Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Sri Lanka Eyes Buddhist Extremists in Anti-Muslim Violence
Violent anti-Muslim riots broke out in northern Sri Lanka this week, leaving one man dead, and authorities said Buddhist extremists were most likely responsible, Al Jazeera reports. On Sunday and Monday night, mobs burned Muslim-owned shops and raided mosques and homes in an apparent act of retaliation for the Easter Sunday church bombings that killed more than 250 people, mostly from the country’s Christian minority. But government officials said on Wednesday that Christians seem to have turned the other cheek and that hardline Sinhalese Buddhists were behind the attacks, according to Al Jazeera. Authorities arrested three heads of extremist Buddhist groups who allegedly organized the riots: Mahasohon Balakaya leader Amith Weerasinghe, Anti-Corruption Force Operations director Namal Kumara, and the Nawa Sinhale National Organization’s Suresh Priyasad. Authorities also arrested dozens of other rioters, instituted a curfew, and blocked access to social media.
Ladakh Ice Stupas a Refreshing Sight
For more than five years, engineer Sonam Wangchuk has been combatting the effects of climate change at his home in Ladakh, India, by creating ice stupas. And thanks to a recent New Yorker portfolio featuring the dazzling images by photographer Vasantha Yogananthan, we can now view the thoughtful innovations in a new light. Rising global temperatures have been shrinking Himalayan glaciers—the runoff of which is a crucial water source for villages in the area. In recent years, the ice has melted more irregularly, alternatively causing floods and droughts, the New Yorker explains. But Wangchuk’s invention, based on the ancient architectural design of the stupa, creates a more dependable source. To honor enlightened beings, the Buddha taught that people should builds stupas, which are recognizable by their tiered spires and dome-like bases. While stupas typically house ancient relics, the ice stupas are filled with piping and sprinkler systems that help build up the 50-foot ice towers in the winter and distribute the runoff in the spring, according to the New Yorker profile.
Related: Ladakh Brings New Love to Old Stupas
Nepal Orders Investigation of Journalists Who Published Dalai Lama Report
Under pressure from the Chinese government, governmental authorities in Nepal have ordered an investigation into three journalists who translated and published a wire report on His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s recent discharge from an Indian hospital, according to Agence-France Presse. The reporters, Somnath Lamichhanne, Mohani Risal, and Jivan Bhandari, argue that the story, which was circulated by the state-run Rashtriya Samachar Samiti (RSS) news agency, was of “humanitarian interest” and concerned an international figure. “Unfortunately, we are now being criticized for acting against our country’s foreign policy and the One-China policy by disseminating this information,” Lamichhanne told Radio Free Asia’s Tibetan Service. The chairman of RSS issued a statement expressing that the national news agency does not “carry news that is against the foreign policy of our country and affects the relationship with our neighbors.” Nepal is home to about 20,000 Tibetans in exile, but its increasingly close ties with China have coincided with more frequent crackdowns on Tibetan activity within its borders.
Zen Center of Los Angeles Welcomes a New Abbot
After serving the Zen Center of Los Angeles (ZCLA) for more than 20 years, Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao will be stepping down from her position as abbot and handing the temple over to the vice abbot, Sensei Deborah Faith-Mind Thoresen. The official ceremony will take place on the morning of Sunday, May 19. The center, officially named the Zen Center of Los Angeles/Buddha Essence Temple, was founded in 1978 by Taizan Maezumi Roshi, who was a central figure in the spread of Zen from Japan to the United States in the late 20th century. After his death in 1995, teacher and activist Bernie Glassman took over as abbot before giving dharma transmission, or inka, to Roshi Egyoku. During her tenure as temple leader, Roshi Egyoku catalyzed the center’s social outreach programs and neighborhood clean-up projects. Formerly a United Airlines flight attendant, Sensei Faith-Mind began her studies with Roshi Egyoku in 1999, received jukai (lay ordination) in 2002, tokudo (priest ordination) in 2007, and dharma transmission in 2018, according to the ZCLA.
Burmese Buddhist Nationalists Force Muslims to Close Ramadan Sites
In Myanmar, three sites designated for Muslim prayer during the month-long observance of Ramadan have been shut down due to threats from Buddhist nationalists, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports. More than 200 Buddhists swarmed the buildings in Yangon on Tuesday and Wednesday, forcing Islamic leaders to sign a document promising to end the services, according to RFA. A reporter from the news outlet who was present said that “authorities looked on helplessly as the mob obliged the Islamic leaders to sign the pledge.” An imam told RFA that they were given permission to reopen the sites under protection from local police pledged. No arrests have been made, but the Irrawaddy newspaper reports that local police have opened a case into the Buddhist nationalist organizer U Michael Kyaw Myint.
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