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Buddhism: Beginning of New Religion in Estonia, a Country that was in the Sphere of Christianity for Centuries

Buddhism was brought to Estonia at the beginning of 20th century, by a man called Karl Tõnisson

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Statue of Buddha. Pixabay

November 12, 2016: The founder of Buddhism in this world is Buddha Shakyamuni. He was born as a royal prince in 624 BC in a place called Lumbini, which was originally in northern India but is now part of Nepal. ‘Shakya’ is the name of the royal family into which he was born and ‘Muni’ means ‘Able One’. His parents gave him the name Siddhartha. At the age of 29 years old he retired to the forest where he followed a spiritual life of meditation and attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India.

A brief overview of the history of Buddhism in Estonia-

Brother Vahindra

Buddhism was brought to Estonia at the beginning of 20th century, by a man called Karl Tõnisson (1882-1962), also known as “barefoot Tõnisson” or Brother Vahindra. He was one of the very first Westerners embarking on the Buddhist faith as a monk. Karl Tõnisson was a colorful and eccentric figure but he was not taken seriously at the time and often regarded as a fool.

Brother Vahindra left Estonia and shifted to Latvia and became a citizen over there, known as “Karlis Tennisons.” He was designated the first Buddhist Archbishop of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by the thirteenth Dalai Lama. He was the first Estonian to visit Lhasa, the capital of Tibet with his only devoted disciple, Friedrich Lustig (1912-1989).

Karl Tõnisson died in a temple in 1962 and declared as a ‘bodhisattva’ – in Buddhism; a ‘bodhisattva’ is similar being a saint in Christianity, a spiritually evolved person. He was the first Estonian declared a saint was a Buddhist.

Other Devotees

Uku Masing (1909-1985), an Estonian philosopher, picked up the torch and started his own exploration into Buddhism which resulted in series of lectures and a book – “Budismist” (“About Buddhism”). He was also a founding member of the Estonian Oriental Society in 1935. The society had to shut down after the Soviet Union invaded Estonia in 1940, but was re-established in 1988. Linnart Mäll, who started his studies there was Masing’s student and became a teacher for many future Estonian Buddhologists. Mäll translated many Buddhism’s basic texts into Estonian.

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Resistance to the regime

The Soviet era marked the end of most religious practices and education in the country. Christian denominations maintained their activity on a much smaller scale, membership of other religious communities dwindled remarkably.

On the one hand, this situation was a perfect for the emergence of religious intellectual luminaries to attract common people. However, Buddhist resistance to the Soviet occupation of Estonia was peaceful in accordance to their basic religious principles – Buddhist texts and contemplation instead of battle-axes and wrath.

Estonian Buddhist Brotherhood- Taola

There was also a group called the Estonian Buddhist Brotherhood – also known by its nickname, Taola – that was established under the guidance of Vello Väärtnõu in 1982 in Tallinn. It was a self-funding organization. Taola members were specialized in a different field of Buddhist studies and the idea was to spread the religion’s way of thinking among Estonians.

They also built the first stupa in Estonia – in artist Jüri Arrak’s summerhouse at Pangarehe. Three more stupas followed and were built from 1984-1985 in Tuuru village in western Estonia.

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At the present time

Buddhism is no easy way out for posers. It’s a religion. Despite, of its seemingly lax structure and lenient image there are a hierarchy, stipulations, and requirements to consider and follow. It’s about decision and devotion – make up your mind and then stay on the chosen path – above everything else.

According to 2011 census, 1,145 people in Estonia defined themselves as Buddhists. However, this indicates how many people consider themselves Buddhist and not the number of members in Buddhist communities.

– Prepared by Ruchika Kumari of NewsGram. Twitter: @RuchiUjjaini

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‘Religion’ in India- Types and its Connection to Country’s Civilization

The Ancient religions of India are Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

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Religion
Ancient Religions of India.

India’s economic and political strata in today’s world have reached a great level, but that is still not what the country is known for. The country is known for its diversity and religions because the term ‘religion’ in India is not just a system of belief and worship, but a way of life too. Since ancient times, it has been an integral part of its culture. For the citizens of this country, religion pervades through all the activities of life- from cooking chores to working and politics. The religion we follow plays an important role in our upbringing as well. Our conditioning is done based on the principles of our religion. India is a home to many religions- Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and others.

How old is the Indian civilization?

The Indian civilization is around 4000 years old, with the existing Indian religions growing in that period. The antiquity of the religions in India begins from the Harappan culture. It’s a secular country which respects all kinds of religion and culture, but during the ancient times, when the Human civilization was developing, there were three main religions native to India- Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The predominant religion during this period was Hinduism, which is said have originated in the Northern India.

