Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Ven. Shih Chao-hwei, Officiant of Taiwan’s First Buddhist Same-Sex Marriage, Awarded 38th Niwano Peace Prize
On June 2, the Japanese-based Niwano Peace Foundation hosted a virtual ceremony to award its 38th Niwano Peace Prize to the Taiwanese nun Ven. Shih Chao-hwei for her achievements in “peace building through her safeguarding of all forms of life, her promotion of gender ethics, gender equality and her approach to open-minded dialogue with different religious leaders and social groups.” A prolific author on both social and scholarly issues, Ven. Shih Chao-hwei is also the founder of Buddhist Hong-shi College and spiritual advisor to the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. While she has accomplished much as an activist in the fields of animal rights and gender equality, she is perhaps best known for her advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights and for officiating at Taiwan’s first Buddhist same-sex marriage ceremony in 2012. “I am humbled to be among the other pioneering figures who have bravely and diligently committed themselves toward the well-being and harmony of our planet. And I vow to steward and carry forth this legacy with all my devotion and effort,” said Shih Chao-hwei upon receiving the award.
Chemical-Laden Cargo Ship Sinks Off the Coast of Sri Lanka
After two weeks ablaze, a cargo ship full of dangerous chemicals sank off the western coast of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka on Wednesday, sparking fear of a potentially devastating oil spill and environmental disaster. The Singapore-flagged X-Press Pearl was transporting 1,486 containers—with contents including 25 tons of nitric acid and other chemicals—and carrying nearly 300 tons of fuel oil, NBC News reported. Ever since the fire ignited on May 20, the ship has been leaking chemicals and tons of plastic pellets into the sea. Consequently, Sri Lanka’s beaches have transformed into a nightmarish landscape of “plastic snow,” as millions of the pellets continue to wash up on shore, along with dead fish, turtles, and other marine life that have ingested the harmful plastic.
Charitha Pattiaratchi, a professor of coastal oceanography at the University of Western Australia, told NBC News that the spill is “the worst environmental disaster for Sri Lanka.” While emergency prevention measures have been taken to protect the nearby Negombo Lagoon and surrounding areas in case of an oil leak, Pattiaratchi said he was most concerned that the ship’s oil would leak “sooner or later.”
Budapest Mayor Will Rename Streets Near China’s Planned Fudan University Campus After Dalai Lama, Uyghurs, and Hong Kong
Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony announced on Wednesday that he would change four street names near the planned campus of Chinese Fudan University to memorialize human rights abuses by China. Street names include “Dalai Lama,” “Uyghur Martyr’s Road,” and “Free Hong Kong Road.” Karacsony, who plans to run against right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban in an election next year, has been critical of the Prime Minister’s relations with China, including the decision to build the university, which will be funded with a loan from the country. According to a recent poll conducted by liberal think tank Republikon Institute, 66 percent of Hungarians oppose the university campus, Reuters reports. Fudon is one of China’s most prestigious universities and the Budapest campus would be its first in the European Union.
New York City’s Rubin Museum of Art Launches New Podcast “Awaken”
Inspired by their exhibition “Awaken: A Tibetan Buddhist Journey Toward Enlightenment” (on view through January 3, 2022), the Rubin Museum of Art in New York will release a new podcast called Awaken. The ten-episode series will be hosted by musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson and will explore what it means to awaken. “With the podcast, we wanted to bring a human scale to the sometimes intimidating concept of enlightenment, with voices from a variety of perspectives—both religious and secular—that offer very different, personal examples of what awakening can feel like,” Dawn Eshelman, head of programs at the Rubin, said in a press release. The first two episodes, featuring comedian Aparna Nancherla and writer Alok Vaid-Menon, will be released on June 8. After that, episodes will be released weekly on major podcast platforms. Guests include psychologist, author, and meditation teacher Tara Brach; Buddhist Teacher Lama Rod Owens; and Tibetan Buddhist master Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.
Khyentse Foundation Launches Free Buddhist Studies Lecture Series
The Khyentse Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, is launching a Buddhist studies lecture series that aims to bridge the gap between academic and nonacademic audiences. In partnership with universities in Asia, Europe, and North America, the Goodman Lectures will feature a lecture each month with leading scholars presenting research and theories of Buddhist studies in an accessible format. The first lecture, titled “Reason and Revelation in Buddhism,” will be delivered by Donald S. Lopez Jr., a Tricycle contributor and Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan.
According to the foundation’s website, the Goodman Lectures have been organized in honor of Steven D. Goodman (1945–2020), an author, professor, translator of Tibetan Buddhist works, and a long-time advisor to the Khyentse Foundation. The free and accessible talks are inspired by Goodman’s “enduring vision of making academic talks sponsored by Khyentse Foundation available online to all,” the foundation said.
Artist Behind Invisible Buddha Statue Successfully Sells World’s First Invisible Sculpture
Italian artist Salvatore Garau recently closed bidding on an “immaterial sculpture”—that is, a sculpture that does not actually exist. While the initial price was set for around 6,000 euros ($7,300), competitive bidding drove the final sale price up to 15,000 euros ($18,200). Though this may seem like a steep price to pay for nothing more than an intangible piece of art—which must be displayed in an unobstructed 5’x5’ area of a private home, per Garau’s instructions—and a signed certificate of authentication, Garau argues that the real value of his work lies in its exploration of “the void,” says Italy 24 News.
The void is nothing but a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and nothing remains, according to [quantum physicist Werner] Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle that nothingness has a weight. It therefore has energy that condenses and transforms itself into particles, in short, in us!
While Io Sono, or “I am,” is the first invisible work that Garau—or anyone else—has sold, it is not the first that he has “created.” Last month, Garau exhibited another immaterial sculpture titled Buddha in Contemplation in the Piazza della Scala in Milan.
When I decide to “exhibit” an immaterial sculpture in a given space, that space will concentrate a certain amount and density of thoughts at a precise point, creating a sculpture that, from my title, will only take the most varied forms. After all, don’t we shape a God we’ve never seen?
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In memoriam of Zen Teacher Bruce Blackman
Bruce Blackman, a Zen teacher in the White Plum lineage and the guiding teacher at the Clare Sangha in Baltimore for many years, passed away on May 3, 2021 in Falls Church, Virginia. He was 78. Read his full obituary here.
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