Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Indian Citizenship Law Sparks Anxiety Among Bihar Buddhists
Following the passage of a controversial immigration law that set off deadly protests in India last week, Buddhists in the state of Bihar are afraid that their citizenship is at risk. The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) makes it easier for immigrants from religious minorities—excluding Muslims—from the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to become Indian citizens. Critics of the amendment have expressed fear that the bill will be used to strip current Muslim citizens of their citizenship and questioned the exclusion of persecuted religious groups from Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) assert that CAB is not meant to be divisive, according to CBS News, but the Modi government has also vowed to introduce the National Registration of Citizens (NRC) implemented earlier this year in the Indian state of Assam, where it has since rendered at least 1.9 million people stateless when they were unable to provide authorities with adequate proof of citizenship.
Now the thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns from Thailand, Tibet, Burma, Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Laos, Bhutan, and Bangladesh who are living in Bodhgaya and other Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Bihar are worried that the same thing will happen to them, according to the Hindustan Times. For Tibetans, who are not officially recognized as refugees in India, the proposed policies add an extra layer of uncertainty to their status. “Nearly 80,000 Tibetans had followed the Dalai Lama to our country through the Himalayas. . .They have already been living [the] life of refugees and have gone through the painful experience of dislocation and exodus,” Buddhist monk Priyapal Bhante said. “Once again they have before them the threat of deportation due to the NRC exercise.” Tenzin Lama, a senior Buddhist monk from Tibet, told the Hindustan Times that the anxiety may reach a breaking point for people who fled an occupied Tibet for the promise of cultural freedom in India: “If the situation allows, we may consider going back to Tibet.”
Buddhist Monks at Las Vegas Temple Flee Gunfire and Arson
A man set fire to a Buddhist temple and shot at monks on Sunday, the Associated Press reports. In a dramatic scene, Buddhist monks dodged bullets and flames as they fled the Thai Buddhist Temple of Las Vegas, after Derek Debrowa, 38, set fire to the building. A witness told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the shooter yelled “I hate you” as he shot at worshippers. “I saw the fire outside, so I ran and grabbed the fire extinguisher and ran to the front door,” the witness, who identified himself by his first name Pete, recounted. “I’m extinguishing the fire and the guy was shooting at me like four times, but the bullet doesn’t catch me.” Pete said that he and other temple-goers had never seen the man before. Debrowa was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a nearby backyard shortly after he set fire to another building in the neighborhood. It is unclear why Debrowa, who has no local criminal history, carried out the attacks. The Las Vegas Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives have launched an investigation.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche Blesses Russian Pets
The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) on Monday posted some cute photos of FPMT leader Lama Zopa Rinpoche conducting blessings for animals in the cities of Moscow and Kalmykia, Russia. In late September, the Tibetan Buddhist teacher took part in an “animal blessing day,” according to the FPMT website. Approximately 700 people and their pets came to hear a dharma talk and receive blessed pet food and water. Lama Zopa Rinpoche also recited mantras for the animals, which included a cat, dog, sheep, and even a turtle.
Roshi Joan Halifax Joins Jane Fonda for Climate Change Protest
Zen Buddhist teacher and abbot of the Upaya Zen Center Roshi Joan Halifax joined actress Jane Fonda and others for Fonda’s Fire Drill Fridays protest this week in Washington, DC. The event, titled Our Health Can’t Wait, featured speeches by Halifax and other activists, including feminist author Gloria Steinem and labor organizer Ai-jen Poo. In a Facebook post Wednesday, Halifax expressed that “arrest is imminent” for Fonda and “other good people,” and invited followers to join the protest; Fonda has been arrested at least four times at Fire Drill Fridays protests in recent months.
Heading to DC early tomorrow to join Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, Rev. William Barber, Jodie Evans, Eve Ensler, Martin…
Update 12/21/19: In a Twitter post late Friday night, Halifax said that she had just been released after she, Fonda, Steinem, and author Eve Ensler were arrested and held at a warehouse in DC following the protest.
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