Sunday, April 29, 2012

Organizations and Buddhism

I DO want to briefly mention the tie-together of a few recent posts. Warner's rescinding his Dogen Sangha.  Barbara's kinda sorta China bashing over the Dalai Lama again. (Also see here.)  And Danny Fisher's happy as a clam that "Dharmic religions" gets their day in the sun at a White House -sponsored "faith-based" yadda yadda yadda.

These posts are all related to each other by some odd confluences of organizations (and in the latter two, government organizations) and Buddhism.  But Warner's is related too, as his is about a Buddhist organization or lack of one  thereof, to be more to the point. 

Barbara's critiquing China's meddling in a traditionally avowed theocratic organization, namely that of Tibetan Buddhism.  Danny Fisher is pleased that the government is meddling with Dharmic religions enough to recognize them, patronize them at the White House and so forth. And Warner's happy that he extinguished an organization before it had a crib.

To be fair to Danny Fisher, he'd be among the first to critique China too.

But I've a point in putting these all together: Lots of Western Buddhists bash China when it suits them for their preconceived political notions about a "Free" "Tibet" and all that, but they bash the US government when it doesn't positively patronize Buddhists.  And I put Warner in there 'cause he's kind of a too-cool for all that guy in his position of refusing all organization, but that's kind of impotent in my view.

Organizations are like knives; they are neutral morally. Patronage or oppression is the same way; it's the circumstances in which they're used that imbue them with a morality or lack thereof.  Nobody objects on moral grounds  if La Cosa Nostra is oppressed, except for some folks whose relations can be reliably traced back to the Old Country.

On the other hand, if you're going to accept patronage from a government, then it's only natural for there to be some kind of "organizational deformation" in response to that patronage; it's always been the case throughout human history.  And that deformation is a threat to the ethical soundness of a religious institution; of that there can be no doubt. Furthermore,  I'd also submit that Warner's position of removing the organization altogether is itself questionable, as it aborts the possibility of an organization to do any good.

I just think there's a great deal of hypocrisy presented as some kind of moral purity in the way many folks view state interaction with religion. States will interact with religion for their own political reasons. The US does it as well as China. Both lead to both benefits and morally questionable activities.  And religious organizations have similar issues.

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