On October 19, environmentalist, feminist, and Tibet activist Petra Kelly who was best known as the founder of the Green Party in Germany, was discovered dead along with her longtime companion Gert Bastion in their home in a suburb of Bonn. Both were former members of Parliament. At the time of death Kelly was forty-four and Bastion sixty-nine. The cause of death is still uncertain.
Kelly and Bastion, along with Pat Aiello, edited The Anguish of Tibet (Parallax Press), a collection of essays that challenged Chinese policies on Tibet and indicted countries like the United States and Germany for erecting, as Kelly put it, the “great brick wall around the Tibet issue” in order to protect Chinese interests.
Her determination to make human rights issues in Tibet an international cause created dissention in the Green Party. Initially, the Leftists refused to criticize China and endorsed the Chinese view of the Dalai Lama as a deposed monarch who fell victim to a populist uprising. But Kelly prevailed, providing irrefutable evidence of Chinese genocide in Tibet and then arguing that ideological sympathies could not be used as blinders to injustice and torture. She was instumental in convincing the then president of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel, to receive the Dalai Lama, and Havel, became the first head of state to risk offending the Chinese in this way.
Ms. Kelly was born in the Bavarian town of Gunzburg. When she was twelve years old, her American stepfather moved the family to the United States, where she continued her education. At the time of her death, she was a foster parent to a Tibetan child.
TIBET IN VOGUE
Following in the footsteps of painters (Chagall and Miro), filmmakers (Kurasawa, Hitchcock, Fellini), and other esteemed personalities, His Holiness The Dalai Lama will guest-edit the 1992 Christmas issue of French Vogue. While the haute-couture magazine is better known for its aggressive assault on the reality of impermanence—especially when it comes to the aging process of women—than it is for expounding a-warts-and-all acceptance of the intrinsic purity of all of life, Jean Poniatowski, the Parisian-based publisher, allowed that “the worldwide situation has inclined us to ask a man of high moral and spiritual value.” Vive la France. And Tibet.
GROWING UP IN AMERICA…
In September more than one hundred people gathered for a reunion marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. Nestled in a California mountain valley, the former resort was converted into the first Zen Buddhist monastery in America under the guidance ofShunryu Suzuki Roshi.
Remembering the limited time allowed for soaking in the famous Tassajara hot springs during formal retreat, Layla Bockhorst wrote of the reunion: “Best of all, the baths were always open.”
Another Zen milestone took place in Rhode Island when theKwan Urn School/Providence Zen Center celebrated its twentieth anniversary. The center was founded by Seung Sahn, the first Korean Zen master to live and teach in the West. The festivities culminated with the transmission of teaching authority to three students.
…AND IN EUROPE
Twelve hundred people gathered in a sports stadium in what was formerly East Berlin to discuss the direction of Buddhism in Europe. The meeting was held in September under the auspices of the European Buddhist Union. The newly reunited city was chosen as a fitting site for such a conference in a year which sees the European Community moving—however hesitantly—toward greater economic and political union. With representatives of most of the major schools in Europe present, the conference celebrated the diversity of the Buddhist traditions that have been taking root there for the past twenty-five years.
Christopher Columbus’ quincentennial has triggered various counter-celebrations that express the views of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. One of the most moving but least reported of these was the Quincentennial Interfaith Pilgrimage for Peace and Life. The Peace Pilgrims began walking in Panama City on December 21, 1991; 4,800 miles and eight countries later, they concluded on Columbus Day, 1992, in Washington D. C.
The pilgrimage was initiated by Sasomori Sonin, a Japanese Buddhist monk of the Nippon Myohoji, an order founded in the 1930s and dedicated to bringing about world peace and creating a spiritual civilization. The principal practice is chanting the name of the Lotus Sutra—”Nam Myaha Renge Kya“—while walking to the steady beat of a hand drum. Peace Pilgrims have joined Native Americans on the Long March, and in the Black Hills, held vigils near Chernobyl, at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Facility in Boulder, Colorado, and at the Sunagawa Airforce base in Japan.
The Interfaith Pilgrimage for Peace and Life will continue with a walk from Sri Lanka through South India this February. For Information contact: Nipponzan Myohoji, Peace Pagoda, 100 Cave Hill Road, Leverett, MA 01054 (413) 367-2202.
THE CELLULOID PATH
Best known for Last Tango in Paris and more recently The Last Emperor, director Bernardo Bertolucci has chosen Shakyamuni Buddha as the subject of his latest film. Little Buddha, co-authored by Rudy Wurlitzerand Mark Peploe, follows an incarnate lama, discovered in Seattle, returning to his home monastery in Bhutan. Here, his education begins with the story of Siddhartha.
The first day’s shooting near Kathmandu was briefly disrupted when a group of Tibetans protested the fact that Little Buddha’s guru was played by a Chinese. Order was quickly restored when it was explained that Bertolucci had received the Dalai Lama’s approval for the script, as well as the casting of the Chinese actor. In Nepal, rumors persisted that Chinese communists had deliberately circulated misleading accounts of the script in order to suppress a movie that may increase sympathies in the West for a Free Tibet. The Tibetan community was further assured by the respected Dzongar Kyentse Rinpoche who explained, “The making of this movie is more important than the building of a hundred monasteries.” Seasoned scriptwriter Rudy Wurlitzer offers a more cautionary optimism. Wurlitzer makes a distinction between “religious” films such as Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments and a much smaller category of “spiritual” films such as Passolini’s The Passion According to St. Matthew. But even here, Wurlitzer says, “Such ambitious projects are often reductive and inevitably point to the lowest common denominator.” Yet speaking of Little Buddha, he adds, “Perhaps this one will prove to be an exception.”
The reincarnation of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche has been discovered in Kathmandu. Dudjom Rinpoche, who died in 1983 was considered the supreme head of the Nyingma tradition and one of the greatest masters of dzogchen—the teachings that emphasize the inherent and immutable purity of the human heart and mind.
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