Buddhism and religion

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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pink_trike
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by pink_trike » Mon Jun 08, 2009 7:41 am

Hi Gabe,

Thanks for replying...
gabrielbranbury wrote:You seem to be using the term religion in two ways. It sounds like you want to refer to it technically in a literal way as well as figuratively at the same time.


Yes, there are two ends of the stick...sorry I wasn't clear. I see the concept of religion as 1. a naming strategy (roping off certain areas of inquiry and institutions under the rubric of "religion") that in turn, 2. produces emotionally-triggered mind-states of religiosity. Let me clarify:

1. The term religion is a mental concept - a convenient box, nothing more. This concept of "religion" is applied to the institution of Buddhism and the teachings as a convenience - a way of categorizing. The term is heavily loaded for nearly all people but most people don't take the time to unpack the term before they use it, and I think carelessly apply it to the area of inquiry that Buddhism and it's practices address.

2. The mind-state of religiosity (which is what I'm curious about) is the various emotions that seem to arise and then collect into a view as a result of learning to see Buddhism conceptually as a religion - from naming it as religion. These mind-states don't seem to be a direct effect of the Buddhist teachings or practices themselves - it appears that they arise solely as a result of Buddhism being named a religion. Nothing in Buddhist teachings or practices, as far as I'm aware, has as their stated goal the development of these emotionally-triggered mind-states. Any sensation that arises from the practice of Buddhism is just sensation, not religion.
I do consider my practice of Buddhist teachings to be a religious practice generally speaking. I could go through a number of technical reasons which sight dictionary's and such but I wont. Instead I will just say that I am immensely grateful for the clarity, compassion, and perfectly pragmatic message which I understand to be conveyed by these teachings. I feel this gratefulness consistently and often to point of tears. I know my statue of a walking Buddha is just a piece of metal which I bought at a shop but a bow to it with a sense of humble devotion because I LOVE it. I look out into the lexicon I am familiar with and "religious practice" fits as well as anything else I can find.
We have some common ground here. I have great appreciation for the Dharma. I am also grateful for the clarity, compassion and pragmatic message that can be found in Buddhism. I bow to my wooden Buddha (a simulacra of the teachings).

Where we differ is that these things aren't religion or religious practices for me. I have a great appreciation of geology also - and the study of the earth also inspires clarity, compassion, and contains pragmatic messages that address the nature of reality. I occasionally bow to the globe on my desk (another simulacra), but I don't consider it religion or religious practice. And I can say the same about medicine, psychology, etc..all these areas of inquiry and practices are just that - inquiry and practice.

- Why do you choose to engage with Buddhism as a religion rather than just as a body of valuable wisdom and practices?
Because it is such a valuable body of wisdom and practices.

I'm unclear how that makes it "religious". There are many valuable bodies of wisdom and practice that aren't named as religion - many that have to do with quality of life and the nature of reality. I too find the Dharma to be a supreme body of wisdom and practice, but I don't see inherent religion there. I would imagine that someone who experiences heart surgery and goes on to live for many more years highly values the body of wisdom and practices that create a heart surgeon. Or someone who finds relief from psychotic episodes might find psychotherapy and medical treatment to be highly valuable. But are these religion? For me, they aren't.

Is meditation, [lovingkindnes, generosity, compassion, death contemplation] inherently a religious activity?
no but religious activity is inherently possible within it
I agree that this is possible and see people do it a lot. Is bringing "religious activity" to these practices taught in Buddhism?

- Is the experience of clarity (both incremental and ultimate) a religious experience?
I would say that at some point in its development "clarity" (an appreciative awairness and understanding of the workings of reality) does become a religious quality.
This is interesting - what form of perception or expression do you think this religious quality manifests? How do you think it is experienced?

Is the religious quality something we bring to the clarity? Or are you saying that the experience of clarity at that point is itself in some way a religious experience?

