Wednesday, February 23, 2011

They Just Keep On Coming

Two days ago I received a message from Ciprian Salagean, a Rumanian Buddhist, telling me that my book Good Question Good Answer is now available on line in Rumanian and will be published as a book in that language soon. And just today my friend and student Eric Gibert informs me that his French translation of the same book is now on line too. Efforts are underway to have it published in book form also. It seems without trying I managed to write a book that, well, answers peoples questions about the Dhamma.
The Rumanian version is at
and the French version is at

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Monks Making A Stand

This is a very interesting video about monks trying to protect Thailand’s rapidly diminishing forests, sometimes at considerable risk to their lives.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Oldest Printed Book

I spent the day in the British Library yesterday. At 11.15 I went out to have my lunch and stopped off on the way out to have a quick look at their bookshop. The very first book I saw was Frances Wood and Mark Barnard’s The Diamond Sutra; the Story of the World’s Oldest Dated Printed Book. A sticker on the front said ‘Four Pounds Off’ making it sixteen pounds. I quickly checked my bag. Seventeen pounds! It was going to be either the book or a burger – and of course in a competition like this the book will always win with me. The book is a fascinating account of the Vajracchedika Sutra found by Aurel Stein in the Dunhaung Caves at the beginning of the 20th century. Of course Stein’s a discoveries and adventures in Central Asia have been told quite a few times before and they are reiterated here in chapters 1, 2 and 5. But the book also explains the invention of paper and printing in ancient China, the trials of the famous sutra subsequent to its discovery, its significance and the recent conservation efforts it has undergone.
For those of you who don’t already know this book is one of several thousand copies printed by a man named Wang Ji in 868, making it the oldest known printed book, 500 years older that Gutenberg’s Bible. The colophon reads ‘Devotedly made for wide and free distribution by Wang Ji on behalf of his two parents on the fifteenth day of the fourth month of the Xiantong reign’. Ware and tear on the book shows that it must have been read for a long time after it was printed, perhaps for several centuries, and then confined to its cave. I find it inspiring that the Buddhist custom of printing Dhamma books for free distribution has persisted right up till today. I hope that one of my books that someone printed for free distribution is still in circulation in 200 years later – although I doubt it. Wood and Barnard mention that amongst the other books discovered by Stein was another copy of the Vajracchedika printed for free distribution, although without a date. The colophon on this one says that it was printed by a man in memory of his old ox in the hope that it would be reborn in Amitaba’s Pure Land rather than on earth where it would have to endure so much hardship. So it seems it is not just out own generation that has developed a fond regard for its pets and or domestic animals.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Good Question Good Answer

I’m happy to announce that my book Good Question Good Answer has just been published in German. That makes 28 languages this small but perennially popular book has appeared in. If you would like a copy they are available from Deutche Buddhistiche Union E.V.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bad Question Good Answer

These are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now published by court reporters who had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges were actually taking place.
Q: Are you sexually active?
A: No, I just lie there.
Q: What is your date of birth?
A: July fifteenth.
Q: What year?
A: Every year.
Q: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
A: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.
Q: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
A: Yes.
Q: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
A: I forget.
Q: You forget. Can you give us an example of something that you’ve forgotten?
Q: What was the first thing your husband said to you when he woke up that morning?
A: He said, “Where am I, Cathy?”
Q: And why did that upset you?
A: My name is Susan.
Q: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo or the occult?
A: We both do.
Q: Voodoo?
A: We do.
Q: You do?
A: Yes, voodoo.
Q: Now doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?
Q: The youngest son, the twenty-year old, how old is he?
Q: Were you present when your picture was taken?
Q: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
A: Yes.
Q: And what were you doing at that time?
Q: She had three children, right?
A: Yes.
Q: How many were boys?
A: None.
Q: Were there any girls?
Q: How was your first marriage terminated?
A: By death.
Q: And by whose death was it terminated?
Q: Can you describe the individual?
A: He was about medium height and had a beard.
Q: Was this a male, or a female?
Q: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
A: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.
Q: Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
A: All my autopsies are performed on dead people.
Q: All your responses must be oral, OK? What school did you go to?
A: Oral.
Q: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
A: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
Q: And Mr.. Dennington was dead at the time?
A: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy.
Q: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
Q: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
A: No.
Q: Did you check for blood pressure?
A: No.
Q: Did you check for breathing?
A: No.
Q: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
A: No.
Q: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
A: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Q: But could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
A: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practising law somewhere.