Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Shomyo Buddhist Ritual Chant: Spiral Mandala Ceremony at Japan Society, NYC
This weekend only, the Japan Society presents an immersive theatrical audio performance titled Shomyo: Buddhist Ritual Chant – Spiral Mandala Ceremony. The show is a collaboration between composer Yu Kuwabara; media designer Tei Blow; and Shomyo No Kai (Voices of a Thousand Years), a group of two dozen priests from the esoteric Shingon and Tendai Buddhist sects. The priest’s performance of shomyo—an ancient form of Buddhist chant that traveled along the Silk Road to China before reaching Japan in the sixth century—will be accompanied by Tei Blow’s hypnotizing visuals and Yu Kuwabara’s mandala-inspired musical composition. Running through Sunday, February 27, only thirty tickets will be available for each show as audience members are seated on cushions on Japan Society’s stage.
Yoko Shioya, the artistic director at the Japan Society, says: “The work’s evocation of ancient spiritual truths and the elevation of the human voice… is proof that spirit can still transport joy from country to country, even in the COVID era. Shomyo Buddhist chant is among the oldest forms of choral tradition but its clarity, strength, and beauty remains evergreen.”
Thai Monk Goes Viral on TikTok
A Thai monk went viral on TikTok this week, with one video in particular gathering over 80 million views. Though TikTok user Auyary13 has been posting videos of her grandfather, Luang Pho Yai, for several months, her account took off recently after rumor spread that the monk was 163 years old; similarly, another rumor claimed that he was practicing self-mummification. While Luang Pho Yai does have an elderly appearance, Snopes found that the monk is in fact 109 years of age, and is not practicing self-mummification.
เมื่อเหลนน้อยมาเรียกหา หลวงตาสัมผัสได้ถึงความรักและห่วงใย เรียกมาเคาะหัวให้พรเหลนเลย สาธุๆๆ🙏🙏
Shambhala Mountain Center Takes on New Name: Drala Mountain Center
Colorado’s Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC) recently announced its independence from Sakyong Potrang, the nonprofit entity that holds the assets of the lineage of Sakyong, the spiritual leader of Shambhala International. This week, the sangha announced that it had changed its name, too. Citing practitioners’ attachment to the dharma center’s land, an email from the newly named Drala Mountain Center explained that drala represents a direct connection to the world “through our sense perceptions.”
Novelist Quan Barry’s New Book Comes Out
Poet and novelist Quan Barry’s latest novel, When I’m Gone, Look For Me in the East, was published on Tuesday. The book follows the story of two telepathic twins as they journey across the vast Mongolian landscape in search of a tulku, or reincarnate lama. Barry also appeared on the newest episode of Life As It Is, Tricycle’s monthly podcast series that features Buddhist practitioners speaking about their everyday lives. Listen to the episode below.
Ngawang Gyaltsen, a Tibetan Monk and Former Political Prisoner, Passes Away
The Tibetan Monk Ngawang Gyaltsen, who served a 17-year sentence for participating in the 1987 Lhasa Uprising, died on Monday at the age of 61. Gyaltsen was one of 21 monks from Lhasa’s Drepung Monastery who protested in 1987 for Tibetan independence against the Chinese Communist Party. Following these protests, Gyalwang was arrested and convicted for “undermining national security” and remained in prison until his release in 2006. Gyaltsen continued to resist oppressive Chinese policies and re-education campaigns, resulting in an additional arrest in 2015. Gyaltsen spent over 20 years in prison, with his final release in 2019. Ngawang Woebar, another monk who participated in the 1987 uprising, told Radio Free Asia that Gyaltsen “committed his whole life to speaking against repressive Chinese policies” and that he “dedicated his life to Tibet.”
Peace Educator and Engaged Buddhist Dr. Paula Green Passes Away
The international peace educator, engaged Buddhist, and psychologist Dr. Paula Green died on February 21 due to complications related to lung cancer. She was 84. In 1994, Dr. Green founded the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, a nonprofit organization active in over 30 countries that facilitates post-conflict reconciliation and sustainable peace efforts. The recipient of numerous accolades for her peace-building efforts, Dr. Green received the Unsung Heroes of Compassion award in 2009 from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. She was also awarded the first-ever Prize for US Peacebuilding from the Alliance for Peacebuilding in 2018. Read a 1991 Tricycle article by Green, “Contradictions in Action,” here.
Dr. Herbert Benson Passes Away
Dr. Herbert Benson, the Harvard-trained cardiologist and so-called father of mind-body medicine, passed away on February 3. He was 86. A doctor who introduced meditation to the mainstream, he was the first Western medical professional allowed to study the practices of Tibetan monks, in particular the act of tummo, or “inner fire,” in which practitioners raise their physical body temperature through meditation. Read more about Benson here.
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