Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Muslim Ban Expansion Creates New Obstacle for Rohingya
President Donald Trump expanded his Muslim ban (which his administration later insisted is a “travel ban”) to cover six new countries, including Myanmar, where the Rohingya Muslim minority has been fleeing genocide, according to the New York Times. Rounding out the list are Kyrgyzstan and the African nations of Nigeria, Eritrea, Sudan, and Tanzania. The Times reports that the new restrictions, which go into effect on February 22, will interfere with the potential immigration of more than 12,300 people. In Buddhist-majority Myanmar, the decision could be deadly. Since August 2017, military violence has forced more than a million Rohingya to flee their homes in the Rakhine state for camps in neighboring Bangladesh, where the refugees face a host of other problems. With the expanded ban, one of the Rohingya’s few paths to safety is being blocked. “Nearly 5,000 Burmese refugees started to rebuild their lives in America last year, many of whom seek to reunite with family still in harm’s way,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, told the Times.
Dalai Lama Suspends Appearances Because of Coronavirus Risks
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has suspended his appearances until further notice as a precaution against the rapidly spreading coronavirus, the Times of India reports. “The office is not taking requests for regular audience[s] from the public for now,” Tenzin Takla, the Dalai Lama’s private assistant, told the paper. The virus is particularly dangerous to the elderly—as of January 25, the median age of the people who have been killed by the virus is 75. The Dalai Lama is 84 years old. The health department in Dharamsala, the Indian city where the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government-in-exile are based, has placed the area on high alert. The city is frequently visited by Buddhist pilgrims, many from mainland China, who wish to pay respects to the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist sites.
The Dalai Lama has urged Buddhists to recite the Green Tara mantra—Om tare tutare ture soha—to help those suffering from the coronavirus, according to Phayul.com. “There are many people around the world who are worried and scared about the epidemic. I pray for them all,” he said. Green Tara is a past buddha who appears in female form to protect people from fear and guide them toward enlightenment.
Meanwhile, a special prayer ceremony was held for the victims of the virus on February 2 at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya in Bihar state, which is believed to be where the Buddha attained enlightenment, according to ANI news. Medical teams have been checking the health of all visitors.
Marilyn Martin Rhie, Buddhist Art History Scholar, Has Died
Marilyn Martin Rhie, a notable scholar of Asian and Buddhist art, died on January 26 in Springfield, Massachusetts. She was 82. Between 1960 and 1990, Rhie—along with her husband and daughter—traveled the world conducting research at Buddhist sites with a focus on Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist art. Rhie’s studies led her to publish many books and articles, including two books that she co-authored with Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman, A Shrine for Tibet (2009) and Worlds of Transformation: The Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion (1999). After teaching Asian art history at Smith College for more than 40 years, the school named her the Jessie Wells Post Professor Emerita of Art and Professor Emerita of East Asian Studies. Rhie also made her own paintings, having studied at a residency program at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in New York City.