February 08, 2013

Buddha Buzz: Chinese New Year and Death Cafes

Emma Varvaloucas

Chinese New Year this year falls on Sunday, February 10. It's the year of the black water snake. If you're celebrating (and hey, even if you're not), a very happy new year to you!

Chinese New Year

The Chinese/Lunar New Year is also celebrated in Korea and Vietnam. In Orange County, California, there is an annual new year Tet parade held by the local Vietnamese community. It goes back thirty years and is attended by thousands of people. This year, however, is being marked by considerable controversy. The Partnership of Viet Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Organizations, though they have marched in the parade for the past three years, have been barred from participating this year. Parade organizers say it is because LGBT relations in the Vietnamese community are a "sensitive issue." Reverend Danny Fisher, Buddhist chaplain at University of the West, has written an open letter to the parade organizers over on his blog "Off the Cushion." I strongly encourage you to give it a read and give this matter your attention.

Over at the Huffington Post, Jaweed Kaleem—you may remember him from the article he wrote in November about race issues in American Buddhism—has highlighted an interesting and hitherto unknown facet of American culture: death cafes. As Kaleem describes them, death cafe culture involves "anything-goes, frank conversation on death that's been hosted at dozens of coffee shops and community centers in American cities from Arizona to Maine." Frankly, I'm surprised they exist here at all. I thought we Americans were busy being in denial about death all the time!

Buddhism has also popped up in some other (and some strange) places this week:

  • Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has recently admitted that he was a CSBOP (the Bulgarian equivalent of the FBI) secret agent. His codename? Buddha.
  • Bay Area artists Tanya Shaffer and Vienna Teng are currently working on The Fourth Messenger, a musical about Siddhartha Gautama's life—if he had been a woman. Listen to some of the production's musical numbers here.

Buddha Buzz is short and sweet this week, since the Trike staff is heading home soon to take cover from winter storm Nemo. For everyone in the Northeast, stay safe, stay warm, and use your snowbound status to practice some great meditation!


Image: Reuters/John Woo.

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Dominic Gomez's picture

Nichiren taught "Regarding life and death with abhorrence and trying to separate oneself from them is delusion, or partial enlightenment. To clearly perceive life and death as the essence of eternal life is realization, or total enightenment. Now Nichiren and his disciples who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo awaken to the ebb and flow of birth and death as the innate workings of life that is eternal."
The young Prince Siddartha was prompted to seek truth after seeing a corpse for the first time. After nearly 50 years of teaching the Law he concluded in the Lotus Sutra that "There is no ebb and flow of life and death, and there is no existing in this world and later entering extinction." Death and life are simply phases we pass through eternally.