Give me a Brake!
According to Tom and Ray Magliozzi (also known as “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers”) of NPR’s Car Talk, winter visitors to the Insight Meditation Center in Barre, Massachusetts should not set their emergency brakes before going on retreat. A caller to the show complained that while he was on a three-month winter retreat, his brakes froze in place. Always obliging, the brothers offered helpful advice: Put the car on roller skates, roll it down the hill to downtown Barre, and borrow a mechanic’s acetylene torch. The car gurus pointed out, however, that after all that meditation, they shouldn’t care about frozen brakes, anyway.
The Bloods, the Crips, and . . . the Arhats?
Malaysia and Singapore are being plagued by organized gangs that dress up as Buddhist monks and bilk devotees of money by soliciting alms for their begging bowls. One favorite practice of these saffron-shrouded swindlers is to hustle drunken patrons in pubs. The situation has become so serious that some senior monks in Thailand fear the practice will be exported to Europe and the United States. Better think twice the next time a monk approaches you at Hooters.
Buddhist Truth Squad
The New York Buddhist Church has instituted a “Truth Squad” to counteract inaccurate portrayals of Buddhism in the media. Their first action: a letter to the editor of the Bergen Record, a major New Jersey newspaper, pointing out that contrary to a recent article in the paper, Mahayana Buddhists do not believe that the Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu or that devotion to the gods is the way to enlightenment.
Buddha Flies the Coop
The owners of the Wild Bird store in Toronto were shocked to discover that a 400-pound statue of the Buddha had been stolen from outside their establishment. “This is definitely not in the spirit of Buddhism,” said Shannon Hobson, a partner in the home and garden sanctuary. “A Buddhist would not have taken him.” The missing Buddha was later spotted riding in the back of a blue van, but so far no ransom demands have been made.
Few things can surprise hardened mummy-investigators Ronald Beckett and Gerald Conlogue, cohosts of The Mummy Road Show on the National Geographic Channel. But they were unprepared for the sight of Luang Pho Daeng, whose body is on display at Wat Khunaram in Thailand. Nearly thirty years ago, the revered monk passed away while meditating, and to this day his body sits comfortably in the lotus position, having experienced virtually no decay. Visitors to the temple bow and make offerings to the mummified monk, who still sports his sunglasses and dentures. Among the investigators’ discoveries: Nearly all the monk’s internal organs remain intact, and a family of lizards has taken up residence inside the mummy’s head. Beckett and Conlogue were so impressed they ended up taking meditation lessons themselves.
Hallmark’s Dirty Little Secret
All you lascivious celebrants of the Buddha’s birthday, Wesak, had better watch out. A police chief in Colombo, Sri Lanka, has announced that people selling indecent Wesak cards will be arrested and prosecuted. Such taboo-flouting cards have included depictions of actors striking romantic poses; steamy verses; soldiers; roses; hearts; and doves.
On a recent warm afternoon, forest monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu (“Than Geoff” to his friends and students) gave a tour of his monastery’s sprawling grounds, situated amid Indian reservations some forty miles inland from San Diego, California. “After unusually strong Santa Ana winds, we lost 260 of our 4,000 avocado trees,” Than Geoff said wistfully as he surveyed the damage. Tree stumps dotted the landscape outside his modest hut. “But the view from here is better now,” he laughed. The avocados are among Metta Forest Monastery’s most important sources of revenue. But after a bumper crop last year, the state has quarantined this year’s crop: A lone Mexican fruit fly was discovered in a nearby orchard. In the distance, crop dusters flew over neighboring hills: “They told me if they sprayed our trees, we’d have to leave. So I said no. We’ll wait out the quarantine.” What does Than Geoff plan to do with all those avocados? “We’re having lots of guacamole this year,” came his swift reply.
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