Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Vandalized Buddhist Temple Only the Latest in a String of Anti-Asian Attacks
Recent vandalism at Huong Tich Temple, a Vietnamese Buddhist temple in Santa Ana, California, is only the latest incidence of anti-Asian racism in the US and Canada. Last month, Thai Viet Phan, Santa Ana’s first Vietnamese American city council member, discovered that fifteen of the Huong Tich Temple’s buddha and bodhisattva statues had been spray-painted, Religion News Service (RNS) reported. On one statue’s back, the word “Jesus” had been painted in black letters. This happened just weeks after Phan was elected. When she reached out to other local elected officials, Phan learned that five other Buddhist temples in the same neighborhood, Little Saigon, had been defaced in November. “This is a hate crime, not just vandalism,” she told RNS.
Hate crimes against Asian and Asian American people in the US have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and President Donald Trump’s incendiary rhetoric about the virus’s Chinese origins has put Asian American communities on alert. According to RNS, vandalism of Buddhist temples has historically been a common expression of hate toward Asian Americans in general, and has also served as a way to express dissatisfaction with the US government’s handling of Asian foreign affairs. In 1984 three Vietnam War veterans burned down a Tibetan Buddhist temple in Massachusetts to express their frustration with the lack of support they received from Veterans Affairs. Russell Jeung, a professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University who runs a center that tracks cases of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia in the US, said there have been no reported hate incidents at Asian American churches this year.
New Survey Aims to Count Buddhist Chaplains in North America
A new survey aims to obtain clear statistics on how many Buddhist chaplains are currently working in the field of spiritual care in North America. “Mapping Buddhist Chaplaincy in North America,” headed by Cheryl Giles of Harvard Divinity School and Monica Sanford of the Rochester Institute of Technology, is “a first attempt to answer some fundamental questions about Buddhist chaplaincy as a professional field, including how many Buddhist chaplains there are, where they work, what Buddhist traditions they represent, where they are educated, how they are certified, and what concerns they have about their profession,” according to the project’s website. Funded by Harvard Divinity School, the project was developed by a multi-institute research team representing the four existing accredited MDiv in Buddhist Chaplaincy programs in the US. Buddhist chaplains interested in taking the survey can do so here. The data collected by this study will be used to promote more nuanced research and advocacy about and for Buddhist chaplains.
Bhutan Parliament Decriminalizes Homosexuality
The Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan has officially decriminalized homosexuality, according to Reuters. On Thursday, a joint sitting of both houses of Bhutan’s parliament approved a bill to legalize gay sex, making the small Himalayan kingdom the latest Asian nation to take steps towards easing restrictions on same-sex relationships. Bhutan has been moving toward decriminalizing homosexuality since last year, when the legislative body’s lower house passed a bill to repeal a section of the penal code banning “unnatural sex,” which in practice has meant homosexuality. (In January, the upper house of parliament debated the bill.) The changes still need to be approved by the King of Bhutan to become law.
Buddhist Picture Books Teach Children About Climate Change
In Taiwan, where over a third of adults identify as Buddhist, parents and teachers are using Buddhist picture books to teach children about climate change and how to care for the Earth, the Conversation, a nonprofit news organization, reported. Recently published children’s books feature bodhisattvas, beings with the desire to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, who help children clean up polluted spaces in their communities such as beaches, parks, or even bedrooms. Other books use stories about plants and animals to teach the interconnectedness of all beings.
Cambodian-American Writer Anthony Veasna So Dies at 28
Anthony Veasna So, author of darkly comedic stories about the lives of first-generation Khmer-Americans, died last week at his home in San Francisco. He was 28. The New York Times described So as a writer “on the brink of literary stardom.” So’s fiction and essays about the lives of Cambodian-Americans, generational clashes, and one individual’s experiences with Buddhism (see his short story, “The Monks”) had appeared in publications such as N+1, Granta, and the New Yorker. His first book, Afterparties, a collection of short stories, is to be published in August 2021.
Unique Tibetan Reliquary Building Wins Design Award
The Architect’s Newspaper awarded this year’s Best of Design Award for Institutional—Religious to the 14th Shamarpa Reliquary Building, designed by architect Anthony Poon. Featured in Tricycle’s Fall 2019 issue, Poon’s structure lies on the grounds of the Bodhi Path Retreat Center in Natural Bridge, Virginia, and honors the passing of Shamar Rinpoche, the 14th Shamarpa, a lineage holder in the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Before he started the project, Poon immersed himself in the Buddhist life of the retreat center, joining its sangha for teachings, meditation, and retreats, as well as social events and meals. “Lots of my time was spent getting to know the community of Bodhi Path. I wasn’t just designing architecture for them; I was being present with them,” he told Tricycle in 2019. Poon’s uniquely minimalist building that surrounds the reliquary contains the Shamarpa’s relics within a gold-leafed stupa.
Spotlight on Tricycle’s Winter Issue
The Society of Publication Designers, a network of editorial designers, featured Tricycle’s Winter 2020 Issue in its Cover of the Day portfolio, a collection of “great newspaper and magazine covers from around the world.” The mention coincided with a major snowstorm on the East Coast of the US, where most of the Tricycle staff is based.
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