Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week. 

Bhutan Earns First Oscar Nomination for Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, Up for Best International Feature Film This Year

In a historic first for Bhutan, the film Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom by director Pawo Choyning Dorji has received an Oscar nomination for Best International Feature Film. Lunana is only the second Bhutanese film ever submitted to the Oscars (Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s movie The Cup was the first in 1999) and the first to receive a nomination. Dorji, speaking with Deadline, said that the nomination “lifted the spirit in the country,” which is currently under a COVID lockdown. “The most magical part of this is it was so unexpected,” Dorji shared. “This is my first film—I wasn’t supposed to be here, the film wasn’t supposed to be here. . . I hope it inspires Bhutanese and Himalayan filmmakers.” Filmed under rough conditions in the remote highlands of Bhutan with no running water, heat, or electricity, Lunana was shot entirely on one camera with solar-powered batteries. The film focuses on the internal conflict of a young Bhutanese teacher named Ugyen, who aspires to move to Australia to pursue a big-time singing career but is instead relocated to the remote village of Lunana to serve out the remainder of his teaching contract. Read Tricycle’s review of the film here.

Dorji expressed his gratitude for the nomination on Facebook. “We hope our film, displaying very simple and essential human values from one of the most remote places in the world, will continue to touch peoples’ hearts, especially during these difficult times,” he wrote. 

Sikyong Penpa Tsering Inaugurates New Tibet Museum in Dharamsala

In a ceremony on February 9, Sikyong Penpa Tsering, the leader of the Central Tibetan Administration formally inaugurated the new Tibet Museum at Gangchen Kyishong in Dharamsala, India. The project was launched in 2017 under the leadership of former Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay with the aim of disseminating the uncensored story of Tibet to the world and preserving the cultural heritage of Tibet. In a speech at the ceremony, Sikyong expressed his gratitude for the museum’s donors and for the “guidance and visionary leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.” Introducing the new Tibet Museum, Director Taishi Phuntsok said, “The objective of the museum is to educate, increase awareness of Tibet, and tell our story of exile to a global audience.” The museum’s ten permanent exhibitions will display objects, archives, photographs, and personal testimonies to highlight Tibet’s history as well as the crises facing Tibetans today. 

New York Dharma Center Village Zendo Starts Volunteer Group to Aid Afghan Refugees

Last month, a group of volunteers from New York City’s Village Zendo gathered to discuss partnering with a refugee agency to sponsor an individual or family, likely from Afghanistan. The dharma center hosted its second meeting on Tuesday, this time with members of the Buddhist Action Coalition, Brooklyn Zen Center, and Fire Lotus Temple, as well as individuals not affiliated with a sangha. Village Zendo is currently looking for more volunteers as it partners with Jewish American nonprofit HAIS. Anyone interested in participating can check out this form, reach out to doshin@villagezendo.org, and join the next meeting, which is Tuesday, February 15 at 7pm ET. Register here

Himalayan Art Scholar Jeff Watt Shares a Video Discussing Androgynous Gods & Gender Reversed Deities

Himalayan art scholar and translator Jeff Watt proposes that there are eleven types of deities by appearance, ranging from peaceful to wrathful, warrior to winged. This week, he shared a video on his YouTube channel, Himalayan Art Resources, Inc., that explores the tenth category, Androgynous and Gender-Reversed Deities, using art selections from the Himalayan Art Resources’ “virtual museum,” of which he is the chief curator. Watch the video here.

Spirit Rock Executive Director Steps Down After 11 Years

Michelle Latvala has stepped down from her role as Executive Director of Spirit Rock, where she held the position since 2011 and has practiced since 2000. During her tenure, Latvala led Spirit Rock through the center’s 2016 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Plan and Teacher Training launch, and most recently, the pivot to online programming that the pandemic has required of dharma centers around the world. John Martin, who served as the CEO of the San Francisco Airport (SFO) for 20 years and is currently on the Spirit Rock Teachers Council and Guiding Teachers Committee, will step in as interim executive director for at least the next six months. Brian Reid, Spirit Rock’s Marketing Communications Manager, told Tricycle that the center will continue offering virtual teachings moving forward, and that the robust digital presence will remain a priority on par with the in-person retreats.  

Columbia University Hosts Talk Related to Its Current Exhibit, “What Is the Use of Buddhist Art?”

At Columbia University’s Wallach Gallery, an exhibit titled “What is the Use of Buddhist Art?” seeks to illuminate the “social life of objects within Buddhist communities.” Audiences are invited to view ritual objects outside of a European “art historical” context, turning an eye instead toward “agency, instrumentality, materiality, and presence.” On Thursday, Michelle C. Wang, associate professor in the department of Art and Art History at Georgetown University, hosted a discussion related to the exhibit on the focus of time in Buddhist thought. Barnard College professor Max Moerman curated the exhibit, which is open until March 12, 2022.

Pali Wordle Arrives

When software engineer Josh Wardle started an online word game called Wordle for his partner in October 2021, it quickly became a hit among family members. Then it exploded. As the New York Times reports, 90 people played the game on November 1, and two months later, 300,000 people were playing it. By the end of January 2022, the Times had bought Wordle, now played by millions every single day. Imitations quickly followed, and now Pali Wordle has entered the game. It’s based on the Pali dictionaries on SuttaCentral. The rules are the same as the original Wordle, but there’s an added bonus: after you enter a five-letter word, a definition will pop up. Share your scores with us!

Coming Up

Friday, February 11: Gaia House meditation teachers Martine Batchelor, Laura Bridgman, and Gavin Milne host a live virtual workshop, “Compassion in the Face of Impermanence,” at 1 pm. Learn more here.

Saturday, February 12: Tergar Meditation Community hosts “Essence of the Bodhisattva Path” webinar with Tai Situ Rinpoche. Register here

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