Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Indian Prime Minister Sees Political Gain in Buddhist Archeological Site
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been encouraging excavations of a recently discovered Buddhist site near his hometown in what some see as a political ploy to endear himself to Buddhist constituents, the Religion News Service (RNS) reports. In May 2018, archaeologists uncovered a stupa in Gujarat state’s Taranga mountains at a site that they believe dates back to the 1st century. Modi has since supported the effort to trace the spread of Buddhism back to the region, where he grew up. Over the last year, the Archeological Survey of India has found a Buddha head, 58 votive stupas, 65 rock shelters, an assembly hall, and 22 brick platforms at the site, according to RNS. Modi is the leader of the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has been accused of stoking fears about the country’s Muslim population to win reelection in this year’s election, which takes place in phases between April 11 to May 23. The BJP’s platform includes a hardline immigration policy that would kick every undocumented immigrant out of the country unless they are Buddhist, Hindu, or Sikh.
In Gujarat, many members of Hinduism’s low-caste Dalit group continue to be discriminated against and have taken part in mass conversions to Ambedkarite Buddhism, founded by the Dalit lawyer and reformer Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who emphasized the Buddha’s denouncement of the caste system. In a close election, many see Modi’s actions as catering to this growing demographic.
Michigan Buddhist Center’s Shrine Burns Down
The Tsogyelgar Meditation Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is rebuilding after a fire destroyed their shrine building on April 15, Michigan Live reports. “Priceless relics from Tibet are gone forever,” the organization wrote on a Facebook fundraising page, which has already surpassed its goal of $20,000. The estimated cost to rebuild is $150,000, according to the page, but they needed to hit the smaller goal to start reconstruction effort.
Jailed Reuters Journalists Awarded Pulitzer
The two Reuters journalists currently serving prison sentences in Myanmar after reporting on the Rohingya crisis have won the Pulitzer Prize for their investigation, Al Jazeera reports. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo received the honor for their reporting on the murder of ten Rohingya men by Buddhist villagers and government soldiers in 2017. The reporters were arrested in December 2017 and later sentenced to seven years in prison under an arcane state-secrets law after reportedly being set up by police officers.
“Equanimity” for Sale
Anyone can have Equanimity for $126 million—a yacht named Equanimity, that is. The boat with a Buddhist name has been making waves due to its role in the so-called 1MDB scandal, named after the state-run Malaysian investment firm that diverted billions in government funds to private accounts. Jho Low, a financier at the heart of the scandal who is currently on the lam, purchased Equanimity with stolen funds. The Malaysian government seized the ship last year and recently auctioned it off in an effort to reclaim some of the stolen funds, the Guardian reports.
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