Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Dalai Lama: Trump Lacks ‘Moral Principle’ & Female Dalai Lama ‘Should Be Attractive’
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama shared his opinions on President Donald Trump, Brexit, and other political issues in a recent interview with the BBC. The current administration is defined by a “lack of moral principle,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said. “When he became president he expressed America first. That is wrong. America should take a global responsibility.” He also stood by comments he made last year in which he expressed that refugees in the European Union should ultimately return to their home countries to rebuild. “A limited number is OK, but the whole of Europe [will] eventually become Muslim country, African country—impossible,” he said. And he reaffirmed another controversial remark he made in 2015, saying if “a female Dalai Lama comes, she should be more attractive.”
China Continues to Harvest the Organs of Religious Minorities
Detainees in Chinese prisons, including religious minorities, continue to be killed and their organs removed for use as transplants, according to new evidence collected by the China Tribunal, an independent body of lawyers and specialists who investigate forced organ harvesting. Many of the victims include imprisoned followers of the Falun Gong, a religious movement with Buddhist roots. Tibetans, Uighur Muslims, and certain Christian sects, have also allegedly been targeted, but there is less evidence available about their treatment. In 2014 China decreed that it would cease removing organs from executed prisoners and has dismissed past allegations of illegal organ harvesting as false. But China Tribunal chair Sir Geoffrey Nice said that “there is no evidence of the practice having been stopped,” according to the Guardian. “The conclusion,” Nice states, “shows that very many people have died indescribably hideous deaths for no reason, that more may suffer in similar ways.”
Strident persecution of Falun Gong began in 1999, after supporters of the religious movement gathered in Beijing to ask for legal recognition. The name Falun Gong means “a method of Qigong that turns the dharma wheel.” The Chinese government bans all Falun Gong-related materials and activities, condemning the group as a heretical cult.
Thai Cave Boys Mark One Year Since Ordeal with Buddhist Ceremony
The 12 boys of the Wild Boars soccer team recently participated in a Buddhist ceremony near Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province, Thailand, marking one year since they were trapped in the flooded cave with little food and water for over two weeks. On June 24, the boys, ages 12 to 17, and their coach offered food to monks in a Buddhist rite of merit-making, the Washington Post reported. Coach Ekapol Chantawong indicated that most members of the team aspire to become professional soccer players, while some want to become Thai navy SEALs like those who helped to guide them out of the treacherous cave. Shortly after their ordeal, 11 of the boys temporarily ordained as novice Buddhist monks and Chatawong underwent full ordination, in a show of gratitude for Saman Gunan, the diver who died during the search and rescue.
Budget Airline Announces New Low-cost Flights to Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites
Starting August 8, the Indian budget airline IndiGo will offer 12 daily flights from Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) to the Buddhist pilgrimage cities of Gaya, Patna, and Varanasi, according to Buddhist Door. Gaya is about 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) north of Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha is recorded to have obtained his awakening, while Patna is the closest city to Vulture Peak, the backdrop to many important Buddhist texts, including the Heart Sutra and the Lotus Sutra. Nearby also is Vaishali, where the Buddha gave his final teaching, and the site of the ordination of Mahaprajapati, the Buddha’s step-mother and first woman to join the Buddhist sangha. Varanasi is just south of the town of Sarnath, where the Buddha is believed to have delivered his first sermon on the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path. IndiGo’s promotion is aimed at attracting new pilgrims from East and Southeast Asia.
Related: Visiting the Four Sacred Sites
China’s Panchen Lama Now Head of Buddhist Group
The Beijing-approved Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, was recently elected president of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Branch of the Buddhist Association of China, a national body that effectively monitors and supports Buddhist temples and organizations in China. China’s state-run Xinhua News reports that the lama is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a political advisory group with a role similar to that of a legislative upper house. Though Gyaltsen Norbu has become increasingly visible, his identity as the 11th Panchen Lama remains contested by Tibetans, due to the fact he was selected by a Chinese committee after Chinese authorities in 1995 arrested Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama recognized by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama who has not been seen in public since. The Panchen Lama is one of the most important figures in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, second only to the Dalai Lama.
Brooklyn Zen Center Is Building a New Monastery
The Brooklyn Zen Center announced this week that they have plans to build a new monastery in upstate New York. Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery will be located on 14 acres of land in Millerton about three hours north of New York City. I A public ceremony marking the opening of the monastery will occur on August 11. The monastery is currently accepting applications for monastic residence.
Unrest in Myanmar Leads to Internet Shutdown
Myanmar has shut down mobile data networks in parts of the country in an effort to quell political unrest and illegal activity, CNN reports. A statement from a Norwegian telecoms firm that operates mobile Internet services in Myanmar affirmed that the Myanmar Ministry of Transport and Communications directed all phone operators to temporarily stop Internet traffic in the western states of Chin and Rakhine, where more than 720,000 members of the Rohingya ethnic minority have fled military violence since August 2017. T Yanghee Lee, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, condemned the decision, saying the shutdown could have “serious implications for human rights.” The UN has described the campagin against the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing and possible genocide.
Thich Nhat Hanh Receives Global Peace Award
Thich Nhat Hanh was honored with an award for “Outstanding Inner Peace,” one of 12 annual awards issued by the nonprofit Schengen Peace Foundation. The website for the foundation’s Luxembourg Peace Prize states that the “key teaching” of the Vietnamese Zen teacher is “that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.” The foundation acknowledges his significant contributions to the promotion of Buddhism in the West, noting his role in founding six monasteries and over a 1,000 local mindfulness practice centers in the United States and Europe. In 2018 Thich Nhat Hanh returned to Vietnam to “live his remaining days,” according to an announcement issued by his center Plum Village.