- Are the various mind-states (or stages) encountered throughout our meditation practice religious experiences?
That depends on either why we are meditating or how we feel about what we encounter.
Would it be fair to say then that a sense of religiosity is something that would need to be brought to these mind-states by the practitioner?

Thanks, Gabe.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by pink_trike » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:39 am

Hi Retro,

Thanks for your reply,

Is the experience of clarity (both incremental and ultimate) a religious experience?
Spiritual, yes. Religious, potentially.
Sorry, I don't understand the term "spiritual". Do you mean that "Spiritual" is incremental or mundane clarity, and "Religious" might apply if there is ultimate clarity? The end goal (ultimate clarity?) is potentially a religious experience?

If you hold a belief in rebirth: Is a religious perspective necessary in order to have a positive rebirth experience upon death of the body?
(I hold this belief and answer) No.
Are you're saying that ""Spiritual endeavour, with an end goal in mind." (the concept of religion) isn't necessary for a positive rebirth? Does this mean that a religious perspective then is only (or primarily) useful to keep one on the path during life - that it is a way of structuring one's life so that clarity might emerge.

Thanks, Retro
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by pink_trike » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:42 am

That's all for me today. I'll respond to Jechbi and Drolma's posts tomorrow evening after I've had time to think about them. G'nite all. :zzz:
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:37 am

Greetings Pink,
pink_trike wrote:Sorry, I don't understand the term "spiritual". Do you mean that "Spiritual" is incremental or mundane clarity, and "Religious" might apply if there is ultimate clarity? The end goal (ultimate clarity?) is potentially a religious experience?
I don't have a hard and fast definition for spiritual... but it would include mundane clarity, and the end goal of ultimate clarity. Perhaps 'counter-samsaric' might be a good definition.
pink_trike wrote:Are you're saying that ""Spiritual endeavour, with an end goal in mind." (the concept of religion) isn't necessary for a positive rebirth?
Correct.
pink_trike wrote: Does this mean that a religious perspective then is only (or primarily) useful to keep one on the path during life - that it is a way of structuring one's life so that clarity might emerge.


The religious perspective is as beneficial (or otherwise) as it is as a transforming agent. The benefit is the gap between how one finishes this life with that perspective, compared to how they would have fared without it.

Just how I see it.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by Prasadachitta » Mon Jun 08, 2009 2:03 pm

pink_trike wrote:Hi Gabe,

Thanks for replying...


Yes, there are two ends of the stick...sorry I wasn't clear. I see the concept of religion as 1. a naming strategy (roping off certain areas of inquiry and institutions under the rubric of "religion") that in turn, 2. produces emotionally-triggered mind-states of religiosity. Let me clarify:

1. The term religion is a mental concept - a convenient box, nothing more. This concept of "religion" is applied to the institution of Buddhism and the teachings as a convenience - a way of categorizing. The term is heavily loaded for nearly all people but most people don't take the time to unpack the term before they use it, and I think carelessly apply it to the area of inquiry that Buddhism and it's practices address.

2. The mind-state of religiosity (which is what I'm curious about) is the various emotions that seem to arise and then collect into a view as a result of learning to see Buddhism conceptually as a religion - from naming it as religion. These mind-states don't seem to be a direct effect of the Buddhist teachings or practices themselves - it appears that they arise solely as a result of Buddhism being named a religion. Nothing in Buddhist teachings or practices, as far as I'm aware, has as their stated goal the development of these emotionally-triggered mind-states. Any sensation that arises from the practice of Buddhism is just sensation, not religion.
Hello Pink Trike,

All Terms are mental constructs often with baggage which we do not wish to convey when we use them. Concepts are convenient for communication. They categorize and convey a sense of meaning through that shared framework or "box" as you say. In My usage I understand "religion" to convey a sense of the utmost priority to that which it is applied. In my opinion virtually all people have some sense of priority which could be labeled religious even though they do not do so. This sense of priority can and often does take the shape of guiding principles which represent and shape how we interact with that which is most important to us.

