October 12, 2012
In the wake of last week's attack on Buddhist temples and homes in Bangladesh, various news sources have reported that between 100 and 300 people have been arrested. In Burma last Friday, Buddhist monks protested in front of the Bangladesh embassy in Rangoon, although judging by the photo below, the protest was not entirely focused on Muslim-Buddhist relations.
On Tricycle's Facebook page last week, one commenter noted with disappointment that we haven't been covering the situation in Tibet recently. Sadly, that's true, and I do apologize. Even more sadly, not much has changed in recent months. Since September, three more Tibetans have self-immolated, bringing the total to 54 since February of 2009. 53 of those 54 self-immolations have occurred since March of 2011.
As we all know, China has diligently tried to suppress news about this tragic phenomenon and has intermittently closed Tibet to foreign tourists and journalists. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, however, recently sneaked a camera crew and a Tibetan-speaking reporter into the country, screening their footage on Tuesday. It's a rare and honest look into the current conditions in Tibet, and well worth the watch. It's especially interesting to see the interactions between the reporters and the region's authorities, who follow the crew and chase them out of towns on more than one occasion (example at right). You can watch the video here.
Here at Tricycle, we've been very good Buddhists lately and devoting a lot of time to thinking about death. You can look forward to more on death and dying in our upcoming Winter 2012 issue, but until then, you can enjoy this lovely Vice interview with LA-based mortician Caitlin Doughty. Doughty founded and runs the Order of the Good Death, an organization and website devoted to all things death-related. She says that she's influenced by the Bardo Thodol (which, incidentally, we are showing a film version of on Tricycle right now; you can watch it here), and once baked cupcakes out of someone's ashes. (What can I say? It was their dying wish, apparently). Below, an example of Caitlin's wisdom from the interview:
VICE: So, Caitlin. Death to a lot of people is a bad thing. A bummer, at least. What exactly is a 'good death’?
Caitlin Doughty: A good death starts when you're still young. You have to live your life acknowledging that death is inevitable and let it affect your relationships and view on the world. A good death is about planning your death and what you want done with your body and taking delight in it. It's about the quest to have everything in place—literally and emotionally—when you die. Preparing for death doesn't mean preparing for some kind of afterlife. Preparing for death is to enhance the life you're living right now.
I don't know about you guys, but I find this sort of frank talk about death refreshing. It doesn't do us any good to hide in a corner and pretend death isn't real, and I'm glad that I'm not the only woman in her twenties to think so. If this sort of thing interests you, there was a thought-provoking article in the New York Times opinion pages on Sunday called "How to Die." It confronts the American attitude, as the author calls it, of the "frantic end-of-life assault of desperate measures," which oftentimes leads to a life that may last longer but is of greatly diminished quality.
And though I'm tempted to leave you off there—Oh, yes, I'm thinking, leave 'em with a healthy dose of it's-almost-the-weekend morbidity—I'll instead leave you with an image that is almost as creepy as the Grim Reaper himself.
It's Deepak Chopra. Photoshopped into a stone statue of the Buddha. And it's the main image of a new film about his life, Decoding Deepak (his son made it). I know that I'm not exactly the perfect standard of normality—I did just introduce to you, with gusto, a mortician who once baked someone's ashes into cupcakes—but…does anyone else find this to be really weird?
Images: Buddhist monks protesting in Rangoon, by Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters. From the Times.
Still from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation; Stephen McDonell.