Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
International Airport Inaugurated in Kushinagar, Site of the Buddha’s Death
On Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Kushinagar International Airport in Uttar Pradesh as part of the government’s efforts to promote India’s Buddhist heritage. The new airport is the third international and ninth domestic airport to be built in the northern state, and it will facilitate the travel of domestic and international pilgrims visiting Kushinagar—one of Buddhism’s four sacred sites and where the Buddha died. At the inauguration ceremony, Modi said that the airport will connect the region to the world and boost tourism, employment, and the development of nearby smaller cities. “Development of Kushinagar is one of the key priorities of the UP and central governments,” he said. Sri Lankan Cabinet Minister Namal Rajapaksa and 100 senior Buddhist monks also attended the ceremony.
Myanmar Junta Delivers Fraction of Promised Prisoner Releases
On Monday, October 18, Myanmar’s junta announced that it would free more than 5,600 political prisoners the following day. However, the junta did not provide information regarding the identities or locations of the released prisoners, and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)—a nongovernment organization that has documented arrests, killings, and releases in Myanmar since February’s coup—was able to confirm the release of less than two hundred prisoners. According to some activists, the military’s promised release may have been an attempt to repair its international reputation after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) recently excluded junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing from an upcoming bloc meeting.
Since February’s coup, the junta has arrested over 9,000 pro-democracy protesters, activists, and journalists, some of whom have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment in prison. “The partial release of wrongfully held detainees should not distract from the junta’s egregiously abusive rule, which hasn’t changed,” said Linda Lakhdhir, a legal adviser at Human Rights Watch. “Some of those released have already been rearrested. The junta should release all those unjustly held since the coup, including high-profile political figures, and end all arbitrary arrests.”
Translation Organization 84000 to Launch a New App
84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, an organization that aims to translate all remaining canonical Buddhist texts written in classic Tibetan, will launch an app for iOS and Android later this month. 84000 and the Khyentse Foundation, the nonprofit organization that started 84000, will host a launch event for the app on October 27, which this year coincides with Lhabab Duchen, the Tibetan Buddhist holiday commemorating the Buddha’s descent from heaven back to Earth to share his teachings. The app will launch with 200 sutras, some of which include descriptive introductions, and 84000 will add more sutras overtime. Users will be able to search by characters, locations, and concepts. There will also be a trilingual glossary and interactive reading tools such as pop-up definitions. Finally, the app will allow users to read bilingually and compare translated text with Tibetan e-folios from the part of the canon known as the Kangyur. Stay up to date with the app’s launch here and register for the launch event here.
Kung Fu Nuns Win UNESCO Martial Arts Education Prize
On Tuesday, October 19, UNESCO ICM announced that the Himalayan-based Kung Fu Nuns won this year’s Martial Arts Education Prize. Mixing the study and practice of the Drupka lineage with Kung Fu, the nuns champion gender equality, physical fitness, environmentally friendly ways of living, and respect for all living beings. Among other charitable services, the Kung Fu Nuns teach self-defense classes for young women in the Himalayas to help combat sexual abuse and violence. They hope to break the mold for not just Buddhist nuns but also women in general. “After we do kung fu we feel more energy, more confidence,” Jigme Rigzin, a Kung Fu Nun, told Tricycle in 2017. “Sometimes we [meet other nuns who are] very shy, who don’t say anything. We feel very sad [for them]; we say this is not good. His Holiness always teaches us to say whatever you want.”
Venerable Thich Pho Tue, Head of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, Dies at 105
On Thursday morning, Most Venerable Thich Pho Tue, who was the Supreme Patriarch of the Patronage Council of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS)—the only Buddhist sangha recognized by the Vietnamese government—passed away. He was 105 years old. That afternoon, hundreds gathered to mourn the late Supreme Patriarch at Vien Minh Pagoda in the Quang Lang commune of Hanoi’s Phu Xuyen district. See photos from the ceremony and read more about Ven. Thich Pho Tu here.
Carving the Divine Documentary Makes Its Premiere at the Raindance Film Festival
The documentary Carving the Divine: Buddhist Sculptures of Japan, which offers a rare look into the 1,400-year-old Buddhist woodcarving tradition, will make its UK premiere at the 29th Raindance Film Festival in London, which kicks off October 27. The film introduces viewers to one community of Japanese sculptors, called Busshi, who have carved intricate wooden statues of Buddhas and bodhisattvas in their meticulous style for the past 1,400 years. In a 2018 interview with Tricycle, Director Yujiro Seki explained his desire to make a documentary about this esoteric art form and share a tradition that has remained virtually unknown outside of Japan. During its November 2 screening at Britain’s largest independent film festival, the film is sure to engage a much broader audience with this captivating dive into the world of the Busshi.
Correction: This article originally incorrectly noted the location of Vien Minh Pagoda. It is located in the Quang Lang commune of Hanoi’s Phu Xuyen district.