Sri Sri Ravi Shankar calls for stress free South Asia (Times of India)

An Indian scholar who teaches people how to overcome stress by using the "art of breathing" called for making South Asia a violence-free society during a trip to Pakistan Tuesday. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who uses the double honorific of "Sri Sri" so as not to be confused with the Indian sitar maestro, is respected among a number of his students for guiding them to overcome stress through meditation and new techniques of breathing.

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India ‘to build biggest Buddha’ (BBC)

The authorities in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have confirmed plans to build the world’s biggest statue of the Buddha. The site will be the town of Kushinagar where Buddha died 25 centuries ago. The bronze statue is planned to be more than 150m tall, double the height of the 8th Century Tang dynasty Buddha in south-west China.

The Kushinagar statue will be co-funded by the Uttar Pradesh government and a Japanese religious trust.

‘World’s biggest statue’

The statue will depict a future incarnation, the Maitreya Buddha, in a seated position.

It will be three times higher than the 46.5m (151-foot) Statue of Liberty.

Local officials say it will be the world’s biggest statue and that a 17-storey temple building with huge prayer halls will be housed inside it.

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Starting all over again (CricInfoIndia)

Rahul Bhatia, Interview with Indian cricket star, Ajay Ratra, CricInfoIndia: When Ajay Ratra first burst on the scene in 2001-02, he was thought to be the solution to India’s hunt for a long-term wicketkeeper, but since then he has been upstaged by Parthiv Patel. In an exclusive chat interview with Wisden Cricinfo before the Duleep Trophy this season, Ratra talks about the work he has put into his game since being out of the national team.

o you think you have improved as a wicketkeeper over the last two years?
Not dramatically, but yes, there has been an improvement. I’ve been working on tips from Kiran More. He’s been teaching me a few things that have been useful. He advised me to meditate and concentrate while keeping, because if you lose it for a moment, you’re guaranteed to put the ball down.

How have you been practising?
I keep with one stump, and collect deliveries going down leg. Then I put a batsman between the bowler and me, so I’m blinded by him, which is a bit like match practice. I also practice diving and rolling. And since we don’t have fast bowlers in Faridabad, I decrease the distance between the bowler and the wicket, which helps me cope with the bounce. For swinging deliveries, I ask bowlers to use plastic or tennis balls on cement wickets.

Moving on to your batting, in England and the West Indies, you were LBW and caught behind quite often. Have you done something about that?
I spoke to John [Wright] about that. He explained that my head was falling over, which is why I was playing across the line of the ball. So I concentrated on keeping my head still, and it has worked out for me. I usually speak with my seniors, and the ones who’ve watched me play. Ajay Jadeja advises me, and Syed Kirmani tells me how to build an innings at No. 7, when we don’t have too many overs left to play.

What did you do when you were told that you weren’t in the national team after the England tour?
Actually, no one tells you that you’ve been dropped. It’s only when the team list is made that you realise you’re not included. Obviously, it’s disappointing, but it’s part and parcel of the game. If I keep agonising about why I was dropped even after I had scored a century, I won’t be able to concentrate during practice. I’m 22, and I’m starting all over again. People die at 25. So I’m not putting undue pressure on myself. I’m just working hard, and try my best in the matches that come my way. Otherwise, I prefer not to think about things I cannot control.

What parts of your game did you focus on after being left out?
Well, I spoke to the team about my batting, and I practiced a lot more. I practised tackling the bouncer by facing a synthetic ball and playing on concrete wickets. And during the last camp, Sourav and Sachin [Tendulkar] remarked in the nets that my batting had improved, and even John remarked that I’d done a lot of work. And I’ve had a good season, batting at number seven in the Deodhar Trophy, when you get 10-15 overs to play.

What do you do to stay fit when you aren’t playing for the national team?
Each player is given a fitness plan by the physical trainers, which advises us what to work on. On non-match days the weight training is more intensive, but it’s up to us to decide how fit we want to be. And whenever a camp is organised, there are a few tests we undergo, and the results are fed into a computer. If a weakness is noticed, we’re told about it.

And the mental aspect of your game?
Meditation is essential for keepers. I joined an institution for meditation which I visit whenever I’m in Faridabad. It has helped me deal with and control my thoughts in adverse conditions. I did it by myself earlier, but the institute has taught me the nuances of meditation. It emphasised the importance of not letting my thoughts waver. Whether you’re batting, or keeping to just one delivery, you can’t let your mind waver.

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Student finds transformation in monastery stay (Buddhist News Network)

Knoe College News: Knox College student Sean Dowdy (photo) credits “feeling more focused” this term to the way he spent the last term: meditating with monks in a Buddhist monastery.

Dowdy, a junior from Morrisonville, Ill., recently returned from Bodh Gaya, India, where he spent three months in the Buddhist Studies program.

“I feel more focused since I’ve returned,” he said. “I think this experience has helped me overcome bad mental and emotional habits. It was an intense education.”

For the first three weeks of the program, Dowdy and a group of other American college students lived in a Buddhist monastery.

“We lived our days as if we were monks,” he said. “We got up at 4:30 a.m. and meditated for one hour, and then we’d have a silent breakfast.”

For Dowdy, this was a stark contrast from his life at Knox.

“The earliest I get up is six a.m., and that’s only when I have homework to do,” he said. “Otherwise I sleep in until right before class. And I never take time to eat breakfast.”

Students were expected to follow the monastery’s social and moral laws, which included “preserving all life, being celibate, avoiding intoxicants, and refraining from stealing,” he said.

“Vowing to preserve all life meant more than just being vegetarian,” Dowdy said. “It even included not swatting the mosquitoes that were bothering you constantly.”