I looked up "religiosity" and it is partly defined as "excessive devotion to religion". I can see how this definition could fit what you are conveying. Personally I do not think there can be excessive devotion to what is most valuable to us. I would say devotion is not the problem but confusion regarding the object or rather non objectification of our object of devotion.:lol:
We have some common ground here. I have great appreciation for the Dharma. I am also grateful for the clarity, compassion and pragmatic message that can be found in Buddhism. I bow to my wooden Buddha (a simulacra of the teachings).

Where we differ is that these things aren't religion or religious practices for me. I have a great appreciation of geology also - and the study of the earth also inspires clarity, compassion, and contains pragmatic messages that address the nature of reality. I occasionally bow to the globe on my desk (another simulacra), but I don't consider it religion or religious practice. And I can say the same about medicine, psychology, etc..all these areas of inquiry and practices are just that - inquiry and practice.


For me Dhamma practice subsumes all the aspects of my life and interest. In other words, I have found that all my interests and activities are put into context and the relative value is unveiled by the practice. Of course I am grateful for many things but none of them rival my gratefulness for the opportunity to practice Dhamma.
I'm unclear how that makes it "religious". There are many valuable bodies of wisdom and practice that aren't named as religion - many that have to do with quality of life and the nature of reality. I too find the Dharma to be a supreme body of wisdom and practice, but I don't see inherent religion there. I would imagine that someone who experiences heart surgery and goes on to live for many more years highly values the body of wisdom and practices that create a heart surgeon. Or someone who finds relief from psychotic episodes might find psychotherapy and medical treatment to be highly valuable. But are these religion? For me, they aren't.
The way you understand the term religion is narrow and I think there is plenty of room to work with the term in order to convey what I have been talking about above. In my definition a person who perceives that Buddhism is as you say " a supreme body of wisdom and practice" is by definition regarding that wisdom and practice in a religious manner even if that person doesnt use the term. :tongue:

Fair thee Well

Gabriel
Last edited by Prasadachitta on Mon Jun 08, 2009 2:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by Ben » Mon Jun 08, 2009 2:08 pm

Hi Pink
pink_trike wrote:It's about why some people choose to engage Buddhism religiously and some don't as I stated in the OP. Likely at some point in the dialogue I''ll be sharing why I've chosen to engage Buddhism free from viewing it as religion and free from mind-states of religiosity. I'm interested in looking closely at how people make this choice and why, and knowing whether that choice is conscious or unconscious for others.
Like Drolma and Mike, I do have some difficulty with the term 'religion' and 'religiosity'. One of the reasons is that I grew up in a staunch Roman Catholic family and the exposure I've had to Catholicism through practice, via the catholic education system and through family life is very different to my experience with Buddhism.

Another reason is that the Dhamma that I was introduced to and continue to practice, lacks many of the cultural and institutional artefacts associated with religion. As I have grown and matured, possibly as the result of practice, I find myself associating more closely with the classical interpretation and have developed a deep reverence for the institution of the Bhikkhu Sangha.
Metta

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by Hoo » Mon Jun 08, 2009 3:21 pm

Where we differ is that these things aren't religion or religious practices for me. I have a great appreciation of geology also - and the study of the earth also inspires clarity, compassion, and contains pragmatic messages that address the nature of reality. I occasionally bow to the globe on my desk (another simulacra), but I don't consider it religion or religious practice. And I can say the same about medicine, psychology, etc..all these areas of inquiry and practices are just that - inquiry and practice.
Through most of my life, that is almost exactly the way I saw all things religious. It was contaminated, though, by growing up where the Sunday morning crowd spent the rest of the week killing (insert the name of your favorite group), burning them out, conspiring to kill off abortion clinic doctors and spirit them off to Europe (they finally caught them), launching political campaigns to take over school boards so they could dictate their chosen curriculum, etc. And anyone who opposed the bad guys was intimidated into understanding that "you could be targeted, too."

