Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Temple Unveils Robot Bodhisattva
The robot apocalypse just got a lot more compassionate. A Zen temple in Japan debuted a robot version of Kannon (Chi. Guanyin, Skt. Avalokitesvara), the bodhisattva of compassion, on February 23, the Japan Times reported. The automaton, named Mindar, delivered a speech about the Heart Sutra during the media event at Kodaiji temple in Kyoto. The temple hopes that Mindar’s explanations of Buddhist teachings in plain terms will make them more accessible to visitors. Kodaiji’s chief stewart, Tensho Goto, said, “We want many people to come to see [the robot] to think about the essence of Buddhism.”
What Happened at the Zen Hospice Project?
Following the closure of the Zen Hospice Project’s (ZHP) residential care center in San Francisco in the Fall, the New York Times conducted a post mortem on the palliative care facility and analyzed the difficulties nonprofits face. Among the problems that plagued ZHP and other groups were difficulty balancing fundraising initiatives with the mission and both internal and external pressures to expand and become financially self-sustaining. Buddhist teacher Frank Ostaseski, a ZHP founder and Tricycle contributor, told the paper that the toll that the hospice work took on volunteers also played a role. “It is not normal to be with dying people every day,” Ostaseski told the Times. “That means that our normal coping systems just aren’t sufficient.”
Calm in Virtual Reality
The Calm meditation app is now available in virtual reality. The relaxation company valued at $1 billion on February 22 released versions of their program for the Oculus Go VR headset, according to a press release. “You can now transport yourself to a beautiful mountain lake, a tranquil redwood forest, or a white sand beach,” the app boasts of its 180-degree views. Some Buddhist thinkers have argued that VR can help us challenge our common understanding of reality, but the applications they described were not pleasant scenes.
National Day of Unplugging
The National Day of Unplugging is March 1–2 from sundown to sundown. The project was created by the Jewish group Reboot but could also be helpful for Buddhist practitioners looking to take a break from digital distractions. Organizers ask participants to sign a pledge to ignore their devices for 24 hours and provide some advice on how to avoid the urge to reconnect, including an away message for your social media accounts.
“Unplugging from your phone and computer for 24 hours isn’t easy,” National Day of Unplugging co-creator Dan Rollman said in a press release. “If you can do it, though, it’s a wonderful way to recharge your spiritual batteries and be present with the world around you.”
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