Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Too Many Buddha Bellies in Thailand
Monks in Thailand are struggling with obesity, the New York Times reports. While excessive weight is a problem across Thailand, nearly half of monks there are obese, the Times writes, citing a study by Chulalongkorn University. In response, the Thai government has been urging local Buddhists, who give alms to monks as a way of generating merit, to provide the monastics with healthier food. The biggest offender is sugary drinks, officials found. The monks fast every afternoon and will often consume sweetened drinks to help keep their energy up. The beverages, combined with a sedentary lifestyle and offerings that include processed and pre-packaged foods, have led to increased health problems, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
New Allegations at Against the Stream
A exposé by the online publication Jezebel has revealed new details about the accusations of sexual misconduct facing Against the Stream (ATS) founder Noah Levine. While the exact nature of a Los Angeles police investigation and an accompanying internal ATS probe into Levine’s conduct remains unclear, the Jezebel report found that Levine may have as many as seven to ten accusers. Insiders also spoke about the spiritual leader’s inappropriate behavior, noting that he makes “misogynistic” jokes in the workplace. The report also took a critical look at Levine’s finances, saying he reportedly earned $200,000 a year and had ATS foot the bill for many of his expenses.
Embattled Korean Buddhist Leader Will Now Stay
The leader of South Korea’s largest Buddhist order, who had announced his resignation amid corruption charges, changed his mind this week and said he would stay, the Korean JoongAng Daily reports. Ven. Seoljeong, the Jogye Order’s current president, has been accused of faking his credentials, fathering a daughter after breaking a vow of celibacy, and embezzling funds. Earlier this month, he announced that would step down, but now he plans to stay in charge at least through the end of the year. “I have tried to resign for the sake of the order’s stability,” Seoljeong said, according to the Daily, “but I have reached the conclusion that this was not the right path.”
Ancient Buddha Botched
People in China are mocking a bungled restoration project of a Buddhist statue, the state-owned network CGTN reports. The 1,000-year-old statue (above) in southwest Sichuan Province was garishly re-painted with bright colors, making it appear cartoonish, users on the Chinese social media site Weibo noted. The local Anyue County government was quick to place the blame on the villagers who carried out the restoration and “lacked knowledge on cultural relic conservation,” but commenters weren’t buying it. “The villagers had good intentions. It’s the administration’s fault,” one Weibo user wrote.
US Going Easy on Myanmar
The US government has not fully followed through on a vow to crackdown on Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis, Politico reports. In addition to noting that the US has only imposed sanctions on one military leader and that Congress hasn’t passed any laws to pressure Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingya, the news site says the Trump administration isn’t enforcing already-existing laws. The US government has been permitting relatives of military officials to obtain visas to America despite a law prohibiting them. While there are some legitimate exceptions, critics say the administration has been too relaxed in their criteria, which has permitted visas to relatives on the basis that they are promising college students. Observers note that the easing of this law along with the absence of other sanctions sends a mixed message to the perpetrators of what many have called genocide. More than 700,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim minority have been forced to flee Myanmar to refugee camps in Bangladesh after a wave of violence in 2017.
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