Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On 仁 and rudeness based on perceived difference

The Confucian notion of 仁 - close enough to Buddhist compassion here - can lead one to understand why a) I need to model 仁  in my day to day life, b) nobody should use rudeness towards them as a reason to escalate conflict, and  c) those who have been harmed and inclined towards rudeness and abusiveness, especially on matters of difference between  groups of people are not exempt from manifesting 仁 - they have an added burden to cultivate the expression of  仁 but they are not exempt.

I can't seem to find the quote on line verbatim and you can look it up yourself.  The quote I'm looking for is from the movie Ip Man,  where in an off-camera soliloquy before fighting General Mura, Ip Man explains why he won't teach the Japanese 詠春券.  The quote goes something to the effect of, "Although martial arts involve armed force, the Chinese martial arts are Confucian in sprit. The virtue of kung fu is benevolence. You Japanese will never understand the principle of treating others as you would yourself because you abuse military power. You turn it into violence and oppress others. You don't deserve to learn Chinese martial arts."

There is a real and profound truth to the claim that the point of 功夫 is benevolence - 仁 as would be rendered in Japanese and Chinese.  It just simply is not possible to practice or use 詠春券 if one is hostile and tense.

Benevolence as meant here is more or less a term from Confucianism  but, at least to me, at least in English,  it is very close to the concept of loving-kindness (慈, じ ), and my on-line dictionary lists 慈悲心 (じひしん) as synonymous with benevolence.  Buddhism came to China after Confucianism became established, and perhaps this explains why  仁 is more associated with Confucianism than Buddhism and concerning the relative differences between Confucian 仁 and  Buddhist 慈悲心 suffice to say that there are such differences, but it's not really the main subject here, and for our intent we can say they're close enough. Also I note in passing there has been historically some friction between Confucian adherents and Buddhist adherents in China (visit Qufu, Confucius' home town for more) which is only to say that nobody's particularly close or far from the angels here.  So perhaps being rude to both traditions as only someone without enough knowledge can be I will consider  仁 and  Buddhist 慈悲心  close enough  to render either as benevolence.

The structure of the character 仁 though is interesting, and is like many characters in that its radical (人, the character for person) has the same pronunciation  as the character itself. The rest of  仁 might be taken to be the character for two.  Person - two, two people,  Wikipedia notes though that while it's tempting to  consider 仁 is about people together it's about humaneness as well as benevolence.  Wikipedia explains:

人+二=仁 (rén) man on left two on right, the relationship between two human beings, means humanity, benevolence, seed. Originally the character was just written as丨二 representing yin yang, the vertical line is yang (male, penis, heaven, odd numbers), the two horizontal lines are yin (female, vagina, earth, even numbers), 仁 is the seed and core of everything. The character 人 (man, rén) and 仁 have the same pronunciation. When a human is unable to be humane, he or she does not qualify to be a human but an animal. But when a human is able to be humane, for example, when Buddhism first introduced to China in the Han Dynasty the Chinese people translated the Buddha's name into "able to be human" or someone with ”ability and humanity" (能人,能仁) because Confucius's teachings and Buddha's teachings are "one to two, two to one."

 The Wikipedia goes further in its discussion of 仁 in Confucian teaching; from the Wikipedia article (仁 is romanized from Mandarin as rén):

Rén relies heavily on the relationships between two people, but at the same time encompasses much more than that. It represents an inner development towards an altruistic goal, while simultaneously realizing that one is never alone, and that everyone has these relationships to fall back on, being a member of a family, the state, and the world.[9]
Rén is not a concept that is learned; it is innate, that is to say, everyone is born with the sense of Rén. Confucius believed that the key to long-lasting integrity was to constantly think, since the world is continually changing at a rapid pace.
There have been a variety of definitions for the term Rén. Rén has been translated as "benevolence", "perfect virtue", "goodness" or even "human-heartedness".[10] When asked, Confucius defined it by the ordinary Chinese word for love, ai, saying that it meant to "love others".[11]
Rén also has a political dimension. Confucianism says that if the ruler lacks Rén, it will be difficult for his subjects to behave humanely. Rén is the basis of Confucian political theory; the ruler is exhorted to refrain from acting inhumanely towards his subjects. An inhumane ruler runs the risk of losing the Mandate of Heaven or, in other words, the right to rule. A ruler lacking such a mandate need not be obeyed, but a ruler who reigns humanely and takes care of the people is to be obeyed, for the benevolence of his dominion shows that he has been mandated by heaven. Confucius himself had little to say on the active will of the people, though he believed the ruler should definitely pay attention to the wants and needs of the people and take good care of them. Mencius, however, did state that the people's opinion on certain weighty matters should be polled.
Rén also includes traits that are a part of being righteous, such as hsin, meaning to make one's words compliment his actions; li, which means to properly participate in everyday rituals; ching, or "seriousness"; and yi, which means right action. When all these qualities are present, then one can truly be identified as a chün tzu (君子), or "superior man," which means a morally superior human being. Confucians basically held the view that government should be run by ethically superior human beings who concentrate solely on the welfare of the people they govern.

I think one can see the differences with Buddhism  are in spirit not much - 仁  being innate is one aspect of Confucian philosophy that seems different from Buddhism.  On the other hand there are people who appear to be truly pathological narcissists but at any rate, from a Buddhist perspective, doing a little bit of violence to the concepts, I  think it stands that one should cultivate 仁 to be able to be a human being.

Wikipedia also states that the parental love for a child is among the purest manifestations of 仁 .

Now that I've put forth how I'm using 仁 and its notions I'd like to point to related series of thoughts I've seen in discussions on perceived difference:

  • It's unrealistic to expect that someone who has been harmed by another is going to be voluntarily  polite to that person.
  • Some people generalize this concept to classes of people.
  • And generalizing this lack of politeness to a perceived dominant class of people is justified because of past acts by members of a dominant class of people
  • And if questioned those who employ a lack of politeness toward the perceived dominant class of people the rejoinder, "I learned not to complain when it's done to me, so why are you complaining?" or some such thing.
  • If this sequence is even politely remonstrated against  or the behavior's  ineffectiveness logically pointed out one might be called  the name "tone police" as an attempt to distract from the rudeness.
  • And some people from supporters of the dominant class will use this to "prove" that "they" are "racist", "sexist" or whatever.

