Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
More than $83,000 raised for vandalized Los Angeles Buddhist temple
This week, Buddha Buzz reports on some news that signals compassion and solidarity with the Asian American Buddhist community in wake of the rising number of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. More than $83,240 has been raised for L.A. Little Tokyo’s Higashi Honganji, a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temple that was vandalized late last week. According to Religion News Service, the temple’s GoFundMe page was set up by Nikkei Progressives, a volunteer organization advocating for immigrant rights, Muslims, and Japanese American issues. On Thursday, February 25, a person set fire to the chochin lantern stands, knocked over two metal lanterns at the stairs leading up to the temple, and shattered a glass panel in front of the foyer after throwing a rock toward the temple’s entrance, head minister Rev. Noriaki Ito said in a statement. After news of the vandalism made headlines, the temple received calls and messages from all over the US as well as from Japan. According to Ito, the widespread interest was probably due to growing visibility of the racist incidents Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been experiencing since the COVID-19 pandemic began. “We will work to repair the damage and to restore the temple,” Ito said. “But we need to repair the damage to ourselves as well. Like many others in our AAPI community and beyond, we feel hurt and saddened and even angered by the recent attacks on those of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.”
Myanmar Death Toll Climbs; Women Fight Back
At least 18 people were killed when pro-military security forces fired on protesters in cities across Myanmar last Sunday, the bloodiest day since the start of the mass demonstrations against the military coup, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA). The U.N. Human Rights Office said it had received “credible information” that at least 18 people were killed and more than 30 were wounded, in the highest single-day death toll since the military takeover and ousting of the democratically-elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Women in Myanmar are at the forefront of the protest movement, sending a powerful rebuke to the generals who ousted a female civilian leader and reimposed a patriarchal order that has suppressed women for half a century, according to reporting from the New York Times. Despite the threat of violence, women, representing striking unions of teachers, garment workers, and medical workers—all sectors dominated by women—have come together for daily marches. The youngest are often on the front lines, where the security forces appear to have singled them out. On Wednesday three young women were fatally shot and killed.
Women and girls have courageously and selflessly put their bodies on the front lines—and also their bras. According to a Facebook page about Burmese Protest Memes, women opposing the coup have begun to create barriers of bras, panties, and longyi (sarong-like cloths) in front of homes and on streets. Most soldiers, according to the meme’s explanation, believe that if a man comes into contact with a woman’s underwear or longyi (particularly if the woman wore them while menstruating), that he will lose his phoun (also transliterated as hpone)—his honor, prestige, or power. These superstitions about women’s underwear are helping protesters skirt Myanmar’s junta, the Japan Times reported. “When the community hang[s] the longyi above the rope, [police and soldiers] can’t go in the streets, they can’t cross it, and they have to take it down,” activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi said. Some protestors, playfully raising the stakes of the superstition, have pasted images of junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing’s face on the longyi.
Over 150 Monks Test Positive for COVID-19 After Losar Celebrations
Over 150 monks at the Gyuto Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Arunachal Pradesh, India, tested positive for COVID-19 this week, Press Trust of India reports. The cluster of infections is believed to have started after Losar, the Tibetan new year festival, on February 14. Last week, 20 monks tested positive; since then 330 monks have been tested and 154 tested positive for the coronavirus. Most infected monks report being asymptomatic. Only one monk has been hospitalized, and the rest are in quarantine at the monastery. The monastery and its surrounding area have been declared a containment zone until further notice by Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Dharamsala, in an attempt to contain the spread.
Buddhists in Thailand Celebrate Makha Bucha Day
Buddhists in Thailand celebrated Makha Bucha Day on February 26. The day memorializes the four auspicious signs that took place after the Buddha attained enlightenment. Citizens made merit by giving alms, listening to sermons, and circumambulating sacred objects. According to Pattaya Mail, local temples required all visitors to wear face masks and to wash their hands regularly to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As of March 5, the World Health Organization reported a total of 26,241 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 85 deaths caused by the virus in Thailand, which has a population of just under 70 million.