Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
The Panchen Lama Lives
The Panchen Lama, the second highest authority in Tibetan Buddhism, is still alive, according to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. On May 14, 1995, a six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was recognized by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama. Three days later, the Chinese government took him and his family into custody. His whereabouts have since been unknown. “I hope the official Panchen Lama studies quite well under the guidance of a good teacher. When I recognized Panchen Lama sometime ago, there was no news about him. But according to reliable information, he is still alive and carrying normal education,” the Dalai Lama told a group of reporters in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh following a meeting with US officials.
Can’t Hold a Candle to this Cake
To raise awareness of the Panchen Lama’s captivity, Students for a Free Tibet and the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in India worked together to break the Guinness World Record for number of candles on a cake. They used 130,000 candles to celebrate the Panchen Lama’s 29th birthday, thequint.com reports.
U.S. Government: Happy Vesak
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week wished a happy Vesak Day, which celebrates the Buddha’s birthday, to Buddhists around the world on behalf of the US government.
“On behalf of the people of the United States of America, I extend our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Vesak Day around the world.
As Buddhist communities everywhere celebrate the life and teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, we pause to reflect on and honour the universal values of peace, tolerance and compassion the founder of Buddhism embodied.
The United States is proud to host a vibrant and diverse Buddhist community, as it joins Buddhists around the world in celebrating Vesak Day. Buddhism’s spiritual and cultural contributions have enriched our shared human heritage over more than two millennia.
We wish you all a joyous and peaceful Vesak.”
Does a Robot Dog have Buddhanature?
Buddhist priests are performing funeral rites for robot dogs in Japan. At the Kofukuji Temple in Nara, head priest Bungen Oi chanted sutras, lit incense, and said prayers for 114 Sony Aibo dogs that had stopped functioning. Sony has stopped producing the robots, and broken Aibo are returned to the factory to be stripped for parts and used to repair other dogs, the Japan Times reports. Sounds like samsara for the poor pups.
Let the Rohingya Return: U.N.
The United Nations wrapped up a visit to Myanmar this week to observe the Rohingya refugee crisis. After visiting refugee camps in Bangladesh and the abandoned homes in the Rakhine state, the U.N. Security Council called on Myanmar to create safe conditions for the Rohingya to return. “I think it’s impossible not to be deeply moved by what we heard in Cox’s Bazar [southern Bangladesh] and particularly the scale of it,” Karen Pierce, the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the U.N., said.
Myanmar Air Strikes Threaten Civilians in Kachin
The Myanmar military has been using heavy weapons and aerial strikes in civilian areas in its fight against the mostly Christian rebels in the northern state of Kachin, according to a U.N. expert. Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, called the conflict with the Kachin Independence Army “wholly unacceptable.” “Civilians must never be subjected to violence during the course of conflict,” she said in a statement released on Tuesday.
Police Whistleblower OKed in Myanmar Journalist Trial
Two Reuters journalists on trial in Myanmar will be allowed to use the testimony of a police whistleblower who claims that they have been framed. The judge overseeing the case rejected the prosecutors appeal to declare Police Capt. Moe Yan Naing a hostile witness after he said last month that reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were set up by two police officers, the Associated Press reports. The reporters had been covering the Rohingya refugee crisis in the country, which has been limiting access to media and humanitarian workers.
Tibetan Refugees’ Voting Problem in India
In the Indian state of Karnataka, displaced Tibetans are allowed to vote, but won’t be participating in this year’s election. The 2018 State Assembly election will be the first time that the Tibetan refugees have been permitted to register to vote, the Hindu newspaper reports. But misinformation about voting requirements has resulted in most Tibetans being disenfranchised. Furthermore, many Tibetans refugees are reluctant to become Indian citizens because they fear that it will harm the Tibetan independence movement.
A Week of Buddhist Films
The Buddhist Film Foundation is presenting a free screening at the Smithsonian’s Freer | Sackler gallery in Washington, D.C., this week. “Screening the Buddha” will feature movies such as Golden Kingdom, My Son Tenzin, The Three Marks of Existence, Zen for Nothing, and Honeygiver Among the Dogs. Or if you can’t make it to D.C. this week, stay home and check out our latest Film Club feature.
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