Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Five Geshemas Receive Research Scholarships in Historic Project
As part of a historic Tibetan Buddhist philosophy research project organized by the Geluk International Foundation, five Geshemas (nuns with a Geshema degree, the highest level of training in the Gelugpa tradition) have received scholarships to spend three years researching a particular topic, the nonprofit Tibetan Nuns Project announced last week. The Geshema degree, equivalent to a Geshe degree for monks, only formally opened to women in 2012. Each Geshema who received a scholarship will work on research with an advisor and submit a final thesis at the end. The program, which was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, began on June 1. Information about the Geshemas who were selected and their research topics can be found on the Tibetan Nuns Project’s website.
US, China Curb Visas over Tibet
Diplomatic relations between the United States and China were dealt another blow this week after the Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it will implement travel bans on Chinese officials it accuses of restricting foreigners’ access to Tibet. The Trump administration’s travel ban limits or entirely eliminates an unspecified number of Chinese officials’ ability to travel to the US. China retaliated the next day by stating that it will impose visa restrictions on US citizens who have engaged in what it called “egregious” behavior over Tibet, according to Reuters. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, speaking to reporters at a daily news briefing, said that the new measures will target “U.S. individuals with egregious conduct related to Tibet issues,” but offered no specifics. “We urge the U.S. to stop interfering in China’s internal affairs with Tibet-related issues. . . so as to avoid further damage to China-U.S. relations,” he said, according to the Associated Press (AP). The visa restrictions are part of wider battles over Beijing’s new hardline policies in Hong Kong, human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in western Xinjiang province, global trade disputes, and aggression in the South China Sea. China requires special permits for foreigners to visit Tibet, where human rights activists say Chinese authorities have engaged in a decades-long campaign to suppress Buddhism and Tibetan culture and language.
Churches Emerge as Hotspots for Coronavirus Outbreaks
New COVID-19 outbreaks are surging through churches across the country where services have resumed, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. A Times database found that more than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events, many of them erupting over the last month as states across the country eased lockdown restrictions. The right to hold religious services within places of worship became a charged political issue in the months after the pandemic began. In May, President Trump declared places of worship part of an “essential service” and threatened, though it was uncertain he had the power to do so, to overrule any state governor’s orders to keep them closed. Now, some congregations that fought to reopen are being forced to close again, while other churches remain defiant in the face of rising infections, arguing that state-imposed rules limiting service sizes infringe on their constitutional right to worship.
Taiwan Announces It Would Welcome a Visit from the Dalai Lama
Taiwan’s foreign ministry announced this week that it would welcome a visit from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Reuters reported. Such a trip would infuriate Beijing’s leaders, who view the Dalai Lama as a dangerous sepratist and who claim Taiwan as part of China, despite Taiwan’s claim that it is an independent, democratic country. The Dalai Lama last visited Taiwan in 2009; he has not visited under the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female president, who took office in 2016. In a video birthday message to his supporters in Taiwan, the Dalai Lama said that “as the political scenario changes,” he would like to visit the country again. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Joanne Ou, said that Taiwan would, “in accordance with the principle of mutual respect, … welcome the Dalai Lama to come to Taiwan again to propagate Buddhist teachings.” Until then, His Holiness said he will remain with his supporters there “in spirit.”
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