So when I discovered Buddhism, I was pleased that there was no required institutional religion. My answer to nearly all of your questions would be no, none, and not ever :)

Since I took the instructions to test the teachings literally, I began practicing. I discovered that the Dhamma is true. Instead of just learn and do, I began to experience the Dhamma, and that has made me rethink some things. It added a dimension that wasn't there from just learning and intellectual understanding.

I don't consider Buddhism to be a religious experience, though I suppose it could be. Where I would have automatically shut the door on things institutionally religious, I leave the door open now. I leave it open for others, even though I'm not likely to go down that path myself :)

My background was in philosophy and psychology so I have some understanding of the search for the transcendental and the forest of views. They neither explain, nor explain away, my experience of the Dhamma.

Steve

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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by kc2dpt » Mon Jun 08, 2009 5:49 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:The way you understand the term religion is narrow and I think there is plenty of room to work with the term in order to convey what I have been talking about above. In my definition a person who perceives that Buddhism is as you say " a supreme body of wisdom and practice" is by definition regarding that wisdom and practice in a religious manner even if that person doesnt use the term.
From Miriam Webster: "a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance".
Ben wrote:Like Drolma and Mike, I do have some difficulty with the term 'religion' and 'religiosity'. One of the reasons is that I grew up in a staunch Roman Catholic family and the exposure I've had to Catholicism through practice, via the catholic education system and through family life is very different to my experience with Buddhism.
I see this often - people have a very negative experience with one religion (usually Catholicism) and thus don't want Buddhism to share anything in common with that which they have fled. Conversely, I have seen other people (usually Jews) who did not have such fearful and traumatic experiences but rather simply found their birth religion not very fulfilling. Such people seem to have far less resistance to seeing Buddhism as a religion.

Is espresso something altogether different from coffee? or is it the very best form of coffee? I find it depends on just how much you hate coffee and love espresso. :coffee:
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by DNS » Mon Jun 08, 2009 7:17 pm

I'll take a shot at it:

- What does the _concept_ of religion mean to you personally? How does the _idea_ of religion itself make you feel?
A group of people with similar belief systems which includes this worldly and other worldly pursuits, working toward their goals. The community is encouraging and motivating for me.
- How familiar are you with the history and origin of the idea of religion (the concept, not the phenomenon)?
Yes, mostly.
- Why do you choose to engage with Buddhism as a religion rather than just as a body of valuable wisdom and practices?
I take refuge in Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha. All three constitute a religion. If I only took refuge in Dhamma, it may not be a religious experience, not sure, but for me I take refuge in all three.
- For you personally, what elements of Buddhism need to be viewed through the lens of "religion"?
Rebirth, kamma, nibbana, the "other-worldly" realms
- Is meditation inherently a religious activity?
No
- Is lovingkindness inherently a religious activity?
No
- Is generosity inherently a religious activity?
No
- Is compassion inherently a religious activity?
No
- Is death contemplation inherently a religious activity?
No
- Is a religious perspective necessary to understand and practice sila?
No
- Is a religious perspective necessary to understand kamma?
Yes, because it includes the "other-worldly" dimension for Buddhism and for me.
- Is the experience of clarity (both incremental and ultimate) a religious experience?
Yes and no; some initial insights no; ultimate, nibbana, yes.
- Are the various mind-states (or stages) encountered throughout our meditation practice religious experiences?
See above.
- If you hold a belief in rebirth: Is a religious perspective necessary in order to have a positive rebirth experience upon death of the body?
No.

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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Jun 08, 2009 10:59 pm

Peter wrote:
gabrielbranbury wrote:The way you understand the term religion is narrow and I think there is plenty of room to work with the term in order to convey what I have been talking about above. In my definition a person who perceives that Buddhism is as you say " a supreme body of wisdom and practice" is by definition regarding that wisdom and practice in a religious manner even if that person doesnt use the term.
From Miriam Webster: "a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance".
What is interesting here is that the religion poo-poo-ers are working with definition of religion that is far too limited. The above gets at religion as it actually is on a personal level without limiting it to institutional structures.

