You’ve Got Monk
Wilawan Narueng thought she’d hooked a promising catch in a Bangkok online chat room. But when she met Nattapol Parnpueng in person, his shaven head and eyebrows seemed a little suspicious. It didn’t help when he told her he had no money and then asked for help selling his cell phone. Sure enough, hidden in her suitor’s car was a saffron robe and a begging bowl. When Wilawan told the police that something fishy was going on, Nattapol was arrested: the errant monk had neglected to mention that he was also driving a stolen car.

Wilawan might not have been so confused if she’d used DharmaDate instead. That’s right, there’s now an online dating service designed just for Buddhists. The brainchild of two Americans practicing Tibetan Buddhism in the Appalachian Mountains (not exactly a hotbed for Buddhist hook-ups), aims to match lovelorn practitioners around the world. Where else will you find a hopeful single stud describe his best feature as “Buddha-nature,” or enumerate his exercise regimen as “prostrations, weight training, bicycling”? Surely an idea whose time is ripe (though the four books promoted in the site’s store are all written by celibate monastics).

Dunkin’ Dharma
The world’s greatest Buddhist stunt-monk did it again this past January, pulling off a feat designed to tug at viewers’ heart- and purse-strings. Last year, Venerable Shi Ming Yi climbed down the side of a skyscraper to raise money for his nonprofit Ren Ci Hospital in Singapore. This year he stood chest-deep in a tank of 1,000 kilograms of ice, clad only in his monastic robes and a pair of sneakers. As anxious callers pledged money for his cause, Yi withstood the cold for nearly 23 minutes. When he was finally released, his stunt had raised $6.49 million from more than 130,000 people. “I thought of every piece of ice as a potential charitable soul, and it spurred me on,” he told reporters.

Mile-High Meditation
Virgin Atlantic Airways has something new to offer stressed-out business travelers: in-flight meditation. Now while you’re snacking on your complimentary pretzels you can enjoy Meditainment, a guided audio meditation program. Possible experiences include imaginary romps through meadows or deserted islands; somewhat less relaxing destinations include the Arctic or the moon. As one Virgin employee put it, “Now our passengers can travel to New York via the astral plane!”

Prayer Wheeling and Dealing
The fallen Twin Towers at the World Trade Center are set to be replaced by a 1,776-foot-tall Freedom Tower, and if one of the project’s supervisors has his way, the monumental memorial-cum-office building will have a Buddhist touch. Guy Battle, the engineer charged with developing the wind turbines that will top the tower, wants them to be filled with mantras. Battle suggested that the tower could become the world’s biggest prayer wheel by filling the giant windmills with Om mani padme hum scrolls, thus generating electricity and merit at the same time.

Not Such a Lethal Weapon
Rumors are floating around China that world-famous martial-arts movie star Jet Li is about to quit making movies and devote his life to studying the dharma. A committed Buddhist, Li had plans to retire in 1997 and study Tibetan Buddhism – until a lama told Li that he still had unfinished karma with the film industry. Since that time, the star of such movies as Lethal Weapon 4, Romeo Must Die, and Shaolin Temple has sought ways to incorporate Buddhist lessons into his movies. If Li did retire, that would leave Jackie Chan unopposed for the title of number one Buddhist kung fu cinema celebrity.

When Woogsan Sang
A sexy former Buddhist nun has taken South Korea and Japan by storm. Woogsan (her dharma name, meaning “Male Mountain”) has become one of the hottest luminaries in East Asian jazz, following her recent solo CD release, Love Letters. Woogsan dropped out of high school to live in a monastery, but she was sent back to the world of music by an auspicious wallop from the Zen stick: “While I was dozing during a prayer session, a senior monk hit me on my shoulder,” she explained recently. “What came out of my mouth, in spite of myself, was a song, ‘Ain’t No One There,’ and I realized I had to sing.” And so Woogsan attained awakening and a lucrative singing career in the same instant.

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