Now let me consider these points in light of 仁 :

  • 仁  has often been expressed as "not doing to others what you wouldn't want done to yourself." While it may be unrealistic to expect that one demonstrate 仁 towards a perceived oppressor, the expression of 仁 itself is an expression of freedom from oppression.   To be able to express 仁  in the face of a perceived difference in power or social standing is truly the mark of a person of accomplishment, and such a person is able to achieve much in this world; bringing much of the world along with them. 
  • On line I have seen some real abuse directed towards people who have experience more oppression as a perceived member of a dominant class than some members of some "underclasses" might ever receive. 
  • The above point, notice applies to behavior towards a perceived harming person or a class of people.   Like most people, I've been one of those harmed people.  It's had an effect on me.  But point is, to be able to act from 仁  in spite of being harmed is really to act from a position of more fundamentally human power than any oppressor can ever cook up.
  • As a Buddhist, I think 仁  needs to be taught and modeled, and is innate to the same degree in everyone.  I think though some have not been taught that.   What I'm saying here applies ten-fold to myself: I need to model 仁  better in my interactions with people.  
The last two points really sum it up for what I'm trying  to express here: the harm done to one's self or group should be the basis of the germination of a seed of compassion which we - I especially - have an obligation to  cultivate the expression of  仁 in my day to day dealings with people.

Now I haven't even touched the subject of how this relates to the expression of Buddhist right speech, but rather considered such speech from the aspects of precious metal rules.  The reason I approached it this way had to do with some particularly harsh on-line speech I'd seen from an avowed Buddhist, which involved a denigration of Confucian ideals mixed in with rudeness directed towards individual  members of perceived dominant classes.  In another case I saw though, an attack on a person in relatively dire straits was met with hostility and a complete lack of empathy.

Such people have every right to be impotent and ineffective, and perfect entitlement to be rude and even express hostility towards members of dominant classes. Such people have a right to ignore what others - such as me - would point out is an ethical oblgation here.

But being having a right to do something does not make it wise to do it, and does not demonstrate any kind of skill in dealing with people.  Or as John Lennon put it, "If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/ you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow."  Or, as the scriptwriter for Ip Man would put it,  activists who do not understand and practice the principle of treating others as they would themselves abuse the notions of activism and liberation, and  turn those notions into violence and oppression of others. Such folks desperately need to  learn the true meaning and practice  of  功夫 and 仁, and will marginalize themselves.

People like me don't need to do anything if people like them are attacking me - they are attacking only themselves. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Once upon a time I was going to write a book called "Why the revolution hasn't come"

It's name was taken from the title of a show on WBAI a long time ago, hosted early Saturday mornings by a guy named Simon Loekle.   The show morphed into "As I Please," which was very literature-centric.

Ah that was then.

I knew why the revolution hadn't come: the revolution hadn't come because the revolution was a manifestation, a projection of what we thought we were lacking in ourselves.  What I didn't see is why the revolution hadn't come was what I was not seeing and living from in my own life; or to put it another way, we included me.  And I certainly couldn't put in motion anything like a revolution because it wasn't operative in my own life. The revolution happens when the Wheel turns.  If you are personally stuck no wheel is turning.

Emma Goldman might not have said, "If I can't dance, it's not my revolution!" Apparently she did say,  "I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things."  But it's not clear that her revolution ever really came.

Somehow, somewhere along the way I lived a life and met some remarkable people, and somehow somewhere along the way I actually did participate in a revolution, and you may have benefited from my participation in that revolution.

Some folks are still stuck.  Some folks may not know what Mazu was talking about, and think that cultivation is unnecessary.  Some folks may be too concerned with polishing a tile or not polishing a tile.  It's possible to get stuck in the notion that you're complete as you are without X, because it seems so good, right, on the side of the angels.   But of course having that expression is still attachment.  And what I wrote is still attachment.  Take the I out, or replace it with you or some other noun; play Mad-Libs with it, and it's still 90º off target.

I don't know about anyone else (though I have conjectures), but as for me, the encounter with my own suffering, and the idea that this suffering could be everyone's (see last paragraph) was useful for me to get beyond that. And beyond that is something wonderful.  

There is a heck of a lot of suffering out there.  Some people are in a particularly difficult place; they feel (often with justification) that they have been marginalized, and feel impotent to act with those who are seen as marginalizers.   

The revolution comes when the First Noble Truth is begun to be apprehended.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Alliance, from a European-Descended Male Buddhist Perspective...

First, I'd put other qualifiers in if I could...but I can't, because I don't think I can abide those other qualifiers frankly, whatever they are.  I really can't.  And that's a subject for a whole other post dealing with leftist moral panics. And I'll use the term "European-descended" here because I think it's  a) more accurate, and b) is not based on outward appearances leading to a dualism.  I haven't even started writing this and I'm digressing.  I'm like that.

In the course of recent social media discussions on gender and ethnicity,  and what seems to be to me to be characteristic of what has been called a moral panic,  I came across this article by Rachel Safeek, which I found rather helpful to engage in a conversation.  I am grateful to her for a reasoned view of the situation.  I have stated earlier that I am ready, willing and able to ally with those who are ready to empower themselves, and will offer help if needed based on what I've learned.  I have also said to her that I would have more comments, so here goes.

Rachel writes:

When members of minority/oppressed groups call out allies for being insensitive, overshadowing minority groups, or overlooking certain things because of their privilege, allies can oftentimes become offended and get defensive...

It happens - it has happened in my case - that despite my background, and my immersion into Asian society and culture (maybe more than some of my critics; I can point out sexism in the structure of  East Asian languages some of them can't read, and I've probably lived in Asia longer than they have ), and other things (see my reservations about other qualifiers), that I've been reduced to a category.  In fact, I was reduced to a category into which I can't rightly put myself, in fact.

Sorry, but that is offensive.   

I note with understanding that of course I have been the recipient of privilege.  But I also note that I have been marginalized, as have people in my family.

Rachel tweeted:

I agree with the profound importance of listening.  Listening is hard work. Let me repeat that: Listening is hard work.  Whether you read what someone is saying or listen to what someone is speaking you should listen in the same sense that you might "listen" to fine incense.  It's the only way peace and harmony can be approached. I'm being serious as a heart attack here.

Now let me say something else: Nobody, but nobody, is exempt from listening.

If you, as  a relatively privileged group are not listening, of course you will offend the less privileged group, hurt them, hurt yourself, propagate division, give fodder to rightists who want to continue the game and thus be extremely counterproductive.   But if you as a rightly perceived less privileged group are not listening to someone you believe is from a more privileged group, and you respond with a mapping of that person to the "Other," you're no better than those to whom you're trying to ... to what? To get them to convince you to join them in a fight for equality? OK, let's say that. just might be that your supposition is wrong.  There are so, so many variables that might demolish one's preconceptions about things.

