Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
How Coronavirus Is Affecting the Buddhist World
Thousands of retreats, services, and other events have been canceled or postponed due to concerns about coronavirus (COVID-19). Here are some of the highlights from this week:
- Sri Lanka advises its citizens against pilgrimage to Buddhist sites in India.
- The Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan and the majority Buddhist region of Sikkim, India, close their borders.
- Tourism in Ladakh is heavily impacted by the virus.
- The 17th UN Day of Vesak, set to be held in Thailand in May, has been canceled.
- A Buddhist temple in Hong Kong linked to an outbreak of the virus apologizes for not taking greater precautions.
- A Won Buddhist temple in Seoul, Korea, streamed their prayer service online.
- Thousands of Buddhist monks in Bodhgaya, the site of the Buddha’s awakening, offer prayers for the eradication of the virus.
- Many Buddhist centers and organizations, including Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Upaya Zen Center, the San Francisco Zen Center, the Insight Meditation Society (IMS), and Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Society, made significant changes to their classes and retreat schedules, and began live-streaming dharma talks and other events.
- The Seattle-based Tibetan Nuns Project offered a prayer for those infected, and assured its supporters that the nonprofit organization is taking precautions when packaging and mailing products.
- Asian American seniors face fear and isolation, and some are spreading less time at Buddhist temples in their communities.
- Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teaching tour of Australia is postponed.
- The Rubin Museum of Art, a Himalayan art museum in New York City, announced a temporary closure of its galleries, and canceled all public programs and events through March 31. Other museums have instituted similar measures.
Teachings and Resources from the Buddhist community:
- American Buddhist teacher Lama Tsultrim Allione plans to lead a five-step process of “Feeding Your Demons,” a practice dealing with fear and anxiety about the Coronavirus on Facebook Live on Sunday.
- Judson Brewer, director of research and innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center, offered strategies dealing directly with coronavirus anxiety.
- The Ten Percent Happier app released a special edition of its podcast on how to deal with the crisis by recognizing helpful and unhelpful emotions.
- Tricycle put together a free collection of reflections and teachings on the coronavirus outbreak by Buddhist teachers and writers. Plus, we offer a series of Dharma Talks for coping with anxiety, stress, and fear of death.
Buddhist Peace Fellowship in Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Land Protectors
The Buddhist Peace Fellowship, an organization of activists for ecological and social justice, issued a statement in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land protectors fighting against a pipeline project that would run through First Nations territories within British Columbia, Canada. The Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline is being overseen by TC Energy, formerly TransCanada Energy, the same company seeking to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Land protectors reported that the CGL pipeline has already destroyed traplines and archaeological sites on Wet’suwet’en territories, violating a protocol put in place in 2009 by Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan leaders that requires informed consent from the Wet’suwet’en people before any natural resource projects on their land are initiated. The construction also violates the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, to which Canada is a signatory. Attached to Buddhist Peace Fellowships’s statement is a list of ways people can show solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Land Protectors, including fundraising, educating others, and pressuring government officials.
On January 4, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs issued an eviction notice to CGL, requiring them to leave Wet’suwet’en territories and stating that they would not be able to return without the “free, prior, and informed consent” of the hereditary chiefs. On February 6, the Guardian reported that at least six protesters of the pipeline were arrested by Royal Canadian Mounted officers.
Some Timely Wisdom from the New Yorker
Tricycle’s editors were struck by New Yorker columnist Masha Gessen’s poignant op-ed this week about the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Gessen’s closing remarks seemed particularly relevant to practitioners who know how limited we are when we act as individuals and how much potential we have when we work together to bring an end to suffering for all sentient beings. Gessen writes:
So what do we do? We need to do much more than wash our hands and avoid large crowds. We must realize that this pandemic, like any other, is a political problem and a political opportunity. This is a time for talking about how we live together in this country, which is a hard thing for Americans to do. Our culture prizes individual action and privileges individual survival. Journalists and politicians alike default to a news-you-can-use format, telling people what they should do, personally, to keep safe and be responsible citizens: stay home if you are sick, for example. The real question, though, is: How do we handle this as a society, as communities? What are the opportunities for mutual aid and care, even amid calls for social distancing? What is the response that creates, on the other side of this epidemic, not a collection of atomized individuals who survived a plague but a polity whose members helped one another live?
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