The Buddhist Society (London), September 2014 – January 2015 Events / Public Lectures

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The Buddhist Society

EVENTS, PUBLIC LECTURES & Art History and Culture Talks

FREE admission; 58 Ecclestone Square, London SW1V 1PH

Book Event: Architecture of The Buddhist World – The Golden Lands by Vikram Lall
Wednesday 3rd September 2014 at 6.30 pm

The Prisoner of Kathmandu: Brian Hodgson and the beginnings of Buddhist Studies by Charles Allen.
Wednesday 10th September 2014

The Miraculous 16th Karmapa – talk and book event by Norma Levine
Wednesday 17th September 2014 at 6.30 pm

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12 Recommended Books on Buddhism in Southeast Asia

I. Teachings of Buddhism and general history:

A Concise History of Buddhism


Author: Andrew Skilton
Pages: 263
Published: Barnes & Noble (2003)
First edition: 1996
ISBN: 9780760748299

What the Buddha Taught


Author: Walpola Rahula
Pages: 151
Published: Grove Press; Revised edition (1974)
First edition: 1959
ISBN: 9780802130310

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Bangkok for the Cultured Traveller: Recommended 1st-Day Schedule

The Wat Arun in Bangkok. Photo via Fotopedia by Mark Fischer.
The Wat Arun in Bangkok. Photo via Fotopedia by Mark Fischer.

The City of Angels – no, we are not talking about Los Angeles, but one of the world’s most magnificent cities: Bangkok. The Thais call their capital city by the name of Krung Thep – rather than by the name of “Bangkok- which literally means “City of Angels”.

Bangkok certainly has plenty of things to offer – from some of Asia’s largest shopping malls to locals markets, from Thailand’s leading fine dining spots to traditional food vendors and from sparkling skyscrapers to temples, centuries old; Thailand’s bustling capital is without a doubt the pulse of the country.

Let’s take a look closer at Bangkok’s cultural parts: its history, food, temples, palaces and klongs; but before you should get already overwhelmed by the number of temples, we selected the most historical parts for you – and created a cultural day tour for you:

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Vientiane for the Cultured Traveller: Recommended 1st-Day Schedule

Pha That Luang in Vientiane. Photo via Wikimedia by Aaron Smith
Pha That Luang in Vientiane. Photo via Wikimedia by Aaron Smith

Visiting Vientiane might be first a bit of a shock when arriving from cities like Bangkok or Hanoi – not in terms of traffic or crowds, but more because of its refreshingly laid back atmosphere!

Unlike most of the Southeast Asian capitals, Vientiane remains far away from the atmosphere of an overcrowded city. A population of just close to 800,000 citizens – in comparison to multi-millions in Bangkok for example, speaks for itself.

Besides of the population, what else makes Vientiane different? Due to its size, it is quite easy to do sightseeing and navigate yourself around the city, which is even possible by feet or your own bike.

Let’s dive into a city which still keeps the charme of French colonial times, blended with Southeast Asian hospitality – Vientiane!

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Buddhism in Western Countries – Introduction & Places

Buddhism was almost entirely unknown in western countries until the 19th century. European diplomats and scholars who travelled and lived in Asia collected Buddhist texts to have them translated into English, German and French. Awareness of Buddhism arrived in the United States around the 1840’s when the first Chinese immigrants settled in the western part of the country.

Still, in general Buddhism remained poorly understood in the west until the 1960’s when the first Buddhist teachers started arriving and quickly found thousands of followers – to some degree in harmony with the Hippie movement. However curious westerners without serious study tended to view Buddhism as more of a mystic movement, rather than an encompassing  spirituality involving meditation.

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Upcoming Buddhist Conferences in 2014 and Early 2015

XVIIth Congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies

Venue and date: University of Vienna, Austria, 18-23 August, 2014
Organized by International Association of Buddhist Studies (IABS)
More information:

Language, Culture, and Values: East and West (International and Interdisciplinary Conference)

Venue and date: Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, 16-18 December, 2014
Organized by the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University, (New Delhi, India) Institute of Cultural Studies and Academic Exchange
More information:

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Understanding Buddhism: a Short Introduction

Buddhism. For most people the word Buddhism reflects tranquillity and peace of mind, monks in orange robes and non-violence. But when exactly did Buddhism start? What are the important festivals and celebrations?

Architecture of Buddhism takes a closer look where Buddhism got its origins from.

Quick facts about the history:

The founder of Buddhism was a royal prince named Buddha Shakyamuni also known as Siddhartha Gautama, born some 2500 years ago in Lumbini, a place initially in India but now located in Nepal. The exact birthdate is often debated while many authorities favour 623 BC, others around 400 BC.

