April 27, 2012

Buddha Buzz: Mobs, Politics, and...Lemurs

Buddhist monks were all over the international news this week, and most of it was not good.

Last weekend thousands of Sri Lankans, led by Buddhist monks, stormed a mosque in Dambulla, Sri Lanka, destroying furniture and exposing themselves. The day before, the mosque had been firebombed by an unknown person. Sri Lankan officials have now promised to demolish and relocate the mosque, which the monks alleged had been built illegally on sacred Buddhist ground. Mosque board members responded that the mosque had been there for 50 years—30 years before the area was declared a Buddhist sacred zone.

BBC online quoted one monk who said that the "campaign against the Muslim building was a victory for 'those who love the race, have Sinhalese blood and are Buddhists.'"

Online discussions of the incident have presented the mob as a fringe group that does not accurately represent the peaceful Buddhist-Muslim (or Sinhala-Muslim) relations within Sri Lanka. Even if this is true, what are monks doing leading a violent and hate-filled campaign in the first place?

Over in England, more cases of bad Buddhist behavior: a senior monk, Venerable Pahalagama Somaratana, has been accused of raping a nine year old girl over 30 years ago. Ven. Somaratana has denied the charges, saying that it "could have been another monk." Hmph.

In China, the other Panchen Lama came out for a quick public appearance at the World Buddhist Forum in Hong Kong. Gyaltsen Norbu was installed by Beijing as the Panchen Lama when he was 6, in 1995. The Dalai Lama's choice, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, disappeared that year and hasn't been seen or heard from since. I must say, I feel badly for both of the Panchen Lamas, caught up as they have been in China's political maneuverings.

And in India (finally a piece of good news here) all charges against the Karmapa have been dropped.

Quite a lot going on in the international Buddhist world, isn't there? That might be a good thing, as Buddhist news in the United States has been, well, lacking. The most interesting U.S. Buddhist story I've heard all week was that Metta World Peace, the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest, elbowed another play in the head in a wonderful upholding of the principles expounded in his name. (And he only counts as Buddhist story because he has "metta" in his name.)

And I suppose we can also count the statements of the Dalai Lama in Chicago as U.S. Buddhist news. Interestingly, he hinted that there might not be a Tibetan-chosen 15th Dalai Lama. "It depends on whether people really feel it is important, this institution. If it is no longer relevant, it will not exist," the International Business Times reported him as saying. Apparently, he also expressed his love for Dubya Bush. "As a president of America, sometimes his policy may not be very successful," said the Dalai Lama. "But as a person, a human being, very nice person...I love him."

Oh, and I forgot about one more important news item...this picture of a meditating lemur on the Huffington Post. Can't forget about that!

From the picture below, the lemur seems to have accomplished a couple of the more ominous siddhis...

Ah, I hope that makes you laugh after a long week and a sobering Buddha Buzz.


Panchen Lama image by Kin Cheung/AP.

Lemur images by Sebastien Degardin, from the Huffington Post.

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Dolgyal's picture

It's odd Tricycle claims the actual Panchen Lama (the one whose parents are not State Security officers) has not been heard from at the same time he has resurfaced after many years:

Choekyi Nyima is in mainland China with family: Chinese Embassy official
Phayul[Wednesday, April 25, 2012 17:51]
By Tendar Tsering

Tibetans and supporters in Dharamshala gather to sign petitions demanding the release of the XIth Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima who turned 23 today. (Phayul photo/Norbu Wangyal)
DHARAMSHALA, April 25: Speaking to Phayul over phone, an official in the Press Section of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi today said that the XIth Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is in “mainland China along with his family.”

“He is currently in mainland China along with his family and he doesn’t want to be disturbed,” the press officer, who declined from giving his name told Phayul.

When asked why the XIth Panchen Lama doesn’t want to be disturbed, the Chinese official, instead of giving a straight answer, blamed the Dalai Lama for “fabricating the truth.”

The XIth Panchen Lama, who turns 23 today, was abducted at the age of six along with his family, shortly after he was recognised as the reincarnation of the Xth Panchen Lama by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Despite repeated international pressure, the Chinese government has refrained from disclosing the well-being and whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family.

Coinciding with the XIth Panchen Lama’s 23rd birthday, Tibetans and supporters worldwide organised campaigns demanding his release.

In Dharamshala, the exile Tibetan headquarters, a group of four major Tibetan NGOs conducted a day-long petition drive demanding the Panchen Lama’s release. Signatories were also urged to call the Chinese Embassy to ask for the whereabouts of the XIth Panchen Lama.

“This year marks Panchen Lama’s 17th year of abduction by the Chinese Government after being recognised,” a joint release by the group said. “Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s abduction is not only a violation of Tibet’s religious freedom but also a human rights violation.”

Following the XIth Panchen Lama’s abduction in 1995, Beijing handpicked another boy, Gyaltsen Norbu to occupy the seat of the Panchen Lamas.

In a release, the exile base of the Panchen Lama’s traditional monastery, Tashi Lhunpo in south India, said the abduction and disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima were in clear contradiction to China’s claims of “democratic and religious freedom” in Tibet.

“Chinese authorities continue to claim that the people under their rule enjoy democratic and religious freedoms. However, this has repeatedly been proved wrong by the very fact that the Chinese authorities have detained the 11th Panchen Lama for 17 long years since he was only six years old, refusing to provide any verifiable information of his health, well-being and whereabouts and depriving him of traditional Buddhist education,” the statement said.

“The abduction and disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the rightful Panchen Lama, and the instalment of Gyaltsen Norbu in his place is evidence enough of the fact that Tibetans in Tibet do not enjoy any special child rights, human rights or religious freedom, and that Chinese authorities have no regard whatsoever for these rights and freedoms,” the statement added.

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

Hi Dolgyal, thanks for your comment. I appreciate you copying the April 25 Phayul article to this blog, as I hadn't seen it. However, I'm not sure that a statement from a Chinese embassy press official regarding the Panchen Lama means that he has been "heard from." It seems that this article is saying the same thing that I did in the blog, no? That the Panchen Lama has been held by the Chinese for the last 17 years and everyone is unsure of his whereabouts or well-being? I am very happy to see that there is an ongoing campaign demanding his release, and I hope to see its fruition.

Dolgyal's picture

Yes of course its all just press release smoke and mirrors: we see many images of Gyaincain Norbu– popularly known amongst the Tibetans as the “fake Panchen” –lunching at state-sponsored functions (what we call in the west the 'rubber chicken circuit') and official photo ops with prominent Communist Party mandarins. Perhaps the most widely circulated photo of Gyaincain Norbu is a clearly retouched pose in front of a certain controversial worldly protector, heavily promoted by the regime to split Tibetans. The transparently bogus nature of the Chinese junta's poster boy is indeed a pity.

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

Well said, well said.

jackderips's picture

Made me really happy to see the Buddhism on TV, let's spread the knowledge!
Reported about this on my site: http://www.fromyoutubemp4.com

epistinym's picture

The Sri situation, long ongoing. The inter-ethnic animus isn't just a product of colonialism, it goes so far back as to the era of Ashoka, but English divide-and-conquer has created a long list of old grudges that goes to the quick of ethnic identity. And for all of the faults seen in clerics there, by and large a Buddhist-led peace fellowship has managed to mitigate the worst of the mob mentality there.

cocolino's picture

lol :))

Dominic Gomez's picture

Does a lemur have buddha nature?

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

I actually wrote that joke and then erased it! Looks like we're on the same (lemur) wavelength.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Does a lemur have buddha nature? Master Cow says, "Moo."

FastekDot's picture

going on in the international Buddhist world,