I was aghast at some of the things I was reading on Twitter recently; a complete ignorance of how, for example,  at least one of the (IIRC)  #notyourasiansidekick tweets might be seen by Asians who were adopted or have step-parentage of European-descended folks.   This is not theoretical; being in my position in society I know some of them well.  That was disgusting, and there's no sugar coating or justifying it.  They are part of the oppressed too.

I was also aghast at how some of the situations I've dealt with first hand were dismissed as irrelevant, which I've had to respond to facts on the ground first hand,  were minimized; these were situations involving my wife and son and mother in - law.  I don't need to be given a primer or lecture on how "insensitive" I am to certain groups frankly, when I have fought for them (with at least one success)  against the strongest political force on earth, and they're doing... what, "hashtag activism?"

On the other hand, there are ethnic groups, for whom I have not had nearly enough interaction and sensitivity...until recently.  But with regard to that, let me put it this way: I think some of those hashtag activists would have a real epiphany  practicing a sparring-centered martial art with an African American or Latino.  I have, and when I did I realized how profoundly deep my own inclinations to  racism are, and how profoundly important it is to overcome it, and how grateful I was to have a space where I could practice overcoming it.

I have spoken before as well that I have been "in-between" in some way or another, excluded some way or another, all my life.   Yeah, I've been privileged,  but marginalization is ubiquitous.  Reification of people who are perceived as privileged to ethnic classes categories, and using denigrating language to describe such people is harmful; it's harmful to all, and it's harmful to overcoming oppression.   If someone wants to overcome oppression I can help, but if someone's engaging in (especially unwarranted)  personal attacks they're not achieving their objective.  To put it politely, they're wasting their lives.  We should be working towards overcome oppression, rather than reifying others.

Like I said, I will gladly ally myself with anyone willing to consider and study themselves, to cultivate themselves to develop the power and skill to help themselves and others. And I will help if asked, and I won't provide help if not asked.  If one wants to ignore people because of perception, or disconfirm or mystify people because of their perception as being in a category, they are hurting us all, and (preview of future post) engaging in a leftist moral panic about it only plays into the hands of the real problem.   It is foolish and disempowering to think that listening is a one way street.  It sure as hell is not.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The 道 of patriarchy, whiteness and privilege

Warning: This post may contain ideas that are not what people want to read.  I apologize in advance,  and am willing to revise my views, but not out of coercion.  I'm nobody's guilt-ridden white liberal. 

I, like many people of European descent, come from a background of privilege, compared to people of color, and African Americans especially, though it certainly does not seem like it on a day to day basis.   

But compared to any other number of groups I'm in and depending on the time and place, I'm not privileged at all (e.g., being an American in a foreign country).    And because I am married to a woman of Asian descent, well I'm in an interesting place.  Sometimes in the in-between place nobody will have you.   I have heard remarks from European-descended people that were as rude as things I've read from those of Asian descent.  I have seen and been collaterally involved with racial profiling, but there are those who would deny me a voice, even when it's my immediate family involved.  That, by the way will not happen, whatever your politics, class, identity group or whatever. 
Call it a vestige of patriarchy if you will, but the instinct to protect one's family is primal.   And if you minimize overlook, or are in any way involved in anything that hurts my family, whether it's some random fool on a social network on the United States government,  I will speak and act appropriately. 

But there is privilege, and it really can't be denied. Being born at a particular time, working in a particular field, and being reasonably successful at that has improved my lot financially.  I have been involved in technologies that changed the world.   But privilege is distributed like wealth, and put in those ways (and much of wealth is privilege).

Sometimes in the in-between place nobody will have you.  My parents grew up poor in the Great Depression, and I was raised as though we were poor, even though we were not.   Both my parents, despite being descended from Europeans, were discriminated against by groups with self-perceived higher social standing, and by "higher social standing" I mean the class of folks that only years before had its members perish in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

My parents would have made excellent Reagan Democrats, except for the fact that  they were too right-wing to have ever been Democrats in the  first place.

My parents' privilege had to do with a confluence of things, not the least of which was America's opportunism in World War II,  civil rights and Communist revolutions, etc. etc.   They worked hard and suffered and would never have used the term "privileged" to describe themselves.

Much of my life has been a response to all of this, especially as I, a middle child, an ethnic minority white person in an all-white school,  has been in-between for pretty much my whole life.  And yes, yes, yes, I've seen some of the horrors of class and divisiveness and marginalization, things I can't talk about here, but suffice it to say I've seen the effects of marginalization of people of color, sexual minorities,  and known people who were affected, and have been on a first-name basis with a few of them.  And, as for me, I have not always been privileged with wealth myself;   I have been in my own financial state rather precarious for a while.  I was unemployed for the better part of a year while in graduate school with bills piling up and no health insurance.

Anybody who tries to deny, marginalize mystify or disconfirm my experience does the same, in part to their own experience, and holds themselves down as a result.  

I also, from my life's experience am firmly committed to acknowledging that yes, there is privilege or lack of it due to ethnic background, and this privilege should be subverted and deconstructed, but in a way that, like good 功夫, moves with the forces of things, not to reinforce power structures that exist, but to erode them.  ("Be like water my friend.")  And yes, to do that one needs a certain amount of power one's self - it's not for nothing that the 功 in 功夫 contains the character 力, which means "power," "strength," "proficiency," and "ability."

I wish for all to develop 功夫, without regard to status, gender,  class, rank, or any other category.   But I cannot - nobody can - help all to develop 功夫 without developing it myself, without cultivating 気 and hence 力 myself.  Nobody can help others if one is powerless, and nobody who is trying to cultivate such in the service of all beings has anything for which to apologize.

So here's a few points on the 道 of patriarchy, whiteness and privilege:

  • Privilege exists, especially the privilege of being descended from Europeans, at least in the current era.   Those who have it have a moral obligation to do what they can to help others, and to change the system to help others, if they give a damn about helping all beings transcend suffering.  And that includes the erosion of privilege so that more people can help other people.
  • Nearly everyone is marginalized somehow.  Some people who you might put into class ethno-demographic or other boxes might have suffered  tremendously, and you just might know about from superficial interactions. And as a result one should strive to treat all without regard to rank but as you would be treated, you who are like a prince that was denied his kingdom, if I'm referencing Blaise Pascal correctly.
  • Patriarchy exists, and it exists in a Confucian form amongst Asian cultures that Europeans might not recognize as such.  
  • Privilege is truly is like a 太极 - everyone has some in some in some areas and contexts, and even the most privileged can and are marginalized from time to time.  Nobody consciously created that, but despite that structure we're obligated to help others.
Much of this is impermanent, to say the least:  For much of recorded history Europeans were highly marginalized.   But this is the way things are now.

