Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Happy Birthday Thich Nhat Hanh
Beloved Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh turned 92 this week, and the monks and nuns at his Plum Village center in France took the opportunity to update the community about his health. “Thay,” as he is more familiarly known, has been recovering in Thailand from a stroke he suffered in 2015. A statement on the Plum Village website recounts some of his recent triumphs and setbacks:
When he is with the sangha, Thay will often gesture, bright-eyed, to remind us to enjoy listening to the sound of the birds, or with a gentle smirk he will point to his mouth to remind us to smile. On good days, Thay has been able to offer his solemn presence and witness at ordination ceremonies, or his joyful presence at festivals, watching his students perform songs, skits and dances . . . Although Thay has still not been able to speak since his stroke, he delights in joining in when the sangha sings Plum Village songs.
Edward Espé Brown Disinvited from Teaching at San Francisco Zen Center
Following a complaint from a student against Buddhist teacher and Zen cook Edward Espé Brown, the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC) has asked him to no longer teach there, according to a pair of statements from the zendo and Brown. The student had written in an open letter that Edward Brown spoke dismissively of transgender people and made lewd comments about women during his talks. The unidentified student did not suggest that he should be removed from teaching. The abbots and abbesses of SFZC claim that Brown declined to speak with them about the complaint and expressed “anger and acrimony” toward them, leading to the decision to disinvite him from teaching. The leaders’ statement added, “Over the years there have been many concerns voiced by students, those attending your retreats and lectures, and teachers, about your deportment from the dharma seat.” Edward Brown offered a different account, proving one of the claims the student made against him to be mistaken by providing an audio recording and promising to be more respectful in the future. He wrote that he was “shocked and hurt” but was “willing to be much more careful in understanding what is off the table: anything to do with gender or identity issues or sexual matters certainly . . . We are living in a different era. I have no problem adjusting my zendo speech accordingly both as to style and content, especially as I realize that I have made poor judgments at times.”
Correction (10/14): A previous version of this story mistakenly identified the student as Lichen Brown. Lichen Brown’s letter was not a complaint but mostly supportive of Edward Brown, who is her father.
New Online Archive Has Wealth of Tibetan Buddhist Literature
The Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC) and Internet Archive (IA) have partnered to create a massive, free collection of Buddhist texts. According to a joint press release, the digital archive is the “world’s largest collection of Tibetan Buddhist literature.” Most of the work of compiling the texts was carried out by BDRC, which had already digitally archived more than seven million pages of Tibetan texts. The organization was founded in 1999 by the scholar Gene Smith, who passed away in 2010. BDRC executive director emeritus Jeff Wallman and executive director Jann Ronis explained their decision to work with IA in a statement: “The founding mission of BDRC is to make the treasures of Buddhist literature available to all on the Internet . . . We hope that by making these texts available via the Internet Archive, we can spur a new generation of usage. Openness ensures preservation.”
Congressional Report Finds Less Freedom in Tibet
A new report by the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) claims that the Chinese government has increased various kinds of repression in Tibet, including restricting travel and religious practice and heightening surveillance, Phayul.com reports. The CECC chair Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) said in a statement, “The human rights situation inside China, including Tibet, has steadily been on a downward trajectory with incumbent Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ascendency in the Chinese Communist Party.” The report pointed to the arrest of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk, the demolitions at the Buddhist academy Larung Gar, and an apparent lack of communication between Tibetan and Chinese leaders as evidence of deteriorating conditions. The CECC urged the Senate to pass the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, which would prevent Chinese officials who deny American citizens access to the Tibet Autonomous Region from entering the United States. The House of Representatives passed the act with bipartisan support.
Myanmar Arrests Three Journalists
Myanmar police have arrested three journalists after their paper ran an article that criticized an ally of the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports. The Eleven Media Group publication Weekly Eleven News Journal had questioned the financial management of Yangon’s bus service, which is overseen by Yangon chief minister Phyo Min Thein, a confidant of Suu Kyi. Eleven Media’s executive editors Kyaw Zaw Lin and Nayi Min and chief reporter Phyo Wai Win were arrested on Wednesday and now face up to two years in prison, according to Al Jazeera.
This is not the first instance of Myanmar punishing journalists for negative coverage. In September, two Reuters reporters were sentenced to seven years in prison on charges stemming from an arcane state secrets law. The reporters, U Wa Lone and U Kyaw Soe Oo, had been investigating the deaths of Rohingya people in the Rakhine state. Watchdog groups were quick to condemn the Eleven Media journalists’ arrests. The International Press Institute in Vienna said in a statement to RFA that the arrests were “an affront to press freedom in Myanmar,” adding, “These journalists were doing their job of exposing government mismanagement.”
Tibetan Buddhist Monks Shoot Hoops on NBA Court
A group of Tibetan Buddhist monks visited the practice center of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, where they shot baskets (video below) and met with the staff. While the team was away on a trip to China, one player, DeAndre Jordan, had stayed behind and participated in a meditation session with the monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery, according to the sports site the Smoking Cuban. The ten monks are part of the Mystical Arts of Tibet group, which has toured for 30 years demonstrating Tibetan arts and Buddhist practices.
Check out their basketball skills 👇 pic.twitter.com/Y4ZMqfPLWk
— Mavs Care (@MavsCare) October 8, 2018
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