Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Thich Nhat Hanh Is Stable After Reports of a Health Scare
After reports that Thich Nhat Hanh had stopped eating began circulating on social media earlier this week, Plum Village, his international network of sanghas, said in a statement that his health “currently remains stable.” Social media posts had claimed that the beloved Vietnamese Zen teacher’s health was in a critical state and invited people to meditate for Thây (Vietnamese for “teacher,” a name of affection used by his followers). Plum Village said that there is “no immediate cause for concern” and invited people to share their stories of “personal healing and transformation” in honor of Nhat Hanh’s 94th birthday on October 11.
International Expansions in Buddhist Higher Education
Telo Tulku Rinpoche, the head lama of Kalmykia, Russia, met with scholars on September 30 to discuss plans to build a center for Buddhist higher education after the government passed a bill in July requiring all foreign-educated clergy members to be re-certified in Russia, Buddhistdoor Global reported. There are currently no Buddhist educational institutions in the Russian Federation, and most Buddhist teachers in Russia graduated from monastic universities in China, India, Mongolia, and Nepal. In the early 1900s, there were several centers in Kalmykia, but they were destroyed during the Soviet period. Right now, said Telo Tulku Rinpoche, every plan is in place to realize the proposed project except for the financial aspect, which they are still working on. Kalmykia is the only majority-Buddhist region in Europe.
Meanwhile. plans to build a Buddhist university also have been approved in the multi-ethnic, multilingual state of Sikkim in northeastern India, Buddhistdoor Global reported. The institution, to be called Khangchendzonga Buddhist University (KBU), will be the first private Buddhist university in India and the first university in Sikkim founded by Sikkimese people. It will offer programs in Buddhist studies, education, vocational domains, liberal arts, social sciences, science and engineering, hospitality and tourism, architecture, medicine, and related areas.
China’s Panchen Lama Has Little Political Influence
The Beijing-selected 11th Panchen Lama Gyaincain Norbu lacks political influence, despite being a member of a top Communist advisory body, the South China Morning Post reported. China’s Buddhist leaders declared Norbu to be the Panchen Lama after Chinese authorities kidnapped Choekyi Nyima, the young boy whom His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama recognized as the successor to the 10th Panchen Lama. The Chinese Communist Party has tried to make Norbu the “official face of Tibetan Buddhism,” the Morning Post said, sending him overseas to attend Buddhist events in recent years and appointing him head of the Tibet branch of the Buddhist Association of China. But it’s unlikely that Norbu’s role will grow, since Norbu is neither popular nor influential among Tibetans, observers note. “Even in Shigatse, where the home monastery of the Panchen Lamas, Tashi Lhunpo, is located, it is known to be rare to see portraits of Gyaltsen Norbu in most private establishments outside the monastery,” Tsering Topgyal, assistant professor in international relations at the University of Birmingham, told the Morning Post. In contrast, “portraits of the 10th Panchen Lama are ubiquitous and poems and songs about him are popular across the vast Tibetan plateau.”
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