The legend says that his father kept him away from the outside of the palace and aiming to not make him aware of the world’s common sufferings: aging, sickness and death.

He had hoped that Shakyamuni would become a great king, despite knowing that his future has been several times prophesied to become great spiritual leader.  Buddha spent the first part of his life fulfilling his duties in the royal palace of the family. When he reached his late 20’s, curiosity of life beyond his palace grew and grew, eventually letting him start to explore the surroundings. He was abruptly confronted with reality when he saw old men and diseased people.

By the age of 29 he embarked on a spiritual quest to understand how human suffering could be overcome. After six years he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree (tree of awakening) where he sat for 49 consecutive days and practiced meditation and fasting.

Buddha’s enlightenment. Photo by ‘ACIM Explained’

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A Beginner’s Guide to Bagan (Myanmar)

Temples in Bagan (Wikipedia creative commons)
Temples in Bagan (Wikipedia creative commons)

Marco Polo described Bagan as, “one of the finest sights in the world,” and with over 4000 temples, visiting this beautiful city needs to be planned. Here’s how to get the best out of Bagan.

A Short History

Bagan’s temple building era was at its height from the 11th to 13th century when most of the pagodas were constructed. During the later period many of the buildings have Indian features and are more intricate.

King Anawrahta was a devoted Buddhist and most of the prominent temples were built during his reign. In 1289 Bagan was overrun by Mongol invaders. This led to the decline of the city, however many of the Bamar inhabitants are thought to have departed before the invasion.

In 1975 a large earthquake destroyed many temples at Bagan but rebuilding began with the help of UNESCO. Today, Bagan is one of the major attractions in Myanmar and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Shwezigon Paya, Bagan (Wikimedia creative commons)
Shwezigon Paya, Bagan (Wikimedia creative commons)

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Highlights of Buddhist Sites in Vientiane, Laos

Wat That Luang
Open: Daily from 08:00-12:00 and 13:00-16:00
Entrance fee: 5000 Kip per person, Laotians: 2000 Kip per person
That Luang Road

Pha That Luang is the most sacred monument in Laos as it is believed that the shrine houses a breastbone of Buddha. A local legend says that the original temple has been built around the 3rd century by an Indian missionary who brought the relict of Buddha to Laos. The current structure however was built by King Setthathirat in 1566 on the site of a 13th century Khmer temple ruin. It contains an impressive 45m high stupa.

Vientiane’s most important festival ‘Boun That Luang’ is held here in November on the night of the full moon to pay respect to the stupa and to enjoy the colourful event that includes parades, live music and religious ceremonies.

Note: there are two temples beside Pha That Luang, the one being Wat That Luang Neua to the north and Wat That Luang Tai to the south.

Wat That Luang. Photo via Wikimedia by Nikopol

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List of Specialist Local Travel Agencies in Indonesia

We have carefully selected a number of well-established travel agencies in Indonesia, as we understand the importance of professional travel planning. All operators below have years, some even decades, of travel planning experience in Indonesia, are among the top experts and awarded with numerous travel awards as well accredited by leading travel associations like IATA or PATA.

Jalan Laksda Adisucipto Km 9 No. 13
Tel.: +62 274 484 674, +62 484 685
Winner of TTG for Best Travel Agent in Indonesia 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Pacto was founded in 1967 and is recognized as one of the pioneers of tourism in Indonesia.

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Growth in Tourism to Ancient Buddhist Sites – Not Always a Positive?

Tourism to Buddhist sites aims to promote interest for Cultural Tourism and Pilgrimage or Faith Travel, as well Archaeological Tourism.

But where is the line between the promotion as important tourist site and religious heritage?

The desire to embark on a journey for religious purposes has inspired people for centuries and considered the oldest form of tourism in history. But visiting ancient Buddhist sites is no longer a domestic and only faith related event.

In times of globalization it has been developed into a major commercial oriented industry. Travel agencies now offer special handcrafted tours to sacred sites, often including multiple temples in various cities or countries.


Tourists at Angkor Wat. Photo via Wikimedia by Kounosu

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Top Hotels for Touring Southeast Asian Countries


Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor*****
1 Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Khum Svay Dang Kum
Siem Reap
Tel.: +855 63 963 888; Fax: +855 63 963 168

Located in the heart of Siem Reap, in the Old French Quarter only 8 kilometres from the extraordinary Angkor Wat temple complex, Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor is the ideal place to explore the spiritual and archaeological masterwork. Relax and revitalise beside a magnificent pool inspired by Angkorian architecture or take a short stroll along the riverside to discover the vibrant local markets.

Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor. Photo via Wikimedia by Kounosu

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi*****
15 Ngo Quyen Street
Hoan Kiem District
10000 Hanoi
Tel.: +84 4 382 66919; Fax: +84 4 382 66920

Located steps from the Opera House in Hanoi’s French Quarter this legendary property brings guests into intimate contact with the opulence of another era. Surround yourself in heritage as you stroll stately corridors and explore a dramatic past. Behind its classical white façade green shutters original wrought iron details and stately wood panelling reside over a century of stories. Stand on the walkways that grace its lush courtyard lawn and immerse yourself in the hotels rich traditions.

Temple sites nearby:
Tran Quoc Pagaoda – 4km
Chua Dau Pagoda – 30km outside of Hanoi, Thuan Thanh district
Temple of Literature – 2.5km

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. Photo via Wikimedia by Gryffindor

Settha Palace Hotel*****
6 Rue Pang Kham
Tel.: +856 21 217 581; Fax: +856 21 217 583

In the heart of bustling Vientiane stands a remarkable hotel. Built in the early part of the last century, circa 1932, and painstakingly restored to its former imperial glory, the Settha Palace Hotel serves as testament to the long lost era of classical elegance, gracious service and French colonial charm.

Temple sites nearby:
Pha That Luang – 3.5km
Wat Sisaket – 800m
Wat Mixai – 1km

Settha Palace Hotel. Photo via Flickr by Peter Riccio –
Myanmar (Burma)

The Strand Hotel Yangon*****
92 Strand Road
Tel.: +95 1 243 377; Fax: +95 1 243 393

Declared “the finest hostelry East of Suez” by John Murray in his Handbook for Travellers written in the early 20th century, the 1901-built three storey 5 star hotel in Yangon remains one of Southeast Asia’s few grand hotels and one of its most awe inspiring.

Temple sites nearby:
Shwedagon Pagoda – 4.5km
Karaweik Hall – 3.4km
Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda (Reclining Buddha) – 6.6km

The Strand Hotel Yangon. Photo via Wikimedia by Russavia

The Siam Hotel*****
3/2 Thanon Khao, Vachirapayabal, Dusit
Bangkok 10300
Tel.: +66 2206 6999; Fax: +66 2206 6998

The Siam is the newest addition to, and crown jewel of, the growing portfolio of independently owned and operated properties that make up Sukosol Hotels. The Siam spirit is to create a luxury experience embracing every moment and every individual with sincerity and integrity and a passion for service.

Temple sites nearby:
Wat Suthat and the Giant Swing – 11km
Wat Arun – 8km
Wat Pho – 6km

Wat Arun Bangkok. Photo via Wikimedia by Muisamart

The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta*****
Jalan Jenderal Sudiman 9
55233 Yogyakarta
Tel.: +62 274 566617; Fax: +62 274 566856

Located in the heart of Yogyakarta, near the popular Malioboro district, the historic Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta, a member of theMgallery Collection, is a colonial landmark dating back to 1918. With 144 elegant rooms and suites, each boasting a balcony and a fusion of Asian and European décor, The Phoenix Hotel features a restaurant, wine bar and terrace bar overlooking an open courtyard. An inviting swimming pool, indulgent day spa and modern conferencing facilities complete the exclusive experience.

Temple sites nearby:
Bodobudur – 42km
Prambanan – 16km

Borobudur in Indonesia. Photo via Wikimedia by Bernard Gagnon


Visiting Borobudur

When to go:

Yogyakarta is blessed with plenty of sunshine throughout the year. Generally speaking, the days are hot and humid, with only two seasons per year: the rainy season and the dry season. November to March is dominated by strong rainfall, therefore it is recommended to visit Yogyakarta during the dry season from April to October.

Borobudur. Photo via Wikimedia by Klodo6975


Borobudur Opening Times:

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Visiting sacred sites and temples in Southeast Asia: how to avoid getting overwhelmed!

Crowds at Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok: it's easy to get overwhelmed! (image source )
Crowds at Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok: it’s easy to get overwhelmed! (image source )

South East Asia has many prominent pagodas, temples and monuments which are the major attraction to the region, for history buffs, pilgrims, and general travellers alike. One of the common issues for new travellers is fatigue from seeing too many places at one time and trying to absorb huge amounts of information. Here are a few tips on how to avoid temple overload when travelling…

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The first ever art historical survey focusing comprehensively on the Architecture of the Buddhist World