February 03, 2012

Buddha Buzz: Burma, Uganda, and a Rare Genetic Mutation Unleashed

A few weeks ago on the Tricycle blog we featured the guest post Burma in 2012: A Political Report Card, by Deborah Weinberg. The post spoke of freedom, hope, and progressiveness, but Weinberg expressed enough skepticism of Burma's government to end with the line, "We’ll find out in the coming months if the progress is real and a genuine road to freedom." 

It was cheering, then, to read this piece of news from yesterday: Monastic Council Restores Status of Released Monks. From the article:

The official body that governs Buddhist monastic affairs in Burma has restored the status of three monks who were released from prison last month after serving more than four years behind bars for their involvement in the 2007 Saffron Revolution.

The state-controlled Maha Nayaka Sangha Council made the decision on Wednesday after the three monks, who were among dozens detained for taking part in massive demonstrations in September 2007, applied for official recognition of their status on Jan. 27. (...)

The three monks—including U Indaka, the abbot of Maggin Monastery in Rangoon's Thingangyun Township, one of the focal points of the 2007 protests—were told that the monasteries could be reopened within a week.

Not all of the released monks, however, are so eager to receive status from the Maha Nayaka Sangha Council.

U Gambira, another prominent monk who was released on Jan. 13 along with hundreds of other political prisoners, said he hasn't responded yet to a notification from the Maha Nayaka Sangha Council informing him that he needs to officially restore his monastic status, although he said may do so after Feb. 3.

“We are monks. We were arrested illegally,” he said, speaking to The Irrawaddy. He added that he would accept the council's decisions if they are “fair according to the rules of Buddhism.”

But it wasn't just the release of Burmese monks that had me cheerful yesterday. A healthy dose of laughter helped too, thanks to the diligent and ever-serious reporters behind the Onion:

A University of Arizona study published this week in the American Journal Of Sociology suggests that some adult humans may occasionally feel compassion, a trait scientists have long considered beyond the capacity of the species. "A small percentage of the roughly 900 subjects we observed seemed at times to exhibit genuine empathy toward another person experiencing either psychological or physical pain," said the study's lead author, Dr. Benjamin Trumble, who later added that these individuals did not appear as though they were looking to gain anything from their compassionate reactions, but, to the surprise of researchers, were simply concerned about another person's well-being. "Of course, we'll need to conduct further tests to rule out the possibility that these demonstrations weren't the result of statistical noise or the expression of some sort of very, very rare genetic mutation." The study also reaffirmed previous research indicating that 95 percent of individuals are capable of convincingly feigning compassion.

Ah, the Onion always makes me laugh. But contrary to what the faux-article is implying, some of us are actually doing compassionate work.

For instance, Bhante Bhikkhu Buddharakkhita, whose two-year-old YouTube video I finally saw after Sweeping Zen Tweeted it (thank you, Sweeping Zen!). Bhante Bhikkhu Buddharakkhita is the first ordained monk in Uganda (guess who is the first ordained nun in Uganda? Find out in the video—the answer is a classic). The video's description also says that he is the first African Buddhist monk on the continent, and founded the first Buddhist Center by an African, although I'm not sure if that is accurate. You can check out his center's website here.

(P.S. If you're interested in what's going on with the dharma in Africa, check out our interview with Tricycle community member Atulah Shah, who lives in Nairobi, Kenya.)

 

And just in case none of this Buddhist news is doing it for you, here are some articles that ended up on the Buddha Buzz cutting room floor. There was a short interview with the Dalai Lama in the Economic Times today, as well as an article in the New York Times profiling Rosanne Cash and her many performances at the Rubin Museum of Art. (She's not Buddhist, she says, "I kill ants and eat meat.") Elsewhere, Rick Santorum's got a lot of people's pants in a snuff for saying that equality doesn't exist in non-Judeo-Christian religions.

 

Follow the Trike crew on Twitter: @tricyclemag, @tricyclesam, @tricyclerachel, @tricyclevarv.

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Emma Varvaloucas's picture

The story in Burma continues: http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=22982

ANDREWCOOPER24's picture

Thanks for the video of Bhante Buddharakkhita. Maybe you can also have a link to the interview from a few issues back with Atulah Shah, from the sangha in Nairobi, Kenya. It is wonderful that we can be connected to the dharma goings on in East Africa.

Philip Ryan's picture

The Atula Shah interview is here!