Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Buddhists Continue to Respond to Coronavirus Outbreak
Dozens of new cases of Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) were reported in North America and Europe this week, as the virus continues to spread across the world. This week Asia Times reported that at least six people contracted the coronavirus after visiting the Fook Wai Ching She Buddhist temple in Hong Kong. The director of Hong Kong’s Communicable Disease Division at the Centre for Health Protection said that at least seven people who visited the temple in recent weeks have been sent to hospital, and 16 others have been quarantined. Lam Ching-choi, a member of Hong Kong’s Executive Council and the Chief Executive Officer of the Haven of Hope Christian Service, implored Hong Kong residents to stop attending any religious services for the time being.
Chinese authorities have arrested seven Tibetans from Chamdo county in central Tibet on charges of spreading rumors or misinformation about the coronavirus, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA). One man reportedly posted a comment online that said that people from mainland China were “arriving in secret” in Chamdo, while another man, identified by the name Tse, was arrested for posting a WeChat message asking readers to recite a particular prayer ten times and send the request to ten others as a guard against infection. Meanwhile, Tibetan monks are working to prevent the spread of the virus by collecting donations at the Labrang monastery in Tibet’s Gansu region, one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries outside the Tibet Autonomous Region, and distributing face masks in the Kardze region’s Tawu (Daofu) county, RFA reported.
In South Korea, the Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism announced on Monday that it would suspend operation of its Templestay program until March 20, according to the Korea Herald. An affiliate of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the Cultural Corps oversees the program, which offers overnight stays and cultural experiences at 137 Buddhist temples around South Korea. Head monk Ven. Wonkyung told the Herald that the suspension was due to the growing incidents of coronavirus in South Korea, which has the second-highest number of cases after China. “As people’s concerns about the coronavirus rise due to the number of confirmed cases increasing day by day, we have inevitably decided to suspend our operations. We also ask all the Templestay operating staff and head Buddhist monks to pay more attention to preventing the spread of the infection and their health,” he said.
Since the start of the outbreak, Buddhists have turned to a variety of measures to help them stay safe and raise funds for those affected by the disease. In a statement on its website the Taiwan-based Buddhist nonprofit Tzu Chi confirmed that it had sent its second shipment of surgical masks, respirators, goggles, medical gowns, and other supplies to affected areas in China. Tzu Chi chronicled the challenges that the organization faced in delivering humanitarian supplies due to the widespread cancellation of flights to China.
Dalai Lama Marks 80 Years as Tibet’s Spiritual Leader
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama last Saturday marked 80 years as the spiritual leader of Tibet, a position he has held since he was enthroned in Lhasa at the age of four. According to a report by the AFP, the office of the Dalai Lama said that there would be no commemoration of the anniversary. His Holiness suspended all public appearances and teachings earlier this month as a precaution against the coronavirus. A new book by Tibetologist Alexander Norman chronicles the life of the Dalai Lama, tracing the intersection of political strife and religious tradition of the world’s most recognizable Buddhist. In 2011 His Holiness announced that he may be the last incarnation in the Dalai Lama lineage, seeking to prevent Chinese authorities from naming a separate successor.
Activist Buddhist Monk Thich Quang Do Dies at 91
Head of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, Thich Quang Do died last Saturday at the age of 91, according to the New York Times. A spokesperson for the Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau told the Times that Vietnamese authorities had held the dissident Buddhist monk incommunicado at the Tu Hieu Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City. Thich Quang Do was a long-term champion of religious freedom and faced punishment from the Communist government for his views, spending the last 30 years of his life in prison, under house arrest, or in internal exile for refusing to submit his United Church to government control. According to the Times, he played a key role in connecting political dissidents in north and south Vietnam, and was also a respected Buddhist scholar who published over novels, poetry, and translations and studies of Vietnamese Buddhism. For his efforts he received many human rights awards and nods, including Norway’s Rafto Prize and a 1978 Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
California Apologizes to Japanese Americans for Internment Camps
Lawmakers in the state of California voted unanimously on Thursday to formally apologize for the role the state played in the incarceration of over 120,000 people of Japanese descent during World War II, according to the Guardian. California state assembly member Albert Muratsuchi, who introduced the resolution, said that he wanted to commemorate the 78th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order at a time when “our nation’s capital is hopelessly divided along party lines and President Trump is putting immigrant families and children in cages.” He added, “We’re seeing striking parallels between what happened to Japanese Americans before and during World War II and what we see happening today.” In 1988 the US government formally apologized to Japanese Americans and issued $20,000 to survivors of the internment camps. The new California resolution does not call for additional reparations but condemns the California state legislature’s support in the decision to incarcerate Americans of Japanese descent.
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