Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Japanese Monks: We’re Not Slowed by Robes
Buddhist monks in Japan have been tweeting videos of themselves wearing their robes while juggling, skateboarding, and skipping rope to demonstrate that the traditional attire is not restrictive. The videos are a response to an incident in which police pulled over a monk and fined him 6,000 yen ($55) for wearing “constricting” robes that supposedly impaired his driving, according to the Guardian. So his fellow monks from Hongwanji, a Jodo Shinshu temple in Kyoto, started the Twitter protest, posting videos of their various feats with the hashtag Sōi de dekiru mon, meaning “I can do it in robes.”
— 麻田弘潤 (@gokurakusan) December 30, 2018
— へんも@ブロガー&足技で日本一の住職 (@henmority) December 31, 2018
— とっしゃん@お坊さん大道芸人 (@tossyan753) December 31, 2018
Dalai Lama Congratulates Nancy Pelosi as New Congress Brings a Sutra, Quran, and Veda
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has congratulated Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on her re-election to the position, according to a press release. The Dalai Lama expressed his confidence in the California Democrat’s leadership, saying, “Your friendship, support, and solidarity during this most difficult period in Tibet’s long history have been a source of hope, inspiration, and strength in our enduring and challenging quest for justice and freedom.”
Speaker Pelosi has a long relationship with the Dalai Lama and played a significant role in the bipartisan effort in 2007 to award him the Congressional Gold Medal, which was presented by President George W. Bush, representing the first public appearance between the Tibetan leader and a US president since China began pressuring American politicians to avoid such shows of support.
Meanwhile, the freshmen members of the 116th US Congress brought a collection of new religious and legal texts to their swearing-in ceremonies on Thursday, January 3. In addition to bibles and Torahs, the books included a Quran, a Hindu Veda, two US Constitutions (for atheists), and a copy of the Sutra of Golden Light (Suvarnaprabhasa Sutra). The Buddhist scripture was meant for newly elected Rep. Andy Levin (D-Michigan), who was sworn in on the sutra as well as a Torah, according to his office. Levin had studied Eastern religions while he was in Tibet as a human rights activist, the Oakland Press reported. The Sutra of Golden Light contains a wide variety of Mahayana Buddhist teachings—“everything needed,” according to Tibetan teacher Lama Zopa Rinpoche—including early elements of tantra and the idea that gods will protect a ruler who governs properly, which made it particularly popular in Japan after being promoted by Emperor Shōmu in the 8th century.
Times have changed at the Capitol: Some of the holy books for new member’s swearing ins, including a Quran, Buddhist Sutra and Hindu Vera (and two Constitutions for the atheists) pic.twitter.com/KES1JKnqP9
— Matt Laslo (@MattLaslo) January 3, 2019
I took the oath of office with @SpeakerPelosi over the Torah and a Tibetan-Buddhist pecha. I was honored to have my family, human rights activist Pierre Esperance from Haiti and loyal aide Abbas Alawieh alongside me. It was a historic day of celebration! pic.twitter.com/HSEg5OsbyB
— Rep. Andy Levin (@RepAndyLevin) January 4, 2019
Ethnic Buddhist Militia Kills 13 Burmese Police
The Arakan Army (AA), a rebel group made up of people from the Rakhine ethnic Buddhist minority, killed 13 police officers and injured nine others in Myanmar on the country’s Independence Day, according to a Reuters report that cites state-run media. The Rakhine militia was allegedly responsible for four separate attacks on police posts on Friday, January 4, which marked the 71st anniversary of Myanmar’s independence from Britain. The Arakan Army is based in the Rakhine state, where military violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority has forced hundreds of thousands to flee the country in what a United Nations report has called a genocide. Despite sharing what would appear to be a common enemy in Myanmar’s armed forces, the AA has shown disdain for the Rohingya and their rebel force, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. In a 2016 press release, the AA called the Rohingya “savage Bengali Muslim terrorists” (a reference to the false claim that the Rohingya are Bengali immigrants and not native to Myanmar).
The Venerable W at MoMA
The Museum of Modern Art in New York is presenting Barbara Shroeder’s documentary The Venerable W about Ashin Wirathu, the Burmese monk dubbed the “Buddhist Bin Laden” for his role in encouraging violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority. The screening, which runs January 4–10, is the film’s first theatrical release in New York. After its premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, New York Film Festival director Kent Jones reviewed the documentary for Tricycle, calling it an “unsettling self-portrait” of the hatemonger.
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