Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Scrambling to Save Bodhi Tree
The Mahabodhi Mahavihara, a bodhi tree that is said to be the descendant of the one under which the Buddha attained enlightenment, is suffering from disease, and people fear that it may soon fall with no set plan for how to save it. The tree is plagued by mealybugs, due in part to pollution and soil compaction from visitors, and could be toppled by an earthquake, strong winds, or flooding, the Times of India reports. Scientists are considering either cloning the tree or preserving its seeds by freezing them.
Self-immolation in Brooklyn
A prominent civil rights lawyer self-immolated in Park Slope, Brooklyn, on Saturday, April 14. David S. Buckel sent a letter to the New York Times and other media outlets explaining that he set himself on fire with gasoline to make a point about the environment. “Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels,” he wrote, “and many die early deaths as a result—my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.” Buckel’s suicide is reminiscent of Buddhist monks in Vietnam and Tibet who have tried to raise awareness of their plights.
New Temples in Thai Corruption Scandal
More temples have been swept up in the Thai government’s investigation into embezzlement. Three members of the Sangha Supreme Council, the governing body of Thailand’s Buddhist order, have been accused of taking part in the “change money” scandal. Monastics have allegedly pocketed 70 million baht (more than $2 million) from a Buddhism development fund meant for schools teaching Pali and dhamma studies.
First Rohingya Family Comes Home
Myanmar has allowed the first Rohingya family to return from Bangladesh to the Rakhine state. Rights groups have criticized the move as a publicity stunt as more than 700,000 refugees remain in camps in Bangladesh after fleeing a brutal campaign that has been called a slow-burning genocide. Meanwhile, the United Nations warned against the Rohingya returning to Myanmar. The U.N. refugee agency said that “conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive for returns to be safe, dignified, and sustainable.”
Wake Up and Smell the Coffin
A death-themed cafe in Bangkok, inspired by Buddhist teachings, is encouraging customers to encounter their own mortality. The Kid Mai Death Cafe features a coffin where people can lie down and contemplate their inevitable demise while earning a discount on their drink. Owner Veeranut Rojanaprapa tells the South China Morning Post that he hopes to teach people about death awareness practice and impermanence. “When one is aware of their own death, they will do good. This is what our Lord Buddha teaches,” Rojanaprapa said. “We found that having an awareness of death decreases greed and anger.”
Sri Lanka Cracks Down on Faulty Buddhist Wares
Sri Lankan authorities are cracking down on the sale of shoddy atapirikara and Buddhist flags. Atapirikara are items that make up the eight monastic requisites: the alms-bowl, three robes, a belt, a razor, a water-strainer, and a sewing needle. The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) says it plans to hold raids to catch people trying to hock atapirikara and Buddhist flags that don’t meet government-set standards, which include registering with the CAA and clearly labeling the atapirikara with the makers’ names, maximum retail price, and manufacturing date.
Kanye West, Philosopher
Kanye West this week began tweeting out his “book,” which he says he is composing sporadically on Twitter without a publisher. The artist’s snippets of philosophy have had a tinge of Buddhism to them, encouraging people to live in the moment and be authentic.
Be here now. Be in the moment. The now is the greatest moment of our lives and it just keeps getting better. The bad parts the boring parts the parts with high anxiety. Embrace every moment for its greatness. This is life. This is the greatest movie we will ever see.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) April 18, 2018
In another, he encourages his followers to put down their phones and spend an hour every morning silently reflecting on their own thoughts.
when you first wake up don’t hop right on the phone or the internet or even speak to anyone for even up to an hour if possible. Just be still and enjoy your own imagination. It’s better than any movie.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) April 18, 2018
Some have compared his tweets to koans, while at least one British philosopher has taken on the task of trying to identify a coherent system of thought.
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