March 30, 2012

Buddha Buzz: Excessive Consumerism, the Templeton Prize, and Everything In Between

Being the writer of Buddha Buzz blog posts certainly has its advantages. For one, I get to spend my time reading and writing about subjects that are important to me. But the main advantage by far is that during the time I spend scouring the Internet each week for Buddhist-related news, I'm often (or so I like to think) one of the first people to be alerted when something really, really awesome—and Buddhist—goes on sale. Like this $28.5 million yacht.

Just for some context, I sprained my ankle just last month trying to step over the massive hill of money that lies on the floor of my bedroom and prevents me from getting into bed without revving up a good amount of speed and vaulting over it (a tragic story, I know). I've agonized over what to do with this money. Put it in the bank? Invest it in the stock market? Leave it where it lies and take weekly baths within its gentle green folds? Luckily for me, the answer of my dreams floated down to me this week in the form of this ad on Business Insider: "YACHT OF THE WEEK: This Zen-Inspired Yacht Will Help You Gain Inner Peace For Just $28.5 Million" The ad begins, "Some might think that sitting on the deck of a luxury yacht would be enough to achieve complete inner peace. But to be truly centered, you actually need a yacht that carries the theme throughout the ship." Right...

Here's the ad photo:


Oh yes, I see now...the purchase of this $28.5 million yacht will make me just as happy as that smiling monk in the corner

Okay, okay, enough with the snarkiness. Sometimes I just can't help myself. (Also, I hope everyone knows that I don't really have a pile of money lying on the floor of my bedroom.)

In much more important Buddhist news this week, Tibetan self-immolations have spread out of Tibet and into India, where a young Tibetan in New Delhi lit himself on fire four days ago to protest Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to India. Reports from India say that the police have shut down Tibetan neighborhoods and are lining the streets equipped with soaking blankets.


Jamphel Yeshi runs aflame in New Delhi on Monday. He has since died from his injuries.

In the meantime, while the Chinese government releases statements calling the Dalai Lama "a tricky liar skilled in double-dealing" and likening his "policies" to Hitler's treatment of Jewish people during the Holocaust, the Dalai Lama has been busy winning the Templeton Prize for his work on the intersections between science and religion. The $1.7 million award, which according to the Washington Post is the "world’s largest annual monetary award given to a single individual," will be presented to the Dalai Lama in May. Here's his acceptance video—in typical Dalai Lama fashion, he's modest and cheerful about the honor.


Next on this week's list is the article "Enjoying Orientalism," published on The Awl. The piece explores the illusions of Orientalism in context of journalism and economics and in wake of the allegations that Mike Daisy, a staunch protestor of Apple factory conditions of China, has been making up stories. Head on over to The Awl to read the full article, but I'll give you a little taster here. The author begins:

So even now, there are two kinds of fantasies of Asia among Americans: the dream-Asia of our desires, the aestheticized and romanticized Asia, and then the nightmare Asia of our prejudices and fears, the Michael Crichton-inflected fear that They're Taking Over The World.

And ends,

So it seems that the Mike Daisey debacle comes at an opportune time. We in the U.S. can no longer afford to treat China as distant or foreign; the Chinese are our partners, and our destinies are inextricably linked. We could—we should do everything in our power to make common cause with them. Only an understanding between our two nations as to how to manage the two economies in tandem, how to develop and use more sustainable forms of energy, and so on, can ensure that we all don't just go up in flames. (...)

We can broaden our understanding of Asia the same way we understand the fantasies surrounding America and Americans, e.g. we are fat, noisy and wearing Bermuda shorts, or we are ignorant imperialist gun-totin' vigilantes, or we all very glamorous and hang around with movie stars by the pool. Some little part of it is true, sometimes, but what we need is to be understood how we really are, as a complex and diverse people. China is the same. All we need to do is draw a line where illusion ends and reality begins. (And pay close attention when we spend money, and when we vote.)

And just in case none of these items are doing it for you, Tsoknyi Rinpoche had a nice, short dharma talk published in the Huffington Post this week called "Who Do You Think You Are?" He writes,

Our lives are so complex that we find ourselves playing different roles in different situations. We're parents... children... employees... bosses... lovers... loners... counselors... seekers. Sometimes the sheer complexity of switching between all the different roles we have to play throughout the day becomes overwhelming and we find ourselves momentarily confused, genuinely wondering, 'Who am I?'

Although it may initially seem distressing, we can learn to appreciate such moments of confusion, to consider each one as a gift—a break from the rigidity and routine that all too often creeps into our daily lives, robbing us of the openness, spontaneity and creativity that characterize the essence of our being.

Until next week!


Image 1: By Travis Okulski, via Boat International. From

Image 2: From Reuters:

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cocolino's picture

I think tibetans set their bodies on fire demanding the return the Dalai Lama from exile and freedom in Tibet,
Please see jocuri online

richardson.npp's picture

Wow, that is an amazing looking yacht. I wonder how people will fight each other to get it, if they will. There may be some haggling but then someone super-rich might just cut a check.

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

Hi Richardson, did you see the photos of the inside of it? Lots of Buddha statues (and widescreen TVs) everywhere...nice decor, but so ridiculous! There's a part of me that wants to follow up and see who buys it in the end!

Wisdom Moon's picture

I think it's high time for the Dalai Lama to make a public statement condemning the practice of self-immolation - such a statement is well overdue, even though the 17th Karmapa has publicly condemned the practice. If the Dalai Lama truly does believe in peace as he seems to say in his acceptance speech, he should be trying to preserve peace and life by stopping these self-immolations.

Dolgyal's picture

The Dalai Lama says ‘totalitarian, blind, unrealistic policies’ leading to self-immolations
[Saturday, April 14, 2012 17:06]

His Holiness the Dalai Lama observing a minute's silence during the 53rd anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day in Dharamshala, in honour of the Tibetans who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of Tibet. (Phayul photo/Norbu Wangyal)
DHARAMSHALA, April 14: Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that the People Republic of China’s “totalitarian, blind, unrealistic” policies in Tibet are responsible for the ongoing wave of self-immolations in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama was speaking to a media crew of the Taiwan based Next TV at his exile residence in Dharamshala, north India.

“This problem (self-immolations) has been started by the totalitarian, blind, unrealistic policies,” the Tibetan leader said. “So, the people who created these policies must think seriously.”

Responding to a question on young Tibetans setting themselves on fire, His Holiness said: “That’s very sad, very sad, very sad.”

Since 2009, the wave of self-immolations in Tibet has witnessed 33 Tibetans set their bodies on fire demanding the return the Dalai Lama from exile and freedom in Tibet. Major protests involving thousands of Tibetans in recent months have been brutally suppressed with indiscriminate firing and arrests.

“Now, the concerned people should carry realistic work and look for the causes of these self-immolations. That’s important,” the Dalai Lama said. “All these problems are happening due to certain conditions and certain causes.”

The 76-year old exiled Tibetan leader called for greater transparency in China and noted that the Chinese people have “every right” to know the reality.

“These hardliners, narrow minded people deliberately suppress the truth and create a lot of wrong information,” the Dalai Lama said.

“1.3 billion Chinese people have every right to know the reality, whether good or bad. They must know. They can judge what is right and what is wrong.”

Dolgyal's picture

"Wisdom Moon" aka "Lineageholder" is well known as a radical cultist, his missives and advice should be regarded in this light.

maximohudson's picture

I believe the Tathagata can also be considered, in the light of his teachings, the historical context of his life and the sangha that is his legacy as "a radical cultist." Gandhi too. Thanks for the warning. When I need saving I'll become a Christian... again.

maximohudson's picture


For some thirty years I have referred to myself as a Tibetan Buddhist. Now, however, I have tired of the FREE TIBET movement here in the West with it's basis in Tribalism and Nationalism. Additionally, I am shocked by the support I have seen on FB for monks who have committed politically motivated acts of suicide. THEREFORE, from here on out, though I will still practice within the tradition, I will no longer refer to myself nor self-identify as a "Tibetan" Buddhist. This will be more in keeping with my views of seeing national borders as the delusional consequence of consensus reality.

I am now a border-transcending Neolamaist. -mh

Dominic Gomez's picture

Concerning them he said "I have nothing to say. Only pray" and they were “very, very sad” and a “very sensitive, political issue" in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

bodhi143's picture

I wish that he would.

Dolgyal's picture

High time to investigate the real causes of self-immolations says the Dalai Lama
Phayul[Tuesday, April 17, 2012 19:11]
By Tendar Tsering

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addresses students at Kailua High School on 'Cultivating Unbiased Compassion' at Kailua High School in Oahu, Hawaii, April 16, 2012. (Photo/ Eyes of the Island Photography)
DHARAMSHALA, April 17: Speaking at a press conference in the American state of Hawaii, the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Monday said it is high time that China began to investigate the real causes of the self-immolations in Tibet.

“Now the time comes for the Chinese authority to investigate what are the real causes,” the Dalai Lama said referring to the ongoing wave of self-immolations inside Tibet.

Since 2009, the wave of self-immolations in Tibet has witnessed 34 Tibetans set their bodies on fire demanding the return the Dalai Lama from exile and freedom in Tibet. Major protests involving thousands of Tibetans in recent months have been brutally suppressed with indiscriminate firing and arrests.

However, drawing from the reformist statements made by the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in recent times, the Tibetan spiritual leader said he is hopeful of reformation and change in China.

Referring to Wen’s statements and the recent crackdown on corruption in China, the Dalai Lama said “majority of the Chinese leadership is thinking seriously of some change.”

“That is a hopeful thing,” the Dalai Lama added."

Dolgyal's picture

Breaking: Two more self-immolations in Tibet
[Thursday, April 19, 2012 13:52]
DHARAMSHALA, April 19: In reports coming out of Tibet, two more Tibetans set their bodies on fire today in an apparent protest against China’s continued occupation of Tibet.

The two lay Tibetans are being identified as Choephag Kyab and Sonam from the Zamthang region of Ngaba, eastern Tibet.

Exile sources say that the two set themselves of fire at around 1 pm (local time).

No further details are available on the condition of the two Tibetan youths, both in their early 20s.

The continuing wave of self-immolations in Tibet has witnessed 35 Tibetans set their bodies on fire demanding the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile and freedom in Tibet.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week in Hawaii, the Dalai Lama had called for an investigation into the “real causes” of the self-immolations in Tibet.

“Now the time comes for the Chinese authority to investigate what are the real causes,” the Tibetan spiritual leader told reporters.

On February 19, Nangdrol, 18 had set himself on fire in Zamthang, raising slogans calling for the ‘long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’ and ‘freedom for Tibet.’ He passed away at the site of his protest.

Reacting to the recently released video clip showing Chinese security personnel pushing down and kicking a Tibetan self-immolator while still on fire, Tenzin Chokyi, the general secretary of the Tibetan Youth Congress told Phayul that the “absolute barbarism” displayed by the Chinese authorities will “only fuel more resentment and opposition” against the regime.

“Seeing their sacrifice only reinforces our determination to work for a free Tibet more resolutely and strongly," Chokyi said.