Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
New York Times Writes Late Obituary for S. N. Goenka
The influential Buddhist teacher Satya Narayan “S. N.” Goenka has received some long overdue recognition in the Overlooked series from the New York Times, which creates belated obituaries for people whom the paper originally omitted. The Burma-born Vipassana teacher helped train a generation of Buddhist practitioners who later played a large role in spreading the Theravada tradition in America. His list of students included Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, Ram Dass, and Daniel Goleman. “His legacy is enormous,” Salzberg told the Times. “If you have any interest in mindfulness today, it’s thanks in part to Goenka.” He died in 2013.
Texas Responds to Buddhist Discrimination Order by Banning All Spiritual Advisers from Execution Chambers
In response to a Supreme Court decision to stay the execution of an inmate because his Buddhist spiritual adviser was not allowed to sit with him in the room even though Christian and Muslim advisers are allowed, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has decided to ban all spiritual advisers from execution chambers, the website ThinkProgress reports. The court had ruled the policy unconstitutional because it gave preferential treatment to one religion over another. So instead of approving the request by Buddhist inmate Patrick Henry Murphy, on April 3 the state announced that it would end the practice altogether. The issue will likely return to the Supreme Court, which will determine if this meets the requirements of their order. The order called for a stay of Murphy’s execution until his spiritual adviser was permitted in the chamber.
Hong Kong Billionaire Opens $380M Buddhist Art Museum
The richest man in Hong Kong has opened a Buddhist art museum, which cost $380 million to create. The museum at the Tsz Shan Monastery is easy to spot—just look for the 249-foot-tall statue of Guanyin (Sanskrit, Avalokitesvara), the bodhisattva of compassion. The man behind the project is Li Ka-shing, 90, a businessman whose estimated net worth is $33.4 billion. The collection is dedicated entirely to Buddhist art and includes 100 statues and dozens of manuscripts, according to a press release.
Sri Lanka Arrests Novelist over Story about Gay Buddhists
A novelist in Sri Lanka was arrested for writing a short story that referred to homosexuality among Buddhist clergy. Shakthika Sathkumara, 33, was taken into custody on April 1 after members of the influential monastic community complained that the piece “insulted Buddhism.” He was charged with “religious hatred” under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty that is meant to protect civil rights, including freedom of speech and religion.