If you think you are marginalized, disempowered, and unprivileged, you'd do well to consider and study yourself, to cultivate yourself to develop the power and skill to help yourself and others.   I will gladly ally myself with anyone committed to that, but alliance is a two way street; it's not capitulation, and I can't compromise what in my conscience is the best way I'm learning to help others.   And this isn't theoretical.  It's the way things get done.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

座禅 hiatus...

I have had to try to move my practice to other areas of my life, as "sitting zen" has been a problem for me of late, since it was extremely painful to set in any of the positions for a long time.  Yes, including a chair.

I have now had surgery to repair a torn meniscus.  It is amazing that this is a relatively straightforward operation these days (costing about as much as a first class intercontinental air fare, in case you're interested).  Hopefully within a few weeks I'll be right as rain.

If you have such  an operation  it gives that whole merit thing a whole new perspective.  Look, if you can sit, great.  If you can penetrate through the Great Matter, great.  But don't pretend that any merit you'd gain this way is better than those for whom such effort is a real tribulation because of physical limitations or economic limitations or family commitments.  It just isn't.

There is a Great Matter to be penetrated, there is a world hurting  to be in the midst of a practice of deep love and compassion, but please don't pretend your practice is better than any greedy person's shiny new toys bought with alienated labor, because you're just making that practice into a shiny new toy.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Rape Culture and Right Conduct, Continued...

Now, recently an "open letter from Dylan Farrow" appeared in the NY Times.  It was accompanied by an op-ed from Nicholas Kristof, whom I quote thusly:

Look, none of us can be certain what happened. The standard to send someone to prison is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but shouldn’t the standard to honor someone be that they are unimpeachably, well, honorable?
Yet the Golden Globes sided with Allen, in effect accusing Dylan either of lying or of not mattering. That’s the message that celebrities in film, music and sports too often send to abuse victims.
“I know it’s ‘he said, she said,’ ” Dylan told me. “But, to me, it’s black and white, because I was there.”
I asked her why she’s speaking out now. She said she wants to set the record straight and give courage to victims: “I was thinking, if I don’t speak out, I’ll regret it on my death bed.”
These are extremely tough issues, and certainty isn’t available. But hundreds of thousands of boys and girls are abused each year, and they deserve support and sensitivity. When evidence is ambiguous, do we really need to leap to our feet and lionize an alleged molester?

Just how far do we wish to take this argument?  

So far much of the comment around the 'net that I've heard is about "if you question Dylan's story you're for rape culture."   I myself see the situation differently: if you don't put things in the right perspective about issues like this you might be enabling rape culture because you might be trivializing  justice itself.

But let's go back to Kristof's question: When there are allegations just how do you treat a person?  

We have, shortly after Kristof's op-ed appeared, there was an article in the Daily Beast from a guy who might be considered a friend of Woody Allen, who brings up a lot of relevant things (and some irrelevant things) related to these allegations that didn't make it into Kristof's column.  I quote thusly:

A brief but chilling synopsis of the accusation is as follows: On August 4, 1992, almost four months after the revelation about Woody and Soon-Yi’s relationship understandably ignited a firestorm within the Farrow household, Woody was visiting Frog Hollow, the Farrow country home in Bridgewater, Connecticut, where Mia and several of her kids were staying. During an unsupervised moment, Woody allegedly took Dylan into the attic and, shall we say, “touched her inappropriately.” Later in the day, it was alleged that the child was wearing her sundress, but that her underpants were missing. The following day, Mia’s daughter allegedly told her mother what had happened, and Mia put the child’s recounting of the story on videotape as evidence...

Let’s back up a bit: Mia’s allegations of molestation automatically triggered a criminal investigation by the Connecticut State Police, who brought in an investigative team from the Yale-New Haven Hospital, whose six-month long inquiry (which included medical examinations) concluded that Dylan had not been molested. I’ve since read a recurring canard that Woody “chose” the investigative team. Yet nobody has suggested how or why Mia’s team would ever outsource the investigation to a team “chosen” by Woody. Others have said that the investigators talked to psychiatrists “on Allen’s payroll” before letting him off the hook. The only way I can explain this is that the investigators, naturally, would have spoken with Woody’s shrinks before giving him a clean bill of health. So technically, yeah, Woody’s shrinks would have been paid a lot of money by Woody over the years. (Let’s even call it an annuity.) The same would be true of his dentist, his eye doctor, and his internist. 
As for the evidentiary videotape of young Dylan’s claims, it’s been noted that there were several starts and stops in the recording, essentially creating in-camera “edits” to the young girl’s commentary. This raises questions as to what was happening when the tape wasn’t running. Was Mia “coaching” her daughter off-camera, as suggested by the investigators? Mia says no—she merely turned the camera on whenever Dylan starting talking about what Daddy did. Maybe we should take Mia at her word on this. Since I wasn’t there, I think it’s good policy not to presume what took place. 
The videotape and the medical exams weren’t the only problems Mia faced in bringing abuse charges against her former lover. There were problems with inconsistencies in her daughter’s off-camera narrative as well. A New York Times article dated March 26, 1993, quotes from Mia’s own testimony, during which she recalled taking the child to a doctor on the same day as the alleged incident. Farrow recalled, “I think (Dylan) said (Allen) touched her, but when asked where, she just looked around and went like this,” at which point Mia patted her shoulders. Farrow recalls she took Dylan to another doctor, four days later. On the stand, Allen’s attorney asked Mia about the second doctor’s findings: “There was no evidence of injury to the anal or vaginal area, is that correct?” Farrow answered, “Yes.”
I won't go into the more irrelevant details of Robert B. Weide's piece I've quoted; but I think this information above is relevant to the question Mr. Kristof asks.  Let's slightly reframe Kristof's question: When there are allegations as well as exculpatory evidence  just how do you treat a person?  

Mr. Kristof apparently gave a forum to someone who might have been coached to the point where to this day she truly believes events took place that didn't happen.   (And no that doesn't make her a liar; it merely makes her possibly mistaken*.)   Mr. Kristof did not go into any detail about the exculpatory evidence that exists, and pointed out that he is not an impartial observer.   Mr. Kristof's behavior in some ways is more clear-cut in terms of its professional implications than the question Kristof asked, as it goes to journalistic  ethics, though it is an opinion piece.   Should Mr. Kristof give back his awards?   Frankly I think he should do that for his pro-sweatshop writing.  The fact that the context of events like the McMartin preschool affair are left out to me is damning though.  

It has been considered ethical in our society where there are allegations and exculpatory evidence that we don't treat a person as though they committed a crime.  So most readers of this blog would agree that Edward Snowden not be charged with a crime.  Edward Snowden of course is a far more attractive figure than Woody Allen, and I for one am not all that enamored with Hollywood awards.  

To answer Mr. Kristof's question though, if someone loses a civil case, in which allegations of criminal acts aren't developed into findings of fact, it seems morally questionable to sanction such a person in their career.   Right conduct would be to demonstrate graciousness towards them.   I wouldn't necessarily give such a person an award though, especially one who has not really had an impact outside of New York and Hollywood for decades.

Everyone I have quoted here, and myself included, is against the alleged crimes committed.  We differ in how the evidence is viewed and presented.

It does not enable rape culture to point out exculpatory evidence in cases where sexual abuse has been alleged.  Rather, I would submit, to ignore exculpatory evidence would enable rape culture more, as it would minimize those cases where there isn't exculpatory evidence - because it creates an equivalence between the two classes of cases!

So no, I wouldn't have given Mr. Allen an award, and I wouldn't have published Mr. Kristof's piece in the form it was presented, and I'd have doubts about publishing Dylan Farrow's letter without additional context.  It's probably why their public editor pointed to Mr. Weide's piece.

* This to me is one of the most potentially ghastly aspects of what I've seen written about this, and Kristof's writing.   Kristof  - and the other writers I've quoted, though Mr. Weide goes near the point - downplay in large extent the issue of the malleability of a child's mind.  See also here for more context.   The Allen - Farrow case is precisely the type of case in which it is most likely that false allegations might be made.  Kristof ought to have known this, and ought to have considered that there was a real possibility that he was not so much helping Dylan Farrow as enabling what possibly was Mia Farrow's abuse.   And again, it is to me the opposite of rape culture to bring up this point, and enables abuse culture to downplay or minimize or ignore it!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Rape Culture and Right Conduct...

I recently had a Twitter exchange with someone who I respect greatly about the whole Dylan Farrow/Woody Allen issue.  I found Woody Allen funny for many years - and still do watching his earlier movies, but that wasn't hardly the motivation  for my comments entreating a larger perspective on the issue.

It was the McMartin preschool affair that did that.

In the 1980s and 1990s, crazy things happened in the American justice system, besides the Woody Allen sexual abuse charges: Eric and Lyle Menendez, the McMartin preschool trials, the Roxanne Pulitizer divorce trial, the William Kennedy Smith rape trial,  etc., etc., leading up to the O.J. Simpson trials and finally, the Bill Clinton affair.

The thing that sticks in my mind is the McMartin preschool trial.  People paid with years of their lives for what we learned from that, and we're fools if we don't put those lessons into practice. 

The McMartin preschool trial was a day care sexual abuse case of the 1980s. Members of the McMartin family, who operated a preschool in California, were charged with numerous acts of sexual abuse of children in their care. Accusations were made in 1983. Arrests and the pretrial investigation ran from 1984 to 1987, and the trial ran from 1987 to 1990. After six years of criminal trials, no convictions were obtained, and all charges were dropped in 1990. When the trial ended in 1990 it had been the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history.[1] The case was part of day care sex abuse hysteria, a moral panic over alleged Satanic ritual abuse in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Read the whole thing...people had their lives destroyed over false testimony.  IT HAPPENS.  I, for one do not want that to happen to anyone.  More to come...

Saturday, January 25, 2014


I find it really easy to look over what some other folks are doing and say "NO THEY'RE WRONG!!!"

It's really  easy.

I see stuff on the 'net... heck this happens all the time if you read stuff on line... that really misapprehend this 公案  (kōan) or that one.  Sometimes with USDA certified "teachers" of Zen.

I see people get stuff wrong all the time...

Some folks approach on-line information and reporting by writing with facts and questions, like in this piece from Justin.  But does that style of communication help things? Mais ces gens-là sont toujours aussi ignorants que les moutons.  Obviously wrong.   Oozing Dunning-Kruger slip-on-a-bannana-peel wrong. 

(This post is not about Justin's post by the way, just in case the casual reader didn't get that. )  It might be about my reaction to a guy like Teacher X, accused and probably guilty about sexual might also be about my reaction to folks who react one way or another to Teacher X.  It might be about my reaction to the long line of hucksters that populate the "spiritual" space...or it may just be all about me - an exercise in narcissism disguised as compassion.  I hope it's not that...but it might be.

I hope it's about the finding what is the best reaction to finding wrong.  The skill in encountering wrongfulness might not be to ask a question only.   But there certainly are questions.  Among them, is, given that we find wrong,  just what do we want to do about it?   It's really easy to be attached to one's moral superiority and do something that makes us feel good or puffs us up but really doesn't address the idea of going beyond the wrongfulness. 

It's freakin' trivially easy  to find wrong in others.  Can we see it in ourselves? Can we do something about it?  Can we get  better at seeing it in ourselves and doing something about it? 

I myself need to continually keep in mind that when "NO THEY'RE WRONG!!!" goes through my mind that it should be a trigger to take a step back, and observe in a relaxed, calm manner. Then consider what,  if anything to do.  Because I'm really not very good at doing that...and I'm often rather  wrongful and wrong.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Online harassment and precepts...

And I thought... how could people be this way?  How ignorant or wounded or what could these people be to stalk someone like this?

And then I thought of the situation of  the inability of people to deal with some of the issues affecting the Buddhist community in their on-line presence; some of these incapable people are said to be teachers of Zen, too! 

I would hope that all beings experience relief and transcendence from any wrongful actions towards them, including wrongful speech.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

"-isms," narratives, and Zen Buddhism

TLDR: Sweeping Zen seems to be more personality driven than teaching and practice driven.  Moreover,  a lot of what's on that blog doesn't even seem to be informed by strong teaching and practice.  One post there by Herb Deer illustrates this, especially compared with what we know from the patriarchs.  I can't justify giving them linkshare, even if a teacher, such as Genjo Marinello might have an article there now and then.

There's been a bit of hubbub lately in the Buddhist blogosphere about the abuse of power sexually with a few zen "teachers," and what this means for "Zen Buddhism" in "the West."  Due to some of this hubbub I've decided to not promote the Sweeping Zen blog, but not for the hubbub that you might think; not for the issues I've alluded to in the past few days, although I think the post today might be identifying more of a root cause of those other posts.

The root cause is that a heck of a lot of people don't seem to be demonstrating in their verbal communication at least what Zen Buddhism is - people who seem to include some signed, sealed, and delivered "authorized" "teachers" of "Zen."  And Sweeping Zen, (a "who's who of Zen") is more personality driven than teaching and practice driven.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

I've updated the list of blogs I follow...

I realize that a couple of the blogs mentioned I wouldn't recommend to the casual visiter to this site.   I've had specific reservations - rather deep reservations about some of the stuff posted on some of the sites on my list.  I've added a couple too.  In case you didn't know, one of the ancestors of my part of the Rinzai school, Soen Shaku, spent a significant portion of time with Theravadin monks; I definitely feel an affinity to a lot of what they put forth (though not everything in all cases).  Soen Shaku, contrary to narratives of Japanese Zen adepts whose heirs and teachers reached the West, namely  Nyogen Senzaki and Ryobo-an Sokatsu  were scandal-free.

I think it's better to not promote those questionable blogs in my own way.   In two cases especially it appeared that what was being promoted was so at variance with Zen Buddhism as I've apprehended it that it's better not to promote it as a blog I recommend, even if listing it only as "one I follow." Barry Ritholtz is a more reliable Zen guide, even if he never blogs about Zen (and I recommend his writings, even when I disagree with them if you're tasked with managing your retirement).   I will probably have a more in-depth post on it later, but to make a long story short (for now), there's a lot of people that want to "make Zen better,"  and they're not doing sentient beings many favors in doing so.

You know, Buddhist blogosphere, there's a bunch of other precepts besides the sex ones...

Sexual harassment and other misuse of sexuality is unacceptable.

Speaking ill of whole classes of people is unacceptable.

In fact wrongful speech is unacceptable.

Not endeavoring to understand is unacceptable.

Misusing intoxicants is unacceptable.

Taking what's not given is unacceptable.

Mindlessly killing is unacceptable.

I haven't gotten into the good having compassion for all beings, cultivating wisdom and generosity, etc.

There's a lot more to Buddhism, and hence Zen Buddhism, than a) sitting on cushions, and b) going into internet outrages over some "reporting."

Monday, January 06, 2014

Is there a fundamental difference between your teacher and Eido Shimano? And what does that mean for our own conduct?

Beyond, of course whether one should be in a position of authority or not.  At least one of the above should not be, that would be at least the latter should not be.  Of course if your teacher by this point is Eido Shimano, you've got  bigger problems than I can address here; I would suggest an alternative.

That's not my point here, or rather everyone stipulates to the point that these sexual abusers don't belong in a position of authority.

My point is that there may be some people who think that beyond the authority question, there is a fundamental difference between Teacher X (insert your teacher here) and Eido Shimano or Sasaki etc.

Or me. Or you.  If someone's Teacher X says they are fundamentally different from Eido Shimano,  I can't imagine who would have authorized them.  If someone's Teacher X says they are not fundamentally different from Eido Shimano, then what does that say about how we conduct ourselves with regard to the wrongful behavior of Shimano?

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Right Speech, Right Livelihood, and the Exploitation of Zen Sexual Abusers for Profit and Leisure

The problem of leisure
What to do for pleasure
Ideal love a new purchase
A market of the senses
Dream of the perfect life
Economic circumstances
The body is good business
Sell out, maintain the interest
Remember Lot's wife
Renounce all sin and vice
Dream of the perfect life
This heaven gives me migraine
The problem of leisure
What to do for pleasure

Coercion of the senses
We are not so gullible
Our great expectations
A future for the good
Fornication makes you happy
No escape from society
Natural is not in it
Your relations are of power
We all have good intentions
But all with strings attached

Repackaged sex keeps your interest
Repackaged sex keeps your interest
Repackaged sex keeps your interest
Repackaged sex keeps your interest
Repackaged sex keeps your interest
Repackaged sex keeps your interest

The problem of leisure
What to do for pleasure
Ideal love a new purchase
A market of the senses
Dream of the perfect life
Economic circumstances
The body is good business
Sell out maintain the interest
Remember Lot's wife
Renounce all sin and vice
Dream of the perfect life
This heaven gives me migraine
This heaven gives me migraine
This heaven gives me migraine
                          - Gang of Four

I had an interesting exchange yesterday  regarding Sweeping Zen and whatever Adam's latest scandal du jour.  They've become Adam's scandals as much as Sasaki's or Shimano's scandals by now, because of his association with his propensity to propagate these stories.  

To what end?

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Hearing the Sutras, Proper Belief...

Nathan quotes  and comments a bit from Chapter 6 of the Diamond Sutra, and I wanted to comment on that as well.

The relevant part of Chapter 6 is:

Subhåti said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, in the future will there be living beings, who, when they hear such phrases spoken will truly believe?"

The Buddha told Subhåti, “do not speak in such a way! After the Tathàgata’s extinction, in the last five hundred years, there will be those who hold the precepts and cultivate blessings who will believe such phrases and accept them as true.

“You should know that such people will have planted good roots with not just one Buddha, two Buddhas, three, four, or five Buddhas, but will have planted good roots with measureless millions of Buddhas. All who hear such phrases and produce even one thought of pure faith are completely known and completely seen by the Tathàgata. Such living beings thus obtain measureless blessings and virtue. And why? Those living beings have no further mark of self, of others, of living beings, or of a life; no mark of dharmas and no mark of no dharmas. If living beings’ hearts grasp at marks, then that is attachment to self, to others, to living beings, and to a life. For that reason you should not grasp at dharmas, nor should you grasp at no dharmas. Regarding that principle, the Tathàgata often says, ‘all you bhikùus should know that the Dharma which I speak is like a raft. Even dharmas should be re- linquished, how much the more so no dharmas.’

The heading of the chapter I'm quoting from says "Proper Belief is Rare."  The thing about Buddhist texts is that they tend to be more mentally challenging than the monotheists' writings; there's more subtlety going on here than might meet the eye at first.  In Subhåti's  question to the Buddha,  "such phrases" mean the teaching of the Diamond Sutra itself.  Like the Lotus Sutra, it's simultaneously self-referential and pointing outside of, that is, beyond the text of the Sutra itself.   As has been commented by others,  this pointing refers to one's appropriation and manifestation of the Dharma (including lack of attachment to it) in one's own life. 

