Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Buddhist and Catholic Leaders in Japan Pray Together
On April 24, Buddhist, Shinto, and Catholic leaders prayed together for the end of the coronavirus pandemic in front of Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan, SoraNews24 reported. During the broadcasted event, they sat two meters apart and encouraged their communities to pray together with them at noon every day while physically distancing. “Even though we must refrain from our usual activities for the sake of others, I would still like to pray together,” said Fumon Sagawa, the chief priest of temple affairs at Todaji Temple.
— 森本 公穣 @東大寺 (@kojomrmt) April 24, 2020
Thai Buddhist Temples Running Out of Food
Some Buddhist temples in southern Thailand are facing a shortage of donations and food alms as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Khaosod English reported. Wiwat Wankumpha, the director of Prachuap Khiri Khan province’s Buddhist office, said that temples in the area have requested 80,000 to 100,000 baht (about $3,000 USD) from the government. The Buddhist office has offered the temples rice and dried food, and encouraged them to rely on vegetable gardening, reduce the number of dependent lay people, and temporarily close temples to save electricity costs.
Sutras for Well-being
The 84,000 Translation Project, a global nonprofit with a goal to translate all of the Buddhist sutras into modern languages, has launched a new project to fast-track the translation of short sutras traditionally recited for resilience and well-being in hopes that the texts will help people cope amid the uncertainty of COVID-19. “As people around the world entered into successive waves of Coronavirus-induced…suffering, we had many of our friends and followers asking us for inspiring content to help get us through this challenging time of distancing, quarantines, and lockdowns,” a statement on 84,000’s website reads. The first sutra in the series, the mahasutra “On Entering the City of Vaisali,” describes a time when an epidemic took place in the Indian city of Vaisali—and the measures the Buddha used to dispel it.
Taking Precautions, South Koreans Attend Religious Events
People recently began attending religious services at churches and temples again in South Korea, after the government eased rules on social distancing, the Yonhap News Agency reported on April 26. At the main temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism in the capital of Seoul, followers had their temperature checked before they could enter the main building. On the same day, about 1,200 people participated in a service at the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, about a tenth the full capacity of the church. Attendees had to wear masks and maintain distance from others. In general, religious groups in South Korea have scaled down public services and moved programming online to avoid large-scale gatherings that could fuel the coronavirus outbreak. The South Korean government has indicated that it will keep social distancing measures in place until early May but decided to ease restrictions for religious gatherings amid signs that the spread of the virus has slowed. In related news, the Korea Herald reported that the Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism announced Monday that it has resumed some of its Templestay programs, albeit with restrictions. All of its programs were suspended earlier this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- The International Network of Engaged Buddhists created a COVID-19 fund to help provide food, medical supplies, and other resources to marginalized communities in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar; and the Buddhist charity Buddhist Global Relief celebrated Vesak, the Buddha’s birthday, by launching a donation campaign.
- On his 31st birthday on April 25, Tibetans called for the Panchen Lama’s release. The Panchen Lama is considered an important figure in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, second only to the Dalai Lama. In May 1995, three days after His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama identified Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama, Chinese authorities arrested the then-six-year-old boy. He has not been seen in public since.
- A suspect broke into Thien Hau Temple in Austin, Texas, smashing buddha statues and furniture, earlier this week. Police are investigating the acts of destruction as “criminal mischief.” This the third instance of vandalism at a Buddhist temple in North America that Buddha Buzz has reported on this year. Two other incidents took place in Montreal, Canada, and in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Buddhistdoor recently reported that as the coronavirus pandemic spreads in North America, so have racist attacks against Asians, Asian Americans, and their places of worship.
- Amid social distance orders, Muslims in Myanmar observe Ramadan at home—and collaborate with the Buddhist community to distribute aid.
- Read about the “political marriage” between Komeito, a political party in Japan with roots in Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhism, and the ruling LDP, and what it may mean as Japan faces COVID-19.
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