quote, religous studies

Robes and Shovels: Medieval Monks Cultivated Wetlands | Ancientfoods

From the Ancientfoods weblog, this little gem from European monasteries:

“They placed these abbeys in all sorts of marginal areas to cultivate,” said study researcher Philippe De Smedt, a soil scientist at Ghent University in Belgium. In the High Middle Ages between the 12th and 14th centuries, Europe’s population was growing, De Smedt told LiveScience. Monk labor provided a solution to the crowding by making the land livable.

Indeed. Monks as agricultural pioneers is a bit of a trope through the world.

Robes and Shovels: Medieval Monks Cultivated Wetlands | Ancientfoods.


SOUNDING on Death, August 31, 2010

Some death-related links I’ve noticed in the past few weeks.

The Death Reference Desk continues to cover the controversy over the monks at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Louisana’s coffins.  Yes, their coffins.  Turns out that like most traditional monasteries, these monks have a trade, and that’s building traditional Benedictine caskets.  But the locals object.

One of the lesser-known classic blunders is trying to prevent jovial Benedictine monks, living peacefully in their Louisiana monastery, from selling hand made wooden caskets to the general public. Not unlike starting a land war in Asia or a battle of wits with a Sicilian. Stated simply, the odds aren’t that good.

Joviality aside, the objections are commercial – the monastery is not a “Funeral Establishment” which are the only establishments permitted to sell “Funeral Merchandise.”

Roadside crosses planted in memory of deceased Utah State Troopers by the state have been ruled a violation of the Establishment Cause.  This is an important ruling that, in the wake of the Mojave Cross Supreme Court Decision last year, seems destined to be overturned.

Finally, if you’re an old-school music lover, go ahead and have your cremated remains pressed into a record of your choosing. via BoingBoing


Is the Vietnamese Government Going to Try to Control Thich Huyen Quang's Funeral?

[via Danny Fisher’s blog]

Thich Huyen Quang gave up his liberty for 30 years in a quest for greater human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “His followers should be allowed to pay their last respects without government interference, at a ceremony of their own choosing.”

The UBCV plans to hold funeral services for Thich Huyen Quang on July 11 at Nguyen Thieu Monastery in Binh Dinh province. Thich Quang Do – the patriarch’s deputy, close associate, and likely successor – will preside over the ceremony. However, the Vietnamese government has already taken steps to wrest control over the funeral and the patriarch’s legacy by announcing that the proceedings will be organized by the state-sanctioned Vietnam Buddhist Church. Government-controlled media has run vitriolic denunciations of Thich Quang Do, accusing him and “extremist elements disguised as Buddhist monks” of plotting “devious schemes” to exploit the patriarch’s death for political purposes. On July 6 the state television station, VTV1, broadcast a statement saying: “Confronting the immoral actions of the Quang Do group, the students and disciples [of Thich Huyen Quang], as well as the genuine monks of Nguyen Thieu Monastery, have vehemently reacted and they are determined not to let the Quang Do group organize the funeral ceremonies.”

“The Vietnamese government is risking unnecessary confrontation with the patriarch’s followers by trying to control him in death as in life,” Adams said.

You’d think governments would have learned at this point. While an uncontrolled funeral may spiral into a situation that challenges their control, interference in a funeral is almost guaranteed to do so. see also, Katherine Verdery, The Political Lives of Dead Bodies.


Go Read the LA Times Article on Burma's Continuing Catastrophe…

I was alerted to it by New Mandala, which in turn was made aware of it by a reader of theirs. That reader summed up the article nicely:

The article seems credible, the reporter pretty thorough, the LA Times fairly reputable. If the same content were on a rebellious blog site, it would be almost unbelievable, incomprehensible, but my opinion is that this reporter is working hard to report what is actually going on.

The article itself outdoes that description. There are references to attempts to glean the odd red chile pepper or onion out of mud stinking of corpses, and for comfortable computer users who dislike unnecessary drama, it can be appealing to assume that this is mostly emotional reportage. On the other hand, consider the level of devastation wrought by Nargis in Burma, compounded by Burma’s insane rulers and their refusal to allow people to help survivors directly, and the mounting public health crisis, and this seems thoroughly reasonable.

The article is also notable for reporting on the clandestine (and apparently rather effective) aid efforts organized by heroic monks. Here’s a relevant quote on that front, but please go read the original article here.: Continue reading


Bullets in the Alms Bowl

Buddhist Chaplain Danny Fisher blogged this, (via via via)

This via Digital Dharma: the Human Rights Documentation unit of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma has released a report entitled Bullets in the Alms Bowl: An Analysis of the Brutal SPDC Suppression of the September 2007 Saffron Revolution. The executive summary states:

    This report is based upon the detailed testimonies of over 50 eyewitnesses to the demonstrations and the SPDC’s brutal response. Human Rights Documentation Unit (HRDU) researchers have interviewed monks, activists and civilians who were involved in the protests, many of whom have subsequently fled Burma out of fear for their safety, while a network of researchers working clandestinely inside Burma have interviewed a number of those who have gone into hiding but remained within the country. The information gathered from these interviews has been supplemented by reports from various independent organizations and credible news sources. Together, they provide insight into a campaign of brutality, the intended design of which was antithetical to the very foundations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and serve to contextualize the protests and their suppression within the general practice of SPDC governance.

You can download the entire report here


More Tim Sakhorn News

With Ven. Tep Vong continuing to insist that the defrocking of Tim Sakhorn was done in accordance with Buddhist discipline, the location of the disappeared former monk remains an issue of grave concern. Although Vietnam denies that they have issued him with a visa, others claim to have knowledge that he is alive and being held in a Vietnamese prison, or in a Khmer prison in Takeo province.