Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Myanmar’s Military Releases Vitriolic, Anti-Muslim Monk Ashin Wirathu
Myanmar’s military junta has released the Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, notorious for his nationalist and anti-Muslim tirades. The military government released a statement on Monday that all charges against Wirathu had been dropped, without providing reasons for his sudden release. In 2019, Wirathu was charged for sedition after he gave a series of speeches criticizing then-leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the civilian government. Wirathu thwarted authorities for months before eventually surrendering in November of last year, and the monk has been held in prison awaiting trial since his arrest, according to the BBC. The military’s statement added that Wirathu was currently receiving treatment at a military hospital, though his medical condition is unknown.
Bhutanese Monks Join Push to Promote Sexual Education
In Bhutan, senior Buddhist monks are working to increase awareness of sexual health and rights. In addition to the standard religious services and ritual dances that occur during annual religious festivals known as Tshechu, which are held at monasteries across the country, monks are also using the occasions to teach people about reproductive rights.
Monks aren’t the sole leaders of this movement, however. For decades, Her Majesty Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuk has been advocating for increased awareness of topics like reproductive health and gender-based violence among the Bhutanese population. Her work as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) includes organizing workshops and training classes on reproductive health and rights, which more and more male monastics are attending. “There has been a change in the mindset of monks, who now freely discuss and advocate on issues of sexual and gender-based violence, which in the past were perceived as a private matter,” said Lopen Sherab Dorji, one of the first monks in Bhutan to participate in a life skills education training conducted by UNFPA.
Nonprofit Home Instead Donates $100 to Senior Living Community for Every Vaccine Administered at Pasadena Buddhist Temple
On Thursday, the Pasadena Public Health Department hosted a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Pasadena Buddhist Temple, reports Pasadena Weekly. For every shot given, senior care nonprofit Home Instead donated $100, up to $10,000, to senior living community Pasadena Village, which supports seniors who live independently at home. Donations to Pasadena Village will help lower membership costs in the community that sets up support networks among members. This is just one of many vaccine clinics that the temple has hosted. “We’re really happy that we can be one of the sites that they use,” Kathy Kumagai, Pasadena Buddhist Temple board president, said of the partnership they’ve formed with the Pasadena Public Health Department.
Twenty Years Later, Buddhists Reflect on September 11
Twenty years ago today the attacks of September 11 stunned the world. In the first issue of Tricycle magazine that followed the attacks, leading Buddhist teachers shared practices and perspectives for the unprecedented moment in time. Twenty years later, the same teachers reflect on what their words mean today. Read more here. For more reflections on 9/11, read a blog post written by a practitioner while on retreat with Bhante G just eight days after the attacks; and a reflection by Sharon Salzberg one year later.
Sakyadhita to Honor the Life of Venerable Bhikkhuni Kusama in Memorial Service
The Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women will hold a memorial service to celebrate the life of and pay tribute to Venerable Bhikkhuni Kusuma, a pioneering female monastic who passed away on August 28. The service will be held over Zoom on September 11 at 10 p.m. EDT and will include chanting in Pali, a dedication of merit in Korean, and a sharing of remembrances. Sakyadhita’s vice-president Dr. Eun-su Cho will also share a recently recovered video of Bhikkhuni Kusuma leading the historic ordination of the first Sri Lankan nuns to become fully ordained in modern times. Interested participants can join through this Zoom link.
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