Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
“Twitter Monk” Haemin Sunim Returns to Monastic Life
The well-known Korean Zen monk Haemin Sunim announced that he will step away from public life and return to a public seowon, a Buddhist education institution, Buddhistdoor Global reported last week. This decision was prompted by backlash on social media that Haemin is not living the ideals he teaches in his books and on his app. The strongest criticism came from Kocadile Choi, a Korean singer with more than 8.9 million subscribers on YouTube. He condemned Haemin’s app, Kokkiri, for requiring in-app purchases, saying Haemin was “ripping off those emotionally hurt with sugarcoated words.” An American monk, Hyon Gak, also criticized Haemin for profiting off the Buddha’s teachings, but later took back what he said after a reported phone call with Haemin, after which he called him, in a Facebook post, a “beautiful human being with great sincerity.” Haemin shared an apology and his announcement that he will return to monastic study on his Twitter account, which has since been deactivated.
New Tibetan Literary Journal Launched
A group of scholars, writers, and artists have created a new open access, peer-reviewed annual journal that will publish academic articles, book reviews, and interviews related to Tibet, as well as poetry, prose, art, and fiction. Yeshe: A Journal of Tibetan Literature, Arts and Humanities is staffed by editor-in-chief Patricia Schiaffini-Vedani, professor at Southwestern University and founder of the Tibetan Arts and Literature Initiative, managing editor Shelly Bhoil, an independent scholar who writes about Tibetans in the diaspora, fiction editor Tenzin Dickie, poet and Treasury of Lives editor, as well as poetry editor Chime Lama, whose poetry was featured on High Peaks Pure Earth’s Instagram takeover by Tibetan women poets earlier this year.
Rigpa Leaders Criticized for Putting Students at Risk
An official inquiry by the Charity Commission for England and Wales found that the Rigpa Fellowship in the United Kingdom put students at risk of harm, according to Third Sector, a UK-based publication reporting on charities in the region. The inquiry criticized former Rigpa trustees Patrick Gaffney and Susan Burrow for failing to investigate the allegations of sexual and physical abuse and take appropriate action against Rigpa’s spiritual leader, the Tibetan teacher Sogyal Lakar Rinpoche. The regulator of the Charity Commission opened a case after the abuse accusations surfaced in a letter published online in June 2017. Both Burrows and Gaffney “failed to recognize or sought to downplay” the seriousness of the allegations, the commission said. Evidence also did not support claims from Burrows that she had no prior knowledge of instances of abuse involving Sogyal Lakar. “The fact that students were subjected to abuse by somebody in a position of power is shameful,” Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said. “I am appalled that this was able to happen in a charity where people should have felt safe.”
Central Tibetan Administration President Meets with White House Officials
On Friday, the president of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), Lobsang Sangay, was scheduled to meet with White House officials, Reuters reported. This was the first visit to the White House by a member of the CTA in six decades. The meeting is expected to anger Beijing officials, who have accused the US of trying to destabilize their region. In July, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Beijing of violating Tibetan human rights and declared that the US government supports autonomy for Tibet. China has refused to engage with the US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Robert Destro.
JTS Korea, INEB Distribute $50,000 in COVID-19 Relief
Join Together Society Korea (JTS Korea), a Buddhist humanitarian relief organization founded by Korean Seon (Jp., Zen) monk Venerable Pomnyun Sunim, worked with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) to distribute $50,000 USD in COVID-19 emergency relief aid to communities in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Nepal, according to Buddhistdoor Global. JTS Korea told Buddhistdoor Global that the money was donated to INEB, which distributed the funds to twelve aid agencies to purchase food and hygiene supplies for at least 4,434 families. Earlier this year, INEB launched the Mindful Action: COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, which has focused on providing food and medical supplies to vulnerable populations in South and Southeast Asia during the pandemic.