Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Roundup on October 17, 2007

Five quick items for today: Eric in Baghdad; a monk nowhere; the world all around us; Justin in conflict; and Radiohead in your DVD player.

Boys with Guns

Eric, the Zen Traveler is just finishing up his tour of duty, I guess you could call it. He’s not a soldier, but an American contract employee in Baghdad. This from his post “Speechless”:
…At the end of the Festival of Eid all of the children receive presents, much like the Christmas tradition. You'll never guess what every little boy gets. TOY GUNS!!! This is wrong on so many levels. The streets are full of little kids pointing plastic AKs at everything and everyone. When I first witnessed this I was utterly mortified. …
Homeless Monk

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Yuttadhammo as pictured from a detail of the banner atop The Truth is Within.
The monk Yuttadhammo of Truth is Within [formerly called Yuttadhammo] has put up a post called “Closing Time.” He is reluctantly, suddenly leaving Wat Sanku, in Thailand, where he’s been living, undertaking forest practice, due to a longstanding disagreement with the abbot. It seems, perhaps, trivial and selfish on my part, but I hope the title of his post doesn’t mean he’s closing his blog! No, no, not now, especially. He must continue to blog! Yuttadhammo thinks he knows where he will next be going, but just in case, anyone have room for a homeless monk? [UPDATE: Yuttadhammo has added additional posts that pop up on the feed but not from the homepage at the blogsite: "A Hard-Knock Life" "Anew" and "Happy in Unhappiness." Help orphaned monk.]

detail from graphic
A detail from the nature picture that tops Dave's post.
Appreciating the World

Environmentalist Dave Pollard is not a Buddhist, but Buddhism comes up now and again in his blog How to Save the World. Dave’s latest post is a long, beautiful essay called “What makes us care about nature?” A question he asks is whether it is necessary for us to experience important matters first hand -- do we have to be there? -- in order to understand and get involved. Perhaps Darfur, poverty, global warming and violence are too distant from us to relate “emotionally, viscerally.”

His beautiful, kind, hopeful post ends thusly:
As Daniel Quinn says … in Beyond Civilization:
People will listen when they're ready to listen and not before. Probably, once upon a time, you weren't ready to listen to an idea than now seems to you obvious, even urgent. Let people come to it in their own time.
Yet I think it is in all of us to listen, to hear the voice of all-life-on-Earth, to become a part, to reconnect, to fall under the spell of the sensuous. For twenty years I became deaf to it, it stayed inside me, waiting to re-emerge.

It is in our bones, our DNA. No experience required. We are who we are, and at heart we are all wild creatures, in love with this wild planet and every living thing within it. It is just a matter of time before each of us is ready to listen. Ready to come home.
Buddhism and War

I confess. I prompted it with an email. Justin Whitaker has posted "Buddhism and War" in his blog American Buddhist in England. In his post, the Buddhist Philosopher considers an online essay by Prof. P. D. Premasiri (University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka) that says, in the Theravada canon, there is no justification for war.

A second online essay, a response to the first, written by Justin’s advisor, Prof. Damien Keown (Goldsmith College, Univ. of London), says there is justification for use of force, even to the extent of a just war.

Justin finds no conflict between the two essays, but I think his argument tortured. Premasiri and Keown look at war from different vantages: The first, from the vantage of the individual Buddhist and his psychology or personal predicament. Keown looks at it from the vantage of society as a whole. Justin, it seems to me, is set on splitting the difference when he determines that only wholly defensive wars are justified.

I think that Buddhism and War is an important issue for us to consider with the ongoing war in Iraq, perhaps inevitably escalating into a civil war; wars and threats of wars elsewhere in the world; and the terrible and frustrating situation in Burma.

Whether we are wholly opposed to violence or support efforts in Just Wars meant to stop oppression, men and women (and children) are dying in our name, and are dying in ways and by means which we share responsibility for in this interconnected world. We have an obligation to learn what we can so that we will be informed during any effort we undertake to move the world in the direction of peace.


Scott Mitchell reviews Radiohead’s new album, In Rainbows, in the buddha is my dj. He writes about two tracks: “’Weird Fishes‘ has blown me away. … ‘Faust Arp’ has some beautiful combination of acoustic guitar, strings, and Thom York's ever-haunting voice that's going to deserve a second listen. Or a third.“ Of interest, if you download the album, you pay whatever you think is best.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Roundup for October 13, 2007

A quick roundup for today, as I hope to begin, again, to get this blog doing its roundup, meta-blog thing. There is lots and lots of stuff of great interest going on in the buddhoblogosphere and in nearby islands of kindness. Here, a taste:

Buddhists in the Military Blog

Bernie Simon of The Careless Hand offers a tepid recommendation of a group blog for Buddhists in the military, called Buddhist Military Sangha: An Online Resource for Buddhists Associated with the United States Armed Forces. Bernie writes, rather pessimistically, “It's fairly new and looks promising, but new blogs have a way of falling over and dying.” I suppose that’s true and could, sadly, be said of the soldiers, themselves, too -- which is, I guess, what Bernie's alluding to. The eight-member Blogger blog has a light posting history since its start on July 26, but is very, very well written, fully capably done, with many helpful links for soldiers in its sidebar. It looks solid, like a young Marine officer, and I'd bet it'll be a stand-up blog for a good long while.

A recent post by Navy Lt. Jeanette Shin is a Dharma Talk in observance of Halloween that looks at “horror films with a Buddhist theme.”

Danny Fisher of Danny Fisher wrote about the Buddhists Military Sangha in a post in early August. In the fascinating comment thread, Ray King, a UK citizen and member of the Amida Pureland School, wrote, “I'm interested in trying to understand how a buddhist reconciles his faith with belonging to the US military.” Lt. Shin responded, “What happens if we just got rid of our military? Do you think persons everywhere will have peace and happiness? … Kind thoughts and words alone will not protect our cities and our temples (or for that matter, Hindu temples, Christian churches, AND Muslim mosques, or any other place of worship) from people who would like to see them gone. The Reason we have the freedom [to] practice Buddha-dharma is people who serve in the military.”

Danny then wrote a long, thoughtful three-topic response that an abridgment by me would not do justice. [Read it here.] His conclusion, with respect to America’s military presence in Iraq: “At some point, everyone connected to this war needs to own their accountability and respond. They have to refuse service, refuse to pay taxes, refuse to sign over funds, demonstrate, and so on. A Buddhism that would excuse us from looking at the realities and the complexities of war is unacceptable.”

For my part, I recently wrote that I wouldn't mind seeing a precise, surgical American military assault in Burma. I regret that sentiment, maybe. From passages I have visited today at Access to Insight, Buddha offers no comfort to warriors. Most germane to the matter is this from the Sumyatta sutra, ch 42.3 "To Yodhajiva (The Warrior)". Here, a bit of it, quoting Buddha:
When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, his mind is already seized, debased, & misdirected by the thought: 'May these beings be struck down or slaughtered or annihilated or destroyed. May they not exist.' If others then strike him down & slay him while he is thus striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the hell called the realm of those slain in battle. But if he holds such a view as this: 'When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle,' that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb."
The Great Michael O'Keefe

Michael O’Keefe, the Oscar-nominated actor (for The Great Santini) who, among much else, did a knock-your-socks-off job with a role during the third season of The West Wing where he played a very noble reporter, plays Barry Grissom in George Clooney’s new film Michael Clayton, which is getting boffo reviews after opening yesterday. In his non-thespian meatlife, O’Keefe is a Zen Priest and member of the Zen Peacemaker Order, which can mightily show in his performances, or not, dependent on the role. Here’s the page on Michael at IMDb. Here, an article from five years ago about O’Keefe’s work teaching meditation in Northern Ireland, posted at the official Michael O'Keefe website, . Get hip to Michael O’Keefe, y’all.

Sharon Salzberg pulls a Buddhist full Ginsburg

Interesting bits of news tell us that Sharon Salzberg is in upcoming podcasts from both of Buddhism Online’s quality producers of such, the IDProject and Buddhist Geeks. In baseball terms, Salzberg has converted a double play. In Sunday-morning-talkshow terminology, it’s a full Ginsburg when you get saturation coverage.

Ethan Nichtern began his The IDProject newsletter, which I received yesterday, with these words, “This past Wednesday night, our Guest Lecture Series attained new levels of awesomeness with a visit from Sharon Salzberg, one of the foremost meditation teachers in America (soon to be available on The Interdependence Project podcast).”

Vince of Buddhist Geeks put up a picture of fellow Geek Ryan Oelke in his personal blog, Numinous Nonsense, with a caption that began with this sentence: “Ryan doing the voiceover for this week’s Buddhist Geeks episode w/ Sharon Salzberg.” Vince tells us Geek Gwen Bell conducted the interview.

Could it be that Salzberg has a new book out? From a search at Amazon, I find she has a 30-page book/2 CD/contemplation cards package called Unplug coming out in five months. She might be plugging that. [The title may be a reference to The Matrix idea of joining The Real World OR may focus on the simpler idea of relieving stress OR both. “You gotta unplug, man,” said Kroy to Keanu’s coppertop Neo.] She also has a mass paperback version of her 2004 book Lovingkindness coming out next April, published by Shambhala.

Update: The podcasts have been posted. Here are links to Susan Salzberg's three-part podcast with Buddhist Geeks [#1, #2, #3] and the IDProject's 21st Century Buddhism, "GUEST LECTURE: Interdependence and Lovingkindness."


As many of us learn, tangential to our study of Ch’an (Chinese Zen), the number eight is considered lucky by those in China and by Chinese whom have emigrated worldwide. Thus it is no weird coincidence that the summer Olympics are set to begin in Beijing on August 8, 2008, at 8:08pm (or, maybe, eight seconds and eight nanoseconds thereafter).

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