The other thing is that humans want transcendence, which plays a very large role in what religion is on a personal level.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by clw_uk » Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:00 pm

Hey Pink

First of all good topic :)

- What does the _concept_ of religion mean to you personally?

An institute of rites and ritual aimed at reaching or pleasing something metaphysical coming from conditioning, wish thinking, false concept of morals or false concept of conditionality and so, for the most part, superstitious in nature. Something that for the most part is removed from this world and focuses on something beyond. I see it as a set of beliefs that have no inherent meaning anymore other than having the ability to comfort ( and inspire art and poetry etc). Something that stands at odds with how we think, an offering of an extraordinary "truth" but offering no evidence in support and so a system of non-thinking
How does the _idea_ of religion itself make you feel?
To me personally religion means nothing. I dont hate or like religion it just doesnt have any inherent meaning to me, like football :jumping:. I do feel sad for people though when i see them being twisted by absurd dogma or when that religious dogma turns evil and begins to cost lives
- How familiar are you with the history and origin of the idea of religion (the concept, not the phenomenon)?
I did write a paragraph here but realized that it was all speculation and guess work. I dont think we can know what concept our ancestors had, if they had the concept of religion as we have or not
- Why do you choose to engage with Buddhism as a religion rather than just as a body of valuable wisdom and practices?
I dont, to me it is valuable wisdom and practice
- For you personally, what elements of Buddhism need to be viewed through the lens of "religion"?
Nothing
- Is meditation inherently a religious activity?
No
- Is lovingkindness inherently a religious activity?
No
- Is generosity inherently a religious activity?
No
- Is compassion inherently a religious activity?
No
- Is death contemplation inherently a religious activity?
No
- Is a religious perspective necessary to understand and practice sila?
No
- Is a religious perspective necessary to understand kamma?
I dont know all there is about kamma but i say no
- Is the experience of clarity (both incremental and ultimate) a religious experience?
No
- Are the various mind-states (or stages) encountered throughout our meditation practice religious experiences?
No
- If you hold a belief in rebirth: Is a religious perspective necessary in order to have a positive rebirth experience upon death of the body?
N/A


Metta
Last edited by clw_uk on Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by clw_uk » Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:01 pm

Hey tilt

You say something interesting here
The other thing is that humans want transcendence
But isnt this wish thinking. I could want a lot of things, doesnt mean they are true or ritual in their name is worth while. Also why does transcendence have to invoke the supernatural? (which all religions/religious thought does)


Metta
Last edited by clw_uk on Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:02 pm

clw_uk wrote:
The other thing is that humans want transcendence
But isnt this wish thinking. I could want a lot of things, doesnt mean they are true or ritual in their name is worth while
Whether or not is wishful thinking or even true is beside the point.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by clw_uk » Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:06 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
clw_uk wrote:
The other thing is that humans want transcendence
But isnt this wish thinking. I could want a lot of things, doesnt mean they are true or ritual in their name is worth while
Whether or not is wishful thinking or even true is beside the point.

But isnt it the point? Following wish thinking doesnt help people face reality and if it is wish thinking then it may or not be true and needs to be weighed against evidence to decide if its logical to accept and act on, if there is no evidence at all and its just a wish then why organize something so massive around it since your probably just deluding yourself and others because of your own wish for reality to be a certain way (not you personally)
Last edited by clw_uk on Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Post by Ben » Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:09 pm

Hi Craig
tiltbillings wrote:
clw_uk wrote:
The other thing is that humans want transcendence
But isnt this wish thinking. I could want a lot of things, doesnt mean they are true or ritual in their name is worth while
Whether or not is wishful thinking or even true is beside the point.
Not necessarily. One could interpret your comment to mean that you deny transcendence. If this is your attitude then i can assure you that it is not the case.
I can't speak for the availability of the transcendent experience available via other religions or spiritual practices, but its certainly available to the sincere practitioner within Buddhism. But, to quote Rachel Hunter in an often quoted shampoo commercial It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.
Metta

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

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