Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
A New Spin on Dharma in Kyoto: Two Buddhist Monks Breakdance Together
They’re from two different Buddhist schools, but that didn’t stop 24-year-old Japanese monks Koki Kawahara and Jojitsu Asukai from becoming breakdancing buddies. Kawahara is a Buddhist monk at Chion-in, the head temple of the Jodo (Pure Land) school in Kyoto, while Asukai is a staff member at the Tendai Buddhist headquarters in the nearby city of Otsu. The two have formed a breakdancing duo called Kaiten Bozu (Spinning Monks) in the hopes of conveying Buddhist philosophy through movement, according to the Japan News. Their most recent performance in early November, in front of the large early 17th century Sanmon gate at Chion-in, drew an audience of about 300 people. “I was relieved to receive a positive response [from the audience]. We’re considering appearing in other events if it gives us an opportunity to have people experience the teachings of Buddhism through breakdancing,” Kawahara said. In a country where Buddhism is largely seen as a “funeral religion,” the two young monks believe that combining dance and dharma can spark a new interest in Buddhism among their peers. Incidentally, Asukai’s signature breakdancing pose involves him standing on his head, while joining his hands in a prayer––a gassho for the new decade.
Iranian Monk Arrested While Crossing Indian Border
Indian authorities last week arrested a Buddhist monk who has lived in Bodhgaya, India, for over a decade when he attempted to cross into Nepal without valid documents, according to the Hindustan Times, stoking additional fear among the region’s immigrants following the passing of a discriminatory citizenship law last month. An immigration official in the town of Raxaul at the Indo-Nepal border said that Hamed Akbari, who had Iranian citizenship, stayed in the Indian state of Bihar for 11 years without an Indian visa. Since August, at least six other foreign nationals have been arrested while attempting to cross the border into Nepal in the same area, according to the Times. The crackdown on immigrants takes place as Indians continue to protest against a proposed citizens’ register and new legislation that eases the way for non-Muslim minorities from neighboring Muslim-majority nations to obtain Indian citizenship, both put forward by the ruling conservative BJP party. Critics of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens have expressed fear that the laws will be used to strip Muslim people of their citizenship. According to the New York Times, thousands of people across India have demonstrated since the CAA went into effect on December 12.
Dalai Lama Spends Christmas Near the Bodhi Tree
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama spent the holidays in Bodhgaya, India, a major pilgrimage site. On Christmas Day, the Tibetan spiritual leader posted a photo to Instagram of himself and two monks standing in front of the Mahabodhi Stupa, which marks the spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.
Also on Christmas, the Dalai Lama spoke to reporters about the ongoing struggle for Tibetan independence. “We have the power of truth. Chinese communists have the power of [the] gun. In the long run, [the] power of truth is much stronger than [the] power of [the] gun,” he said. On Thursday, His Holiness began a five day teaching program in Bodhgaya, which included an Avalokitesvara [bodhisattva of compassion] initiation, according to his website.
FPMT Launches Independent Investigation into Dagri Rinpoche Allegations
The Tibetan Buddhist organization Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) has hired an independent organization to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Buddhist teacher Dagri Rinpoche. In May 2019, the FPMT suspended the Tibetan Buddhist tulku (reincarnated lama) from their list of teachers, after several women came forward with accusations that Dagri Rinpoche had touched them inappropriately. On December 20, FPMT posted a statement on their website that said it had hired the nonprofit FaithTrust Institute to conduct a “fact-finding assessment” after an individual who represents three women sent the organization a report outlining their allegations of sexual misconduct. “[W]e believe that using an independent organization to conduct the assessment will encourage people to speak more freely,” the statement said. Anyone who experienced or witnessed harm by Dagri Rinpoche at FPMT centers is encouraged to contact the FaithTrust Institute, either by email or a confidential phone or Skype interview.