Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Is A Sheep As Good As A Lamb?

A popular story in the life of the Buddha and retold in Arnold's famous poem concerns the Buddha and the injured lamb. The Buddha came across a shepherd driving a flock of sheep along a road. Trailing behind the rest of the flock was a lamb with an injured foot. The Buddha picked it up and then asked the shepherd where he was taking the animals, and he replied that he was taking them to Rajagaha for a great sacrifice which King Bimbisara was holding. The Buddha carried the lamb all the way to Rajagaha, met the king, preached to him about the futility of sacrifices, the sanctity of life and the importance of kindness to all being, and the king cancelled the sacrifice.
The story is a popular one, especially in Sri Lanka, where it is often depicted on Vesaka cards and occasionally even appears in temple wall paintings. I have heard it being taught in Buddhist Sunday schools and once I attended a kids' art competition where the winning painting was of the Buddha holding a lamb. Certainly it’s a lovely story and the image of a holy person, any holy person, tenderly holding an animals is a particularly poignant one. The question is 'Where does this story come from?' Well, despite pretty much having been incorporated into the Buddha's biography, the earliest version of the story comes from…The Light of Asia. It is an invention of Sir Edwin Arnold. And where did he get it from? Who knows! But I would suspect that when he created it he was very much influenced by the Christian idea of the 'good shepherd' and those popular images of Jesus holding a lamb. That he should graft a Christian concept/image onto a Buddhist narrative to make it more familiar to a Western readership, was very skillful of him. Less laudable is the fact that many traditional Buddhists know so little of their own sacred scriptures that they actually think something written by an Englishmen in just 130 years ago is from those sacred scriptures.
If you would like to read The Light of Asia have a look at

I am very happy to inform you that the whole of my book A Guide to Buddhism A to Z is now on the internet in Serbo-Croatian due to the diligence and dedication of my friend Branko. Please have a look at The English is available at Anyone want to do it in Hindi, French, Finnish, Spanish or Swahili?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Lamb To The Slaughter

This is from the fifth canto of Sir Edwin Arnold's famous poem The Light of Asia, which was widely acclaimed for several decades after its publication in 1879. It is appreciated by few people today other than Buddhists. Please read it carefully and tomorrow I will make some comments on it that you may find interesting or surprising.

While the Master spake
Blew down the mount the dust of pattering feet,
White goats and black sheep winding slow their way,
With many a lingering nibble at the tufts,
And wanderings from the path, where water gleamed
Or wild figs hung. But always as they strayed
The herdsman cried, or slung his sling, and kept
The silly crowd still moving to the plain.
A ewe with couplets in the flock there was,
Some hurt had lamed one lamb, which toiled behind
Bleeding, while in the front its fellow skipped,
And the vexed dam hither and thither ran,
Fearful to lose this little one or that;
Which when our Lord did mark, full tenderly
He took the limping lamb upon his neck,
Saying, "Poor woolly mother, be at peace!
Whither thou goest I will bear thy care;
'Twere all as good to ease one beast of grief
As sit and watch the sorrows of the world
In yonder caverns with the priests who pray."
"But," spake he to the herdsmen, "wherefore, friends!
Drive ye the flocks adown under high noon,
Since 'tis at evening that men fold their sheep?"
And answer gave the peasants: "We are sent
To fetch a sacrifice of goats five score,
And five score sheep, the which our Lord the King
Slayeth this night in worship of his gods."
Then said the Master: "I will also go!"
So paced he patiently, bearing the lamb
Beside the herdsmen in the dust and sun,
The wistful ewe low-bleating at his feet.

