Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Deceased Buddhist Monk Will Keep Meditating as a Mummy
A revered Buddhist monk who spent nearly 45 years meditating in a cave will remain in a meditative state for, well, forever. After 94-year-old Wangdor Rinpoche died at his monastery in the Mandi district of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, his disciples—who believe that their teacher is abiding in a meditative state known as the Togden—began a process for preserving his body, according to Indian newspaper the Hindustan Times. “The master is in a high meditative stage of trance. Other teachers in the monastery will take the final decision to preserve the body, which will be mummified later,” said disciple Hara Zigar. After fleeing Tibet in 1959—the same year as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama—Wangdor Rinpoche spent most of his early life in retreat, spending almost 45 years in a cave above Rewalsar Lake in northern India. He practiced in both the Nyingma and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Mummies aren’t a complete anomaly in Tibetan Buddhism and other Buddhist traditions (such as Shingon monks in Japan). The mummified body of the Dalai Lama’s teacher, Kyabjé Ling Rinpoche, is currently kept at His Holiness’s residence in Dharamsala. In 1975, after an earthquake struck the region, the remains of self-mummified monk Sangha Tenzin from the 15th century were found in the area of Spiti, on the Indo-Tibet border. The body of the monk showed little signs sign of deterioration—he even had teeth—despite appearing to have undergone no preservation procedure. Archaeologists believe this is the result of a Buddhist ritual of ingesting a mix of herbs, roots, sap, and poisonous nuts to deplete fat reserves and remove moisture before death.
Funeral for Hardline Sri Lanka Monk at Hindu Temple Defies Court Injunction
A controversial Buddhist monk who recently died was cremated on the grounds of a Hindu temple in Sri Lanka in violation of a court order that prohibited the rites from being carried out on the premises. According to the Tamil Guardian, the memorial for the unidentified monk was led by extremist monastic Gnanasara, a member of the right-wing nationalist group Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force. The late monk had spent the decade prior to his death establishing a monastery and building a massive Buddha statue at the Hindu temple. Local worshippers had fiercely opposed his cremation, as corpses and funerals are considered contaminants and inappropriate for sacred spaces. The Buddhist group ignored these concerns and held the cremation on the banks of the temple’s sacred reservoir. Sri Lanka police disregarded the locals’ complaints and the court injunction and provided full security for the funeral while barring Tamils, a mostly Hindu ethnic group, from entering the area. One Buddhist monk reportedly assaulted a Tamil lawyer after taunting the protestors by stating that Buddhist monks held supremacy in Sri Lanka.
Dalai Lama Tweets Support for Climate Strike
As millions of people took to the streets for the global climate strike last Friday, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama voiced his support for the demonstrators. In a tweet, the Dalai Lama wrote that the young people who spearheaded the global movement were “being very realistic” about the impending changes to the world’s ecosystems and urged his followers to cheerlead the youths’ efforts. “It’s quite right that students and today’s younger generation should have serious concerns about the climate crisis and its effect on the environment,” he said. “They are being very realistic about the future. They see we need to listen to scientists. We should encourage them.”
It’s quite right that students and today’s younger generation should have serious concerns about the climate crisis and its effect on the environment. They are being very realistic about the future. They see we need to listen to scientists. We should encourage them.
— Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama) September 20, 2019
On September 20, tens of thousands of people across the globe protested for action on climate change ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit.
Malnourished Elephant Who Set Off Social Media Outcry Has Died
The elephant whose treatment at a Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka sparked international outcry last month after photos of her emaciated body circulated on social media, has died, an animal rights group said Tuesday. After Thailand-based Save Elephant Foundation shared the photos of the 70-year-old elephant Tikiri on Facebook, she was withdrawn from the Perahera Festival, an annual summer celebration honoring the tooth relic of Shakyamuni Buddha at the Sri Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Tooth) in Kandy. The Sri Lankan government has ordered an autopsy. Following the social media uproar, Sri Lanka Wildlife Minister John Amaratunga ordered an investigation into why Tikiri was made to participate in the Buddhist parade despite her condition, but the findings were not made public. Animal rights groups have called on tourists to boycott elephant attractions in Sri Lanka.
Massive Maitreya Statue Consecrated in Russian Republic of Kalmykia
A statue depicting the future buddha, Maitreya, has been constructed in the Russian region of Kalmykia, the area in Europe where Buddhism is the dominant religion, Buddhistdoor reports. Stretching 15 meters high and weighing 30 tons, the statue at the Lagan Dardeling Monastery in the city of Lagan is the largest Maitreya figure in Europe. Plans for the statue emerged after Tibetan Buddhist teacher Lama Zopa Rinpoche, a co-founder of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), visited Kalmykia in 2017 with The Maitreya Project Heart Shrine Relic Tour, a traveling exhibit of 1,000 Buddhist relics. Lama Zopa told Asia Russia Daily: “In the near future, wars will rage in the world and many will suffer. Everywhere on Earth hunger will break out, killing many human lives. The whole world will be covered by diseases, from which many will not be healed. In these conditions, the more Maitreya statues are built, the more successfully we will be able to reduce suffering and completely overcome them. The construction of the statue of the Loving Buddha will fill with love and kindness the hearts of all the inhabitants of this world and especially in Lagan, Kalmykia, and Russia.”
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