May 18, 2012

Buddha Buzz: Buddhist Humanity

Dalai Lama receives Templeton PrizeIn last week's Buddha Buzz about the South Korean monks who were caught on film drinking and gambling after another monk's memorial service, I wrote that the sordid affair was another case of "Buddhists behaving badly." In response, Tricycle commenter buddahbear01 wrote, "Buddhists behaving 'badly?' Perhaps they are human?"

I think buddahbear01 has got a point here. We cannot forget that putting on Buddhist robes doesn't automatically elevate you to an ethical superhuman status—monks and nuns and religious leaders of all types, more often than not, are just like the rest of us in all of our flawed and imperfect glory. 

And unfortunately, I've got more Buddhist news this week to back me up on this. The Chicago Sun-Times has a story this week about Camnong Bual Ubol, a former Buddhist priest who has been charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault for the rape and impregnation of a fifteen-year-old Alaskan girl. And WKRG News is reporting that last weekend a Buddhist monk in Alabama bludgeoned his temple's head monk to death with a sark, a wooden kitchen tool shaped like a police baton.

The Dalai Lama, too, had some alarming news this week, telling the Sunday Telegraph that he fears that China is training Tibetan women to assassinate him by poisoning their khatas and hair. Despite this, the Dalai Lama looked as chipper as ever on Monday when he received the $1.7 million Templeton prize at St. Paul's cathedral (upper left). (The prize money is being given to charity.) 

He must always be chipper because the man knows what is truly important in this life: sleeping! He says in this video interview with Arianna Huffington that he makes it a point to get eight hours a night (his sleep patterns aren't the only thing he talks about in the video, I promise):

 

 

To wrap things up, I'm pleased to say that Tricycle contributor Noa Jones, who writes our food column, had a personal essay published today in the NY Times. "When Your Guru Calls Shotgun," a playful piece about a cross-country road trip with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, is about a side of Buddhist teachers that we students don't usually see: what they're like when they're on vacation.

Jones' article reminds us once more that all of our venerated religious leaders are, indeed, human...but in a much lighter way than the criminal talk that went on a few paragraphs above. I'm a sucker for Buddhist-related (and slightly inappropriate) humor, so I thought I'd share this small gem from the essay:

Our next stop, Thermopolis, Wyo., was a disappointment. My inner Juan squirmed as we checked into a hotel that was seeped in stinky sulfuric fumes, right down to the sheets. But there was a pool. So we sat in our bathing suits eavesdropping on some locals talking politics—red state, blue state stuff. David went down the giant slide while I tried to act like it was an everyday thing to be sitting around half-naked alongside the lineage holder of a great ecumenical Buddhist tradition.

Such a great mental image.

 

Image: From MSNBC's Photoblog.

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richardson.npp's picture

Yes, it is true that nothing makes people perfect and nothing makes them become immune to the temptations of this world. Even if it isn't appropriate, as long as it is not a normal practice, then things should be ok.