Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Asian American Buddhists Organize a National Buddhist Memorial Service
Asian American Buddhist leaders, including Duncan Ryuken Williams, Funie Hsu, and Chenxing Han, have organized the first national Buddhist memorial ceremony in response to anti-Asian violence. The free event, titled May We Gather: A National Buddhist Memorial Ceremony for Asian American Ancestors, invites Asian American Buddhists and their allies to come together for “mourning, mending, and renewal,” according to their website. Drawing upon the Buddhist death rite of mourning for 49 days after a death, May We Gather will take place on May 4, 49 days after the Atlanta shootings where a gunman murdered eight people, six of whom were of Asian descent. Throughout the 90-minute-long event, 49 Asian American Buddhist leaders will lead chants and reflections to honor the lives that have been lost from acts of anti-Asian violence in the United States. The ceremony will be livestreamed from Higashi Honganji Temple in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 4 at 4 p.m. PT (7 p.m. ET).
India Hit with Second Wave of COVID-19 Cases; Organizations Seek Support for Ambedkarite Buddhists
After experiencing record-low infection rates in February, India has been hit with a second wave of new COVID-19 infections. On Thursday, India confirmed nearly 315,000 new cases within 24 hours, setting a record for the highest number of new infections in a single day, reports NPR. Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, a public health expert and epidemiologist, told NPR that the sudden surge can be attributed to super-spreader events such as weddings, religious gatherings, and traveling, along with the emergence of virus variants.
The surge in cases raises concerns for Ambedkarite Buddhists—dalits, or so-called “untouchables,” who have converted to Buddhism as a rejection of the Indian caste system—a majority of whom live in the worst-hit state of Maharashtra. Two Buddhist organizations, the Abhayaratna Trust and the Karuna Trust, have responded to the outbreak with urgent requests for donations to support those in vulnerable communities, according to Buddhistdoor Global.
Dalai Lama Signs Letter Urging World Leaders to End Fossil Fuel Expansion
The Dalai Lama and 101 other Nobel Prize winners called for an end to fossil fuel use in a letter to President Joe Biden, reported CNN. The letter was sent on Wednesday, the day before Biden’s virtual climate summit, which was attended by 40 world leaders and streamed for public viewing. The Nobel laureates urged world leaders to take concrete steps to phase out fossil fuel production and invest in renewable energy, noting that the burning of fossil fuels has caused 80 percent of carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution. The signers emphasized that the fossil fuel industry has been responsible for human rights violations, most of which affect Indigenous peoples and other marginalized communities. Finally, they urged leaders to invest in a plan that would ensure 100 percent access to renewable energy globally.
Myanmar Protests Continue During Holidays
Thingyan, Myanmar’s five-day Lunar New Year festival—which is usually celebrated with visits to Buddhist temples, ritual cleaning of Buddha images, water fights in the streets, and family gatherings—was silent on its normally raucous fourth day this year. According to Buddhistdoor Global, protesters observed a day of silence to honor victims of military violence. Over 700 people have been killed since February 1, a death toll that is expected to increase over the holiday period. On Friday, many people stayed home, and those who protested in the streets did so in silence. These protests follow other demonstrations earlier in the week in opposition to the military junta.