Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Dalai Lama Gets First Dose
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has been vaccinated. The Tibetan spiritual leader received his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine last weekend, according to the BBC. India, where His Holiness has his residence in exile, launched its vaccination program on January 16, initially limited to healthcare workers and first responders. Since March 1, vaccine access has expanded to people aged over 60 and those between the ages of 45 and 59 with underlying illnesses. His Holiness, who is 85, urged others eligible to “take this injection.”
Fire Destroys Main Hall at One of the Oldest Buddhist Temples in South Korea
Naejangsa, one of South Korea’s oldest Buddhist temples, erected in 636 CE in Jeongeup, North Jeolla Province, lost its main hall in a suspected arson attack on March 5. According to the Korea Herald, the fire destroyed the entire structure of Daeungjeon, the temple’s main hall, and the Buddha statue housed there, resulting in approximately $1.51 million in damages. Local police arrested a monk who first reported the fire and later confessed to starting the blaze after a disagreement with another monastic. The monk, who had been living at the temple for three months, allegedly poured inflammable materials on the temple and set it aflame while under the influence of alcohol, the Chosun Ilbo reports. In response to the arson, the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism released a statement apologizing to the Buddhist community. The monk will receive the order’s highest level of disciplinary action, the statement said.
This is not the first time Naejangsa has been destroyed by fire. The temple burned down in 1592 during Japan’s invasions of Korea and again in 1951 during the Korean War. More recently, in 2012, the main hall was destroyed in a fire set off by a short circuit.
Buddha Statue Destroyed by the Taliban Returns as a Projection
One of the world’s tallest Buddha statues, which was destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001, has returned as a 3D projection on the rocky cliffs where it used to stand in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan valley, according to the BBC. The projection was unveiled at an event called “A Night with Buddha,” during which activists walked with lanterns to the place where the statues once stood and held a commemoration ceremony. The original statue was 155 feet tall and was carved from the cliff during the 6th or 7th century CE, when Buddhism was the dominant religion of the area.
Myanmar Monks: Pro-Coup or Anti-Coup?
A group of Buddhist monks joined a protest against the military coup on Wednesday in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, Indian news site Republic World reports. Taking to the streets near their monastery, monks carried a banner that read “demonstrating peacefully.” However, it would appear that not all members of the monastic sangha are against the widely unpopular and internationally condemned military junta. Days before the coup in February, Buddhist monks demonstrated in support of the army, the Barnabas Fund reports. The monks marched through the streets of Yangon with banners that apparently supported the claims of election fraud that the military has cited as the pretext for seizing power and overthrowing Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically-elected government. Buddhist nationalist extremist monks, who have in the past backed the army and its campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims, may see the current coup as an opportunity to further their nationalist agenda, the Barnabas Fund suggests. This week, the Japan Times also reported that some Buddhist monks had physically attacked anti-coup protestors.
31 Organizations Receive Grants from Foundation for American Buddhism
On March 9, the Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism awarded 31 grants to groups impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, PR Newswire reports. The $200,000 in funding was freed up when the foundation postponed a national conference it had planned to host in 2021. It has been rescheduled for June 2022. Groups who received assistance—including Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center, and Zen Caregiving Project—plan to use the grants to continue teen programming, keep operations running after losing income, and help provide online services.
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