Buddha Buzz Winter 2003

Jeff Wilson

GOOOAAAALLLL!
A Buddhist monastery in South Korea has finally finished its gigantic World Cup Mandala. The mandala, created to commemorate the soccer championship held there in 2002, is 11 meters tall (the number of players on a team) and 7.32 meters wide (the width of the goalposts). It features 2002 Buddhas and includes 32 bodhisattvas, the same number of countries that participated in the 2002 World Cup.

Watch Out, Mickey
First there was Dollywood; now plans are in the works for a sort of Buddhawood. The Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation has announced its intention to build a theme park in Bodhgaya, India, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Attractions will include statues depicting Shakyamuni’s life and teachings, and a modern sound and light system. No word is available at this time as to whether Johnny Depp is available to star in a related movie.

Gotta Catch 'em All
While Pokemon trading continues to flourish in the U.S., another commodity has become the rage in Thailand: antique Buddha amulets. These amulets, kept for protection or devotion, have long been an everyday part of Thai Buddhism. But now the market for the little flat images has become so intense that Wasun Potipimpanon, the major dealer of Mercedes Benz automobiles in Thailand, is offering to trade brand-new Mercedes sedans for especially prized amulets. “Collectors keep pouring in with their amulets, but not many of them are redeemable. My cars are ready only for the prime specimens,” he says. “Diversification into popular amulets is profitable for long-term investment because over the next twenty-odd years there will be long stretches where you will get better growth from this emerging market.”

Buddha Got Back
Like most bloodthirsty lesbian contract killers, Jennifer Lopez’s character in the recent flop Gigli is a fan of Thich Nhat Hanh’s. Numerous times in the movie, described by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as “so bad it verges on the legendary,” Lopez can be seen reading from the Vietnamese Buddhist teacher’s classic book Being Peace. And apparently, fans wish to follow in her enlightened footsteps: Lopez’s copy sold for $46 on eBay, more than four times its usual cover price.

Spanish Fly in the Begging Bowl
This past summer, riots broke out in the western Indian city of Pune over a pamphlet deemed indecent by mobs of angry protestors. The advertisement for Ayurvedic sex-stimulant pills featured a picture of the Buddha wearing a suit. Rioters threw rocks and blockaded roads; the pill’s distributors were arrested for violating Indian legal codes against religious incitement.

Buddhists Battle Bad Odor
In the summertime heat, the teeming streets of Flushing, Queens can get pretty ripe. To combat the smell and pollution, the New York chapter of a major international Buddhist service organization took to the streets. More than one hundred volunteers for the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation scrubbed selected sidewalks and streets in Flushing’s dirtiest areas. The local chapter of Tzu Chi has over 13,000 members—perhaps they can tackle the subway system next.

He Should Take a Cue from Tzu Chi
Eighty-one-year-old Kampuchea Roth has an odd way of showing his devotion to the dharma. The Cambodian monk hasn’t washed in the last sixty years. He claims that his vows prevent him from allowing water to touch his skin. As a result, he sports long, matted dreadlocks, an unusual look for a Buddhist monk.

Buddha Bond
Proving that truth isn’t always stranger than fiction, paperback thriller giant Clive Cussler’s just-released Golden Buddha hinges on a secret plot to restore the Dalai Lama to power in Tibet. Without giving away too much, we can say that the story revolves around an American super-spy ship disguised as an Iranian lumber freighter, a lost Buddha statue containing information about massive oil reserves in Tibet, and international intrigue with the Russians and Chinese.

Prayers for Pests
Thai officials recently used a hospital incinerator to destroy more than 1,000 giant hissing cockroaches. The bugs, which were burned alive, had been kept as pets until they were designated a health threat. To appease the critters’ former owners, a Buddhist memorial service was then held to dedicate merit to the deceased roaches.

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