Buddhism in Thailand and Sri Lanka is finding new support and interest because of the relief role played by the religion during and after the tsunami, according to Harvard Divinity Bulletin (Spring).
The success of the relief effort during the tsunami was due to the consistent support provided by the Buddhist monks. Temples became makeshift hospitals and then the “backbone of the relief effort,” writes Blaine Johnson. The monks, with their belief in the transitory nature of life, were prepared for the “uninviting task of handling decomposed corpses.“ The monks have also provided counseling to victims.
The response of the Buddhist monks has “renewed many Buddhists’ faith in the importance of the sangha (monk community) as the center of the Thai community. In both Thailand and Sri Lanka, the success of Buddhist involvement in the tsunami relief effort has led to a surge of interest among Buddhists to engage their faith in relief and development work,” Johnson adds. An international conference is being held in Sri Lanka in late spring to discuss the formation of a Buddhist equivalent to the Red Cross and the Red Crescent.
(Harvard Divinity Bulletin, 45 Francis Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138)