Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Beatboxing Monk Makes Sutras Go Viral
A Japanese Zen Buddhist monk, Yogetsu Akasaka, has become popular on YouTube for beatboxing, sometimes with guitars or a hang (a steel idiophone), in his brown robes. In July, he told VICE that he started his channel to continue feeding his passion for music even after becoming a monk. Akasaka also hopes to break down some misconceptions about Buddhism, particularly in Japan, where people often associate Buddhism with funerals. He hopes that his music shows people that sutras can help heal people’s hearts. His video “Heart Sutra Live Looping Remix” currently has over 2.5 million views.
Soto Zen Buddhist Association Board Calls for the End of the Death Penalty
The US-based Soto Zen Buddhist Association Board (SZAB) has released a call to abolish the death penalty and halt all executions in response to the recent increase in federal executions. In a statement, the organization said that its members “believe that social and personal transformation are always possible, and that even wounded people can change and contribute to society. . . . [T]he great majority of all prisoners are capable of transformation. This is our understanding of human nature.” SZAB included a set of action items for followers, and has also launched a change.org petition.
Online Film Fest Highlights Tibetan Bön
Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, founder and spiritual director of Ligmincha International, has organized an online film festival highlighting the Tibetan Bön tradition. Bringing Bön to Light is a series of 10 documentaries related to Tibetan Bön, each offering a different perspective on the belief system that existed prior to the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet. Starting today, the films will be shown every Saturday and Sunday through January 3. Each online screening is free and open to all, and is immediately followed by a live or prerecorded discussion with the film’s director, producer, or others featured in the documentary. Click here for more information and the full schedule.
Annual Bodh Gaya Prayer Events Remain Uncertain
Annual prayer events in Bodhgaya, India, have still not been organized, likely because tourism remains low in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Times of India reported. The lack of foreign devotees who would usually arrive to participate in the events has lessened the motivation of organizers to submit the required requests to hold the events at the world heritage site Mahabodhi Mahavihara temple, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment. While the temple reopened on September 2, visitors remain mostly locals. No international flights are currently operating from the Gaya airport.
First Ugandan Buddhist Monk Spreads the Dharma in Africa
Bhante Bhikkhu Buddharakkhita, a Ugandan monk in the Theravada tradition, has ambitions to train 54 novice monastics, one for every African nation, according to the Guardian. Ven. Buddharakkhita, whose Dharma Talk, “Overcoming Difficult Emotions in a Chaotic World,” appeared on Tricycle in August, says that he’s teaching Buddhism in a way that appeals to other Africans. “I’m teaching Theravada Buddhism with African flavor to ensure people understand the Lord Buddha and don’t see it as something weird, foreign and Asian,” he said. ““I see a lot of people suffering in Uganda and Africa. I find this role [as a monk] as a game changer, or a paradigm shift from suffering to happiness in Africa.” Founder and abbot of the Uganda Buddhist Centre, and author of Planting Dhamma Seeds: The Emergence of Buddhism in Africa, Ven. Buddharakkhita was born Steven Jemba Kabogozza. He converted to Buddhism in 1990 while studying in India, and has been teaching meditation on his home continent since 2005.
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