There's one other point I'll make here: the rare "proper belief" is the mindset of not being concerned about any outcome here.   Furthermore the "people who have planted good roots" are those who have belief in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, but that belief is a belief borne of observation having first taken refuge, as can be seen by reading a little further down in text I've not quoted.

But this is way too too much analysis.  It has so much analysis, that in fact what I wrote has nothing whatsoever to do meaningfully with reality.

Let me put it this way.  Consider Case 29 of the Hekigan Roku:

A monk asked Daizui,
"When the great kalpa fire is inflamed, the whole universe1 will be
destroyed. I wonder if 'that' will also be destroyed or not."
Daizui said,
The monk said,
"If so, will 'that' be gone with the other?"2
Daizui said,
"Gone with the other."

This is clearly related to the same thing mentioned in the Diamond Sutra. (For what it's worth, you can read a Sanbo Kyōdan commentary by Yamada Koun here.)

A "proper belief" mindset is one in which belief,  the question of belief,  doubt, and/or lack of doubt just doesn't arise.  It just does not matter in relation to the resolution of the Great Matter. This is not to say that one is not practicing good deeds, nor does one stop practice/refuge.  Of course not.   But this "proper belief" mindset is  not even like  not being aware of being wet when swimming.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Money, Bitcoin, and bad economics

To walk in money through the night crowd, protected by money, lulled by money, dulled by money, the crowd itself a money, the breath money, no least single object anywhere that is not money, money, money everywhere and still not enough, and then no money or a little money or less money or more money, but money, always money, and if you have money or you don't have money it is the money that counts and money makes money, but what makes money make money? - Henry Miller

This post is hopefully an attempt at a well-mannered response to C4Chaos's pro-Bitcoin post here.  I say "hopefuly" an attempt at well-mannered but I'm not especially optimistic, because somewhere percolating through all this Bitcoin ideology is a lot of libertarian junk, and Austrian School libertarian junk at that.  C4Chaos's post featured about 40 minutes worth of video as a response to Paul Krugman, who I'm sure knows better than to respond to that sort of thing.  I, myself, have no patience for video responses on pretty much anything that's not intended at least partially for entertainment (yeah, I include academic lectures as well - they should be entertaining).  Anyway, I replied to C4Chaos by asking for text links which he dutifully supplied...and so here we go...

First of all, let me start out by saying that Ludwig von Mises was worse than a crackpot.  Don't believe me?  Check out the man in his own words.  Von Mises seems to be intimately related to these so-called "Bitcoin theorists," and that should raise a warning flag pretty much immediately.  Von Mises was an apologist for laissez-faire capitalism, funded lock, stock and barrel by the 1%.   Anyone who's had a basic course in Macro-ecomomics  can refute such clap-trap standing on 1 foot. 

The key point I'd like to make, as long as C4Chaos indirectly referenced von Mises in re: Bitcoin, is that one of the von Mises points is that somehow money is  "good money" if people want to hold money "as cash," as a "store" of value. But, given the nature of capitalism to generate more and more goods and services of value, that "store" doesn't remain constant, and so that position is a political position inherently favoring deflation,  And the political position inherently favoring deflation is in fact a position inherently against labor in favor of capital, and in these times such a position is not ethically defensible.

Another class of objects has recently been touted as a "store" of value as well, and that class of objects are precious metals.  Precious medals experienced a very nice bubble in the last decade or so, which popped in 2012.  You can still hear hucksters on AM right-wing talk radio pushing gold as a store of value.  And yes, I made a few bucks on that bubble.  But that doesn't mean that the bubble was good.  But the capitalism in which we currently dwell requires we all participate to some extent in the Prisoner's Dilemma, and hopefully we do that skillfully towards helping people rather than exploiting them

There was yet another class of objects in the last decade that sort of was a "store" of value though that class wasn't touted as a "store" of value.  That store of value was ... drumroll... US government securities, despite (actually due to) the fact that deficit hawks reigned supreme after 2009.

In the case of precious metals  and  Bitcoin, a "store" of value was touted as a bulwark against some perceived "threat" from central banks, yada yada yada, but in the Greater Fool theory fueled speculative bubbles.

Bitcoin will be accepted as a medium of exchange in barter long as people accept it, of course, but Bitcoin will never really be money unless, ironically for Bitcoin believers,  at least one government can mandate settlement of transactions in Bitcoin.  But then the Bitcoin believers tend to be suspicious of governments.  While it is true that governments commit many crimes and atrocities, their existence is still preferable to crimes and atrocities committed in failed states whether you're talking about Somalia or that libertarian paradise of yore, the Roman Republic.

Yeah, C4Chaos is right that Bitcoin is more than an object of "value", it's a protocol, but so what? Really, so what? It's not going to replace commerce that exists now, including internet commerce.  And the end of the day you're going to want to have dollars and yen and krona and euros and pounds and yuan, because that's what the rest of the world will take to buy bread and rice and vegetables.  Moreover,  Bitcoin will almost certainly be exploited maliciously.  Unlike robbing a bank (which compromises the bank, not the medium of exchange), if Bitcoin is compromised it does compromise the medium of exchange.

It's really a tremendous waste of time and energy and labor, in my view.   And not particularly useful from a Buddhist ethics standpoint...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Zen "teacher" scandals, their critics, and the fetishism of the "teacher" of Zen

One reason I'm kind of bored with the Shimano thing is that in looking at the Sweeping Zen stories (they don't seem to stop), I kind of get to wondering what this all has to do with Zen practice, with the practice of most of us who aren't involved in Zen teacher scandals,  and who aren't in any of the sanghas that have been blacklisted.

I mean, yeah, the jokers are still out there, but if you google "genpo," the number 2 suggestion is "genpo roshi affiar."  A similar result holds for "Eido Shimano."   While it's not the sole focus of the Sweeping Zen website by any means,  scandals do seem prominently displayed.  So why the focus, especially when anyone could google a Zen osho these days to find out if there's any dirt on them?

I think it has to do more with issues of attachment than many of the people talking about his would like to admit, and the fact that there are avowed "Zen teachers" in the thick of this leads me to question their credentials,  at least in terms of the root meaning of the word (i.e., what do they have that would give you credence in them).   I'm not talking about Genjo Marinello here, by the way.

This stuff doesn't have to do with the improvement or edification of  my practice, and I suspect it's true for others as well, at least directly. 

