Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
This Karmapa Is a Papa
Thaye Dorje, one of the claimants to the title of the 17th Karmapa, and his wife, Sangyumla Rinchen Yangzom, have announced the birth of their first child, a boy. He was born in France on August 11, and the announcement was sent out earlier this month. “Sangyumla and I are overjoyed,” Thaye Dorje said in the statement. “I was deeply honoured to witness the dignity, courage and spiritual strength of Sangyumla—qualities that are present in all mothers around the world.”
Last year, the Karmapa disrobed and married Rinchen Yangzom, his childhood friend. While this was unusual, it was not without precedent. As the Karmapa noted in the birth announcement, the 10th and 15th Karmapas were parents.
Despite this decision, Thaye Dorje said he has no intention of giving up his claim to the title of Karmapa. “The experience of becoming a father has further strengthened my inspiration and aspirations as Karmapa,” he said. “In some ways, I have always been in a parental role, as head of the Karma Kagyu family. Now this spiritual role and title of Karmapa, and the responsibilities that come with it, are clearer than ever before.”
Buddhists Get Out the Vote
A group of Buddhist teachers are encouraging their communities to go out and vote in the upcoming midterm elections. In an open letter circulated this week, 130 teachers said they are partnering with the nonpartisan organization Faith In Action, which helps faith communities register to vote and mobilize on election day. The effort, called Mindful Vote 2018, is pushing people to take advantage of National Voter Registration Day on September 25, send out reminders in October, and sign up to get more involved. “This is a critical time in American society,” the letter urges. “As Buddhist teachers and leaders we recognize the importance of all who are eligible to participate in decisions that affect the well being of the whole. A mutual caring community is one of the central teachings of the Buddha.”
The letter also opens with a quote from the Mahaparinirvana Sutra: “As long as followers of the way gather together and meet in harmony they can be expected to prosper and not decline. As long as followers of the way care for the vulnerable among them can they be expected to prosper and not decline. As long as followers of the way tend the sacred places in their environment can they be expected to prosper and not decline.”
Dalai Lama Clears Up Remarks on Refugees in Europe
The office of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama put out a statement this week saying his earlier remarks that “Europe belongs to the Europeans” had been “taken out of context.” His answer to a question about refugees during a visit to Sweden on September 12 was taken by some as an indication that he supported the nationalistic views of the country’s far-right populist party, which had made significant gains in an election three days earlier. The Dalai Lama clarified his position this week, saying that Europeans should shelter refugees and provide “facilities for education and training,” but that the “aim is that they should eventually be able to return to rebuild their own countries.” The spiritual leader’s opinion is shaped by his own experience as a refugee. He explained, “We Tibetans took shelter in India, but most Tibetans want to return to Tibet when the situation there has changed. Each country has its own culture, language, way of life, and it is better for people to live in their own country. That is my view.”
Taiwanese Temple Becomes Chinese “Patriotic” Base
In Taiwan, a building contractor has converted a Buddhist temple into a shrine to the Chinese communist party, the New York Times reports. The contractor, a Taiwanese national named Wei Ming-jen, told the Times he was under no pressure from the Chinese government when he evicted the nuns living at the Biyun Temple in Ershui and began turning it into a “patriotic education base” using his own funds. Wei had been hired to renovate the property and said the nuns were delinquent with their payment when he kicked them out, a claim which they contest. The four nuns are currently living in shipping containers next to the former temple, which now features many red Chinese flags and portraits of party leaders, the Times reports. China continues to consider Taiwan one of its territories, while Taiwan asserts independence and has its own government.