Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Buddhist Inmate’s Execution Postponed over “Discriminatory” Policy
The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a stay of execution for a Buddhist inmate in Texas whose reverend was not permitted to be with him in the execution chamber, the New York Times reports. The state permits Christian and Muslim inmates to have government-employed spiritual advisers in the room, but advisers from other faiths are only allowed in the viewing room. Patrick Murphy, who was sentenced to death after being found guilty of killing a police officer in 2000, brought the matter to the court after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice denied his request to have his Pure Land Buddhist teacher of six years, Rev. Hui-Yong Shih, at his side. The court issued an order on March 28 granting the stay of execution on the grounds that the policy violated constitutional protections against religious discrimination. Texas officials said that the policy was only intended to keep untrained visitors out of the room, according to the Times.
Giant Golden Buddha Erected in Canada
A 70-foot-tall Buddha statue was installed recently at a Buddhist center in Alberta, Canada, CBC reports. The figure of Amitabha Buddha towers over the rural landscape at the Westlock Meditation Centre, an offshoot of the Edmonton Buddhist Research Institute in the Truc Lam school of Vietnamese Zen. The statue, which was constructed in China and shipped to Canada in January, is made up of a roughly 39-foot Buddha standing on a 10-foot-high lotus on top of a 21-foot base—bringing it to a total height about the size of the White House. It was installed as part of the Buddhist group’s 30-year anniversary ceremony on March 21.
Vietnam Bans Pagoda’s “Scam” Ritual
A government agency in Vietnam has ordered Buddhist monks at the 18th-century Ba Vang pagoda to stop performing “karma eviction” ceremonies that authorities are calling a scam, the Associated Press reports, citing the the state-run Lao Dong newspaper. Tens of thousands of visitors have reportedly spent between $45 and $13,500 on the ritual, which the Vietnamese government’s Committee for Religious Affairs said “goes against Buddhist philosophy and violates Vietnam’s law on religion and folk beliefs.” The monks at the pagoda teach that whenever something bad happens, it is the result of misdeeds from a previous life and have been holding regular ceremonies to remove the negative karma for years and asking for donations in return. But the donations have ballooned in recent years, according to the report. The pagoda drew extra scrutiny recently after an inspirational speaker associated with the site blamed the February gang rape and murder of a college student on sins committed in a past life, according to the AP.