So entered they the city side by side,
The herdsmen and the Prince, what time the sun
Gilded slow Sona's distant stream, and threw
Long shadows down the street and through the gate
Where the King's men kept watch. But when these saw
Our Lord bearing the lamb, the guards stood back,
The market-people drew their wains aside,
In the bazaar buyers and sellers stayed
The war of tongues to gaze on that mild face;
The smith, with lifted hammer in his hand,
Forgot to strike; the weaver left his web,
The scribe his scroll, the money-changer lost
His count of cowries; from the unmatched rice
Shiva's white bull fed free; the wasted milk
Ran o'er the Iota while the milkers watched
The passage of our Lord moving so meek,
With yet so beautiful a majesty.
Then some one told the King, "There cometh here
A holy hermit, bringing down the flock
Which thou didst bid to crown the sacrifice."
The King stood in his hall of offering,
On either hand the white-robed Brahmans ranged
Muttered their mantras, feeding still the fire
Which roared upon the midmost altar. There
From scented woods flickered bright tongues of flame,
Hissing and curling as they licked the gifts
Of ghee and spices and the Soma juice,
The joy of Indra. Round about the pile
A slow, thick, scarlet streamlet smoked and ran,
Sucked by the sand, but ever rolling down,
The blood of bleating victims. One such lay,
A spotted goat, long-horned, its head bound back
With munja grass; at its stretched throat the knife
Pressed by a priest, who murmured, "This, dread gods,
Of many yajnas cometh as the crown
From Bimbasara: take ye joy to see
The spirited blood, and pleasure in the scent
Of rich flesh roasting 'mid the fragrant flames;
Let the King's sins be laid upon this goat,
And let the fire consume them burning it,
For now I strike."
But Buddha softly said,
"Let him not strike, great King!" and therewith loosed
The victim's bonds, none staying him, so great
His presence was. Then, craving leave, he spake
Of life, which all can take but none can give,
Life, which all creatures love and strive to keep,
Wonderful, dear and pleasant unto each,
Even to the meanest; yea, a boon to all
Where pity is, for pity makes the world
Soft to the weak and noble for the strong.
Unto the dumb lips of his flock he lent
Sad pleading words, showing how man, who prays
For mercy to the gods, is merciless,
Being as god to those; albeit all life
Is linked and kin, and what we slay have given
Meek tribute of the milk and wool, and set
Fast trust upon the hands which murder them.
Also he spake of what the holy books
Do surely teach, how that at death some sink
To bird and beast, and these rise up to man
In wanderings of the spark which grows purged flame.
So were the sacrifice new sin, if so
The fated passage of a soul be stayed.
Nor, spake he, shall one wash his spirit clean
By blood; nor gladden gods, being good, with blood;
Nor bribe them, being evil; nay, nor lay
Upon the brow of innocent bound beasts
One hair's weight of that answer all must give
For all things done amiss or wrongfully,
Alone, each for himself, reckoning with that
The fixed arithmetic of the universe,
Which meteth good for good and ill for ill,
Measure for measure, unto deeds, words, thoughts;
Watchful, aware, implacable, unmoved;
Making all futures fruits of all the pasts.
Thus spake he, breathing words so piteous
With such high lordliness of ruth and right,
The priests drew back their garments o'er the hands
Crimsoned with slaughter, and the King came near,
Standing with clasped palms reverencing Buddh;
While still our Lord went on, teaching how fair
This earth were if all living things be linked
In friendliness and common use of foods,
Bloodless and pure; the golden grain, bright fruits,
Sweet herbs which grow for all, the waters wan,
Sufficient drinks and meats. Which when these heard,
The might of gentleness so conquered them,
The priests themselves scattered their altar-flames
And flung away the steel of sacrifice;
And through the land next day passed a decree
Proclaimed by criers, and in this wise graved
On rock and column: "Thus the King's will is: --
There hath been slaughter for the sacrifice
And slaying for the meat, but henceforth none
Shall spill the blood of life nor taste of flesh,
Seeing that knowledge grows, and life is one,
And mercy cometh to the merciful."
So ran the edict, and from those days forth
Sweet peace hath spread between all living kind,
Man and the beasts which serve him, and the birds,
On all those banks of Ganga where our Lord
Taught with his saintly pity and soft speech

Monday, May 11, 2009

Europe's Native Buddhists

The Kalmaks are a group of Mongol people who make up the largest ethnic group (53%) in the Republic of Kalmykia, a part of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The majority of Kalmaks are Tibetan Buddhists of the Galupa sect and is thus are Europe's only native Buddhists.
The nomadic Kalmyks migrated from Central Asia to in the 17th century but this soon brought them into contact with the easterly expanding Russian Empire. Much of their history since then has been a struggle against the Russian desire to eliminate them. Eventually Russia conquered the Kalmyks and began a relentless campaign eliminate their identity. As has often been the case, Christianization was the first step in this process. Kalmyk chiefs were given official recognition, land and salaries if they converted to Russian Orthodoxy, and some did. Later, German and Russian immigrants were given the most fertile land, pushing the Kalmyks onto the least productive areas and improvising them. Despite this, most Kalmyks retained their faith and contact with religious centers in Tibet continued. But with the coming of communism the Kalmyks were to face their most testing times. The population was decimated by forced collectivizing and the subsequent famine, all supposed 'kulaks' were shot, then in the late 1930's all monasteries and shrines were razed and all monks murdered or driven into exile. The Nazis invaded the Kalmyk lands during WW II. and when they were driven out, Stalin accused the Kalmyks of being collaborators and in the middle of the winter of 1943 the entire population was deported to Siberia. It is estimated that a third of the population died during the deportation and of the survivors another two thirds perished in the subsequent hardships. The Kalmyk Oblast was divided amongst other regions, all Kalmyk names were changed to Russian ones and in effect the Kalmyks, their culture and their very existence disappeared. In 1957 the dispirited and broken remnants of the Kalmyks were allowed to return to their traditional homeland only to find themselves strangers there. Buddhism and all expressions of Kalmyk culture and identity were still firmly suppressed. This long martyrdom ended in 1990 with the collapse of the USSR and the establishment of the Republic of Kalmykia. But reestablishment of Buddhism had been slow, hardly surprising. During the early Soviet period Kalmyks who were able to fled to Europe and those in Belgrade built the first Buddhist temple in Europe outside Russia in 1929. A few Kalmyks managed to escape in the 1930 and eventually settled in Philadelphia in the US, one of these being the famous Geshe Wangyal. A boy born into the Kalmyk community in 1970's was later recognized at Telo Rimpoche, the senior Kalmyk lama. He underwent a proper Buddhist training and when the Soviet Union collapsed returned to Kalmykia. However, he could not speak the language and soon tired of being 'special', finally returning to the US and marrying. He has recently renewed his interest in Dhamma and in his people. The greatest threats to the Dhamma amongst the Kalmyks is an almost complete absence of teaching monks and the presence of evangelical Christian missionaries. However, the Kalmyks have survived worse than this before. Hopefully they can survive the new challenges.
The bottom picture shows the Belgrade temple.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Circle Of Light

A halo (byamappadha or pabhamandala) is a ring of light believed to appear around the head of particularly saintly people. Ancient and modern depictions of the Buddha often show him with a halo although the Tipitaka never mentions him having one. However, it does say at the time he attained enlightenment rays (ramsi) of blue, yellow, red, white, orange light emanated from his body (Vin.I,25). The flag (pataka or dhaja) now widely used to represent Buddhism and has been flown widely in different places around the world over the last few days, was designed by the American Buddhist Henry Olcott in the 1880's, as a part of his efforts to unite the Buddhists of Sri Lanka in their struggle against foreign missionaries. The flag is rectangular, with six vertical bars - blue, yellow, red, white, orange and finally a combination of all five. These stripes represent the coloured rays that emanated from the Buddha's body when he attained enlightenment.
It is interesting to note that in the hours before his passing his skin became extraordinarily clear and bright (D.II,134). This transfiguration as it is called, is also supposed to have happened to Jesus just before his arrest.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Vesakha Contemplation

Too soon had the Blessed One passed away! Too soon has the Happy One ceased! Too soon has the Light of the World gone out! (D.II)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vesakha Blessings To All My Readers

Concerning those things not heard before vision arose, knowledge arose, understanding arose, wisdom arose, light arose (Vin.I,10).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vesakha Blessings

The Bodhisattva, that excellent and incomparable jewel, has been born into the human world for its welfare and happiness at Lumbini in the Sakyan country. This is why we are so exultant and happy (Sn.683).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Reaching Out At Vesakha

Extract of a message from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue by Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, on the occasion of Vesakha 2009

