Tag Archives: war

december buddhist carnival – the not so fluffy edition

hello there. been looking forward to this edition of the buddhist carnival for quite a while because the last one was a bit on the stunted side, what with being busy with NaNoWriMo. so this month’s edition has a bit more meat on it; in fact, your teeth will get quite a nice workout. i’m calling this one the not-so-fluffy-edition for reasons that will become easily evident.

the poem!
we always start this with a poem. first zafu frog. thank you for contributing the poem this month, pithy and true:

there is a rule that man’s a fool,
he wants it hot when it’s cool.
he wants it cool when it’s hot.
always wanting what it’s not.

“i don’t know”
zen moments talks about not knowing. having been confronted, uncomfortably, with the question of “and what do you do?”, he finally found an answer:

it came to me in the shower, while absent-mindedly washing my hair, when i wasn’t trying to solve anything.

in anyone’s life, there are going to be times when everything seems to be going well, and when you have a sense of purpose, when you are clear about where you’re going in life.

but in the same life, there are also bound to be times when it’s not clear, times when you do not know. for some people these might be brief interludes. for others they might last longer, until things change.

but it’s impossible to have that kind of uninterrupted certainty for a whole lifetime.

so in anyone’s life, there are going to be times of not-knowing. and that has to be ok.

this reminds me once again of the best thing i took from seeing the dalai lama this year: his utter confidence in shrugging his shoulders, grinning, and saying, “i don’t know.”

ignoring vs. responding
at sword mountain, a blog that talks about zen and aikido, a question from a student regarding irritating questions.

the answer is non-trivial. to investigate this, you should consider this question from two points of view, your own and the questioner’s.

– from your own, ask: if i ignore a thought, where does it go?
– from another’s, ask: is ignoring a question not itself an answer?

once an something becomes part of your consciousness, you have no choice but to respond. so, how does one properly respond? zen looks for precisely the same thing that aikido does:

a clear, spontaneous, and appropriate response to your circumstances that restores harmony.

fake buddha quotes
bodhipaksa here does a noble deed – he throws light on a fake buddha quote:

“when words are both true and kind, they can change our world.”

like many fake buddha quotes, this one has a nice sentiment. the buddha often talked about the virtue of words being true and kind, but the language of “changing the world” is not something the buddha is recorded as using.

this deserves some thinking. the buddha talks about change as a condition, not as something that we engineer. at the non-phenomenal core rests changelessness; realizing that is what buddhists hope for, not changing the world. in the process of that realization, we notice that phenomena (words, weather, people, etc.) change. the bodhisattva – the person who has realized or fully comprehended changelessness – remains in the world of phenomena and works to do the right thing but she or he is not specifically intent on “changing the world”. one moment at a time, she or he feeds a homeless man, waters a sapling, pets a cat. she just does it. a changed (different?  better? more realized?) world is a side effect.

the connection with the title of my blog does not escape me, especially since i just wrote about it in my previous post.  definitely something to think about.  thanks for the inspiration, bodhipaksa!

fake buddha teachers
over in finland, at the possible way we have another blogger talking abot fake.  a bit of a rant, aptly titled  true zen (TM) – order your DVD right away!

sometimes some are thinking that buddhist practitioner should keep his/her mouth shut and close his/her eyes when others are doing terrible things against buddhism and other people. man, that is so lame… being a buddhist doesn’t mean that you have to close your eyes and cry in the corner

buddhism and the vikings
let’s stay in northern europe for a moment longer. zen dirt zen dust has a guest blogger who talks about the parallels between buddhism and asatru, a (revived) old norse religion

i am an asatruar. asatru, literally translates from old norse as “true to the gods”, is the modern revival of the old norse spiritual belief system.

i share with buddhists the notion that my actions have an immediate and lasting effect on myself, and by extension this world, and positive actions create a positive world. even though, to me, these actions may have implications in the next world, my primary concern is that beneficial actions benefit those close to me now, and detrimental actions are harmful to this world and to those i hold dear. much like buddhist philosophy, as i understand it, i am emphatically concerned with my impact on the world as it is now, and i strive to perform just and honorable actions for the sake of the world around me

no earth-shattering insights, just hard work and no expectations
the good people at the tricycle blog discuss the memoirs of former tibetan buddhist monk stephen schettini novice: why i became a buddhist monk, why i quit and what i learned. schettini is now the director of thequietmind.org and says

i don’t promise perfect peace, earth-shattering insight or transcendental breakthroughs. on the contrary, i ask my students to work hard, and especially to beware their own expectations. we’re all twenty-first century grownups and as much as we want to believe in easy solutions and magical formulas we know perfectly well that a down-to-earth approach will pay off more than all the mantras, visualizations and promises of enlightenment on the world wide web.

gentle, peaceful buddhists – an illusion?
the following is anything but a heartwarming story: it’s about a mob of buddhists attacking a christian church in sri lanka. at the american buddhist, there is an insightful comment on it. the writer was working at a military hospital in sri lanka and met a young soldier who wanted to become a suicide bomber and kill tamils.

this soldier was ordained as a monk when he was five years old and spent his time until the age of 18 in various temples in kandy, ampitiya and colombo. he told me that since he entered the robes most of the nights he was sexually molested by older monks. some nights he was raped by five or six monks. he disrobed and joined the military as an escape route. the traumatized soldier focused his anger not towards his abusers but towards the tamils. after hearing this firsthand account whenever i see monks go in to violent protests i suspect the elements of sexual trauma.

while this is sad and alarming, it serves as a reminder that just calling yourself buddhist doesn’t do a thing. buddhist, hindu, baptist, atheist – we’re all capable of committing atrocities. “we” – that includes me. if i don’t keep my awareness sharpened and my heart soft, i, too, can fall into the trap of violence – subtle or otherwise.

losing more illusions
how does one reinvigorate one’s practice after losing the illusions that brought one to practice in the first place? hard core zen has something to say about that. it’s a different kind of illusion than the one alluded to above – it’s the one that many of us first had when we started tinkering with meditation and buddhism. the neat (and sometimes infuriating) thing about buddhism is that it helps lose all illusions – the ones we don’t like but also the ones that decorate our lives with cute stickers and fluffy rainbows.

working with people who are homeless
another story about someone who decided to stare reality straight in the eye, about a lot of things. this woman’s experience with buddhist communities have been mixed.

she would have continued living at the zen center, but she began to run into problems there.

when the zen center asked her to train a group of beginning monks to assist with the homeless meditation program, drakka pushed back. “how do you train people to be alright with homelessness?” she refused.

fortunately, that didn’t deter her. this is a great article on how jana drakka keeps working with people who are homeless, regardless of the obstacles.

15 women bloggers
finally, here’s a list of 15 great women buddhist bloggers.

that’s it for this month. hope you found a little tidbit that can accompany you on your path. good day buddha, good day dharma, good day sangha.

image by @No4

torture in afghanistan: who are our enemies?

my vancouver blogger friend jonathan narvey has a discussion about the current allegations that the canadian military looked the other way when people they had detained in afghanistan were transferred to afghani prisons where the canadian military knew, or should have known, that the detainees would be tortured. please see jonathan’s article and various comments, including two from myself, here.

among others, jonathan referred to the taliban as “our enemies.” to that i said:

they are not OUR enemies. they are the enemies of a country in dire need of peace and democracy. our enemies, as the enemies of the world all over, are despotism, poverty, fanaticism, lack of education, misogyny and war.

jonathan replied that

our enemies are more than conceptual

i’d like to use this space to think about this a bit.

“the problem is the problem. people are not the problem” is one tenet frequently cited in psychology, in various forms (e.g. “i like you but not your behaviour XYZ.”)

so i see three things right now:

1. if we want to move away from the conceptual then we have to admit that “enemies” refers to people. who are these people? THE taliban? (or in the past, THE russians, THE germans, etc.) “the” taliban is a movement – a vague word if there ever was one – comprised of people from afghanistan and pakistan as well as uzbekistan, chechnya, etc. what we know about movements, especially authoritarian ones, is that the vast majority of people involved in them became members not because of sober decisionmaking but because of necessity, sentimentality (e.g. misunderstood religiosity/fanaticism), coercion or other unsavoury reasons. is the 13-year-old hero-worshipping boy our enemy? the father of 9 children who doesn’t know how to feed them? the grandfather who was told in no uncertain ways that he needs to join or else?

no, “the” taliban are not my enemies.

2. in fact, the word “enemy” does not work for me. as soon as i have an enemy, i give myself permission to treat her or him as unworthy of living. “the enemy” is not my problem.

3. but i agree that abstract concepts are not useful either.

so why don’t we say it like that:

people who rape, maltreat, murder, beat, torture, subjugate and commit other crimes need to be stopped and measures need to be put in place to prevent them from committing more crimes – through rehabilitation, incarceration or a combination of them.  (not through torture)

some of these people are in afghanistan. not all of them.  some of them are taliban. not all of them.

i am grateful that our military is trying to deal with the people who literally commit crimes against humanity.  it’s a very difficult job.  in all difficult jobs, mistakes are made.  i think it’s possible that one of the mistakes was to hand over detainees to prisons where torture was commonplace.  we need to look at that because if we don’t we, too, commit an act of criminal negligence.

remembrance day: musing on war and sacrifice

remembrance day has always been an ambiguous day for me. good memories : an hour in the rain under a gazillion umbrellas, proudly listening to my daughter singing a song with the girl guides at a remembrance day celebration; or a lovely morning 17 years ago when my then-boyfriend, now-husband were walking up and down the streets trying to find a place to have breakfast.

but mostly there is ambiguity. i watched the berlin wall come down on TV with my ex husband 20 years ago while on a let’s-make-it-up trip following a horrible fight. yes, the wall coming down was amazing, especially after having lived in berlin from 1980 to 1982 (and i’d like to propose pink floyd’s the wall as this year’s song in my annual tradition to suggest non-war remembrance day songs). that was only seven years before the destruction of the wall; it seemed nearly impossible then that it would ever happen. but seeing the wall fall felt as surreal as being on that trip with my ex husband. by that time, i had come to deeply distrust making up after a fight, knowing that the sweetness wouldn’t last long (three days in that case). i’m glad the end of the cold war lasted longer than my marriage, which was to end eight months later.

this surreal, ambiguous flavour has always seasoned my remembrance days. there are all these guys, and a few gals, walking around in their uniforms, wearing poppies. these poppies are pretty – really, they are – but it’s always felt like they were glorifying war. but wait, no, they aren’t. or are they? my head spins over that one every november 11.

questions that come up are: does being a soldier automatically make one complicit in the cruelties of war? if so, is that complicity the same as glorifying the killing, raping and maiming that happens in every war? what exactly are the sacrifices that a soldier makes? when someone celebrates soldiers and what they do, is it nationalism? glorification of war? gratitude? sentimentalism? hero worship? paying hommage to someone who truly deserves it? admiration?

lately, i have been thinking a bit about sacrifice, partly because of a book i am reading right now, the priority of love: christian charity and social justice, by timothy p. jackson. he proposes some instances of sacrifice as a truly sacred act, an act of love and surrender not in a masochistic sense or as something forced in oppression, but a giving of oneself in the deepest meaning of charity.

a soldier dying in the battle of metz 65 years ago – what sacrifice might that have been? what if we was protecting a fellow soldier, a brother-in-arms, a relationship that some say is as tight and binding as the one between mother and child?

i can’t get behind wars, never. maybe that’s because i was brought up in a fiercely pacifist household; even my grandfather refused to fight and opted to be a medic instead. but i can get behind one man giving his life, using his body as a shield so another may live.

thank you.

august 2009 buddhist carnival

here’s the buddhist carnival again! last month my blog was still sick and the carnival didn’t happen. glad to be back for august. the buddhist carnival is a romp / surf / drive / ride through the buddhist blogosphere (blugghasphere?) and today’s menu brings you posts on music, fashion, family, war, wishy-washy buddhism, persisting through the agony of sesshin, homelessness and creativity.

buddhist rap
we always start with a poem. this is from a paper entitled buddhism in music – a bit longer than your typical blog post but well worth the read. he includes the lyrics by british rapper maxi jazz, a follower of the nichiren (SGI) path.

my story stops here. let’s be clear,
this scenario is happening everywhere.
and you ain’t going to nirvana or “far-vana”,
you’re coming right back here to live out your karma
with even more drama
than previously. seriously.

buddhists on the catwalk
from chaplain danny:

the associated press has a story today about buddhist monks in japan “[hitting] the catwalk in tokyo…in a bid to spread buddhism among younger people in this rapidly aging society.”

reaching out to family
the ex-bipolar buddhist, a fellow canadian, reprints a moving letter to his family. it’s such an old story: more often than not, we tend to take our families for granted, or even shy away from them. when that family is truly toxic, that may be a good idea. but many families are just – well, normal. garden-variety dysfunctional. busy. a bit indifferent. not quite who we’d have for close friends. in that case, reaching out to them, reminding ourselves of our bonds, is a beautiful and in a way heroic thing. here’s a bit from the letter:

the only way to feel loved is in the present moment, and we are only able to act with mindfulness in the present moment.

i won’t be able to tell you i love you after i’m gone. and i won’t be able to give you the answers or the love you need and deserve. i can only do that now.

emasculated by buddhism?
the new heretic vents on what some might call wishy-washy buddhism. there is an interesting conversation in the comment section where, among others, c4chaos takes me to task on my use of the concept of the middle road.

truth does set us free, but noted that all of their examples were warm and fuzzy, flowery, and that the truth is not always that way. truth is truth. sometimes it is not flowers and sunshine. the truth is that person who you are afraid of hurting you, may, in fact, hurt you. or, to take the opposite position, you may be deluding yourself into thinking that someone is good for you when the truth is that they are bad for you. the truth is that you may be overweight, maybe that other person is more attractive than you, and maybe your sister is going to always score just a little bit higher than you on that test in school. so what? really, so what? that truth is also liberating, and can set you free. isn’t the point to embrace reality? being trapped by irrational fears that are holding you back from enjoying real life is delusion. however, fooling yourself into thinking that life is a bed of roses all the time a delusion that holds you back as well. embrace the reality of the situation, and then you can effectively deal with your shit.

seriously, i think there has to be more “suck-it-up-ness” and “deal-with-it-ness” in the practice.

read here for the rest.

sarah palin and a vow
no need for comment here, i’d say:

i, lazybuddhist, vow to avoid any and all coverage of sarah palin. i shall refrain from participating in discussions about her, and in particular giving into my urge to rant about her. my hatred of her only diminishes me. the energy that would be expended in palin bashing can be much better channeled into something positive and worthwhile.

want to read more? here it is.

the agony of sesshin
genkaku’s blog is one of my favourite spots in the blogosphere. today he speaks of something that has been a huge challenge for me ever since i started meditating back in 1969: the discomfort of sitting in meditation. he compares it to the pain of childbirth:

without trying to compare levels of agony, anyone who has been to a sesshin or extended zen buddhist retreat has probably felt some of the same writhing wrath as the crossed legs burn like fire or the sorrow seems unbearable. who the fuck dreamed this up?!

and yet …

women have more than one child.
zen students go to another sesshin.

analysis (selective amnesia, virtue, greed, etc.) doesn’t interest me much in this realm. what interests me is what actually-factually happens. in the face of what happens now, ‘meaning’ and ‘explanation’ can piss up a rope. analysis can take a hike. whether agonizing or glorious … this is it.

and we do it again.

buddhism – maybe not as peaceful as we always thought
buddhism is all about awakening to reality, isn’t it? ok, so here’s a piece of reality:

buddhism has always been portrayed as the religion of peace. “there has never been a buddhist war,” i’ve heard many times over the years. when the sakya kingdom was threatened with invasion, the buddha sat in meditation in the path of the soldiers, stopping the attack. when the indian king asoka converted to buddhism, he curtailed his military escapades and erected peace pillars. when the dharma came to tibet, it is said that the barbaric tribes were pacified. during the vietnam war, buddhist monks set themselves on fire to protest the fighting.

and now a new study emerges that will radically shake up this view of buddhism. zen at war is a courageous and exhaustively researched book by brian victoria, a western soto zen priest and instructor at the university of auckland. victoria reveals the inside story of the japanese zen establishment’s dedicated support of the imperial war machine from the late 1800’s through world war ii. he chronicles in detail how prominent zen leaders perverted the buddhist teaching to encourage blind obedience, mindless killing, and total devotion to the emperor. the consequences were catastrophic and the impact can still be felt today.

here is the rest of this book review.

bearing witness to homelessness
over the weekend of july 17, 18, & 19 a poet, a zen priest, an industrial designer, a mental health professional and a manager of a soup kitchen took to the streets of boston to bear witness to its homeless.

we only took the clothes on our back, no money, no bedding, no tooth brush, no jewelry, no credit cards, & no desire to do anything but aimlessly meander for three days throughout the city of boston. what did we find there? parts of ourselves that we did not know existed.

buddhism, creativity and the arts
and we come back to the beginning. this event sounds very exciting; i hope we’ll have something like that here in vancouver one day. i signed up with the ning group right away.

the focus of this event was an exploration of the relationship between buddhist thought/practice and creativity with specific reference to the arts. does buddhist thought and practice help or hinder the creative process? the theme was explored through a series of academic lectures, discussion, exhibition of artworks and workshops. the event brought together around 80 people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds buddhist and non-buddhist, artist and non-artists all who share an interest in the theme. the exhibition of visual arts included sculpture, painting and film and represented 40 artists who each share some association with buddhism.

if you would like to make contact with other people interested in this field, go to www.dharmaarts.ning.com/ – the site of the dharma arts network (dan) which was launched at the conference, or the london buddhist arts centre’s website where you can sign up to their database.

what are we going to have for the september buddhist carnival? i don’t know. but if all goes as planned, it’ll be on the 15th.

twitter peace, shalom, salaam, and the salvation army

at the end of my day, i often ask myself, what was the theme for today? on this day, january 11, it was peace. with all the things that are happening in gaza right now, it was sad. and yet it was good. i am so grateful for all the good friends here on twitter who work and think and feel together for peace.

here are some tweets:

@intrepidteacher after reading your last tweets, can we throw #peace bombs into the middle east? what would they look like? half a minute ago from Power Twitter in reply to intrepidteacher

thich nhat hanh on treating anger with tenderness. useful for gaza? #peace about 8 hours ago from Power Twitter

@CarolSill has some sort of built-in harmony GPS. in a chaotic environment of strife, control and disinterest, she always locates love. about 10 hours ago from Power Twitter in reply to carolsill

just finished a lovely phone conversation with @CarolSill. talk about someone who embodies peace. about 10 hours ago from Power Twitter

more bob marley: “If you get down and quarrel everyday, you’re saying prayers to the devil, I say ” about 11 hours ago from Power Twitter

@intrepidteacher likely we need both, freedom/justice fighters and peace workers. my talents are probably best used for the latter. about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter in reply to intrepidteacher

is there someone to whom you can send good wishes even though they’re not your favourite? a story of hurt you can stop retelling? about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

is there someone in your life right now who you can forgive? meet them a bit more than half-way? forget their transgressions? let go? about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

or never mind “i would”. how can i demonstrate peace right now? how can we here, right now, demonstrate, live, embody the power of peace? about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

if there was a demonstration for peace, an event demonstrating peace, i’d be there. about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

how about translation: “i don’t stand for israel’s side, i don’ t stand for palestine’s side. i stand for the side of peace.” about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

bob marley: “i don’t stand for the black man’s side, i don’ t stand for the white man’s side. i stand for god’s side” about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

yes! rastaman vibration is positive! about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

all of this reminds me of a post from a little while ago, understanding war, and a comment conversation there with alex, probably THE blogger i associate with peace. we talked about “articles of war” and the salvation army’s articles of war came to my attention. i’ve experimented with translating some of them for secular purposes. do you find them useful?

