Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Thai Temple Sets World Record with 330,000 Candles on Earth Day
Monks at the Dhammakaya Temple on the outskirts of Bangkok lit 330,000 candles on Earth Day in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record (GWR) for largest burning image, according to AFP News Agency. The candles were arranged around the temple’s central shrine in the image of a world map and a large meditating figure, along with the event’s slogan: “Cleanse the Mind, Cleanse the World.” Over 400,000 people watched via Zoom as monks lit candles, chanted, and led a group lovingkindness meditation.
According to the GWR website, the temple’s impressive display broke the world record with an official count of 256,477 total lit candles, beating out the previous record of 56,680. Although the temple succeeded in their goal, their choice to burn so many candles on Earth Day—a global event in support of environmental protection—sparked some concerns about the harmful effects of burning paraffin wax. Thai environmental health expert Suwimon Kanchanasuta told AFP that while it’s currently unclear what type of candles were used, certain products could contribute to air pollution.
American Ambedkarites Fundraising for COVID Relief Efforts in India
A deadly second wave of coronavirus in India continues to overwhelm the country’s hospitals, leaving those who can’t afford private healthcare especially vulnerable. In response, a nonprofit in the Ambedkarite Buddhist tradition—known for mass conversions of members of the underprivileged Dalit caste turning to Buddhism to escape the Hindu class system—has opened a free COVID care center that will treat patients at substantially lower costs for at least four months. The Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA) has been fundraising for urgent COVID-19 relief efforts in India, where more than 300,000 new cases per day have brought an already strained health care system to its breaking point, the New York Times reports. Donations to help cover the AANA clinic’s expenses—including the cost of medical equipment, oxygen, and medicine—can be made at their website.
Dalai Lama Donates to Indian Relief Fund
The Dalai Lama has donated to the Indian prime minister’s COVID-19 relief fund, he said in a statement released Tuesday. The PM’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) Fund was established in March 2020 to fight the spread of the virus, but it will remain in place to be used during any national emergencies. The Dalai Lama said that he asked his trust to donate “as a token of our solidarity with fellow Indian brothers and sisters.” The Tibetan spiritual leader has lived in Dharamsala ever since he fled to India in 1959. COVID outbreaks in India are dangerously high, new variants have been emerging there, and they are facing a serious vaccine shortage. Just over 8 percent of India’s total population has been vaccinated, compared with 43 percent and 64 percent of US and UK populations, respectively. The PM-CARES fund, which runs entirely off of donations, will help create infrastructure to better manage the pandemic, in part by distributing vaccines as efficiently as possible as they become available. The Dalai Lama’s statement did not specify the amount donated to the fund.
Calls for Humanitarian Aid for Monks and Nuns in Myanmar amid Military Junta
The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) and the Clear View Project launched an urgent international appeal for humanitarian relief for Buddhist monks and nuns living in Myanmar following the military junta, announced Buddhistdoor Global. An INEB representative explained that monastics generally are not being targeted by the military at this time, but key monks have been arrested, unlawfully detained, and injured. The relief groups requested funds for food, blankets, medical assistance, and legal council for about 20 monks who were arrested. No nuns have been arrested as of April 30. INEB also asked for funding to help meet the essential needs of about 1,000 monks and nuns who are leading non-violent protests. Tricycle’s recent Myanmar coverage can be found here and here.
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