Friday, June 15, 2012

Buddhists in Space: China's female astronaut

View of Buddhism's First Heaven (catumajhrajika akasha deva loka) near Earth space ESA Christer Fuglesang at ISS STS 128 spacewalk (NASA handout 9-5-09/Reuters)

Female astronaut Liu Yang (Jason Lee/Reuters)
China is sending its first woman into outer space this weekend, prompting a surge of national pride as the rising power takes another step toward putting a space station in orbit within the decade. 
Liu Yang, a 33-year-old fighter pilot, will join two other astronauts aboard the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft when it lifts off from a remote Gobi Desert launch site on Saturday evening (6:37 pm Beijing time, 6:37 am ET).
They will attempt a crew-controlled docking for the first time with the uncrewed Tiangong 1 module, which was launched last September as part of China's exploratory preparations for a space lab. The module is now orbiting 213 miles (343 km) above Earth.
Rendezvous and docking exercises between the two vessels will be an important hurdle in China's efforts to acquire the technological and logistical skills needed to run a full space lab that can house astronauts for long stretches.
China's aspirations
Last October, China launched a robotic Shenzhou 8 module that successfully performed a remote-controlled docking with Tiangong 1 ("Heavenly Palace") in preparation for this month's crewed mission. Space program spokeswoman Wu Ping told reporters that Shenzhou 9 would make two dockings with Tiangong 1 -- the first by remote control, and the second under manual control. More
A Great Buddhist in Space
Daw Mya Tin, M.A., Dhammapada 219-220 (
While residing at Isipatana, the Buddha uttered these verses with reference to Nandiya, a rich man from Varanasi. After listening to the Buddha's discourse on the benefits of building monastic residences, he built the great monastery at Isipatana. The building was pinnacled and fully furnished. As soon as the monastery was offered to the Buddha, a corresponding "mansion" came up for him in Tavatimsa, deva space world.
One day, Great Moggallana visited that space world and saw the mansion. On his return from Tavatimsa, the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, Great Moggallana asked the Buddha:

"Venerable sir, for those who perform meritorious deeds, do they have mansions and other riches prepared in the deva realm even as they live in this world?" 
The Buddha replied: "Why do you ask? Have you yourself not seen the mansion and riches awaiting Nandiya in Tavatimsa? The devas await the coming of good and generous beings the way relatives await the return of one long absent. When good ones die, they are welcomed joyously in the abodes of the devas." Then he uttered these verses:

One who has long been absent then
returns home safely from a distance
is welcomed with joy by relatives,
friends, and well-wishers on returning. 

In the same way, one's good karma
will receive one who has done good
when going from this world to another,
as relatives receive a dear one returning.