like Buddhism itself, the Pali language, a relative of Sanskrit, originated on the Indian subcontinent. As Buddhism migrated from its Indian origins, the Theravada countries of southeast Asia and Sri Lanka became strongholds of Pali preservation.

Events such as this chanting ceremony, and the recent revival of Bihar's Nalanda University (a center for Pali study), indicate an Indian homecoming for the sacred language. Under the mighty Bodhi Tree's branches, it seems the Buddha's words have returned to their literal roots.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: