Less blame, more responsibility

We’ve all heard some pretty terrible things from the mouths of so-called religious teachers, but this is a new low. Sheikh Sharif Hussein, an Islamic preacher and imam, used his platform during Friday prayers at the then Allenby Gardens headquarters on March 22 to call for the death of all Buddhists and Hindus, as well as issuing vile, hate-filled diatribes against the Jews, Australian soldiers, and others. The speech was published in an edited form by the US thinktank, MEMRI TV. Please watch this if you haven’t already. Among other despicable rantings, Hussein said this:

Oh Allah, count the Buddhists and the Hindus one by one. Oh Allah, count them and kill them to the very last one.

He has issued a call for the death of all Buddhists and Hindus. Hate speech does not get any worse than this. It is time for the Islamic community in Australia to stop apologizing for such people, blaming media bias and the West, and start accepting responsibility for the actions of their community.

The Adelaide press has reported the matter, and there have been responses from several community representatives, including the Federation of Australian Buddhist Council through its president, Kim Hollows.

The man is deranged. No surprise there; there are always crazy people in our world. What makes him more than just a loon waving a placard is that he has people backing him, and people listening to him. He has a platform, and that platform is supported by an institutional and community basis. This is why the most disturbing aspect of the event is not that such speech exists—which is disturbing enough—but that it is defended and apologized for by institutions in the Islamic community. The center where he gave the talk, the Islamic Da’wah Centre of South Australia (IDCSA) has, unbelievably, issued an actual defense of the speech. The Islamic society of South Australia has not gone so far, but has avoided making any real condemnation.

Imagine if I were to give a speech in the Dhammaloka Buddhist Center, calling for “Death to all Muslims and Christians!” What would happen? Well, firstly, the audience would not believe their ears. That a spiritual leader could say such a thing is so outside their sphere of comprehension, it would take a few moments to sink in. But when it did sink in, there would be an uproar. People would get up, leave, call out in protest. Quickly, the PA would be shut down and I would be firmly asked to leave the premises, and if I didn’t the police would be called. I would be immediately banned from the place, expelled from membership, and the BSWA would issue a statement condemning my statement and totally dissociating themselves from me and my views.

Well, that is what Hussein did, and none of this happened. The audience sat there, apparently quiet and acquiescent during the talk. No-one called out or protested. He was not cut off, but allowed to continue. The talk was recorded by the IDCSA and published by them on their Youtube channel. (The IDCSA still has a video of Hussein giving a talk at their center. Apparently lacking any irony, the talk is on “forgiveness”. Unfortunately the video is private so we can’t see what Hussein thinks about that highly relevant topic.) Again, presumably without any special comment or discussion in their community, this has been current since March. Their community has done nothing about this, but continues to receive “teachings” from this man. Only when MEMRI.TV published the edited clip did anyone say anything.

Now the IDCSA has issued a response. What exactly do they say? Here’s some points:

IDCSA do not necessarily hold the same views/positions of the video

Not necessarily hold the same views?! So they might possibly hold the same views, but maybe not. Well that clears that up then. It’s good to know that the people running this pillar of society do not necessarily wish death on a couple billion innocent people. As inadequate as these weasel words are, they are only the start. They go on to say:

we believe that the Sheikh’s words were clearly taken out of context and put together in a suggestive manner

Let me state this as plainly as I can: there is no context that can justify a call for the murder of billions of innocent people. To even suggest that this statement could be contextualized is nonsense. The man called for genocide. The only moral response is to condemn it.

But it gets worse. What is the context they allege is lacking?

The sheikh presented in his speech some of the war crimes directed against Muslims around the world, something that was completely ignored in the video. While addressing the mass rape cases in Iraq, the Sheikh was emotional and used strong words in addressing those who committed these crimes.

If you have seen the video, you know that this is simply false. The video, while obviously edited from a longer talk (who wants to listen to more of this stuff?), clearly presents Hussein’s allegations about mass rape and the like. The alleged missing context is right there in the video. This means that the IDCSA has either not watched the video (unlikely), or they are lying. Since they are defending a call to genocide, lying seems a good bet. Do they imagine we are all so stupid?

And the statement goes on:

some media organisations are trying to present this video as hate speech while ignoring the fact that denouncing a criminal act is a social right which falls under the general category of ‘freedom of speech’.

Yes, I know, the irony of fundamentalists relying on the free speech argument. Once again, it seems there is a need to spell out something very simple: denouncing what you think is wrong is not hate speech. Calling for the death of billions of innocents is hate speech.

This is obvious, but underlying it is something deeper. There is, concealed in this statement, a basic misunderstanding of what free speech means in a liberal society. Truly free speech is courageous and open. It does not hide behind closed doors, and resort to blame and hypocrisy when it is criticized.

Free speech happens in connection, in a multitude of voices contending, dissenting, arguing. So it only has meaning if there is someone listening. It is not free speech if you just rant and never listen to other points of view. Really listen, with compassion and understanding.

Free speech always tends towards reason and moderation, which is why fundamentalists cannot meaningfully take part in any broader dialogue in society. They can only imagine themselves as the outsiders, as the oppressed. If they actually listened to a voice of reason, they might learn something. Perhaps they might be able to contribute. Perhaps they might be able to join with the very many Australians who opposed the invasion of Iraq, and who turned out in their hundreds of thousands to peacefully protest the war.

And the statement from the IDCSA continues with more lies:

no part of that clip contain any call towards violence and/or friction between the non-Muslims and Muslims or multicultural communities in Australia. The lectures were delivered in relation to the Burmese Buddhist massacre of the Rohingya minority Muslims

No doubt the massacre of Rohingyas in Burma was one of the reasons the Buddhists got called in here. But the video is quite clearly calling for death to all Buddhists.

I remember a little story from when I was in grade 7 at Aquinas College in Perth. Our teacher, Brother McMahon, taught us all a particular way of ruling a page. He asked that we rule all out pages like that in future. The next day he was checking our homework, and saw that one of the students, James Toop, had not complied. He grabbed Toop, pulled him up to the front of class, and started whacking him with his strap. Toop started crying, and tried to talk, but couldn’t get a word in. When it was finished, he explained that he had been absent because sick the day before. Even while sick, he had called a friend to get the homework, and had done it all, but he didn’t know about the page ruling thing.

Terrible, right? So, we all thought Brother McMahon was a dickhead. But we knew well enough that this didn’t mean that all other teachers were dickheads. In primary school, we had learnt the basic moral lesson that if someone does something wrong, they are to blame for that, not everyone who is similar to them in some way.

But when hate burns like a wildfire, when reason exits and dogma reigns unchallenged, such elementary moral distinctions evaporate. Hussein and the IDCSA exhibit a moral consciousness that is more primitive than that of a primary school child. Thus the fact that some people who are Buddhists in Burma have done some dreadful things provokes a call for the death of all Buddhists (and Hindus and Jews and whoever else).

Finally, the inevitable blaming of media bias:

we would like to bring into question the reliability, independence and veracity of a media organisation like MEMRI TV, which has served as a mouthpiece for islamophobes

The IDCSA conveniently supply some links to back their claims up. I followed the links, and here is what they say.

The first link is to a page of the American radical political scholar Norman Finkelstein. The article says that MEMRI doctored a video interview to give the impression Finkelstein was a holocaust denier. A transcript is given, which shows which parts of the interview were kept and which were deleted. Check for yourself, but I can’t find anything in the deleted portions that would somehow construe Finkelstein as a holocaust denier. In fact, in the portion that was not deleted, he clearly says, “my parents passed through the Nazi holocaust. Every member of their families was exterminated during the war and I felt it was important to accurately represent what happened to them during the Nazi holocaust.”

Next there is an intelligent article in the Guardian, which discusses the political bias of MEMRI. The suggestion is essentially that MEMRI does not represent the full spectrum of political discourse in Arab countries, and should not be relied on as a sole source of information for Arab political discourse. There is no allegation that the videos themselves are untrustworthy; in fact at the bottom of the article they say that in the case in point—an allegation that Saddam Hussein cut the ears off deserters—there was independent confirmation.

Then there is a page on Sourcewatch. While repeating the criticism of biased selection, and various other specific criticisms, this also shows that MEMRI’s videos are widely cited.

The next link points to the Wikipedia page for MEMRI’s founder, Yigal Carmon. I am not sure what this aims to prove. Perhaps the fact that he is a Jew who has criticized jihadi extremists is, in the eyes of the IDCSA, sufficient to prove he cannot be trusted.

Next is a page on Counterpunch, where the author says regarding MEMRI: “Thus I specifically retract my allegation that the organization’s translations are questionable, and I apologize for my error.” He repeats the accusation of selective quoting. However, it seems even their critics acknowledge that the translations are correct. (The translation of the talk in Adelaide was independently confirmed by the Adelaide Advertiser.)

Thus of all the sources referred to by the IDCSA, none of them substantially show that MEMRI’s output is inaccurate. For an organization that disseminates information on such a controversial topic, some criticism is to be expected, and no doubt some is warranted. To leap from an accusation of selective quoting to try to argue away the incitement to genocide that was, quite clearly, spoken by Hussein in Adelaide, is utterly disingenuous.

So what is to be done? The shameful truth is that the answer to this is, not much. A principled and meaningful response by the Muslim community simply requires a consistent rejection of this kind of speech.

It seems that Hussein was kicked out of his former base, the Marion Mosque, because of his hate speech. Good on them. The IDCSA should follow this example. And if their leaders do not, the members should call a Special General Meeting, and have the sheikh and his supporters kicked out. This is what any Buddhist community in Australia would do. It is not too much to ask. If they do not do so, they should have their charitable status revoked, and to the fullest extent permissible by law, the SA and Federal Governments should shut them down.

And good on the principled Muslims like Director of the International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding Professor Pal Ahluwalia, who clearly and unambiguously slammed Hussein, saying

“The Sheikh has done his Muslim brothers and sisters no favours by preaching hate. Extremism in all of its forms is the natural enemy of truth – so every time this kind of extreme preaching makes headlines it obscures the reality of the strong, ethical, law-abiding, engaged and contributing Muslim Australians who are our neighbours and work colleagues, our class mates and friends. There are extreme groups across all religions and cultures and there are individuals who advocate violence and aggression for their own agendas. What people must remember is that just as Geert Wilders is not representative of all Dutch people or the Army of God does not speak for all Christians, so the extreme rants of one Sheikh do not reflect the views of all Muslims.”

Sadly, though, this voice is isolated. I have tried to find articulate responses from the more progressive of Australia’s Islamic community, and there is nothing here, here, here , here, or here. Perhaps I have missed things; if so, please let me know in the comments.

It is not hard to be honest. We must simply admit that some things done by people who adhere to our religion are bad. Here’s how to do it. There was a Buddhist mob in Burma a few days ago that attacked a police station and went on a rampage, led by three monks. They alleged that a Muslim man had raped a Buddhist woman. Their response was wrong. They should have supported the rule of law. The monks who led the mob should be disrobed, and criminal charges should be laid against them. In addition, the Burmese Sangha needs to give a clear and consistent message of harmony and understanding of difference.

See? Not that hard. I can do it, and so can the voices of the Islamic community. Bloggers, Imams, teachers, leaders, activists, scholars, humans with a voice: where is there someone who has the guts to stop blaming non-Muslims, and start taking responsibility for the acts of Muslims?

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62 thoughts on “Less blame, more responsibility

  1. Bhante, as the foremost victims of the Islamic invasion in Asia, it is time for Buddhists to inform the world, preferably with dispassion, how Islam was first introduced to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, East Bengal, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, etc. Or, even just start with the decimation of Nalanda University where it took a single scythe-wielding horseman to decapitate thousands of innocent monks by lining them up in straight rows with bowed heads like stalks of rice being harvested, except that, this time, the gruesome harvest consisted of human heads. To add insult to this horrendous massacre, the heads were pierced with pointed wooden poles and displayed as trophies of war.

    It boggles the mind how such cruelty and violence could be committed on such a scale and the perpetrators expect no repercussions for such acts?

    Islam owes Buddhism a lot of explanation and it is only fitting that they do so with humility and wisdom. I would even venture that a religion that cannot bring peace and harmony could not possibly hold the truth and right-thinking individuals who subscribe to the Islamic faith must start questioning the validity of their doctrines as befits rational human beings. Why insist on saving others from the torments of hell when they cannot even free themselves from the tyranny of their own beliefs?

  2. Actually the Buddhist Kalachakra talks about the war between Buddhism and Islam and Mohammed in Mecca. It says the Hero will come and destroy the Moslems.., interesting?

    • Very interesting, Jackson.

      However, the Buddha passed away before Islam was formed… so, where did that Buddhist Kalachakra come from? I’m not sure it’s from the Buddha.

      • Of course not. The tantras were written in a period starting, maybe as early as the 5th century AD (i.e. 1000 years after the Buddha), but in fact most of them are much later, dating around 9-12 centuries.

      • The syncretism of Indo-Iranian asceticism with aboriginal shamanism occurred at a very early date. Angulimala was unmistakably a tantric practitioner prior to conversion, as was Mahakala. Buddhist tantras were first recorded in the fourth century, predominated in Indian Buddhism between the sixth and eighth centuries, declined in the eleventh century, and were all but extinct in India by the thirteenth century.

  3. I won’t claim to be a religious historian, but it appears to me it has usually been the monotheists who are determined to obliterate those of other faiths, or none. For a really shocking description of what to do with one’s enemies after they are defeated I always suggest reading the Old Testament which, presumably, our Jewish bretheren should still be bound by. Kill everything that breathes; kill every man, woman and child, keeping only the virgins for yourselves; take all of the livestock and goods, then burn their cities to the ground. Such are the reputed instructions of God to his chosen people.

    As another follower of “The Book” perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at the Sheikh’s outburst, dismaying as it is.

  4. It is how to react or not react that is the issue ie Buddhists are not suppose to fight but is being too passificist ignoring the problem and letting it get worse?

    This is were I get confused?

