Now he’s come up with a new mini-course on Twitter about Buddhism and Film #buddhismfilmminicourse
Read the material provided, watch the vid clip and apply what you read to it…that’s what I’m doing at least.
For those who aren’t on Twitter here are the lessons:
1b. "Suffering." Watch http://youtu.be/la0aP_UPKWg
2b. "Impermanence." Watch http://youtu.be/Lc4y-asVh3c
3b. "No-Self." Watch http://youtu.be/s9F0bwZXdeY
4b. "Karma." Watch http://youtu.be/Nld4DcRHME0
5b. "Samsara." Watch http://youtu.be/jVam1qOmlEo
6b. "Dependent Origination." Watch http://youtu.be/Rq9eM4ZXRgs
7. "Ethical Conduct." Read http://bit.ly/euF38G and http://bit.ly/g2iAdC and watch http://youtu.be/qxs4P6u1EiI (The good Rev. has his own numbering system. It requires special empowerments to completely understand)
10b. "Emptiness." Watch http://youtu.be/6k-N6ri95Xs
11b. "Compassion." Watch http://youtu.be/bpgrOgypc9g
12b. "Buddha-nature." Watch http://bit.ly/i7QIT4
13b. "Tantra." Watch http://bit.ly/b6YRbf
14b. "Nirvana." Watch http://bit.ly/jpfXm
Here’s a useful way to spend some Internet time.
The inimitable Rev. Danny Fisher has constructed a course that examines the interactions between religion and film. And he’s done it on Twitter. Follow the hashtag #religionfilmminicourse for complete details.
For those not on Twitter here are the contents thus far in chronological order. There’s even a section with advanced topics. Just read or listen to the linked material and watch the attached related YouTube video for each section. I don’t know if there will be an exam or not.
RevDannyFisher Rev. Danny Fisher
That’s a wrap! Fun exercise. Maybe Buddhism and Film next? #religionfilmminicourse
Update: Just as I was writing this Rev. Fisher announced final papers are due for Friday. I’ve asked for an extension as usual. [When I’m done though I am going to report back here]
Rev. James Ford wrote on the Arizona tragedy in a sermon he delivered Sunday at his Unitarian church in Providence. The piece was called “TREMBLING BEFORE THE THRONE OF GOD A Meditation on the Attempted Assassination of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the Necessity of Speaking Truth in Violent Times” It’s worth a read.
The signature phrase in that piece is:
…I will not be silenced.
In response to all those issues of inequality, injustice and unfairness that divide. And in spite of those who would silence all dissenting discourse through subtle intimidation or more directly at the barrel of a gun.
The conversation, as heated as it may get, cannot stop. Because if it does we have lost, all of us, everywhere, everything.
But note I wrote conversation. Not violent one-way directives. The latter are the domain of the truly weak attempting to appear strong.
Some specific things have been bandied about as blameworthy with regard to the violent tragedy. People seem to be looking for causes and meaning.
Terms and Preamble
Guns in and of themselves don’t kill people. They are not sentient or mobile so naturally it is not possible for them to do so. People with or without access to guns do kill people and quite frequently. It is far more likely that people with access to guns will kill people, as opposed to simply injuring them. I’m not against guns in and of themselves. I’ve fired guns enough to know that prefer a .22 pistol with a laser sight to anything else, light and not much kickback so one doesn’t have to worry about wrist injuries because of that or shoulder injuries as one might with a long gun. But I consider a gun to be a piece of sports equipment, with a time and place for use that fulfills that purpose, and therefore won’t own one, even if I could, for the purposes of personal protection.
Being from Canada and living mostly in India, both of which have severe weapons restrictions (guns, martial arts weapons, knives-even hunting is not allowed in India), I have a real hard time getting my head around the idea that everyone needs to walk around armed to the teeth. It seems to me that the more weapons there are in any given locale the more insecure the place seems. Go somewhere that martial law or high alert security is in force and check the tension levels. Both practically and symbolically where weapons are numerous a sense of security is conversely lacking.
2. Political rhetoric
It may be in some factions interest to maintain a strategy of tension. If people have a sense of insecurity it is more likely that they will fall in line with the ideas, programs and directives of those who appear to have the power to implement and enforce security. It was Chairman Mao who said “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” and apparently many still believe that either literally or metaphorically.
Power is often about perception. Visibility is often equated with power. We hear about the power of celebrity for example. The choice of Charleton Heston to head the NRA was no accident.
But are the most visible necessarily the most appropriate leaders? Probably not in many cases because it takes a great deal of effort to manufacture and sustain visibility and/or celebrity. If a good deal of someone’s resources are spent doing that, how much time do they have left to actually study the issues which they purport to address? Even with the most qualified entourage and best access to advice and information the presenter is still left on their own when the spotlight comes on. So they are left with talking points that have to fulfill double duty, that of attempting to address the issue and that of maintaining visibility. Often the latter wins out. So we get sound bites about “reloading”, “targeting” or what have you.
Those who defend violent rhetoric often claim that rhetoric alone is not the problem and that those who disagree cannot demonstrate causality nor are they aware of the mindsets of people using such rhetoric. Yet in almost the same breath many of these same people are diagnosing the perpetrator with all kinds of pseudo-psychological problems, attributing political affiliation to the point of propagandizing, again without demonstrating causality or knowing the mindset of the individual. A person can read both The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf and not have any desire whatsoever to go on a shooting rampage. I know because I’ve read them both and do not have any desire or thought whatsoever to go on a shooting rampage. I read them because they have been hugely influential social documents and so I could have an informed opinion should either of them be mentioned.
Let’s illustrate that point about attribution. We have Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) stating:
It’s probably giving him too much credit to ascribe a coherent political philosophy to him. We just have to acknowledge that there are mentally unstable people in this country. Who knows what motivates them to do what they do? Then they commit terrible crimes like this. (quoted in Huff-Po)
Not only does the Senator seem to know what kind of philosophy, or lack of, the perpetrator follows but that he belongs to a particular group of people labeled with mental disabilities. One might presume by making that statement the Senator is a licensed psychological professional, He’s not, he’s a lawyer. Or that he has interviewed the suspect at length. As far as I can find out only the police and forensic psychiatrists have and he’s evoked his 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination so isn’t talking to anyone. Or that the Senator also has some credits (even a minor) in political philosophy. I haven’t seen his transcript so I don’t know.
The link above about the 5th Amendment also states that the suspect had political motives in mind and planned what, in his own handwriting, he labeled an “assassination” based on a filed affidavit regarding materials found in his place of residence. He may have also had some other motives. We don’t really know.
3. Delusion, even psychotic delusion
After reading a Twitter post by cabell which said “Bottom line: blaming mental illness is both #ableism & a failure of sociological understanding” [ableism is the position of discriminating against people with disabilities for those too lazy or lame [example of ableist talk] to look it up-it’s another privilege position] Mumon wrote in his post Those responsible for violent political rhetoric DO have to bear responsibility for their words
…putting this on “insanity” is a compartmentalization that does not do justice to the reality.
The psychotic boogey man is a convenient scape goat. By remanufacturing the image of the perpetrator into that culturally iconic figure of the psychotic boogey man it all at once, objectifies him, dehumanizes him, distances him from the social sphere and attributes blame solely to that individual. That’s what I mean by scape goat, not that the person is not responsible for his actions but that he is being made responsible for the actions of all others who may have influenced him directly or indirectly, in an attempt to deflect blame and responsibility. That’s how scapegoating works.
Many, particularly in the news media, have tried to isolate this person as some kind of “anomaly”. A “deranged” mind does not exist in isolation. “Derangement” is fed by context, circumstances, learning, exposure–environmental input. If a person is severely deluded, even psychotic, the content of those thoughts come from somewhere. They are not self manufactured. Work with or know people labeled psychotic and this is abundantly obvious. What also is obvious is that those with severe perceptual issues are even more sensitive to the environment than many others. Ask anyone with knowledge of psychology who’s worked in milieu therapeutic approaches. Ask anyone who’s ever worked in or resided or otherwise spent time in a psychiatric facility why the situation is so strictly controlled, why stimulation is severely limited.
None of us is an isolated entity. We are all both products and expressions of our environments and we express that back into the environment through whatever mental filters we may have acquired.