Religion wise Indian Population:

  • HINDUISM – about 82%
  • ISLAM – about 12%
  • CHRISTIANITY – about 2.5%
  • SIKHISM – about 2%
  • BUDDHISM – about 0.7%
  • JAINISM – about 0.5%
  • ZOROASTRIANISM – about 0.01%
  • JUDAISM – about 0.0005%   (stated by adaniel.tripod)

Hinduism

Religion
Brahma                                                                                                                                                          Pixabay

Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. Its followers worship several deities. Unlike the other religions, this religion does not have one teacher. Its followers, the ‘Hindus’ believe in a supreme divine spirit called ‘Parama Brahma’. The concept of Parama Brahma states that Brahma is omnipresent.

Hindus believe in vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means the whole world is a single family. They also believe in Sarva dharma Sama Bhava, which means all religions are equal. The practice follows the ideas of mercy, charity, compassion, benevolence, non-violence and mercy. It believes the concept of ‘Bhakti’ or devotion.

The sacred writings of Hinduism include the Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Upanishads.

Also Read: The history and development of Indian Handicrafts

Jainism

Religion
Lord Mahavira                                                                                                                                                   Pixabay

According to tradition, the founder of Jainism was first Tirthankara Adinatha. However, the religion was widely propagated by the 24th Tirthankara, Mahavira. He was born in Vaishali, Bihar, who belonged to the clan ‘Licchavi’. Mahavira was moved by the sufferings of people, and therefore, left his home at the age of 30 to seek the truth. He supported the teachings of the previous Tirthankaras, and added his own beliefs to the teachings.
He believed in the ideology of leading a good life and not doing any wrong. He did not encourage the practice of needing the help of God for everything.
Doctrines of Jainism:
  1. Ahimsa (Non-violence)
  2. Satya (Truth)
  3. Asteya (Non-stealing)
  4. Brahmacharya (Chastity)
  5. Aparigraha (Non-possession)

Buddhism

Religion
Lord Buddha                                                                                                                                                    Pixabay

Buddhism is a religion which consists of different kinds of beliefs and practices based on the teachings of Lord Buddha. Buddha’s name was Siddhartha. He was the son of the Shakya clan’s leader. It is believed that Siddhartha made three observations, which changed his life:  a feeble old man; a person suffering from disease; and a dead body being taken for cremation. This propelled him in finding the true meaning of life. He left his home at an early age and attained ‘enlightenment’ in Bodhgaya.
He also prescribed the four noble truths and eight fold path.
Four noble truths are:
  • Dukkha (truth of suffering)
  • Samudāya (truth of the suffering’s origin)
  • Nirodha (the truth of suffering’s cessation.)
  • Magga (Direction to eight-fold path)

The eight fold path are- Right aims, Right beliefs, Right conduct, Right speech, Right effort, Right occupation, Right meditation and Right thinking.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at twitter @ImMeghaacharya.

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Angkor Wat: History behind Cambodian Hindu temple

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Angkor Wat: World’s Largest Hindu Temple


In this article, we will discuss about the “History behind Angkor Wat Hindu Temple“, which is the world’s largest Hindu temple located in “Cambodia” – southeast asian nation.


 

Angkor Wat: Lost in the woods for over 400 years, the discovery of Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu monument literally shocked the world. Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s famous temple is a place full of still unexplored history, myth and legend.

Discovery & History of Angkor Wat – World’s Largest Hindu Temple

  • Angkor wat denotes Cambodia’s unwrapped mystery of civilization that for centuries looked like it never existed. The hidden temple was a stuff of legend until 1860 when a French naturalist, “Henri Mohout”  accidently came to that place during his expedition. He saw the ruins of Angkor Wat. But why did the civilization collapse? How did they make this sophisticated temple with no modern technologies? What must have happened?  It’s the high time to uncover these hidden secrets.
  • Angkor, the capital of last Cambodian empire was home to millions of people over 800 years ago. The powerful empire covered South East Asia including Vietnam, Bay of Bengal and North West China. Built in the 12th century, Angkor Wat is among the wonders of the world. Even today, this world’s largest hundu temple or religious monument has a huge complex stretched at about 200 hectares of land. While entering the main temple a vast gate gives an impression that you have reached the temple, however, you realize that the main temple still is 400 yards away. The expansive nature of temple is seen to be believed.
  • Angkor Wat is also known as the city temple as it was surrounded by urban areas (long back before disappearing). When built,  it was dedicated to representing Hindu god, “Lord Vishnu”. There is a 213 feet high central tower(temple) encircled by 4 small towers representing Mount Meru, a celestial home of god based on Hindu mythology. It took 50,000 workers to build this extraordinary temple, that was completed in the year 1145.
  • This huge temple can be compared to Egyptian pyramids in the context of the strength. Compared to the construction of modern European temples which require almost 300 to 400 years, Angkor Wat was completed in only 32 years. How did they do? The answer to this question lies inside the temple. There is a carving in the main temple which gives clues to the mystery of building this huge temple without any modern technology. The story carved in the stones speaks: a lever used to push big stone blocks one over another to assemble it perfectly. This shows Angkor Wat was planned, assembled and then carved.
  • The surface of this masterpiece is covered with carvings that display the Hindu mythological stories originated in India. But how did the stories from India arrive in Cambodia? The answer is “Indian Traders”. The Indian traders travelling towards south-east Asia passed their religion, art and architecture to the local people of Cambodia. This way the traders were an important part of spreading Hindu culture in Cambodian Empire.
  • Archaeologists have used sophisticated aerial imaging techniques to look into the past of Cambodia. In 1994, NASA took the first image which shows Angkor Wat was huge and another recent satellite image show collection of hundreds of temples in the area. The modern technology has also thrown light on the extensive water management system of the Cambodian empire which existed those times. This shows the engineering marvels of Cambodians. They constructed rectangular reservoirs and water systems in such a way that the water from Kulen Mountain irrigates the farms resulting in a good harvest. It could have been the work of only advanced and skilled people.

