February 01, 2013

Buddha Buzz: A Columbia Professor and a Death Row Inmate

Emma Varvaloucas

Not to be outdone by Burma's shocking level of prejudice against Muslims, a group of Sinhalese Buddhist monastics known as the "Buddhist Force" is campaigning to ban halal meat in Sri Lanka amidst attacks on Muslim-owned businesses and other violence. The Sinhalese president has urged the monks to maintain religious harmony within the country, especially since the nation's civil war with the Hindu Tamil Tigers ended only four years ago.

Jarvis MastersOver at Elephant Journal this week, "dharma brat" Waylon Lewis' online publication devoted to all things yoga, there's a great interview with Jarvis Jay Masters, a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner and author currently serving time on death row for a crime he is most likely innocent of. Originally convicted of armed robbery when he was 19, four years later he was given the death penalty for his alleged participation in the murder of a prison guard. He has been on death row for the past 30 years. Now a close friend of Pema Chodron, Jarvis is a guy whose determination to practice will put you to shame—he once made a mala out of thread from his prison uniform, staples from an issue of Sports Illustrated, and Tylenol pills. He spoke to writer Chris Grosso about how his practice has buoyed him during his long imprisonment. Read the interview here.

Last but certainly not least, on Monday Robert Thurman, professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies at Columbia University and go-to expert on all things Tibetan, released a video statement concerning the spate of self-immolations that have occurred over the past 2 years (there have been almost 100 since February 2011). Though he makes it strenuously clear that neither he nor the Dalai Lama encourages anyone to self-immolate, he does say that if a Tibetan decides to do so, we have a duty to "honor their sacrifice" and "praise their heroism." After exploring the ethics of self-immolation from the perspective of Tibetan Buddhism and culture, he exhorts us all to be called into action. Give it a watch below—it's well worth your time. 

 

P.S. Just in case you haven't heard, it's Meditation Month! The Trike staff is making the commitment to sit for every day of February. Will you join us? More info here.

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mayri's picture

Although I believe I know what the author is meaning to say, The statement "he makes it strenuously clear that neither he nor the Dalai Lama does not encourage anyone to self-immolate" actually contains a double negative meaning they refrain from avoiding encouraging the practice. I am sure that was not the intended meaning. Yes?

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

Hi mayri, thanks for pointing that out—yes, the double negative was a mistake! Neither Robert Thurman nor HHDL are encouraging Tibetans to self-immolate.

Good to know that someone is reading closely :)

-Emma V.

tricycle.com

Dominic Gomez's picture

Perhaps the Sinhalese monastics should consider changing their name to the "Demon Force" in respect to the Dharma.