March 29, 2013

Buddha Buzz: Mob Wives, Mama Asia, and the Burmese Bin Laden

Emma Varvaloucas

OK, how many Tricycle readers watch Mob Wives? (You can tell me, I won't tell anyone.) For those who don't, it's a VH1 reality TV show that follows seven Staten Island women whose husbands or fathers are doing jail time for crimes connected to the Mob. Basically, it's quality stuff. One of the main characters is Angela "Big Ang" Raiola, who was spotted this week canoodling with the Buddha in Miami:

Big Ang and Buddha

It's pictures like this one that make me understand why Sri Lanka gets so upset about tourists posing with Buddhist statues.

Ven. DhammanandaIn terms of news you might actually care about, ABC journalist Sally Sara released the second installment of her 12-part series called Mama Asia, a journey into the lives of twelve inspirational Asian women. They are publishing one story per month; February was Colonel Latifa Nabizada, Afghanistan's first woman military helicopter pilot, and this month is Bhikkhuni Dhammananda, the first woman in Thailand to become fully ordained. She is now the abbess of Wat Songkhammakalayani, the only temple in Thailand where there are fully ordained nuns. Ven. Dhammananda's decision to become fully ordained in 2003 was hugely controversial in Thailand—indeed, no Thai monks were willing to ordain her, forcing her to travel to Sri Lanka for the ceremony. And as she says in the article, Ven. Dhammananda "didn't read the local Thai newspapers for two years because the media campaign against her ordination was so strong." But she also says:

I have never been bothered by what people said because I know they are speaking out of their unwholesome mind. People are negative about me but it will eat them up. Negative things never nourish a person so they cannot do it for a long time. You must be certain of this. Negative thoughts will never, ever last. People say all kinds of things but it is only their lips. That's it. If you are swayed by what people say then you can never, ever do anything.

Typical of the mainstream media, Sara makes some mistakes in her coverage, but it's still a heartwarming read. You can read Tricycle's own article about Ven. Dhammananda here.

In other news of women in Thailand, the BBC has just published a report that identifies the true author of the Thammanuthamma-patipatti, a popular Thai Buddhist text that until now has been attributed to the prominent 20th-century monk Venerable Luang Pu Mun Bhuridatta. Guess who the real author is? Khunying Yai Damrongthammasan, a female lay practitioner! If she really did author the text, she's one of the first Thai women to write a respected and popular treatise on Buddhist doctrine.

Recently Tricycle has been covering the plight of Burma's Muslim Rohingya minority. We have an article in the current issue, "Buddhist Nationalism in Burma," and an accompanying interview with the author of that piece, Burmese dissident Maung Zarni, which we published yesterday. Last week the clashes in Burma escalated to more general Buddhist-on-Muslim rioting in a different part of the country, which left 40 people dead and more than 12,000 displaced. The International Buddhist Times has unearthed a YouTube video of Burmese monk Sayadaw Wirathu, who refers to himself as the "Burmese Bin Laden," that helps to explain why anti-Islam fervor is sweeping the nation. The monk has apparently been active since 2003, when he was arrested for distributing anti-Muslim leaflets. You can watch the video here, but be warned that it's disturbing and essentially hate speech—adjectives like "apartheid" and "neo-Nazism" wouldn't be off the mark to describe it. The English subtitles aren't excellent, but you can get the gist.

If you're up-to-date on your Burmese politics, you might enjoy the collection of satirical cartoons by Harn Lay on Foreign Policy's website. They often depict Burmese President Thein Stein (if you take a look, he's the fellow with the yellow bandana), President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi especially is currently receiving round criticism for her apparent indifference to the ongoing violence in Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi

See the rest of the cartoons here.

Image 1: Big Ang/Instagram.

Image 2: Sally Sara for ABC.

Image 3: Harn Lay.

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aewhitehouse's picture

I have yet to see a really in depth documentary of Nepal and Sikkim. Would love to see a mini-series of these two areas and combining them in one documentary would seem a natural.

Dominic Gomez's picture

One of the 3 innate poisons is ignorance. As Buddhists we try to have compassion for those ignorant of the Law, educating rather than villainizing them.