Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Buddhist Leaders Urge Senate to Hold Fair Impeachment Trial
Buddhist leaders asked the Senate to hold a fair and complete impeachment trial for President Donald Trump in a letter sent to all sitting US senators this week. At least 149 Buddhist teachers, scholars, authors, and practitioners, including Roshi Joan Jiko Halifax, Professor Robert Thurman, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Ven. Thubten Chodron, Rev. angel Kyodo williams, David Loy, and Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo, have signed the letter, which urges senators to “provide moral leadership” and “assess the evidence . . . without prejudice or partisanship” during the critical impeachment hearings. “If each of you pauses, breathes, and takes some moments to honestly look into your heart and conscience, we hope you will recognize that the current president is not capable of providing moral leadership or acting in a manner consistent with ethical conduct or truth,” the letter reads. “Since he cannot, you must.”
Read the full letter here.
Halifax, who recently was arrested alongside actress Jane Fonda and other activists in Washington, DC, during Fire Drill Fridays, a series of protests organized by Fonda, explained why she signed the letter. “I have been an activist since the 1960s and, like many of my associates, I know firsthand the power of the people in mobilizing moral and social change,” she said in an email to Tricycle. “We need to see the evidence of [the president’s] wrongdoings, pure and simple. I personally feel that this is a moral imperative for the wellbeing of our country.”
On Wednesday the Senate issued a formal summons for President Trump. The trial is set to begin in earnest next week.
Scholars Launch Jataka Tale Database
The Internet never forgets. Now, with the launch of a new database, that might come to mean your past lives, too. Dr. Naomi Appleton and Dr. Chris Clark of the University of Edinburgh last month launched Jataka Stories, a website designed to systematize a collection of Jataka tales, stories from the buddha’s past lives, and their depictions in ancient Indian texts and art. Many Jataka tales share similar plots or character types, so Appleton and Clark have chosen to organize the tales by “story clusters,” which group stories by literary or artistic tropes. “This concept enabl[es] the user to more easily explore a wider range of related narrative without inappropriate implications about which stories are ‘originals’ or ‘versions’ or ‘textual sources,’” the website says. Jataka Stories draws from nine Pali and Sanskrit texts and three stupas, but Appleton hopes to expand the database. “I have vague plans to add to it myself in the coming years, with a particular priority being the stories found in Pali sutta and vinaya texts, Indian Mahayana sutras, and the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya,” she wrote in a blog post last month. “If colleagues have resources or expertise they are willing to share to help in this endeavour, that would be a huge benefit to the project.”
Kyabje Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche Dies at 91
Kyabje Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche Jamyang Dhondup, a revered master in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, died at the age of 91 last month, according to a statement released last week by Lhundrub Chime Gatsal Ling, a Nyingma monastery in Dharamsala, India. Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche was born in 1928 in the Kham region of Tibet, and fled his home country for India in 1959 following Chinese occupation. Appointed to the Tibetan government-in-exile’s Department of Religion and Culture by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Kyabje Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche played a role in resettling Tibetan monks in south India, according to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche died on December 30, 2019, but his death was not announced until January 8, according to the statement released by his students, who believe that their teacher is abiding in a meditative state: “Up to now, we have kept this sad news of Rinpoche’s passing into parinirvana a secret as Rinpoche rests in thukdam meditation [practiced during death of a Buddhist master]. . . We invite all to join us in purifying our lapsed samaya [commitment between teacher and student] and praying that all obstacles on the ground and paths towards Buddhahood be pacified so that we might quickly see the moon-like visage of our late master and [that] he might turn again the vast and profound wheel of dharma for us and others.”
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