Buddhist monks were all over the international news this week, and most of it was not good.
Last weekend thousands of Sri Lankans, led by Buddhist monks, stormed a mosque in Dambulla, Sri Lanka, destroying furniture and exposing themselves. The day before, the mosque had been firebombed by an unknown person. Sri Lankan officials have now promised to demolish and relocate the mosque, which the monks alleged had been built illegally on sacred Buddhist ground. Mosque board members responded that the mosque had been there for 50 years—30 years before the area was declared a Buddhist sacred zone.
BBC online quoted one monk who said that the “campaign against the Muslim building was a victory for ‘those who love the race, have Sinhalese blood and are Buddhists.'”
Online discussions of the incident have presented the mob as a fringe group that does not accurately represent the peaceful Buddhist-Muslim (or Sinhala-Muslim) relations within Sri Lanka. Even if this is true, what are monks doing leading a violent and hate-filled campaign in the first place?
Over in England, more cases of bad Buddhist behavior: a senior monk, Venerable Pahalagama Somaratana, has been accused of raping a nine year old girl over 30 years ago. Ven. Somaratana has denied the charges, saying that it “could have been another monk.” Hmph.
In China, the other Panchen Lama came out for a quick public appearance at the World Buddhist Forum in Hong Kong. Gyaltsen Norbu was installed by Beijing as the Panchen Lama when he was 6, in 1995. The Dalai Lama’s choice, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, disappeared that year and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. I must say, I feel badly for both of the Panchen Lamas, caught up as they have been in China’s political maneuverings.
And in India (finally a piece of good news here) all charges against the Karmapa have been dropped.
Quite a lot going on in the international Buddhist world, isn’t there? That might be a good thing, as Buddhist news in the United States has been, well, lacking. The most interesting U.S. Buddhist story I’ve heard all week was that Metta World Peace, the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest, elbowed another play in the head in a wonderful upholding of the principles expounded in his name. (And he only counts as Buddhist story because he has “metta” in his name.)
And I suppose we can also count the statements of the Dalai Lama in Chicago as U.S. Buddhist news. Interestingly, he hinted that there might not be a Tibetan-chosen 15th Dalai Lama. “It depends on whether people really feel it is important, this institution. If it is no longer relevant, it will not exist,” the International Business Times reported him as saying. Apparently, he also expressed his love for Dubya Bush. “As a president of America, sometimes his policy may not be very successful,” said the Dalai Lama. “But as a person, a human being, very nice person…I love him.”
Oh, and I forgot about one more important news item…this picture of a meditating lemur on the Huffington Post. Can’t forget about that!
From the picture below, the lemur seems to have accomplished a couple of the more ominous siddhis…
Ah, I hope that makes you laugh after a long week and a sobering Buddha Buzz.
Panchen Lama image by Kin Cheung/AP.
Lemur images by Sebastien Degardin, from the Huffington Post.