Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Interest in Buddhist Chaplaincy Has Increased During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Interest in Buddhist chaplaincy has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Religion News Service. Hospital patients and their families have needed more help managing anxiety, sorrow, and grief, especially because physical proximity to patients has been restricted. Brent Beavers, a Buddhist hospital chaplain in the San Francisco Bay Area, said he was often a patient’s only human contact besides doctors and nurses. The Buddhist approach to chaplaincy has attracted interest particularly for its contemplative approach and calm acceptance of sickness and death.
Right now, the Association of Professional Chaplains only counted 23 Buddhists among its 5,000 active chaplains, but Buddhist chaplaincy training programs at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado have seen larger numbers of applicants since the pandemic began, including from non-Buddhists. Jamie Beachy, director of Naropa’s Center for Contemplative Chaplaincy, said that the capacity to be warm-hearted while also being confident and stable while navigating suffering will become more urgent as world crises seem to be intensifying.
Japanese Buddhist Nun Completes 36-Mile Walk in Honor of Indigenous North American People
Japanese Buddhist nun Jun-San Yasuda completed a three-day, 36-mile walk from Little Falls to Fonda, New York in memory of the suffering wrought upon North America’s Indigenous people after the Mayflower’s landing 400 years ago, Buddhistdoor Global reported. Several people joined her, chanting “Namu-myoho-renge-kyo,” the title the Lotus Sutra, while they walked.
Yasuda has been what she calls a “peace walker” since 1978, when she participated in the Longest Walk, a 3,107 mile walk from San Francisco to Washington DC, to protest a series of bills before Congress that threatened Native American treaty rights. None of the bills were ultimately passed. Her Thanksgiving walk was in solidarity with native people, focusing on being mindful of the history of the land that she and her fellow walkers set foot upon.
Sakyadhita Spain to Host International Symposium of Spanish-Speaking Buddhist Women
Sakyadhita Spain, the largest international organization for Spanish-speaking Buddhist women in the world, will host its 2nd International Symposium of Spanish-Speaking Buddhist Women this month, Buddhistdoor Global reported. Titled “Dharma-Gaia: Buddhism, Women, and the Climate Crisis,” the event will be held virtually on December 12 from 4:00-8:00p.m. Central European Standard Time. Speakers will include Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Roshi Joan Halifax, Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo, and the Kung Fu Nuns.
Laurie Anderson’s Songs from the Bardo Earns Grammy Nod
Songs from the Bardo, a musical collaboration between artist Laurie Anderson and Tibetan artist and composer Tenzin Choegyal, along with composer and producer Jesse Paris Smith, scored a Grammy nomination for Best New Age Album, according to Shorefire Media. Released in 2019, the album features a traditional “Homage to the Gurus” in both Tibetan and English, then proceeds to a melodic interpretation of the Heart Sutra, recited against a meditative stream of strings. (Read Tricycle’s review of the album here.)
Buddhist Death Metal Band Rocks Out
Dharma, a Buddhist death metal band based in Taiwan, “aims to deliver enlightenment via the medium of throaty eight-string guitars and guttural roars,” according to recent reporting by the Taipei Times. At a show in October, a Buddhist nun opened the gig by chanting, then immediately ceded the stage to the distorted guitars and screaming sutras of band frontmen Jack Tung and Andy Lin, who performed in black robes. Tung said he first came up with the idea for the band’s concept 14 years ago after being struck by the throat-chanting style of Tibetan lamas reciting sutras. But finding like-minded band members wasn’t always easy . “I asked many people and nobody wanted to be in a ‘religious’ choir,'” Tung said. He and guitarist Lin sought the advice of Buddhist Master Chan Song, who provided interpretations of the ancient text and rituals.
Miao-ben, the nun who opened the show, said she had no issue taking part in the concert. “Buddhism is not set in form. Having Buddha in our hearts is more important,” she commented. “This is just another form of Buddhist sutra ceremony.”
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