Nothing is permanent, everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting and otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Mindful of Melting Glaciers, Ladakh Launches Climate Change Project
A special report recently issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that 64 percent of the glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, which includes parts of northern India and the Tibetan Plateau, may be lost by the year 2100. Days after the report was released, the Himalayan region of Ladakh launched a plan aimed at curbing the glacial melt and other devastating effects of global warming. According to The Times of India, a group of NGOs backed by Chetsang Rinpoche, head of the Drikung Kagyu Order of Tibetan Buddhism, has launched the Green Himalayas project with the goal to create a green cover in the foothills of the Himalayas and a model site of sustainable development in the area of Phobrang in Ladakh. Ladakh MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, who was present at the launch of the project, praised the NGOs’ initiative.
“All 257 villages in Ladakh depend on glacier-fed water resources unlike rain-fed water resources in other parts of the country. The glaciers are, however, melting rapidly. So there is a big question before us as [to] whether Ladakh will survive in 20-30 years in such a situation,” Namgyal said. “I think such initiatives will provide a solution to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the region and increase means of sustainable livelihood for the people.” Following the injunctions of Buddhist leaders, the group behind Green Himalayas had already planted 25,000 trees in Phobrang before the launch of the project.
Related: Ladakh Brings Old Love to New Stupas
Ladakh is at a crucial crossroads both environmentally and politically. After India revoked Kashmir’s special status in August, Ladakh became the country’s first Buddhist-majority territory. While Kashmir has been subject to increased military presence, a curfew, and an internet shutdown since the shift went into effect, Ladakh has become a distinct district with its own administration, and many residents are hopeful that closer ties with India will help curb China’s influence and spur tourism in the region. Incidentally, Tricycle is hosting its fourth annual pilgrimage to Ladakh in May 2020.
At Least Nine Tibetan Activists Arrested Before China-India Summit
The prominent Tibetan activist and writer Tenzin Tsundue and eight other Tibetans were arrested last Sunday, a week before Chinese president Xi Jinping and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi were set to meet in an informal summit in the Indian town of Mamallapuram. Tsundue was on a speaking tour visiting multiple Indian universities at the time of his arrest, according to Tibetan news site Phayul.com. Although he was 125 km (77.7 mi) away from the location of the summit in Viluppuram, Tamil Nadu, the police said they knew Tsundue was going to “unfurl [a] Free Tibet banner and protest.” Indian newspaper The Hindu states that the eight Tibetans were members of the Tibetan Youth Congress and Students for a Free Tibet-India, and that they had planned to organize protests during Xi’s visit.
In 2002 Tsundue was taken into police custody after displaying a red banner that read “Free Tibet” at a hotel in Mumbai, where then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji was addressing a gathering. He was arrested for a similar protest in Bangalore in 2005. When former Chinese president Hu Jintao visited India in 2006, Indian police ordered a travel ban on Tsundue, forbidding him to leave his hometown of Dharamsala. Despite past altercations with authorities, Tsundue has not shied away from showing his support for the Tibetan cause and the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
China Presses Nepal to Sign Extradition Treaty
Nepal plans to sign an extradition treaty with China during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the country in mid-October, according to Khabarhub.com. Sources told the Kathmandu-based news site that while the terms of the treaty have been readied, Nepal’s Council of Ministers must officially endorse the document before it is signed. It is unclear whether Nepal’s Cabinet will ultimately approve the treaty. According to an unnamed source, one of the main reasons that China is pushing the treaty is to extradite Tibetans involved in anti-China activities in Nepal. Home to around 20,000 Tibetans in exile, Nepal has in recent years become vigilant about enforcing the policies of its northern neighbor, cracking down on Tibetan protests and celebrations for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and deporting Tibetan asylum seekers.
Extinction Rebellion Leads Meditation at NYC City Hall
On Wednesday morning, around 40 people from climate change action group Extinction Rebellion staged a protest by sitting in meditation in front of the entrance to New York City’s City Hall. A flyer for the event read,
We are facing a crisis of enormous magnitude—the extinction of species driven by climate collapse and ecological destruction.
We demand that the government act now to reduce carbon emissions and halt biodiversity loss. With lovingkindness, we are rebelling for all life on Earth. There are many ways to stand up to injustice, and each of us may be called in a different way. Today we are sitting together in meditation—a powerful nonviolent direct action—in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Gandhi, as an act of resistance.
We demand the truth about the crisis at hand and will work to transform our political systems from ones driven by destructive consumption, to systems that honor relationship and reciprocity, and care for all species.
The meditation you are seeing reflects the values of our movement: commitment to truth, nonviolence, regenerative culture, and the protection of life.
Wearing his brown monastic robes, Brother Phap Ma Phap Man (Brother Fulfillment) led the meditation session. Ordained in 2007 at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village in France, Br. Fulfillment is currently a resident at Blue Cliff Monastery in upstate New York.
Beam Me Up, Buddha
Buddhism has talked at length about distant and seemingly fantastical other-worlds (if you’re curious, just read the Lotus Sutra), but hasn’t said much to address the universal quandary of the being or non-being of extraterrestrials. In central Thailand, a group of believers now claim that aliens are congregating above an outdoor Buddha statue and transferring messages that include the teachings of the enlightened one. According to CNN, the UFO sightings began in 1997, when local resident and retired sergeant-major Cherd Chuensamnaun received dispatches from aliens while deep in meditation at home. His daughter, Wassana, acknowledges she was skeptical at first. She told her father to ask the aliens to show them a sign. The next day her brother and brother-in-law “were yanked up from the living room sofa and spun simultaneously, like whirling dervishes, out of the house and into the yard.” Thoroughly convinced, she quit her job as a nurse to devote herself full time to working with the ETs.
“Before my father died [in 2000], he taught us how to communicate with the aliens,” Wassana told CNN. There are two types of aliens, she says—those from Pluto and another from a planet called Loku. While Loku aliens have “knowledge of high technology,” it would appear that the Plutonians are more karmically advanced. According to Wassana, Pluto’s leader told her that Buddha was “the greatest human mind,” and that while he never addressed the issue of communicating with extraterrestrials, he did tell his followers to “embrace the cosmic laws.” She also claims that the same alien leader communicates advice about karma, reincarnation, and other Buddhist concerns.
In recent weeks, the group of UFO seekers has run into trouble with Thai authorities, after pitching tents near the Buddha statue and entering a nearby protected forest area zone. In August, officials petitioned a court to ban mass gatherings at the site, which is considered a place of public worship—and, apparently, an alien watering hole.
Abiy Ahmed Receives the Nobel Peace Prize
Prime minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed has received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The New York Times reports that Ahmed’s efforts to reignite peace talks with neighboring Eritrea ended a long stalemate between the two African nations. In its official statement, the Norwegian Nobel Committee listed Ahmed’s accomplishments in his first 100 days as leader of Ethiopia, which include granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, ending media censorship, lifting the country’s state of emergency, and giving women more authority in political and community life. “Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future,” the Committee said.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 1989 for his nonviolent efforts to end the Chinese occupation of Tibet.
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