By sitting alone with ourselves, and by seeing what our minds are always doing, we begin to rediscover space, to remember that it’s possible to step off the conveyor belt and watch it go by.
Gift of a friend, the stone Buddha sits zazen,
prayer beads clutched in his chubby fingers.
Through snow, icy rain, the riot of spring flowers,
he gazes forward to the city in the distance—always
the same bountiful smile upon his portly face.
Why don’t I share his one-minded happiness?
The pear blossom, the crimson-petaled magnolia,
filling me instead with a mixture of nostalgia
and yearning. He’s laughing at me, isn’t he?
The seasons wheeling despite my photographs
and notes, my desire to make them pause.
Is that the lesson? That stasis, this holding on,
is not life? Now I’m smiling, too—the late cherry,
its soft pink blossoms already beginning to scatter;
the trillium, its three-petaled white flowers
exquisitely tinged with purple as they fall.
So, this journalist tells a joke to the Dalai Lama…
A clip from Australian TV is rapidly becoming viral. Karl Stefanovic, a TV journalist on Australia’s Today show, running out of topics in an interview with the Dalai Lama, tried to tell him a familiar Buddhism joke.
Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
Armed Buddhist monks in Thailand are not an exception to the rule; they are contemporary examples of a long historical precedence. For centuries monks have been at the helm, or armed in the ranks, of wars. How could this be the case? But more importantly, why did I (and many others) hold the belief that Buddhism=Peace (and that other religions, such as Islam, are more prone to violence)?
It was then that I realized that I was a consumer of a very successful form of propaganda. Since the early 1900s, Buddhist monastic intellectuals such as Walpola Rahula, D. T. Suzuki, and Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, have labored to raise Western awareness of their cultures and traditions. In doing so, they presented specific aspects of their Buddhist traditions while leaving out others.
You have monks taking up arms and marching in the Russo-Japanese War, or earlier messianic battles in China when they thought killing people would bring them closer to enlightenment (a Ten Stage Process). Buddhists have fought against non-Buddhists, or other Buddhists. Japanese Buddhists fought to cleanse the impure Buddhist lands in China and Korea. Thai and Burmese fought for centuries against each other, each claiming religious authority as Cakravartins. This is what the book covers.
The recent bloody violence in Sri Lanka and Thailand are but examples of this. Yes, Sri Lanka’s violence has traditionally recognized political and cultural components to it, but the Janata Vimukti Peramuna had very clear religious motivations voiced during their assassinations and calls to exterminate the LTTE.
Shaku Soen and D.T. Suzuki, along with Paul Carus, were instrumental in bringing Japanese Zen to this country. There is a long history of this, covered quite well by Verhoeven in “Americanizing the Buddha.” And lets not forget that Suzuki and his teacher Soen were at the vanguard of Japanese militarism during the Russo-Japanese and second World Wars. In Suzuki’s own words, Buddhism must protect the nation.
Walpola Rahula did the same for Sri Lankan Buddhism in the United States, and he had similar concepts of religiously justified violence in Sri Lanka.
In a way, I wish I could return to that dream of Buddhist traditions as a purely peaceful, benevolent religion that lacks mortal failures and shortcomings. But I cannot. It is, ultimately, a selfish dream and it hurts other people in the process.
Buddhist Warfare certainly contributes to the broader discussion of religious violence, but on a more intimate and local level, I hope this collection will effect some significant change in the way Buddhism is perceived in the United States. Only time will tell.
In the end, what I find odd is how we try to displace a very long and lengthy history as anecdotal or enigmatic examples of people gone awry, instead of seeing the nature of religious violence present in Buddhist traditions (as well as others)
I’m not surprised. The Buddha himself was a member of the warrior caste before becoming enlightened. What he then taught wasn’t a blanket ideology nor a social or political philosophy, but an individual path. Everyone who holds the belief Buddhism=Peace just hasn’t grasped this individualism.
In Buddhism peace and love aren’t labels you can put on with propaganda, they’re absence (of hate, violence, suffering), and to obtain this absence one has to practice everyday, Buddhist monks included.
The Dalai Lama is often criticized by his fellow countrymen - Tibetan Buddhists who want to fight for their independence - because of his non-violent approach: between the two, who would you call Buddhist?
“Don’t you dare cut a single tree to cremate me. There’s leftover firewood already gathered at my cabin. Don’t waste any cloth on cerements, take me in the clothes I die in. Spread my ashes on the azaleas that greeted me with their blooms each spring. That will be my final recompense.” Beopjeong’s last request
My uncle had the honor of translating a collection of his works, from Korean to English. :]
“Do not spend this moment in vain. These moments pile up and become a lifetime. Do not be too tense. If you are, you lose your resiliency, and then it is difficult to maintain consistency. You have to be joyful in the living of life. Everyday begin again. Again and again, wipe yourself off and raise yourself upfrom this tired old quagmire.”
Om Mani Padme Hum by Michæl Paukner
[Tibetan Buddhists believe that saying the mantra (prayer), Om Mani Padme Hum, out loud or silently to oneself, invokes the powerful benevolent attention and blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion. Viewing the written form of the mantra is said to have the same effect — it is often carved into stones and placed where people can see them.]
Peter Høeg, The Quiet Girl (2006)