    • Well, I’m trying to set an example. Be clear and direct in your speech. Stick to the facts. Make generalizations cautiously and slowly, and retract them quickly. And most important of all: always bear in mind what matters—the essential moral issue at hand. Who suffers?

      • Hi Lionel,

        Certainly the recent outbreaks of violence against Muslims in Burma is part of the problem. I would not say, however, that it is the “root” of the problem. There has, been vicious persecution of Buddhists in Bangladesh, just over the border, for a long time now, which the international community doesn’t seem to have done anything about. We can always trace one atrocity back to another, which is why the Buddha’s message in the Dhammapada has never been more timely: we will never find peace as long as we keep blaming.

  5. Just for more balance information, Bhante and my friends.

    Published by
    Arakan Human Rights and Development Organisation (AHRDO)
    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5x_WQ8boBL7VXlfY1BjWVRaNms/

    We never heard about voice of Buddhist victims from international media, thus giving the impression that only Muslim persecuted. In fact they (Buddhists) also suffer because of this conflict. Most of us read the news from international media with their bias (they did not conduct an full investigation), less reading of local media reports.

    The seminar about international expert said there is no Rohingya ethnic in Myanmar also not reported by many media.
    http://www.nationmultimedia.com/aec/No-Rohingya-in-Rakhine-academic-30201669.html

    Conflict in Myanmar becomes complex due to the presence of terrorists in Myanmar (Rakhine) that existed before the 2012 conflict.

    http://wikileaks.org/cable/2002/10/02RANGOON1310.html

    So, we need more carefully about Myanmar conflicts

  6. You really have to feel sorry for the Virgins don’t you; suddenly in that story they go from being Virgins to rape victims and possessions of murders and piligers. :)

  7. Yet another example of a scripture-based “religious leader” speaking mindlessly and through the filters of his own emotions and ignorance. It certainly points to the fact that to be a faith/scripture-based “religious leader” doesn’t imply any extra maturity or spirituality than the average person on the street. This guy has probably spent years memorising, studying and preaching based on ambiguous words written centuries ago, and yet has the maturity level of an adolescent. Unfortunately, crowds and groups of like minded sheeple are then influenced, and the vicious cycle continues.

  8. They certainly work hard, most of the supermarkets, petrol stations, doctors and dentists now seem to be people who come from that part of the world.

  9. I didn’t think muslim women could work so maybe they are not muslim, but they have women working and supporting them, they are very educated and experienced this is not just based on looks like in the West.

    In the West women are it seems only rewarded or supported for being models and looking good in bikinis etc – “polite princesses”, possibly alot of their success comes from the fact they are supported by women of all ages and looks – the women are very down to earth in that way – whereas in teh west such women are looked down upon and only sexualised women are supported by the men.

    • Actually maybe saying most of the petrol stations, supermarkets, doctors and dentists is an over generalisation.

      Most of (if not all of the petrol stations in my area) some of the smaller supermarkets, (not the larger chains as far as I no but am not sure) and quite a few doctors and dentists seem to be from that area.

      Having said that even though it is an area of high unemployment, at least, on occasion, they seem to employ westerners or people not from their own group in the existing businesses they have taken over.

  10. The Kalachakratantra has been slightly altered by Hindu editors. It does not specify Islam as the enemy, but rather a tyrannical political regime that will enslave the world at the end of this age.

    • The Kalachakratantra has been slightly altered by Hindu editors.

      Really? I find this difficult to believe. Since when did Hindus get hold of Buddhist texts, edit them, and serve them back to Buddhists, who were too stupid to know that their own texts were corrupted? Sorry, but until I get some clear evidence, the Kalacakra is a Buddhist text. But like I said, I know little of the historical background.

      • The Kalachakra school developed in the 11th/12th centuries when Buddhism was dying out in India, and was in the process of being submerged into Hinduism. It’s texts were composed in parallel with those of a very similar Hindu Kalachakra tradition so there was some ‘cross-contamination’. The Hindu view at that time saw Islam as the enemy of all Indians, including those in the distant future. The Buddhist view was that the true enemy is internal. Both traditions agreed that this final age will end in a rebellion against dystopia, but only the Hindus identified this tyranny with Islam. The Buddhist Kalachakra prediction is more like ‘Brave New World’.

    • Dear sister Nathalie,

      At issue here is not that there is so much hatred, or if there is, I would concede the hatred to pernicious thoughts or harmful actions of a deluded group, which, I must emphasize, is not directed to the individuals of that group itself as seemingly implied by your position, and how to deal with these within the context of the Buddha’s teachings, right now.

      Inaction/passivity, as opposed to being peaceful and harmonious, is not an option for us much longer.

      Our greatest tool at this stage is education, a concerted effort at/of information that will lay bare the matter on hand in broad daylight which, in turn, should help bring about full understanding and realization of the impact of the various positions and actions that were or would be taken by all sides, which, of course, we hope with regards to eventual ones, would be enlightened, as fitting reflections of the magnanimity of the great Tathagata’s doctrines.

      • Dear elrdvoph,

        First, may I begin by congratulating you on your handle: a most excellent choice!

        And may I second your suggestion that education is the key. As someone who spent most of his school years staring mindlessly out a window, I have always had a complex relationship with formal education. But on the whole, I think that universal education is probably the greatest achievement of the European Enlightenment. For the world, and specifically for Buddhist countries, a solid, rational education is probably the single most significant thing for lifting people out of the most severe forms of suffering.

        One problem, and I believe that this is the case in all forms of religion, is that it seems to be very difficult to integrate the lessons of schooling in wider spheres. We happily learn how to do maths, how to do experiments, back them up with data, cite sources objectively, analyze litarary works and so on; but then when it comes to something they didn’t learn at school, we fall back on old ways. This is particularly the case in the sphere of religion. I am amazed at how often I meet extremely well educated Buddhists, who are career lawyers or engineers or doctors, and who are among the most brilliant, intelligent people you could meet, yet when they come to Buddhism fall back on the most naive legends and fantasies. These have often remained, uninvestigated, unreflected on, unimproved, since primary school. I think it is essential that schoolchildren learn how to apply the same kind of critical, careful inquiry and critical reasoning to religion as they do to any other topic.

      • Yes, Bhante, and thank you. You have understood that what I meant by education, is teaching students to continually question and investigate the so-called facts presented before them.

        First, education must help deal with the human mind. Presently, this manner of educating is not as widespread as we would reasonably like it to be within the prevailing institutions of learning, and this is where we fail those sensitive minds, who become agitated or ticking time bombs, sometimes literally, on the slightest provocation, be they real or not. Why do you think we are seeing more and more mindless acts of violence perpetrated by ever younger individuals? Unless we address the core issue of education that touches this mind directly, we will be seeing even more of the same mindset, clouded by anger triggered by confusion, an inability to reconcile reality/universal morality with their own predicaments/circumstances.

        By education, I do mean here a wider interpretation of the word itself, not simply its present, popular, and academic sense. In fact, the latter should incorporate a practice that would deal, first and foremost, with the human mind, whereby questioning and personal initiative of investigation must be fully encouraged. Some may argue that it is too time-consuming, and so, let’s add questioning oneself first as a prelude to open discussion of any subject concerning the person, by developing in the mind of the individual student the ability to seek/investigate on one’s own the answers to the riddles of life, in order that they will endeavor to find, through their own efforts, the facts/answers without the teacher always spoon-feeding them.

        Let them use their minds to understand how their actions will unravel positively or negatively upon one’s self and society when these same thoughts, words and deeds are applied in the individual and social spheres. This methodology should involve a lot of reflection and mental preparation on the part of the teacher and students, which, by the way, we already demand with existing curricula anyway, except that this time, we are straightforwardly dealing with the most essential aspect of education, the human mind. This is where Buddhism should come in, but not the ‘Buddhism’ that is the merely ritualized, blind adherence to tradition and ritual prescriptions, but the actualization of the spirit of the Buddha’s teaching in the context of the modern world, one that involves an openness to discussion/and dialogue for the best interests of one and all.

        For starters, how about introducing Good Manners and Right Conduct at the primary level, encompassing the universal values we already hold in esteem, such as the law of reciprocity/the golden rule/the law of karma (or law of cause and effect/causation as commonly translated in the West), the law of dependent origination, impermanence, the nature of reality, as well as attitudes to birth, old age and death, and even rebirth (although the last one may be a far stretch for some fundamentalists and dogmatists, LOL). For example, the problem of our mortality, particularly, is not often talked about honestly and openly and, in turn, engenders much anxiety among adults with sentiments that are then projected onto their children.

        Apologies, Bhante, for going off tangent but I strongly feel these are missing in our present system(s) of education and this deficiency is responsible for much suffering.

      • Hi elrdvoph,

        Thanks for these reflections, I absolutely agree with you. Of course there are many within the education system who would love to see a more ethical and holistic approach, but they struggle against the constant demands for measurable and saleable results.

        The etymology of “education” is to “lead out” (e-duce). This is, strikingly enough, exactly parallel with the etymology of Vinaya, to “lead out” (vi-naya). In both cases it has the idea of drawing someone to their fullest potential. This was the ideal of the ancient Greek notion of education, which has become so watered down since then.

        Having said which, even the inadequate and narrow form of education we have today is still a lot better than nothing at all. The problem is that we have stopped so far short of what it could be.

  11. Where is Dalai Lama the so-called ‘His Holiness’? Is his ‘holiness’ only to comment and condemn against Buddhists minor violence? When Buddhists take strict actions against those of rapers, criminals, murderors then his mouth is open and when Buddhists are being victims of Islam then his mouth is shut down. He is just giving publicity of minor Buddhist misdeeds and concealing of violence of others. What kind of ‘holiness’ is he? Is a really practising compassion that he talks to the world or is he just a commercial ‘goods’ of the West? Can he open up his mouth for Buddhists who are suffering everyday because of persecution, killings, and all sorts of nasty things in the countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Southern Thailand, India??

    • The Thinker,

      I actually had a Tibetan Buddhist tell me the other day we, in this country are already doomed or taken control of by islam. This was such a defeatist attitude comeing from this man, while making peace is one thing just a blank acceptance of this fact I was quick shocked – I hope this attitude is not being spread amongst the Tibetan Buddhists.

      Regard

    • ‘If someone is behaving unreasonably and harmfully towards other beings, and he or she is doing so continually, then ultimately he or she will suffer. If you understand the situation clearly, then respectfully and without scorn, you can take necessary counter-action. In such circumstances you should take action to stop other people behaving unreasonably because unless we do so things will just get worse. We are not only allowed to take action but indeed we should, the difference being that we do so not out of anger but with an altruistic intention.’ (His Holiness the Dalai Lama.)

  12. Bhante, have you ever considered publishing your articles under the Buddhism section on Huffington post? It is a very widely read online news publication in the States. There is a lack of articles with much depth under the Buddhism section.

    • Hi Lars,

      Thanks for the suggestion. To be honest, I haven’t really considered it. I don’t write well by commission: it only comes when it comes. My articles do get picked up from time to time by other publications, like the Bangkok Post or the Buddhist Channel. Anyway, you’re most welcome to submit something if you think it’s worthwhile!

  13. Bloggers

    Does the Western media not understand Buddhism or has Sri Lanka got it wrong?

    Quote from Article “Sri Lanken Man dies after exocism”?

    “Many in Sri Lanka, where 70 percent of the population are Buddhists, have faith in black magic, sorcery and exorcism, and place great importance on astrology. Important state functions are held according to the auspicious times chosen by astrologers”

    • Well, it’s a bit unfair to single out “Sri Lanka” for this! Superstition is everywhere, and Buddhism, like other world religions, has done its share to overcome it. Sadly, though, there’s still lots and lots around, in every so-called “Buddhist” tradition. This is one of the reasons why the Suttas are the most dangerous and politically volatile thing in Buddhism. Not dangerous to people, of course, but to entrenched superstitions, and vested interests. The Suttas utterly dismiss all this kind of thing, so only by ignoring the Buddha does it continue.

      • Bhante, these are two separate questions. Firstly, does an invisible world exist? Secondly, are such matters the proper concern of monks?

      • Crikey, here we go. Short answer: Yes, and yes.

        Longer but still inadequate answer:

        There are of course lots of “invisible worlds’, depending how we understand that. We are surrounded by electro-magnetic radiation that is invisible and yet carries information. Such physical phenomena would come under the Buddhist term “anidassana-rupa”, literally “invisible form”. Do such things have any relation to the various realms of rebirth spoken of in the Buddhist texts? Well, on theoretical grounds I would say it’s likely, as everything is connected in some way with everything else. Consciousness is not a product of the brain and its electromagnetic (and possibly other) invisible physical energies, but it certainly interacts with them. As far as empirical evidence goes, I think there are plenty of good reasons for thinking that consciousness operates in realms that cannot be reduced to physics (as currently understood). See the book “Irreducible Mind” for lots of great evidence and arguments on this.

        What this leaves unexplained, though, is the exact nature of the relation between the “invisible worlds” of physics and Buddhism. Is there really a realm where a man-god calls himself “Sakka” and spends countless millenia trysting with his retinue of 500 pink-footed nymphs? I suspect such notions may have more to do with traditional Indian beliefs in the afterlife than with any objective reality. But this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing there, it just means that the manner and the forms in which such “invisible worlds” are described are conditioned by cultural metaphors and linguistic possibilities. The same is true today, except we are more likely to draw on metaphors from science and speak of “other dimensions” and so on.

        And as to whether such things are the proper concern of monastics, they are featured very prominently in all Buddhist texts, so clearly they always have been and will continue to be. Personally I prefer to deal with matters within my own experience, and such realms are not.

      • Hi,

        Vested interests or not – You would think that any Buddhists would understand karma though – that is what I don’t get – I swear two days after that post I heard an educated nice person refer to the the …satanic or black magic.. groups in the area or something like that – he may (not 100% sure) have been referring to the Buddhist groups (these are not in the most part Theravardent) in the area (this is in Oz!).

        Regards

    • A great read, thanks, highly recommended. There’s a lot of historical background on this site, so it’s a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the history, especially of the later period of Buddhism in India.

    • In the first part of his essay Dr. Berzin makes the case that the enemy of Buddhism in the Kalachakratantra is Islam, in order to discredit this notion in the second part of his essay. Even this preliminary argument is rather weak because Manichaeism is not an Abrahamic religion so his list of ‘mleccha’ is actually just a list of non-Indic religions, all of which are considered extremism according to Buddhist philosophy. In his conclusion Dr. Berzin explains, ‘The name mleccha here merely refers to non-Dharmic forces and beliefs that contradict Buddha’s teachings. Thus, the prediction is that destructive forces inimical to spiritual practice – and not specifically a Muslim army – will attack in the future, and an external “holy war” against them will be necessary.’ If the Kalachakratantra is read alongside the Epic of Gesar it is quite clear that ‘The Four Evil Kings’ represent a worldly form of extremism, inimical to the spiritual practices of all religions.

      • Hi Yaksha9,

        Okay, can you explain some more? I’m not clear as to how you differ from Dr. Berzin in your interpretation. I undersand about Manichaeism, although from a Buddhist perspective it may have been hard to distinguish this from Abrahamic faiths.

  14. Dear Friends, I found this useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rohingya_conflict_in_Western_Burma

    Knowing a little of the history just magnifies the utter recklessness of recent media manipulation, which I suspect is a blatant attempt to undermine the relatively unchallenged moral authority of Buddhism in Western media, a situation which is perhaps being recognised as something of a nuisance to the powers that be, since our ideals don’t really match those of the industrial complex behind the likes of Time Magazine; and a way to make all of our peace loving lives a bit more complicated, now that we have become the targets of extremists from Indonesia, to Australia, to India. Ironically, what it means for us now, is that we will have to know what we are talking about when people ask, and we will have to speak more loudly in favour of peace, and we will have to do even more to challenge media like time Magazine.

  15. Hi,

    I think most people in Australia like Buddhists and think it a peaceful religion but don’t really know much more about it other than that – apart from the Dalai Lama. So it is more the unusualness of recent actions in Australia ie it is out of norm for bad reports about Buddhism to happen than that being the norm, which is why these stand out… if that makes sense.

    Regards

    • Thailand overthrew the Sultanate of Pattani in 1902 and divided its territory into three Malay-speaking border provinces. In the present day, Thailand should hold a referendum in these provinces for union with Malaysia. As many as twenty million economic migrants have illegally entered India from Bangladesh, forcing the Indian government to build a 3406 km border fence. ‘Rohingya’ is the modern Burmese name for these migrants. The identity of the Bodh Gaya bombers is unknown. So where exactly is this ‘threat to Buddhism’?

      • The threat to Buddhism, which should rather be translated into threat to the general well-being of the entire human society (as opposed exclusively to Buddhism) that the brother may have alluded to in his post, are the brewing pernicious thoughts and harmful actions that are steadily ongoing/being entertained in the minds afflicted by psychosis and psychopathology within the various radical, often religious, groups. We could argue that these have always existed since time immemorial. However, the capacity to inflict harm physically or mentally have grown exponentially right now as opposed to 1902 or prior to 9/11, and given what these individuals believe, coupled with the arsenals of weaponry that are now available (i.e., the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and disruptive technology the likes of sarin gas, biological warfare, nuclear weapons, cluster bombs, torture paraphernalia, etc.), inaction/passivity are no longer an option for Buddhists or in fact, for any right-thinking human. The “arsenals” at our disposal as Buddhists, which, fortunately, are nothing of the sort mentioned above, should now be actively implemented/applied to bring to light these unwholesome states.

        As one American statesman once said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” You could substitute the word vigilance with mindfulness, which would, of course, prove ineffectual nowadays, if it is not accompanied by wisdom, that is, having a clear appraisal of our situation and the right corresponding action(s) to deal with it.

        As Buddhists, we have the tools to help us contend with these, aware of what the Buddha said:

        “Mind is the forerunner of (all evil) states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with wicked mind, suffering follows one, even as the wheel follows the hoof of the draught-ox.

        Mind is the forerunner of (all good) states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with pure mind, AFFECTION follows one, even as one’s shadow that never leaves. ”
        ― Buddha (Dhammapada)

        I have not despaired that there exist right thinking individuals within these various religions who can still discern what is skillful and unskillful, have the right mental attitude and/or ‘less dust in their eyes’, and are, therefore, ready for an open-ended dialogue. Their suffering becomes the object of our concern because they are, in fact, ours. And with a spirit of true altruism, this may just be our penultimate solution in its most noble sense.

        Many religions, particularly the theistic ones, give bad reasons to be good, that is, be moral, when good reasons are actually available. Buddhism, as a mode of living which does not require a personal god to behave within human society, should be at the forefront to usher in the age of a universal education system that leads to greater awareness and ultimately, enlightenment.

  16. What Dr. Alexander Berzin says in a text that read, is that the Kalachakra Tantra refers to the Persian Shiite Muslims as enemies of Buddhism, and in my opinion, also the Mongols, who had converted to Islam. Muslims are chamdos ashura-nagas in the Kalachakra.

    If we evaluate Islamic law (Shariah) on the optical sutta “Win with good advice” (Samyutta Nikaya XI.5). Really, they preach the imposition of a moral law through violence, so they are a doctrine inspired by ashuras. The Mahayana Nirvana Sutra, also teaches that any Bhikkhu who take up arms to defend the Dharma, should be considered as a practitioner of the five precepts. This is further proof that the Mahayana sutras are late, and were composed as a response to the Mongol invasions, both in China and in Gandhara.

    In these countries, most of the men had become Buddhist monks, so when they needed more men to compose the armies of defense, then, the rulers needed an excuse to make the monks taking up arms. The argument was that the invaders were destroying temples, monasteries, stupas and sutras, as well as enslaving and murdering the local Buddhist population. Therefore it was necessary to take up arms to defend the Dharma.

    We should not be fooled into thinking that all religions have the same peaceful nature, because Islam is the only religion that preaches holy war against the infidels as a kind of religious commitment, and also supports the use of lying (Taqiyya; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taqiyya) as a way to protect the Islamic religion when speaking with an enemy or infidel (potential enemy). In his eschatological vision, there will be a final war of Muslims will unite under the command of the Mahdi, to destroy all infidels and idolaters who do not convert to their religion and the law of his God.

    For Muslims there is no friendship with unbelievers (kuffar), they only support up to that time for the great genocide has arrived. This is not a misinterpretation, because it was the prophet Muhammed who preached it all. The deluded do not believe that, because I never researched the subject, never read the Koran and Hadith.

    The third world war is already waged by these people, and the final conflict will be a war between us and them other religions. This is inevitable, and peace will be killed or have to wake up to the harsh reality of the facts. There is no “moderate Islam” and “radical Islam”, it’s all a big sham because the moderates are the ones who send so disimulada, ammunition and support for the radicals.

    For Islam, whosoever worships and reveres is a statue instead of God, is an enemy of Islam, an enemy of Allah and an idolater.

    The matter is serious and wide, but I can post the source if anyone wants.

  17. i am curious whether a religon professing nonviolence can exist/grow without the indirect support of people whose job includes violence(king and his army,modern state).when Buddha talks to a king does he say stop war,violence?i think he doesnt involve in that sphere.otherwise a nonviolent religion will be decimated by a violent one.

    • Hi ck_c,

      This is a profound and deeply problematic question, which is, in fact, the basis for the relations between state and Sangha in all Buddhist cultures. The simple answer is: no-one knows the answer. Buddhism orginated in a sphere that was non-Buddhist, and it can easily function in a space where you have little power and influence; in Australia I can say whatever I like, because no-one pays any attention. But in countries like Sri Lanka, I’ve been warned not say anything “controversial”. Which is, of course, a red rag to a bull!

      There are a number of examples where the Buddha is in a dialogue with the king or his representatives, and he always finds a skilful way to get the message across. The classic source is the opening section of the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

      Sadly, thogh, not many Buddhists have the Buddha’s compassion, integrity, and skill in speech, and we sometimes find that the Sangha, or at least some factions, side with the Government even when they are treading a very violent path. I was recently discussing this with Ayya Sudhira, who told me that many of the monks in Sri Lanka are holding special ceremonies this year to promote harmony, in response to the worrying rise of fundmentalism and anti-Islamic violence in Sri Lanka, spearheaded by the “Bodu Balasena“.

      I believe that it is the Sangha’s role to act as an independent and fearless voice of moral integrity, to question those in power, and to maintain a clarity on principles of compassion. We shouldn’t get involved in politics—like the Sri Lankan monks who got themselves elected to Parliament—but we should, like the Buddha did, hold those in power to a high standard.

      • If Buddhist or other religions also taught that harming people was not good not just compassion their would also be far few problems.

        Sometimes it just seems that religions just tell people to put up with abuse and lies etc etc and just be tortured to death and if you don’t then if is your fault; is this possible. I don’t think teaching people to put up with abuse does that much good – teaching the abusers to stop harm might. Can people who are not enlightened really spend their lives being compassionate to those that cause harm and what sort of life is that anyway. People will find any reason to excuse their harmful actions and are usually concieted enough to blame the people they harm for this – oh they reacted, they were angry, they did this or that when I harmed them; they swore or some other petty thing when the do nothing but cause harm.

        Why do Buddhist never teach people to not harm; but only victims to tolerate the
        abuse of dangerous sociopaths etc and then protect the sociopaths and leave the victim to die or at the hands of the abusers protecting the sociopaths?

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