June 18, 2007
Buddhism hits the mainstream this week, with the New York Times running an extensive piece about mindfulness as it is now being taught in public schools--mostly on the West Coast, unsurprisingly enough, although one program has taken root in Lancaster, PA. Asked to define mindfulness, one Oakland fifth grader replied: "Not hitting someone in the mouth." We couldn't have put it better ourselves.
When embarking on multimillion dollar construction projects in Hong Kong, be careful--apparently, the Buddha has become incensed over the placement of a nearby cable car route, which, feng shui consultants warned, would disturb the tranquility of the infamous Big Buddha statue and the nearby Po Lime monastery. Thankfully, the car on which he vented his anger, tossing it 13 stories to the ground, was empty, so no precepts were broken. We still wouldn't advise taking a trip on these cable cars, though: you never know. Hong Kong has a long history of architectural accommodation for feng shui concerns: one of the city's more striking buildings has a gaping hole designed into the middle, to allow for a dragon believed to reside in the mountain behind it to have an unobstructed view of the sea. Perhaps the designers should have followed their lead and simply worked around the constraints of feng shui.
Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, the civil war that has been raging ever since the Tamil Tigers gave the world the unwanted gift of suicide bombings has intensified after a hard-line prime minister was elected to power in 2005 with the openly stated mission of "crushing" the Tamil separatist movement. Britain's Daily Telegraph does a brief profile of a Buddhist monk, Ven. Athuraliye Rathana, who is as militant in his support for the war in Sri Lanka as the American neoconservative movement has been in their support for Bush's "War on Terror." He dismisses claims that the Sinhalese government is murdering civilians as part of their counter-insurgency tactics and suppressing human rights in the contested northeast of the island as nonsense, saying, "Human rights? The Tigers only launched the human rights campaign to discredit Sri Lanka." The Tamil Tigers, officially known as the "Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam," are a separatist group fighting for a Hindu Tamil homeland in the northeast of Sri Lanka. The traditionally Buddhist, Sinhalese majority has shown no willingness to relinquish control, and a bloody and asymmetrical civil war has raged over the past 25 years, with atrocities committed on both sides as the Tamils struggle for recognition and the Sinhalese point to the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as the existing Tamil homeland, claiming that no further land is necessary. Both sides are accused of atrocities: the Tigers pioneered the technique of suicide bombing, regularly target civilians, conscript child soldiers, and are accused of human smuggling, piracy, drug-running, and extortion; while the Sri Lankan government, for its part, is accused of killing civilians, intimidating and murdering journalists, expelling Tamils en masse from Colombo, the capital, and cutting off food and water to the mostly Tamil peninsula of Jaffna.
--Evan Sholle, Editorial Assistant