Dear Buddhist Friends,
The forthcoming feast of Vesakha offers a welcome occasion to send you, on behalf of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, our sincere congratulations and cordial best wishes: may this feast once again bring joy and serenity to the hearts of all Buddhists throughout the world. This annual celebration offers Catholics an opportunity to exchange greetings with our Buddhist friends and neighbors, and in this way to strengthen the existing bonds of friendship and to create new ones. These ties of cordiality allow us to share with each other our joys, hopes and spiritual treasures. While renewing our sense of closeness to you, Buddhists, in this period, it becomes clearer and clearer that together we are able not only to contribute, in fidelity to our respective spiritual traditions, to the well-being of our own communities, but also to the human community of the world. We keenly feel the challenge before us all represented, on the one hand, by the ever more extensive phenomenon of poverty in its various forms and, on the other hand, by the unbridled pursuit of material possessions and the pervasive shadow of consumerism. As recently stated by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, poverty can be of two very different types, namely, a poverty "to be chosen" and a poverty "to be fought". For a Christian, the poverty to be chosen is that which allows one to tread in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. We understand this poverty to mean above all an emptying of self, but we also see it as an acceptance of ourselves as we are, with our talents and our limitations. Such poverty creates in us a willingness to listen to God and to our brothers and sisters, being open to them, and respecting them as individuals. At the same time, as Pope Benedict noted, "there is a poverty, a deprivation, which God does not desire and which should be fought; a poverty that prevents people and families from living as befits their dignity; a poverty that offends justice and equality and that, as such, threatens peaceful co-existence. Whereas we as Catholics reflect in this way on the meaning of poverty, we are also attentive to your spiritual experience, dear Buddhist friends. We wish to thank you for your inspiring witness of non-attachment and contentment. Monks, nuns, and many lay devotees among you embrace a poverty "to be chosen" that spiritually nourishes the human heart, substantially enriching life with a deeper insight into the meaning of existence, and sustaining commitment to promoting the goodwill of the whole human community. Once again allow us to express our heartfelt greetings and to wish all of you a Happy Feast of Vesakha.
Too soon has the

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


A friend who used to live in Singapore and has now returned to the West recently wrote to me of her experiences at and impressions of the Shambala Training courses that she recently attended. I found her comments thoughtful and interesting so I thought I might share them with you.

'Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Actually, I have done two "levels" of Shambala courses, both were weekend courses. I liked the first one well enough to go on to the second several months later, but after the second I felt maybe I'd had enough. I think the teachings are fine and the meditation training is good. At the end of the 2nd level, the instructor gave me as a present a postcard of their current "leader", Sakyong Mipham, who is Trungpa Rimpoche's son, taken at his wedding some princess he married, which I thought was rather odd. Was I supposed to put it up on my wall or what? I've read one of Skyong Mipham's books and went to a talk of his in Singapore before I knew anything about Shambhala, and certainly feel, at least on the surface, he's on a lot more solid ethical ground than his father. But there is something just a bit too slick, polished and up-market about the presentation that made me uneasy. I also found it odd that in Singapore, although Sakyong wore robes, all his "minders" wore business suits. I mean, they're not monks, so they wouldn't wear robes, but why suits and ties?) I also wondered whether he is the Shambala leader because he has any particular insights or teaching abilities or because he is his father's son. Is it just me or do some Tibetan Buddhist groups have a family business character to them? I find that Sakyong's version is as much rooted in the culture of our times as Trungpa's wild excesses were. He uses a lot of sports, health and physical training metaphors and images and somehow has a kind of "corporate, media-friendly" sort of vibe. If I think about it, there's nothing really wrong with reaching people where they are, but somehow the feeling of 'packaging' is rather off-putting.
Also, at the second course I did, someone else became a member of Shambhala and got a badge, which felt a bit like the Scouts to me, although that is probably partially my non-group-joining prejudice, a weird kind of arrogance of the Grouch Marx "wouldn't stoop to join any club that would have someone like me as a member" variety. It was also after the second course that I read on the back of a book that Trungpa Rimpoche had died very young and couldn't find any explanation about that in Shambhala materials, so went to the internet and found out all the rest of it! That left me feeling very negative. It really felt like a cover-up and I guess I felt a sense of betrayal. But I think it is something of this up-market feel to it now that strikes me as somehow not genuine. The people who go there seem mainly of the 'shiny happy' variety, not the ordinary mortals whose presence I find quite reassuring.
But it seems to me that in Shambhala there is a bit of a rarefied atmosphere that can come close to selfishness; people on a spiritual path for their own personal development, without much concern for helping others. I know you talk about this problem in Buddhism in general, so I don't think it's confined to Shambhala. But having had some background in the Christian faith, I'm used to that element of serving others that appears in churches, even if it's on a very basic level like a food drive or collecting old clothes for a charity, things which serve the purpose of bringing people together in a common cause that they can feel good about and also has some actual benefit for others. But then my involvement with Shambhala here has been quite limited, so I don't know for sure what kinds of things the members do'.

Monday, May 4, 2009

GQGA In Cambodia

I recently received news from Yu Ban of Dhamma Aid Cambodia that they have so far printed and distributed 17,500 copies of the Khmer translation of my book Good Question Good Answer. Apparently Dhamma books are in short supply in Cambodia outside the main cities and people like the book 'because it explains all the main Dhamma points in a way people can understand.' I couldn’t be more happy to be of service to the Dhamma. The picture shows copies of the book being distributed in a temple.
Please have a look at

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Because They Care About AWARE

The widely anticipated AWARE extraordinary general meeting was held yesterday (2nd May) and attracted over 3000 people, most of who had joined the organization in the last few weeks (See post of 28th April). After seven hours of shouting, boos and accusations, the motion of no confidence against the (usurping) new committee was passed by an overwhelming majority and before they could resign they were replaced by a new committee made up mainly of old (original) members. To their credit, the (usurper) new committee took the barrage of criticism against them and their ignominious dumping coolly and calmly, in fact, with the same cool and calm they displayed when they had infiltrated and underhandedly taken over AWARE only weeks before. For me, the verbal highlight of the seven hour meeting was when Thio Su Mien said that the (usurping) new committee was for 'openness' and someone shouted 'Then why did you have all the locks (on the AWARE premises) changes when you took over?' The outcome has been a stunning victory for common sense and progress over narrow and retrograde religiosity. However, it seems to me that the AWARE affair might be a pointer to several distinct and positive changes taking place in Singaporean society.
Photo credit Online Citizen
Until recently Singaporeans have tended to have a passive indifference to social issues, and an anxiety to getting involved in anything deemed 'controversial' - and just about anything was thought to be 'controversial' even when it wasn’t. Most observers have expressed surprise at how much comment the AWARE affair has generated amongst the general public. In this case, newspaper coverage of the affair, which previously would have probably been low-key, has helped create the interest, and the internet has kept it well and truly alive and kicking.
The affair might also signal a change in perceptions of and attitudes towards religion in general and Christianity in particular. The Anglican archbishop of Singapore, representing the National Council of Churches, said 'We do not condone churches getting involved in this matter; neither do we condone pulpits being used for this purpose', a reference to Rev. Derek Hong's sermon last Sunday in which he urged the women in his congregation to stack the upcoming AWARE extraordinary general meeting so that the usurpers could keep their grip on power. Strangely, the archbishop hardly alluded to the thoroughly deceitful way the members of the Church of Our Savior had taken over AWARE, and his comments came quite late in the day. One gets the feeling that he was more concerned about the bad publicity the affair was generating for the churches than by all the subterfuge and dishonesty. But perhaps I'm wrong.
Other Christians were far more unequivocal. A group calling itself 'Concerned Christians Against Fundamentalism' described themselves as 'A group of Christians who believe that the New Guard of AWARE is giving our faith and religion a bad name'. Their wed site went on to say, ' Join this group to signify your commitment to a Christianity that is free from crass manipulation and the degradation of our faith. 1: We do not condone the takeover of secular organizations by Christian fundamentalist groups. 2: We believe in Facts, not Fabrication. 3: We believe in Dialogue, not Lies. 4: We believe in a God of Love, not a God of Hate'. A small but significant number of Christians turned up at the EGM to support the (original) AWARE and others have written to the press. One of them was reported in the Straits Times as saying, 'I do not want my children learning that as Christians, they have the right to impose their beliefs on others via underhand tactics'. Up to now at least, fundamentalist Christians have had the highest profile in Singapore, they have muscled into centre stage, giving many people the impression that Christianity is a narrow, strident and intolerant faith. Perhaps the AWARE affair has made these (What can I call them? 'Moderate Christians?' 'Nice Christians?' 'Genuine Christians?' I'll settle for 'Christian Christians') Christians decide that have had enough of the fundamentalists and that they are determined to show that their faith can have a 'kinder, gentler' side too. If so, this will be a very welcome change and good for Singapore's multi-religious society.
Another change the AWARE affair may be heralding is a more informed, sympathetic and relaxed attitude to sexual minorities. Although homosexuality actually had little to do with the whole affair - the (usurping) new committee's claim that the old committee was promoting homosexuality has been shown to be false - the subject has been dragged into the debate. Of the huge number of comments on the internet about the AWARE affair, a majority have expressed disapproval and disgust at the improper way the (usurping) committee took over. But a significant number of others also expressed the view that they disagree with discrimination against homosexuals and that they stand for acceptance and understanding. This too is a good thing and a sign that Singaporeans are changing for the better.
After being replaced, the defeated (usurping) new committee made a short statement in which they said that they were graciously stepping down and that they wished AWARE well. 'Gracious?' Well, maybe. Well-wishes? Okay, if you say so. But honestly, I think people shouldn’t be too hard on this truly pious group of women. After all, when you are doing Gods will, rules and propriety shouldn’t have to apply to you.

