Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Activists Protest and Call for Boycott of Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony
The Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics commenced on Friday, 7 a.m. ET and 8 p.m. in Beijing, amidst protests and calls for a boycott. In New Delhi, India, hundreds of protesters marched by the Chinese Embassy, holding Tibetan flags and chanting, “No Rights, No Games” and “Say No To Genocide Games.”
In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, Students for a Free Tibet arranged for groups of Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Hong Kongers to travel to Olympics qualifying events and other athletic competitions to ask athletes to boycott the games, or, as the bare minimum, to boycott the Opening and Closing Ceremony. Activists also shared guidance and resources to educate athletes about the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese government. Two days before the Opening Ceremony, the Washington Post published an article stating that athletes from multiple countries, and some from at least two Western teams, would not be attending as their personal form of protest.
Activists are also calling upon NBC, the US broadcaster of the Games, to go beyond business as usual and include equal coverage of the victims of China’s human rights abuses. On January 20, the International Campaign for Tibet posted an open letter to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, asking him and the network to report on the human rights abuses against Tibetans.
Thousands Gather for the Final Memorial Service for Thich Nhat Hanh
Thousands gathered on January 29 at Tu Hieu Temple in Hue, Vietnam for the final memorial ceremony and cremation of the late Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, who passed away on January 22 at the age of 95. The week-long funeral in Hue was one of the biggest in recent decades, as tens of thousands of mourners visited the temple to pay their final respects to the beloved teacher. Following the final ceremony—which included guided meditation, chanting, and tributes from senior disciples—a formal funeral procession led Nhat Hanh’s coffin through the funeral grounds and finally to the crematorium at Paradise Garden Cremation Park. In the early morning of January 30, Nhat Hanh’s ashes were carried by his disciples and close venerables back to Tu Hieu Temple.
The Plum Village Community recently shared a eulogy for Thich Nhat Hanh from his disciples, expressing their gratitude and love for Thay. “It is the greatest fortune of our life to have been able to become your students, to receive your guidance, and to belong to your Beloved Community,” the eulogy begins. “You are our Teacher, and you have taught and nurtured us with boundless love, patience, and care. The dewdrops of your compassionate nectar have refreshed our thirst. You have been the torch guiding us through the forest of confusion; the hand reaching out to us when we fall; the ladder rescuing us from our darkest moments. You have given us a path to walk, so that we no longer have anything to fear.”
One-Year Anniversary of Myanmar Coup Marked with Even More Deaths and Arrests
Tuesday, February 1, marked the one-year anniversary of Myanmar’s military coup. Over the course of the year, the junta has imprisoned thousands of civilian protesters—hundreds of which died in custody, often from torture, and thousands more have been killed in the junta’s effort to stamp out rebel units, which has at times involved artillery and airstrikes.
Dozens of civilians were arrested on Tuesday for commemorating the anniversary with a “silent strike,” during which protest leaders urged people to stay at home and close their shops. At the same time, during a pro-military gathering in the town of Tachileik, an explosion killed two people and injured 30 others. On Monday, Britain, Canada, and the United States imposed new sanctions against military leaders and supporters.
Buddhist Communities Celebrate the Lunar New Year, Ringing in the Year of the Tiger
Though Lunar New Year is a secular holiday, many of the rituals have religious origins, and many Buddhists around the world celebrate the occasion. Tuesday, February 1 marked the beginning of the year of the tiger, and though the pandemic meant less travel and smaller celebrations, observers still gathered all across the globe, many of them returning home to celebrate with family in what is one of the world’s largest annual migrations. In China, even though COVID-19 restrictions have increased in the lead up to the Olympics, the Ministry of Transportation estimated 1.8 billion trips would occur around the holiday. Outside the home, observers lit incense and offered prayers at temples. Dozens gathered at Lama Temple in Beijing, AP News reports, while members of Duc Vien Buddhist Temple in San Jose gathered to celebrate Tết Nguyên Đán, the Vietnamese name for the holiday.