We look back on the biggest Buddhist news from 2016.
The Dalai Lama made many of the biggest Buddhist news stories of 2016. His Holiness published op-eds in The Washington Post and The New York Times, calling for compassion and recognition of our shared humanity. In the face of China’s increasing efforts to undermine the Dalai Lama, the editorial board of The Guardian called on leaders around the world to show respect for His Holiness. And, in May, he launched an “Atlas of Emotions” with psychologist Paul Ekman.
The Dalai Lama created the online “Atlas of Emotions” with psychologist Paul Ekman. https://t.co/dSO4ut5JC7
— Lion's Roar (@LionsRoar) June 30, 2016
Elsewhere in the Buddhist world, Australia opened its first Buddhist burial grounds. San Francisco Pride named Buddhist teacher Larry Yang its marshall. The first class of female Tibetan monastics graduated with Geshema degrees (the highest level of training in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism). Buddhist Jazz giants Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter published an open letter to young artists, urging them to let go of ego. According to the Huffington Post, Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change credited Thich Nhat Hanh with “having played a pivotal role in helping her to develop the strength, wisdom and compassion needed to forge” the Paris Climate Agreement.
But it wasn’t all good news. After becoming the head of Myanmar, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Buddhist Aung San Suu Kyi quickly came under fire for alleged complicity in the ethnic cleansing of Burmese Muslims. A wildfire in California destroyed Anam Thubten’s center, Sweetwater Sanctuary. A Thai monastery was destroyed by arsonists.
In June, we learned that China had ordered half of the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist institute be demolished, and for over 5,000 monastics to be relocated. The institute, Larung Gar, is a hub of Tibetan Buddhism and the center for multiple progressive Buddhist initiatives. In the fall, the Chinese government forced the evicted monastics to sign a pledge never to return.
The government-enforced evictions of monks and nuns at Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in eastern Tibet are underway. https://t.co/pO6U6hcW6n
— Lion's Roar (@LionsRoar) November 1, 2016
At moments of tragedy, Buddhists stepped in to offer wisdom and solidarity. In a post on Lion’s Roar after the shooting in Orlando, Peter Coyote asked the question “How do we as Buddhists relate to evil with compassion?” Many more Buddhist teachers spoke out with words of wisdom after the tragedy, and we collected many of their responses.
"Am I right now cultivating a world of love or hate?" https://t.co/4iG2po1vca
— Lion's Roar (@LionsRoar) June 13, 2016
The next month, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were shot and killed by police, prompting anguish and outrage. Buddhist teachers decried the violence and called for compassionate action. Pema Chödrön made a powerful statement, saying “It has finally really gotten through to me how dangerous it is to be black in America.”
When Donald Trump won the presidency on November 8, the overwhelming response from Buddhist communities was fear and anger. On Lion’s Roar, we published a collection of Buddhist teacher’s responses to the election, which quickly became our most popular article of all time. We also collected teachers’ words of wisdom, solidarity, and even loss from across social media.
"It’s OK to freak out, grieve, and vent for a while. Then we can get back to work, as always, for the good." https://t.co/PgujHkyEHW
— Lion's Roar (@LionsRoar) November 9, 2016
In the following days, we published more teachings and responses, including Pablo Das’s powerful call to action. “I love you, Western Buddhism,” writes Das, “but as a gay man I find your lack of urgency in the wake of the election disturbing.”
In Obama’s final year as president, he paid tribute to Buddhism multiple times. First, he told an interviewer that he keeps a small Buddha statue in his pocket. Then, he issued a letter to salute the Buddhist holiday Vesak. In an address in Vietnam, he quoted Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, and in Laos, he highlighted the strength of Buddhist faith.
Obama keeps a little Buddha in his pocket. @POTUS https://t.co/eGLOsNbjUu pic.twitter.com/07VkVO0QF5
— Lion's Roar (@LionsRoar) January 18, 2016
Stay tuned for more news next year. To keep up-to-date, like us on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter.