Fore Noble Truths
Many people these days seem to think that 18 holes of golf is about the closest one can come to nirvana. Now a New York company has taken that logic one step further, producing Buddha Balls: golf balls with vaguely Zennish sayings and drawings of fat little monks on them. Sample remark: “The self says: I am. The ball says: You are nothing.” No word yet on whether they’ll be marketing a combination nine-iron and Zen hitting stick.
Eyes Wide Shut
Phra Khru Prapatworakhun put the lie to the old notion that meditation leads to directly seeing what’s in front of you. The eighty-one-year-old Buddhist monk was operated on after mistaking a tube of glue for his eye-drops, sealing his eyes closed in the process. Doctors expect him to make a full recovery.
Surgeon General’s Precepts
Thai authorities have decided to crack down on the 25 percent of monks who smoke. A proposal has been floated to make temples non-smoking zones, and the Ministry of Public Health is considering adding the message “Donating cigarettes to monks is a sin” to cigarette pack warning labels. This follows the actions of another Buddhist nation, Bhutan, which last year banned the sale of tobacco in the entire country. Bhutan had already banned tobacco use at temples, declaring it a violation of Mahayana Buddhism. However, a possibly greater threat still looms for Buddhist clean-air advocates: researchers in Taiwan have demonstrated that Buddhist temples are filled with carcinogenic air due to incense burning.
There are few professions more stressful than that of a soldier, especially in a time of war. Now the U.S. Department of Defense has its first Buddhist chaplain: Jeanette Shin, currently serving in the Navy. She’s a Jodo Shinshu minister, a graduate of California’s Institute for Buddhist Studies. Believe it or not, she’s even got a camouflage kesa.
The Cambodian government has banned radio and television broadcasts of the hit pop song “Wrongly Quitting Monkhood for Love.” The song depicts a young Buddhist monk abandoning his robes out of lust for a girl, then getting jilted. The music video shows the monk making out with his paramour while bathing in a pond near the temple. Government officials felt that the song was undignified.
Concerned about the way that your country’s adolescents take Valentine’s Day as a celebration of physical love? Worried about the messages of violence and sexism in the music of urban youth? Perhaps you’ll want to take a cue from Thailand’s Ministry of Culture. They’ve come up with a novel way to fight the immorality of misguided young people: dhamma rap. The Culture Ministry came up with this new musical genre by wedding rap beats and style to lyrics extolling traditional Buddhist morality, debuting it in a concert at the end of February. Meanwhile, “Dharma Rap Master” Ven. Kobutsu Malone has been writing his own Buddhist rap songs here in the USA. He’s already produced rap versions of the Heart Sutra and the Ten Precepts. For Malone’s lyrics and details of a rap contest based on them, visit www.buddhistchannel.tv.