I’LL DRINK TO THAT
Beer connoisseurs may be familiar with Singha, one the most popular beers in Thailand. Less well known is that the singha is a venerable Thai Buddhist symbol: a sort of combination lion and snake frequently seen guarding the entrances to Thai temples. And even more obscure is the way in which Singhabeer acts as a sort of guardian for Thai Buddhism: Singha’s parents company, Boon Rawd, is a major donor for the restoration of important cultural treasures at Wat Po, one of Thailand’s most important royal temples.
The Miss Universe contest was held in Thailand this year, and predictable drew the ire of conservative Buddhist commentators. Most galling was the way in which bathing beauties were posed in front of prominent temples for photographs; the juxtaposition of flesh and dharma was more than some could stomach. Others detected a hypocritical note in the anti-contest outrage, alleging that it was wrong for Buddhists to get worked up over beauty paegants when so many violations of the precepts are committed every day.
BACK ON THE BEAT
A previously unpublished Jack Kerouac manuscript has surfaced and will appear from Thunder’s Mouth Press this fall. Friends of Kerouac knew of his never-produced three-act play Beat Generation, written in 1957, but the script itself hadn’t been seen for many years. The play details more of Kerouac’s antics during his Buddhist years and contains reflections on such subjects as reincarnation.
Kushok Bakula Rinpoche (1917—2003), a major figure in the heavily Buddhist region of Ladakh, India, joined the ranks of George Bush and Ronald Reagan in June: he had an airport named after him. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself presided over the ceremon that renamed the Ladakhi airport, but apparently couldn’t be bothered to investigate Bukula Rinpoche’s religious feeling, calling the non-theist Bakula “a man of God.”
Five Buddhist monks were fined and kicked out of the sangha in Thailand this past May after engaging in street battles with members of a rival temple. For years the monks of the two temples, situated in the northeastern Nong Khai province, had insulted one another during daily begging rounds. The rivalr finally came to blows, as monks with brass knuckles and other weapons assailed one another in the street.
Postsecret.com is a website that invites its viewers to share their deepest secrets in post-card format. The site abounds with the inner thoughts of anonymous confessors. Here are two:
The Lotus Sutra is the most popular Buddhist text in East Asia, and has sometimes drawn devotion bordering on fanaticism. Perhaps there is a tinge of zealousness in the copy penned by by Malaysian master Hui Yan nearly one hundred years ago and unveiled this summer during a grand ceremony. Master Hui Yan wrote the sutra in his own blood over a two-year period; the manuscript has been hidden since the Japanese occupation during World War II.