Sunday, April 29, 2007

Earth Day viewed on a mobile phone

Last Sunday, 22 April, all around the world there were gatherings to commemorate and reflect on our custodianship of this world - Earth Day 2007.

At Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Thailand, Earth Day is a special occasion at the temple as it also is the occasion of the birthday of the Abbot, the Most Ven. Phra Rajabhavanavisudh (Ven. Dhammajayo bhikkhu). The focus on such occasions is always on inner cultivation, through dana (generosity), sila (virtue) and samadhi (meditation), which can help us to have a sense of proper perspective, and thus how best to help. This is explained in the temple's official programme (sorry the English is 'Thai' English, but hope the message is clear enough). I have attended Earth Day in person at the temple in the past, but on this occasion I just joined through the Webcast (which, as usual, started at 9.30am Thai time) broadcast by DMC, the Dhammakaya Media Channel. The more usual alternative is receive transmission via satellite, dish and receiver, but I don't have a TV (or PC Tuner card)!

This year Ven. Dhammajayo used the occasion of Earth Day to invite monks from 20,000 temples to gather in solidarity for the troubled Southern provinces in Thailand. Through the tsunami and other troubles he has often initiated and supported various efforts to try and ease the difficult situations there. I've frequently heard or watched the Abbot refer to the South - he is evidently very concerned about the welfare of that region, especially concerning his fellow monks.

So on Earth Day, Ven. Dhammajayo expressed particular appreciation to representatives from more than 200 temples in the affected area travelled to Pathum Thani province to join the ceremonies, as for many such a journey carried considerable risk. The Abbot devised ceremonies whereby the kinds of offerings that people made to the monks, such as medicines, were such that they could safeguard their welfare and thence the welfare of the whole community that supports the Sangha, because even today the Sangha and lay communities work together like an ecosystem.

Although most participants were from Thailand, some came from other countries. For major occasions like this, invitations are extended around the world, and there are some links especially with other monastic orders. For example, Wat Phra Dhammakaya has a sister temple relationship with Fo Kuang Shan in Taiwan.

Also on Earth Day there was the ceremony to cast Buddha images to go inside the Maha Dhammakaya Cetiya. Sponsoring a Buddha image is a beneficial thing to, not least because when you come to sit in meditation, you can start by recollecting your good deed and so make your mind start in a happier state :-).

DMC has been broadcasting over the Internet for a while and I had previously only ever accessed the webcasts using a desktop or laptop computer. However, after the ceremony was over I tried to see if I could view anything using a mobile phone, HTC P3600, that I upgraded quite recently . I accessed the standard Web page and navigated to the video streaming page (click on the little red banner with a satellite dish) and to my surprise I was indeed able to watch video, embedded in the browser. The two screenshots above are from the DMC site.

The images are somewhat smaller than what might be expected on, say, a small laptop, though there may be a way of increasing the display size in the Web site. I found I could get a slightly better view by rotating the display, but the width of the video seemed to remain the same. In due course, I intend to take a closer look at using Internet video on small computers, but for now it's wonderful that it actually works!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A charitable Easter egg

On the first Sunday of April, I was at Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Woking again to join Puja Kaew Phra. Shortly before the ceremony was due to begin (at around 3.20am), I received a very nice surprise:

The Thornton egg, inscribed with Saa-too (often spelt sadhu), was a gift to me from Dr Khanungnit Garnett, for doing a bit of tidying up of a Web site for Eduplus CIC :-) Dr Garnett has established this Community Interest Company in Banbury to help train particularly Thai people in the UK concerning health and safety, nutrition etc for the catering trade. I think that's a very commendable enterprise, especially as it is not for profit. It should help ensure that meals at Thai restaurants are always 'aroy'!

Dr. Garnett also is the prime mover in another project, which I really admire, the Little Siam Trust, which seeks to improve the lives of less privileged Thai people, especially children, many of whom are orphans. The main content on the Web site at the moment is just a newsletter, but hopefully much more to follow. What I really like about this project is that it is the initiative of a Thai person as I generally prefer social and economic initiatives to start internally. I'm also happy to see that one of the schools that was visited is in Angthong province, which is where some of my relatives live. I wonder if it is nearby?