History behind Cambodian Hindu temple
Wikimedia

How did the civilization collapse? Hard evidence points towards the failure of Water management system. But the debate is still going on. Surprisingly the temple was never abandoned, a group of Buddhist monks stayed there and aggressively worked to save the religious place for over centuries. This also gradually resulted in the transformation of a Hindu Temple into a Buddhist temple.

In 1992, Angkor Wat was listed as World Heritage site in danger. Subsequently, it was removed from the endangered list, to be included as a World Heritage site. France, Japan and China have helped  in temple restoration project. India’s archaeological department had also chipped in the 1980s. Currently,  German Apsara Conservation project is in place to save the sculptures carved on the stones. Due to the continuous efforts of UNESCO and other nations Angkor Wat has become a major tourist spot with over 2 million people visiting this place every year. (Inputs from Aakash Sinha)(image-Unesco)

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  1. This Ancient Lord Ganesha Temple in Rajasthan Collects 1000 Letters Everyday by Devotees.
  2. Mahalakshmi Temple: Know the Story behind the 300-Year-Old Ancient Shrine.
  3. 13 Beautiful Ancient Temples in India showcase Architectural Brilliance.
  4. Ancient Hindu Temple Changu Narayan in Nepal Possesses Historical Significance.
  5. These 5 Ancient Temples are Believed to be the Oldest in India.

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Schools in Sydney Witness Increase in Enrollment of Muslim and Hindu Students: Is Australia’s Religious Profile Changing?

According to latest figures, almost 30 per cent of the entire student population of the state has declined association with any religion".

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Muslim and Hindu
According to latest data, Hinduism and Islam and growing religions in the schools of New South Wales. Pixabay
  • Public schools have witnessed a rise in the enrollment of Muslim and Hindu students
  • According to survey by NSW Department of Education, about 20, 000 Hindu students have sought admissions this year
  • Shockingly, almost 30 per cent of the students have associated themselves with “no religion”

Australia , August 29, 2017 : Public schools in Sydney have witnessed a huge rise in the enrollment of Muslim and Hindu students while the population of Christian students is on a decline. This has been discovered by a recent survey by the New South Wales Department of Education, which revealed the growing figures of Muslim and Hindu students. According to the official data, the tally of Muslim and Hindu students enrolled this year has now touched 52,000 and 20,000, respectively.

The Rising Tally of Hindu-Muslim Students

Islam is the second largest religion of Australia, after Christianity, followed by Buddhism and Hinduism.

It was found that about 52,000 public school students now identify themselves as Muslim; a 2,000 person increase from last year’s enrollment.

As per data, 445 out of 507 students at Punchbowl Boys High School are listed as Islamic while 91 percent students at Auburn West Public School have identified as Muslims.

The state is also the preferred location for most residing Hindus of Australia with over 20,000 Hindu students in the state- this makes for a 7 per cent increase than 2016 figures.

According to a report by The Daily Telegraph, last year about 50,000 Muslim students were enrolled in public schools while the figures of Hindu students stood at 18,600.

ALSO READ Australian Census of 2016 Reveals Some Captivating Facts about Hindus

Students’ Tally of Pupils Belonging to Other Faiths

In comparison to the two faiths, the tally of Anglicans has fallen from 105,300 in 2016 to 99,000 this year. Additionally, a fall has also been observed in Protestant, Baptist and Presbyterian religions.

While the tally of children identifying as Catholic (other) has also witnessed a decline, the figures of Catholic (Western/Roman) students enrolled in schools this year have remained unchanged at 103,000.

However, shockingly, over 230,000 pupils choose to associate themselves with “no religion”. They make up almost 30 per cent of the entire student population of the state.

The high tally of children who do no associate with any religion has prompted parents and school authorities alike to define the structure of classes based on ethics instead of those in scriptures.

At present, about 30 per cent of the primary schools in the state offer ethics classes however they remain outside the domain of government funding.


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