A junior Anthropology-Sociology major, Dowdy enrolled in the program to study the cultural and historical aspects of Buddhism, which he first became interested in as a high school student.

“It’s one of the most peacefully-spread religions in the world,” he said. “I come from a background of staunch Irish Catholics, and my mother is a lay nun. But she encouraged me because she is interested in world religion. This program was a great way for me to study in another culture, but it was also a personal pilgrimage to see what I believed in.”

In India, Dowdy learned different types of meditation from a Japanese monk, as well as Nepalese and Burmese masters.

“In meditation, you’re striving toward mental and spiritual development,” he said. “Buddhism teaches you to seek true, unselfish compassion for others through meditation.”

Dowdy also took classes focusing on philosophical concepts related to meditation, as well as language instruction in Tibetan and Hindi. He also studied Buddhist philosophy and the history of Indian Buddhism.

“There are multiple variations of Buddhisms, like Zen Buddhism in Japan or Theravada Buddhism in Thailand, and each one is interpreted differently by different cultures,” he said. “It’s a very diverse and international religion. But there are basic similarities, such as a focus on compassion, and belief that all life is suffering.”

Nancy Eberhardt, Professor of Anthropology/Sociology at Knox, said Dowdy benefited from learning about Buddhism outside a classroom setting.

“Sean is an exceptional student, and already knew a great deal about Buddhism before he went,” she said. “But I know this experience has broadened his knowledge and deepened his commitment to studying the role of Buddhism in people’s every day lives. It introduced Sean to Buddhism as it is actually lived, with many opportunities to talk with practicing Buddhists from all walks of life. That’s an indispensable part of learning about any religion.”

Dowdy also traveled extensively while in India, visiting Dehli and Calcutta, among other places. In Darjeeling, in West Bengal, he saw the Dalai Lama—the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism—giving a religious talk to a large crowd.

“We received a blessing from him,” Dowdy said. “We shook his hand and he presented us with a white scarf.”

After leaving the monastery, Dowdy conducted anthropological and sociological field research in Lachung, a northern village near the Tibetan border.

“It’s small and isolated, and there are no phones there,” Dowdy said. “It’s spread out in a valley in the heart of the Himalayas, and when you look up, you see these awesome snow-capped precipices. It’s beautiful.”

For his research project, Dowdy interviewed heads of the village and spent time with its residents in order to study its unique form of government. “It’s a communitarian Buddhist government, where all decisions have to be made by each household,” he said.

Dowdy lived with a Tibetan family and with a translator in the village.

“Everyone was wonderful to me there,” he said. “I’d love to go back.”

After graduating from Knox, Dowdy hopes to return to India and work for a non-governmental organization in humanitarian aid.

“I see myself as more of a ‘world citizen’ now,” he said. “It was the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “It was a widening of my lenses. And I feel like I know so much more about the Indian students at Knox and their culture now. It’s given me a much more open way of looking at the world.”

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A fancy for Falun Dafa meditation

Times of India: Falun Dafa, the practice of improving one’s mind and body through simple exercises and meditation, is gaining popularity in the twin cities.

Falun Dafa grabbed the headlines in 1999 when Chinese authorities banned its practice alleging that it was “advocating superstition and spreading fallacies”.

The system’s followers here believe that by regular practice, one could elevate one’s mind, body and spirit. The members often meet in parks to meditate and exercise under the guidance of experienced instructors.

Learning the system is easy and the main principles have been laid down in two books namely Zhuan Falun and Falun Gong. The requisites are five exercises, according to city-based follower G Pruthvi Raj. The system — also known as Falun Gong –was introduced based on three cardinal principles: Truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance, by Master Li Hongzhi in 1992 in China. The founder was a former state grain bureau clerk, who later emigrated to the United States in 1997…

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All the activities are conducted by trained volunteers and are offered free of cost as the founder propagated the principles for the welfare of the people, the practitioner said. The practice has been gaining acceptability as it is an advanced method of the Buddha school of meditation. The similarities with Yoga and the relative simplicity has also helped, said Rahul Kelkar, another practitioner.
Regular practice is bound to weed out negative thoughts from the minds of the practitioner. It will also reduce stress besides enhancing the spiritual growth among the followers, Kelkar added.
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Surat youth fancy meditation

Times of India: They belong to the ‘happening’ generation, craving for all that is ‘hep’ and the latest. And, they are finding a new way to face challenges of modern life — joining satsang.

Surti youth is showing a rare inclination for satsang, particularly those oriented towards personality development and enhancing skills in controlling emotions. Take Shilpi Singhal (23), commerce graduate, who had four years ago discarded her teacher’s suggestion to learn meditation to rid herself of erratic behaviour and build up self-confidence.

“Despite being a good student, I was insecure about career among other things. I lacked focus. Moreover, I was always confused about life itself,” she says. But, with exposure to satsang, she learnt techniques to remain focused even in a crisis….

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India’s meditative model jail

The massive Tihar jail complex just outside the Indian capital Delhi was until a few years ago a place to be feared.

Comprising six separate prisons sprawling over 400 acres, Tihar – the biggest prison in Asia – was notorious for drugs, corruption and violence.

Overcrowding is still a chronic problem, with 12,000 inmates filling the institution to almost three times its capacity.

But Tihar is now regarded as a model prison, welcoming delegations from far and wide who come to study how prison authorities turned the place around.

The key to their success, they say, is an holistic approach to reform and rehabilitation.

‘Golden cage’

Meditation and yoga are now widely practised by inmates, and more than 1,000 prisoners are enrolled in education programmes or degree courses….

BBC South Asia: Read more…

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