Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Myanmar’s Junta Adds Corruption to Charges Against Aung San Suu Kyi
Since being placed under house arrest following Myanmar’s military coup in February, ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged with a number of crimes, including the unlicensed use of radios, illegal importation of walkie-talkies, and allegedly breaking COVID-19 restrictions during the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) 2020 election campaign. On Thursday, however, the deposed NLD chairperson and former state counselor was charged with the most serious offence yet: corruption. Though Suu Kyi’s lawyers have denied the junta’s accusations for months, Myanmar’s Anti-Corruption Commission has reportedly found that she misused her authority in real estate negotiations and accepted bribes in the forms of cash and gold. The commission, along with other prosecutors, will each present their separate charges against Suu Kyi in court on Monday. If found guilty, Suu Kyi would face up to 15 years in prison and would likely be banned from running in future elections. According to NPR, Suu Kyi’s supporters say that the charges are a politically motivated attempt to validate the military’s overthrow of the NLD’s landslide reelection and discourage the ongoing pro-democracy protests. Since February’s coup, the junta has killed nearly 900 citizens and detained nearly 5,000 more, reports The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Senate Passes Bill to Counter China; Includes Support for Tibetans
A bipartisan bill passed in the Senate to boost competitiveness with China and further US tech investments also included new policies in support of Tibet. The Innovation and Competition Act, passed on Tuesday with a majority of 68-32 votes, outlined several provisions that would increase US support of Tibet and oppose China’s interference in the Dalai Lama’s succession, according to Phayul. Under sections 3306 and 3307 of the bill, the position of Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues must be appointed by the president, with advice and consent of the Senate, or the individual must already hold the rank of Under Secretary of State or higher. In recognition of the need for diplomatic support for Tibet, the bill also requires a Tibet unit within the US Embassy in Beijing until the US consulate in Chengdu is restored. Building on the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020, the new bill reaffirms US opposition toward China for violating Tibet’s religious freedom by asserting that it must approve the Dalai Lama’s successor. Chinese officials will face sanctions if they attempt to interfere in the identification of the next Dalai Lama, according to the International Campaign for Tibet.
The bill also addresses human rights concerns in China, calling for sanctions regarding China’s genocide of Muslim Uyghurs and banning US officials from attending the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. President Joe Biden said in a statement, “I look forward to working with the House of Representatives on this important bipartisan legislation, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as possible.”
After Tennis Star Naomi Osaka’s $15,000 Fine, Meditation App CALM Donates to Mental Health Organization in Her Honor
When Naomi Osaka, the second-ranked women’s tennis player and the highest-paid female athlete in the world, skipped a post-match news conference at the French Open on the grounds of protecting her mental health, the French Open tournament referee fined her $15,000. Osaka subsequently left the tournament and asked that her fine be donated to a mental health charity. Meditation app CALM took note, deciding to not only donate $15,000 to French mental health organization Laureus but also to cover any other players’ fines should they, too, decline media appearances during the 2021 Grand Slam and to match those fines with donations. It was, as many suggested, a smart marketing decision by CALM, the world’s most popular mindfulness app, which over 100 million people have on their phone. But other companies, like Mastercard and Nike, have followed by vocalizing support for Osaka and the mental health of all athletes, marking a major moment in the public dialogue over mental health.
An International Conference of Queer Buddhists Is Set for This Fall and Accepting Submissions
On October 23 and 24, a conference called the “1st International Queer Buddhist Conference” will take place online, with panel presentations including “Buddhist Feminisms – Feminist Buddhisms,” “Peace in the Community,” “Proud to be a Buddhist Rainbow Warrior,” “Diverse Rolemodels in SyFy Movies and Buddhism,” and “Monastics and LGBTQQIA+.” About the conference name, founder Dr. Rotraut Jampa Wurst clarifies that it “should not express that this conference is the first of its kind,” but that they hope others will follow. “Here we would like to record the results such that future conferences and discussions can build on them.” The conference is accepting ideas for talks, workshops, and meditations through August 30. See here for more details on submissions.
Students Can Now Earn a Graduate Certificate in Buddhist Translation in the US
For the first time, students in the US will be able to earn a graduate certificate in Buddhist translation at Dharma Realm Buddhist University (DRBU) in Northern California. The university, which is dedicated to liberal education in the broad Buddhist tradition, recently launched the first graduate certificate program in Buddhist translation after ten students completed a successful two-year pilot of the one-year program. According to DRBU, the two-semester certificate program “integrates translation of Buddhist texts with study, practice, and service in a monastic setting.” The university’s Buddhist translation program was established in the spirit of its founder, Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, a Chinese Buddhist master who vowed to bring the Buddha’s original teachings to the West and support Buddhist translation through the establishment of schools and religious training programs. More information about the program and how to apply can be found on DRBU’s website.
Rohingya Refugee Boat Stuck Adrift for 113 Days Lands in Indonesia
On June 8, a boat carrying 81 Rohingya refugees landed in Idaman Island, Indonesia, after spending 113 days at sea. The refugees had originally set sail for Malaysia in early February, but engine failure left them stranded adrift the Andaman Sea, where they were found by the Indian Coast Guard on February 25. In the following months, international aid agencies repeatedly pushed representatives in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Malaysia for more information about the refugees. Though the Indian Coast Guard provided some essential supplies to the refugees and repaired their boat, they were denied entry into the country; the Indian government preferred that they return to Cox’s Bazar, their departure point in Bangladesh and home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees.
Unrecognized among the Buddhist-centric Burmese government’s list of over 130 ethnic groups, the Rohingya have faced many such hardships. Considered by the Burmese government to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, thousands were forced to flee their homes due to widespread violence following a government crackdown in 2017, and Rohingya refugees often have little choice but to undertake perilous sea voyages in search of resettlement. While the refugees landed safely, they are not yet out of the woods—the Indonesian government has not yet decided whether to let them stay or push them back to sea.
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