Buddha Buzz Weekly: Health Insurance for Monks

The Sri Lankan government announces an insurance program specifically for Buddhist monks, Buddhist studies professors participate in a scholar strike, and Sea-Tac airport gets a meditation room. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Emily DeMaioNewton and Karen Jensen Sep 12, 2020

Buddha Buzz Weekly: Health Insurance for MonksBuddhist monks attend the inaugural session of the new parliament, in Colombo, Sri Lanka on August 20. | REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.

Sri Lanka Will Fund Health Insurance for Buddhist Monks

The Sri Lankan government announced that it will launch a health insurance program for the 15,000 Buddhist monks in the country, the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA) reported on Wednesday. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said the money will come from the government-run Buddha Sasana Fund, which supports Buddhists in the country. Sri Lanka also plans to reduce the age limit for medical fees and care provided to Buddhist monks, and hostel-like “rest houses” attached to Buddhist temples will no longer charge fees. But the new benefits do not extend to leaders in other religious traditions. Physical and ideological clashes between Buddhist nationalists and people of religious minorities have become more common in Sri Lanka in recent years, so much so that a state of emergency was declared in 2018. “It would be very helpful if we also had such [a health insurance] scheme since we have not saved such money as we get older and fall sick. Our only hope is that our faithful will take care of us,” a Hindu priest from northeast Sri Lanka told UCA News. 

Seattle Airport Building New Prayer and Meditation Room

After four years of persuasion by a group of Buddhist, Muslim, and other religious leaders, the Seattle Tacoma International Airport will build an improved prayer and meditation room, the Northwest Dharma Association reported last month. At 370 square feet, the room will feature three meditation alcoves with space for one person to sit cross-legged inside each. It will also include a shoe rack, cushions, chairs, and an arrow on the ceiling pointing toward Mecca so Muslims know which direction to face to pray. Funding for the room comes from a one-million- dollar item in the airport’s budget, which also covers the building of an attached “sensory room” for travelers seeking quiet. 

Buddhist Studies Professors Participate in Scholar Strike 

With the intention to shine a light on racial injustice in the United States, at least 5,000 faculty members at universities around the country engaged in a “scholar strike” on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, Religion News Service reported. Participants included a number of Buddhist studies professors, who recorded video lectures and posted resources on social media as part of the strike’s objective to provide teaching resources to students and the general public. Adeana McNicholl, professor of Religious Studies at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University, posted a Twitter thread calling on fellow scholars of Buddhism to remind their students of the “imperialist history of our field” and included links to books and articles about racism in North American Buddhism.

In case you missed it: here are notable stories from the Buddhist world this week. 

In light of growing criticism by human rights groups and others of Disney’s new live-action film Mulan (based on the 1996 animated film), Tibetan news site High Peaks Pure Earth shared an article chronicling depictions of Tibet in Western children’s media.  A Buddhist nun Ketumala defies expectations—and gender norms—in Myanmar.  A study publishes new information about coronavirus superspreader events gleaned from an incident in late January, when a group of lay Buddhists traveled by bus to a temple ceremony in the Chinese city of Ningbo.  Myanmar soldiers speak about the Rohingya genocide. Shots are fired, tension increases at the India-China border.

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Original author: Emily DeMaioNewton
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