I do think for many of the people who are ostenisibly "Zen teachers" who are commenting on this stuff there is a dynamic of the fetishism of the "teacher" of Zen - and this doesn't just express itself as a positive idealization of the "guru," but also  but also as a condemning idealization of the guru.

Let me ask a question: Ethics aside, does anyone think Dennis Merzel or Eido Shimano or Sasaki knows nothing  or has no experience about Zen?  Are they worthy of compassion?  Yeah, don't let them near attractive women students...but then again I wouldn't recommend anyone go near a "teacher" who says things like

Japanese men in power and Western men in power tend to indulge in sexual encounters with subordinates as part of their privileged position. Whether they are US President, congressman, or business man, or spiritual teacher or minister, sexual liaisons seem to be included in male privilege all over the world.

This "teacher," in my view,  raises red flags to me just as much as Shimano or Merzel would.

I happen to be a white male working in an international company in a managerial role; I have had numerous dealings with professionals from pretty much every name electronics company you can think of outside of some industrial applications.   In my experience of about 35 years in the profession, there have been, amongst the thousands of people I've been working with there have been just two cases of sexual indiscretions. One was clearly consensual, and in the other the woman was hardly powerless in the situation.

Companies in the West have good reasons for ethical guidelines they have about these things (less so in Japan, but on the other hand there are other forces at work in Japan that put a lid on this to some extent).  Disturbing the 和 (wa or harmony) of the workplace is very bad for business, and most business people get that.  Even in government, it's the exception rather than the rule.  For every Bill Clinton or Jack Kennedy you've got more than a couple of a Richard Nixons,  Jimmy Carters, and Barack Obamas.   They arguably misuse their power anyway,  but they are generally acting on behalf interests that want power misused that way.

From someone who claims to be a "Zen teacher" who writes the above,  I would question their credentials as a "Zen teacher."   From someone who claims to be a clinical psychologist, I would wonder what kind of professional and ethical criteria relate to someone who makes such generalizations.  I wonder how this attachment to stereotypes of males in power ripples through their practice. 

I realize that my criticism can be applied to myself here, and I wouldn't say I'm completely free of attachments myself,  but then again, I think it does harm to perpetuate a false stereotype, and that ought to be in the "public interest" as much as any "Zen scandal."

I'm done with this post, I've got to take a long shower.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Scandals Schmandals...I've been busy...

I haven't had much time in the past few months to post here; there's been a lot to do at work, so much so that even home life has not been given the attention I should have given to it.

It's not that I haven't had ideas of what to post...for example, the nature of giving and charity, and what that ought to mean from my meager understanding of Buddhism.

For another example, I have thought of posting about holiday blues and family turmoil in light of the Lotus Sutra.

It's been so that I haven't even had much attention to give to the rest of the Buddhist blogosphere, and with the notable exception of Barbara's blog, it looks like the  same old same old.

I think much of the Buddhist blogosphere is overly attached to  the "Zen master scandal" stuff  and there's a kind of inverse guru fetishism implied in it.

And I really don't have time for that,  although I did comment on a post by Gracie Myoan Schireson regarding a review of a book on the Shimano scandal here;  and I stand by those comments.

My own practice has been woefully inadequate of late, or perhaps I'm realizing that it's been woefully inadequate to begin with (and a knee situation hasn't made sitting easy of late, to put it mildly).

It's time for compassion.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Competitive yoga?

I'm not part of the whole yoga culture thing, but there you are.

So much about that I don't' understand.

I mean, martial arts are sometimes competitive - and those that are competitive often aren't good for their intended purpose.  And as a movie character said, the main principle behind the best of martial arts is founded on benevolence.

So I don't get competitive yoga at all.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Asian Version of the Dharma Money Issue

I was recently asked by a Christian person whether or not there was a similarity between asking for indulgences that the Catholic Church of yore used to have and, in Asia, the practice of offering money in Buddhist temples followed by a chant/offering of incense.  The Christian used to think it was similar.

I was at a loss for words temporarily (other than to say, well, you'd have to deeply understand karma and interdependence), mostly because the topic at hand wasn't the topic of this blog post; it was a tangent to a more important topic.  I wasn't exactly satisfied with my answer...of course a better answer came to me later:

  • When one offers money at a temple, like everything else at a temple, one just does it, and does it wholeheartedly.  In effect, the act of offering at a temple is the offering of one's own life itself at that moment.  In that sense, it's more like the Christian communion in reverse than the other way around.

  • Typically, though people often come to the temple indeed for some reason such as a sick relative, what they say isn't an "I'd like to get something" prayer of course; it's an invocation of the form "Homage to X."  It's declarative.

  • I was however not off-base with the words karma and interdependence.  Most Buddhist chants when they aren't declarative, are in the 2nd person, but the identity of the 2nd person is not of course, separate from the chanter.  In Buddhism, of course, there is the principle of no-self.  So who is invoking what to whom, or who could possibly be trying to get something from whom?

  • Of course, there is the money for services thing, but that's not wholly unreasonable, I'd point out. Temples have to operate on budgets too.

There, that's better.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Huguosi (護国寺), "Protect the Nation Temple" - Emerging Buddhism?

On my recent trip to China I stopped off in Wenzhou.  I had a chance to visit 護国寺.  Evidently there used to be a 護国寺 in Beijing, but it was destroyed in the 1950s. So originally 護国寺 was about protecting the nation in imperial times. You can read into the name of the temple now all kinds of cynical things about the government, but about my visit there, well, it's clear the people going there don't seem particularly cynical about it.  Like many temples this one seems brand spanking new; in fact construction is still going on there.  It's evidently a Pure Land temple - no 禅堂 to be seen, but typically the schools of Buddhism tend to mix.

In the main hall (2nd picture down) there was a chanting service going on with lots of lay people being led in chanting by a monk, on a Saturday mid-afternoon.

I saw a bunch of blue collar guys - in their 20s- entering the temple smoking cigarettes, and having a regular Chinese bro early fall afternoon, laughing loudly.  A few minutes later  a monk was showing these guys how to offer incense, which they reverently did.

Say what you will about China and religion, but on this day, 護国寺 was bringing people calmness and tranquility and peace, and yes, compassion.   You might say China is trying to co-opt Buddhism, but I might point out it seems to be the other way around as well.  Wenzhou tends to have a high population of Christians (yeah, there's brand spanking new Christian churches there too) but it's clear that there's a resurgence of Buddhism amongst people here.

So just to let you know, there's more forms of emerging Buddhism than you can shake a stick at, which of course you can't.