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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Richard Gere Visits Borobodur

Richard Gere meditated at Indonesia's Borobudur temple on June 27, 2011 before touring the ninth-century Buddhist monument with his wife and son.

"He meditated for 20 minutes this morning at the top platform and made a 45-minute tour to admire the details of the temple's reliefs," temple manager Purnomo Siswo Prasetyo.

He said Gere was "astonished" with the grandeur of the so-called temple mountain, which lies between two volcanoes about 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Yogyakarta.
One of the peaks, Merapi, killed more than 320 people last year in its biggest eruptions in over a century.
The temple was abandoned with the spread of Islam on Java island in the 14th century, but was "rediscovered" in 1814 by English trader Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.

Restored with the help of UNESCO in the 1970s, it is now Indonesia's most-visited tourist attraction, drawing about 3.8 million people last year, according to Prasetyo.

"Yes, the crowded atmosphere made Richard unable to enjoy. He was not comfortable with the many photographers and the media who followed him." said President Director of PT Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur, Prambanan and Ratu Boko , Purnomo Siswo Prasetya, after accompanying Richard at Borobudur Temple

Purnomo said the bodhi tree planting agenda by Richard is an event initiated by PT Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur Tourism Park, Prambanan and Ratu Boko in cooperation with UNESCO.

Feeling uncomfortable, Gere decided to cancel the bodhi tree planting in the courtyard of the east side of the largest temples. Gere arrived at the temple at around 4:30 pm. He then immediately climbed onto the top or the main stupa of Borobudur to see the sights. After that followed pradaksina, namely to respect the rituals around the temple.

Gere, a 61-year-old convert to Buddhism, arrived in Indonesia on June 26, 2011 on what he called a "spiritual journey".

Initially he was expected to plant a bodhi tree at the temple's compound but the plan was later cancelled due big crowded atmosphere.

He met President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the state palace in Jakarta and told local media he was thinking of making a film about the history of the temple.

He would be going to the Indonesian resort island of Bali for a holiday with his family.

The American visited the Jogye temple in central Seoul, South Korea, last week.

Face Changing Boy From A Children's Home

Suresh Subramaniam, a 20 year of Indian-Chinese parentage from the Ti-Ratana's Children Home, Malaysia has made the home proud by being the first non-chinese to master the ancient Chinese art of Face Changing.

Ti-Ratana is a welfare society founded by Buddhist monk, Chief Rev. K.Dhammaratana in 1994. Suresh is one of the earliest resident of the Children Home. Suresh who is currently a student of 3D Animation in a local college, has keen interest in magic.

Noting Suresh’s keen interest in magic, Ti-Ratana Welfare Society vice-president Tan Thim Huat suggested that he learn the art of face-changing, and got in touch with a Chinese face-changing master from Sichuan, China.

“I went for an interview with Master Men Wei, who happened to be in Malaysia at that time. The interview was necessary for the master to evaluate a person’s potential and interest,” “Master Men agreed to accept me as a student when he saw my potential. The fact that I’m half-Indian made me unique, too.”

Suresh underwent six months of intensive training, during which he learnt the basics of mask-changing – such as walking, posing and body posture – from his master.

“The training was really tough. It called for a lot of initiative and interpretation on my part. There were times when I felt like giving up, but I persevered,” said Suresh, who had to make a daily two-hour trip via public transport to train at a studio in Cheras, KL.

“My caregivers at Ti-Ratana, as well as my mother and sister, gave me a lot of encouragement and support.”
Though each of Master Men’s students had to cough up RM12,000 for a face-changing course, Suresh was given a fee waiver due to his circumstances. He only had to pay for the costume and masks which were imported from China.

“I use nine to 10 masks for each performance. Every mask has its own characteristics and expression. A red mask could represent anger, while a white mask may depict cunning. However, it is up to the artiste to make his own interpretation of each character.”

“Master Men stressed that a face-changer’s poses and ability to interact with the crowd are important,” said Suresh, adding that his martial art and dance skills gave him an edge.

He reveals that his pre-performance routine includes practising proper breathing techniques, meditating, warming-up exercises and not eating heavy meals to enable him to stay focused. He also has to ensure that he is well-hydrated before and after each performance.

Besides regular practice, Suresh frequently observes other mask changers and opera performers in order to develop his skills and ensure that he does not duplicate their movementsSuresh is proud that he is Malaysia’s first Indian face-changing performer, and gets a thrill each time he reveals his face to the audience.

His first public performance was at a Ti-Ratana Welfare Society event in December 2009.

Suresh has since performed at various events in the Klang Valley, and will be taking his show to Johor, Perak and Singapore soon.

“I want to create my own identity by personalising my performances from next year onwards,” said the enterprising young man. “I try to ‘Malaysian-ise’ my performance while staying true to its Chinese roots. I’m toying with the idea of adding modern elements to appeal to the younger crowd.”

“We encourage the children to find their own potential. The society helped to fund Suresh’s training. We hope his efforts will inspire other children at the home to do well in life,” said Tan, noting that Suresh is gaining popularity through word of mouth.

More about Ti-Ratana Welfare Society, visit their official website here

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Buddhist Cruise

A luxury cruise ship departed from Keelung Harbor in northern Taiwan June 22, 2011 on a three-day cruise around the island, with over 1,000 Buddhist monks and nuns on board.

They were all invited to jointly perform a religious ritual on board to free the souls of people who had died in accidents at sea, said Yen Hsiu-hua, chairperson of the Chinese Charity Sailing Foundation that planned the trip.

The monks and nuns will pray for the deceased to rest in peace and be reincarnated in a better world, she said.

They will be joined by 11 others from Japan, who will also pray for the victims in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, she added.

The foundation leased the Star Cruises ship at a cost of nearly NT$20 million (US$693,000) and spent other NT$10 million to cover the Buddhist masters' expenses during the voyage, according to Yen.

The ship will travel clockwise around the island and return to its departure point.