Don’t Mess with Jizo
Litter was becoming a major problem in the Japanese town of Nagato last year, as tourists passing through to nearby ski resorts threw their garbage wherever they parked. Finally, officials hit on a unique solution: the town placed statues of the popular bodhisattva Jizo, patron of travelers and children, at parking spaces around Nagato. Trash levels subsequently dropped to near zero. As one reformed litterbug explained, “I can’t drop litter now, not with the statue looking at me.”

Don’t Be Fooled by the Dharma That I Got
The year 2004 ended on an auspicious note for celebrity Buddhist watchers. Jennifer Lopez began a foray into Tibetan Buddhism after discussions with Shall We Dance? co-star Richard Gere. And Lord of the Rings super-heartthrob Orlando Bloom converted to Soka Gakkai. No word yet on whether Zen is catching on in the Shire.

New Rules
Thich Nhat Hanh has written a revised version of the Pratimoksha, the Buddhist monastic code. The new Pratimoksha grapples with advanced technology and other modern issues that weren’t relevant in the Buddha’s time. New rules include these: “A bhikshu who has his private e-mail account, with the result that he spends an inordinate amount of time in making unnecessary communications or communications which foster attachment, commits an offense for which he must express regret,” and “A bhikshu who plays electronic games, including those on the computer, commits an offense for which he must express regret.” Other new rules deal with drag racing, surfing the Net without a second monk acting as a watchdog, plastic surgery, attending birthday or wedding parties, writing novels, talking on a cell phone while walking or driving, snapping one’s fingers, and urinating in a lake.

Passport Pariah
A Buddhist monk worried about moths munching on his passport set off an anthrax scare at Canada’s embassy in Sri Lanka last October. When the monk presented his passport to embassy officials, a fine white powder came tumbling out. Believing they were under a biological attack, the embassy was evacuated and the monk was carried away to a police station. But once he had a chance to explain, officials learned that the monk had sprinkled his passport with insect repellent so it wouldn’t be damaged by bugs.

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