Well, all the excitement is over. Tomorrow I'll return to more edifying matters.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Commandments And Precepts VIII

The seventh of the eighth Precept is, I take the precept to abstain from dancing (nacca), singing (gita), music (vadita), visual entertainments (visukadassana), wearing garlands (malagandha), cosmetics (vilepana) and wearing (dharana) ornaments (mandana) and various decorations (vibhusanatthana). Now as soon as people, particularly Westerners, learn of this Precept they immidatly think of the Puritans or their modern-day equivalents, those gloomy religious fanatics who in we Australians used to call them 'wousers'. Now I believe they call them 'the fun police'. These types believed that people should live with a continual sense of sin and in fear of God, and and anything that diverted attention from such thoughts was wrong. In other words, their objections to people enjoying themselves was, you might say, religious. The seventh Precept is not about religion, it is about psychology.
The list of things mentioned in the seventh Precept can be divided into two parts, (1) popular entertainment, and (2) personal adornment. Now the purpose of entertainment is to do or participate in activities that stimulate, titillate and arouse the mind in ways that are pleasant, a perfectly normal and legitimate persuite – at the right time and in the right place. For example, dancing to music would be appropriate at a party or a wedding, but it would be completely out of place at a medical conference, or a parliamentary debate on the budget. Why? Because one of the purposes of a wedding or a party is to have fun, while the other activities have more serious and important goals and singing and dancing would be a distraction. Once or twice a month, the mature Buddhist takes the opportunity to focus fully on contemplating the Dhamma and trying to purify the mind, and as singing, dancing or other entertainment would be a distraction to this serious goal he or she abstains from those such things for the day.
What about personal adornment? The purpose of wearing cosmetics and jewellery is to enhance physical beauty or to make the ordinary look more attractive – a perfectly normal and legitimate persuite. But personal adornment is, one would have to admit, a 'cover up'. It is an attempt to deceive, to make something look better than it really is. It is motivated by the need to win attention, approval or the admiration of others. Nothing wrong with that either, within reason. However, once or twice a month the mature Buddhist wants to spend time trying to 'see things as they really are'. He or she wants to be more concerned about being in complete harmony with the Dhamma rather than trying to present a 'front' to others. Therefore, on that day, he or she will not bother about how they look.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Commandments And Precepts VII

The last of the eight Precepts and the ninth of the ten Precepts say that one should abstain from using high (ucca) or large (maha) seats and couches. Some people are perplexed by this rule and wonder what it has to do with morality or the training of the mind. Of course it has nothing to do with morality. Only the first five Precepts pertain to moral behaviour and are kammically significant. The other Precepts, including the one about seats and couches, are ways of behaving that can assist in calming the mind and shaping character. In ancient India, and even in the modern world, sitting on an elevated or grand chair was a sign of power and status. Monarchs, judges, lecturers, managing directors, the speaker of parliament, etc, all have special high seats. To practice the eighth Precept is to relinquish, not display or take advantage of one's social status, at least for a day. Practising the eighth Precept is about modesty, diminishing the ego and refraining from `putting oneself on a pedestal.'
The picture shows a baby breaking the eighth Precept.