* be responsive to the goodness calling to us every day, growing in grace through celebrating peace, prayer or reflection, being of service to humanity and constantly learning and understanding better what goodness means
* make the values of goodness the standard for my life
* uphold integrity in every area of my life, always being aware how thought, word or deed influences everything within and around me
* maintain the ideals of goodness and peace in all my relationships with others: my family and neighbours, my colleagues, those to whom and for whom I am responsible, and the wider community
* affirm the sacredness of close bonds, such as family and good friends
* be a faithful steward of my time and gifts, my money and possessions, my body, my mind and my spirit
* be faithful to the positive potential in humanity, sharing the news of goodnes, endeavouring to win others to peace, and in the name of goodness and peace showing compassion and kindness to all created beings
* be actively involved, as i am able, in the life, work, and community of those who are likeminded, giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support good causes
* show the spirit of goodness and peace whether in times of popularity or persecution

september 11 – the happiest day of my life

hands holding a baby“what was the happiest day of your life?” this question comes up, sometimes. until seven years ago, it was “september 11, 1973.”

that was the day my oldest child was born. it was the least pleasant of my three births, what with me an unwed teenage mother in a hopelessly old-fashioned veteran’s hospital in munich, an arch-catholic part of germany, and my poor little infant immediately snatched away in the belief that sterile hospital cradles were the best thing that could happen to a newborn.

never mind any of that.

i was insanely happy.

despite the exhaustion of labour, i couldn’t sleep the whole night. the miracle of the experience kept looping around in my mind and heart. one moment, excruciating pain, the other, a new person emerging into the world, healthy, with a loud voice, 10 fingers, 10 toes, eyes, everything! absolutely mind-boggling.

my other two births were even easier than the first and quite a bit more pleasant, especially the last one, complete with bob marley, miles davis and glenn gould providing accompaniment, and a bunch of friends and family present. but september 11, 1973 – well, it was that special first time.

when the day after i found out that there had been a military coup in chile, which made it prohibitive for us to move there, i was shocked, but somehow it couldn’t wipe out the overwhelming happiness i felt at having become a mother.

and then september 11, 2001 happened. a day that, in my mind, was dedicated to my son. like so many of us, i remember much of that day – how, for example, i was so shaken by the events that i spilled a big bag full of sushi on the street that i had bought for lunch for a friend and myself.

it’s such a little thing. much bigger things have happened and are still happening that have their roots in september 11, for example people experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, as predicted here and then later confirmed in a study here.

and yet, we almost always come back to what is personally most significant for us, don’t we? for me, it’s the irresolvable clash between the memory of the happiest moment of my life and the horror of the most violent moment on U.S. soil.

as i am writing this, i realize that i want to find a way to elevate the beauty of my son’s birth over the horror of 9/11 and the disconnect i feel over holding both in my awareness. not that i want to, in any way, diminish or forget the terrible suffering of those who died and their families, friends and loved ones.

but peace will always be this: holding life up higher than destruction.

image by coast guard BM

remembrance day songs for a different kind of soldier

don’t know why remembrance day fascinates me so – at any rate, here’s another post about it, following the one last week and this and this last year.

today i’d like to honour some soldiers for peace and democracy who died upholding their convictions.

  • ephialtes, a fighter for democracy 400 BCE
  • martin luther king, fighter for racial equality
  • gregoris lambrakis, greek anti-fascist and inspiration for the movie “Z”
  • mahatma gandhi, non-violent anti-imperialist and indian president
  • bishop oscar romero, liberation theologist from el salvador
  • john lennon, activist and ex-beatle
  • victor jara, chilean poet, singer-songwriter, educator and political activist
  • john f. kennedy, US president

two of them made music, wrote songs. here’s one by john lennon:

we are all water from
different rivers
that’s why it’s so easy to meet
we are all water in this vast,
vast ocean
someday we’ll evaporate
together.

there may be not much
difference
between rockefeller and you
if we hear you sing.

there may be not much
difference
between rockefeller and you
if we show our dreams

the other one is victor jara. watch this youtube video, it shows his beautiful and very distinctive voice and guitar playing. victor jara was a bit of a national hero – the way poets and musicians are heroes in south america – i wish we had such a culture here!

he died shortly after the coup in chile on september 11, 1973. he was one of thousands of people rounded up by the military, tortured and killed.

one of the many songs that i’d like to remember him for is canto libre. i couldn’t find any translation of it into english here on the internet so i’ll work on that and serve it up to you tomorrow.