When Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest in Rangoon for the past two years, was named the latest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the news triggered massive protests against the repressive regime in Burma. Universities were shut down when students demonstrated for Aung San Suu Kyi’s release and, in a plea for world attention, Buddhist monks took to the streets carrying big signs in English to, “Free the Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.” (Read the review of Freedom from Fear, a collection of essays by Aung San Suu Kyi).
MASS GRAVE FOR MONGOLIAN MONKS
The discovery of a mass grave for 3,000 Buddhist monks in Mongolia is the most recent reminder of Stalin’s demented rule, in which an estimated 100,000 executions took place. In a gruesome attempt to suppress vajrayana Buddhism, the monks, found in a two-acre burial site in Moron, in northwestern Mongolia, each had a bullet wound to the back of the head, and were murdered while wearing the maroon robes of their Tibetan tradition. Reuters News Service interviewed a seventy-eight year old monk who recalled the systematic attempts to eliminate Buddhism from Mongolia during the 1930s and 1940s: “In the year of the Yellow Tiger (1938), troops came one night from the Ministry of the Interior. They came with high-ranking monks who had turned informers. They identified the important monks, and then the troops took them outside and shot them in front of the rest of us. We were then ordered to smash our monastery. They killed my three brothers before my eyes because they refused to cooperate.”
But as Buddhism teaches: all things change, nothing is permanent. More than half a century later, in the Year of the Iron Sheep (1991), His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Mongolia to perform the Kalachachra Initiation.
Sulak Sivaraksa, Thailand’s well-known and courageous social critic, left his homeland after being threatened with imprisonment. Last fall the government accused Sulak of slander following his public criticisms of the ruling junta. Initially, Sulak was quoted in the Bangkok newspapers as saying that he would fight the charges in court, but after a series of threats by the military he reportedly fled to Sweden. Sulak is the spiritual and intellectual protege of the Venerable Buddhadasa, who, along with the Vietnamese pacifist and Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Tibet’s exiled leader, His Holiness Dalai Lama, is one of the co-founding patrons of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, based in the Thai capitol.
MESSAGE FROM THE FLOATING WORLD
The latest advertisement campaign from American Express features a monk seated on the edge of a classic Japanese Zen rock garden, presumably in a state of deep samadhi. To his right, floating in cosmic space, is a disproportionately large American Express card: for the homeless monk on a homeless path, seeking a mind that abides nowhere—don’t leave home without it.
Also from Reuters: although an unexpected source for Buddhist news in the United States, the Reuters wire announced that the entire Pali canon with various translations will soon be released on a single CD-ROM disk. This international translation enterprise is under the direction of Lewis Lancaster, a professor of Buddhist studies at the University of California. Workers in Thailand have already spent three years copying Buddhist scriptures recorded in Pali, an Indic language, into a computer. “We have 44,000 pages online,” said Lancaster. “That’s the equivalent of about 45 volumes.” The Pali version of the Tripatika, the collection of the Buddha’s teachings, was first written down on palm leaves several hundred years following Shakyamuni Buddha’s death. But the scriptures as a whole have never been indexed. To look something up can take weeks—or years. Explained Lancaster, “With the CD-ROM, in a few minutes you can search the entire text for any given word.” It takes sixty seconds for the computer to search for one word throughout all 4,000 pages. Lancaster expects the CD-ROM to revolutionize Buddhist scholarship. The entire canon can be checked for specific references to words like consciousness, duhkha, or sunyata. And the project will not stop with the Pali canon. There are plans to add versions from Chinese, Tibetan, Burmese, Mongolian, and Sanskrit. “It has 50 million characters,” said Lancaster of the Chinese version. “That’s equal to ten sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica.”
The only question remaining in the midst of such monumental precision is whether the CD-ROM disk will be sanctified in the manner traditionally reserved for holy scripture: wrapping it in blessed cloth, keeping it on the altar and purifying it with incense.
For the enlightened dog who has sacrificed the way of all flesh for a purely vegetarian treat, Friskies Petcare, makers of Mighty Dog products, now offers BOODA BONES, a special, all-cotton chewy. And if your dog doesn’t rip it to shreds on the first go, you can wash it with soap and water. And if BOODA BONES doesn’t help purify your dog, try washing your dog with soap and water.
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