Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.

Penpa Tsering Elected as Central Tibetan Administration’s New President 

After the third round of voting for the election of Sikyong (political leader) of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), officials announced Friday that former speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile Penpa Tsering is the president-elect. Tsering succeeds Lobsang Sangay and will be the second Sikyong to hold the position, which was established in 2011 when the Dalai Lama stepped down as the political leader of the exile government. According to the Associated Press, more than 64,000 Tibetans living in exile voted in the election. Tsering also announced 45 new members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile. In an interview with The Week after the electoral victory, Tsering said, “Strengthening Tibetan unity will be one of my top priorities. Read more about Tsering here in an interview with The Week.

Dalai Lama and Russian Neuroscientists to Investigate Thukdam, a Meditative State Achieved After Death

In 2018, the Dalai Lama initiated an inquiry into the meditative state known as thukdam, a phenomenon in which the body of a Buddhist master remains without signs of decay well after being declared clinically dead. Last week, he gathered with scientists, monks and researchers to discuss the findings of Professor Svyatoslav Medvedev of the Russian Academy of Sciences, founder of the Institute of the Human Brain, St. Petersburg, who has examined 104 monks in meditation and recently observed a monk at Gyutö Monastery who remained in thukdam for 37 days. In turn, Professor Medvedev and other participants asked the Dalai Lama questions on thukdam, rebirth, and Buddhist insights into the workings of the brain. “There is evidence to see and measure. We can also find a detailed explanation of the inner subjective experience of the process of death in the Guhyasamaja Tantra texts. I hope scientists can take all this into account and come up with an explanation,” the Dalai Lama said.

Upcoming Talk Explores the Asian American Buddhist Identity 

In an upcoming event, author Chenxing Han will discuss her recent book, Be the Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists, with anthropologist Dr. Nalika Gajaweera. Covering identity, language, and lineage, the talk will focus on illuminating the diversity and intersectionality of Asian American Buddhists.

“Reimagine: A New Generation of Asian American Buddhists” is the fifth installment of the Harvard Buddhist Community’s 2021 Buddhism and Race Speaker Series, a program of monthly virtual events from January through August that explores the process of achieving decolonized, anti-racist Buddhist practices and communities. The free event will be held on Zoom on May 20 at 7 p.m. EDT.

Coalition of Buddhist Organizations Deliver Medical Relief to Pro-Democracy Protesters in Myanmar

As of May 11, the 100th day of Myanmar’s civil disobedience movement, 783 people were confirmed to have been killed by the military junta and an additional 3,859 have been jailed, the Thailand-based nonprofit Assistance Association for Political Prisoners reported. As the number of deaths and casualties continues to rise, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) has partnered with the Bangkok-based Spirit in Education Movement to provide medical assistance, food, and other essentials to injured protestors, particularly those in poor communities with limited access to aid. Additionally, Buddhistdoor Global reports that the international NGO Good Friends, founded by the Korean Buddhist monk Ven. Pomnyun Sunim, has so far provided $44,500 to aid the INEB’s medical relief initiative.

Insight Meditation Society Resumes In-Person Retreats 

Last March, the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts, decided it would close its retreat centers through the end of 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. Like many other centers, IMS quickly moved all of its offerings online at the start of the pandemic and has since shared a steady stream of virtual retreats and courses. Now, over a year later, IMS announced it will reopen its two on-campus retreat programs this fall, with the Retreat Center opening in October and the Forest Refuge opening in November. 

In a COVID-19 update, IMS stated that staff will be implementing new safety protocols as they welcome people back on campus, including frequent sanitizing of facilities, requiring staff and guests to wear face masks, and limiting capacity in meditation spaces and dining rooms. In addition, all staff, teachers, and retreatants at IMS will be required to show proof of vaccination before arrival on campus. Following state guidelines for in-person gatherings, capacity will be limited to 72 people at the Retreat Center and 30 people at the Forest Refuge. Registration for both retreat programs is open now, and IMS will continue to offer virtual programming even beyond the campus reopening. 

South Korea’s Ven. Pomnyun Sunim to Conduct Global Dharma Talk Series 

The renowned South Korean Seon (Jp., Zen) master Ven. Pomnyun Sunim will lead a new series of global live-streamed dharma talks titled “Casual Conversations with Ven. Pomnyun Sunim.” During the informal Q&A-style talks, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim will answer participants’ questions and offer guidance based on the Buddha’s teachings. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim is a widely recognized Buddhist teacher, author, and social activist who has received multiple awards for his promotion of human rights and world peace. He is also the head master of the Jungto Society—a volunteer-based community founded on Buddhist teachings with a focus on sustainable living and addressing social and environmental issues. A representative of the Jungto Society told Buddhistdoor Global that the talks are open to everyone and will have a “conversational format with no rules: people may ask or discuss any topic they face in their lives . . . from the personal to societal, religious to scientific, civilization to history.” The series will be conducted in English and live-streamed via Zoom, with the first talk scheduled for May 16 at 8 a.m. KST (7 p.m. EDT). Interested participants can register here.

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