Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Queens Temple Provides Fresh Food and PPE to Community
The United Sherpa Association, a Buddhist temple and community center in the New York City borough of Queens, has been a lifeline for the Nepalese community during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Associated Press, the non-profit organization has been providing fresh food and personal protective equipment to anyone who needs it, but Nepalese students have been particularly benefiting. When the pandemic hit, some Nepalese students were forced to leave their dorms, where many got their meals. They don’t qualify for stimulus checks, and student visas generally don’t allow students to work full-time or off-campus. Nepal’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, but the country has been closed to foreigners for much of the past year, so many families have been unable to offer financial support. President of the United Sherpa Association, Urgen Sherpa, called the students “unknown victims” of the pandemic.
With the help of volunteers, including some students who benefit themselves from the programs, the association has been making home deliveries of personal protective equipment and boxes of food. They also gave $500 stipends to more than 30 students. Mina Shaestha, a 23-year-old Nepalese student, and her partner said the help from the pantry has been crucial for feeding themselves and their 2-year-old son, allowing them to keep up with rent payments.
Buddhist Monks Back Indian Farmers’ Protest
Buddhist monks joined tens of thousands of farmers in protest against India’s controversial new agricultural reforms, which deregulate the sale of crops, the India Times reported this week. Farmers in the Uttar Pradesh region have set up a protest site outside the city of Ghazipur, and monks have stationed a tent in solidarity, the Times said. “Religion has taught us not to be mute spectators to social injustice,” one monk commented. “Farming has no religion, and we are only agitating for the right to life and livelihood.” It is unclear what Buddhist tradition these monks belong to, although the Times said that the monks joined the demonstration shortly after Losar, which would indicate that they are part of a Tibetan lineage. Speaking to ANI, another monk indicated that he was from a temple in the Indian city of Lucknow.
— Sardaar Ji Navdeep Bedi (@SardarGNavdeep) January 10, 2021
Meanwhile, Buddhist monks in Yangon protested against Myanmar’s military coup and demanded the release of ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Nikkei Asia reported.
Plant-Based Meat Has Been Popular in Asia for Centuries
Plant-based meats, now more popular than ever in the US since the invention of high-tech faux meats like Beyond and Impossible, have been popular for much longer in China and places influenced by Chinese Buddhist culture. Food & Wine spoke with Lee Mee Ng, the owner of Lily’s Vegan Pantry in New York City’s Chinatown, and her daughter Lily Ng. Lee Mee Ng created her own line of plant-based meats in the ‘90s, when she found herself homesick for the Taiwanese vegetarian food she’d grown up with. “There were so many different varieties of mock meat to try, like mock chicken, beef, and seafood,” said Lily Ng.
All of Ng’s faux meats are made of some combination of soy, seaweed, wheat gluten, and mushrooms. At first, her line did poorly—it was difficult to get people to try it, and she ended up giving a lot of food away. But since the growing popularity of Beyond and Impossible meat substitutes, her store has been doing much better. “It was slightly frustrating because we’ve been in the market for so long,” Lily Ng said. “But then I spoke to my mom about this whole situation—that Asians created this idea of mock meat. She told me it doesn’t matter who created it, as long as it’s saving animals. We all have the same goals.”
Buddhist Scientist Kritee Assists with Climate Grief
Kritee, a senior climate scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund and Buddhist practitioner, is helping people who are experiencing climate grief. The New York Times recently profiled several climate activists, including Kritee, who are helping others with their distress about the warming planet by creating support networks. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Dr. Kritee (she has a single name) leads workshops and retreats, and says that people of all backgrounds should process their feelings about climate change. “We cannot encourage people to take radical action without giving them tools to express their anger and grief and fear,” she said.
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