On the continued demonization of the differently conscioused person here’s a fantastic blog post on that subject Discussion of an assassination: ableism & the failure of sociological understanding and another that just appeared as I was writing this ‘Psycho killer’? The Jared Lee Loughner case brings out the usual abuse
Causality is never simple. It is not some 1 to 1 correspondence. A does not always follow B. When we take those three elements-guns, political rhetoric and possibly altered perception we may wish to tease out one or the other of these elements and try to make it into a sole causative factor.
However, in this case, and in many others:
1 + 2 + 3 ≠ 6
Defies apparent logic if logic could be defined that simplistically. But usually it can’t.
It often comes out in other ways. The combination of these three elements could be expressed:
(1 + 2) 3 = 9
1 x 2 x 3 = 6
3 x 2 + 1 = 7
1 + 2 – 3 = 0
3 – 2 + 1 = 2
3 ÷ 1 + 2 = 5
2³ – 1 = 7
1 + 2 + 3 = 6 [sometimes it does = 6]
Then of course there are amplification effects and various other distortions. If some element is continually reinforced or combined with others, over time we might end up with something like this:
√12 + 3 – 11 x w + 2f x 33³³ – 1 ÷ 2 + x = ??? (I have no idea)
1, 2 and 3 are as described above. Let f=family relationships and let w=work relationships and there could be dozens of other unaccounted for variables (x).
The point is none of gun ownership, violent rhetoric or altered perception is solely responsible for this situation. They and a host of other things, many of them socio-cultural and possibly some of them genetic or neurologically based are responsible.
There is no sure formula for assessing blame. But no one is utterly blameless either. As cultural participants, even on a global level there is some connection. It may be vague or difficult to discern. It may be related to some memory of similar circumstances. It may be an action we couldn’t be bothered to take because it was too inconvenient. It may be a destructive impulse we didn’t want to control because it just felt better to lash out violently. It may be that we see all this as somebody else’s problem.
Some have advocated not speaking about this tragedy at all. As if silence will drown out the calls for targeting, removing, assassinations and so on. There is also some presumption that reflection on the current situation should be done without evoking any socio-cultural references particularly of a political nature. And sometimes it is implied or even stated that discussion of such is not examination and is only being disrespectful to those who have been killed or injured. In some cases that may be true, but not for most people.
Perhaps by discussion some are examining it. In a time of social dissolution or at least with the feeling that is what is happening, people try to get some meaning out of the situation, both individually and collectively. A frenzy of insecurity and reassurances ensues. Yes some will exploit this to bolster or defend their hardened political position but others will examine that in the social context. It isn’t only the tragedy of the deaths and injuries, but a rend in the entire social fabric. Rather like a hole in a boat. And with all the various reactions to that kind of scenario.
Most of the talk is about “this country” meaning the United States. The United States is part of the global community. It is not an autonomous, isolated entity. What happens there reflects elsewhere, and vice versa. The same is true of both the perpetrator and the victims in this situation. They are not some isolated entities that have no connection to everything and everyone else.
In that way again no one is utterly blameless or disconnected.
Some people wish to simply write off the perpetrator as a “crazy person”, “nut job” or other short dismissive label. Labels are easy to dispense. One can then usually dispense with thinking too deeply about the situation as well. The blatant ad hominem is the refuge of the nincompoop. [Yes I do get it that sentence can be highly self-referential] It’s a strategy of isolationism and avoidance. It’s lazy and far to easy to indulge. Anyone can call anyone else an asshole without having to put any thought whatsoever into another’s point of view. I’ve done it a few times, sure, mostly when I’ve sought to dismiss someone unpleasant, but it’s far from my personal modus operandi. It is far from many people’s way of dealing with issues. An issue or opinion and a person discussing an issue or holding an opinion are two different things. Many Christians use the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin” to distinguish between a being and a behavioral action. To engage the issues and the actual meat of the discussion is the real challenge. Even in the most heated of debates.
There is a huge difference between passionate debate and eliminationist rhetoric. Violent threatening speech is not debate. It is not a conversation, nor does it even acknowledge fully its subject or even it’s listeners who are perceived as unthinking, passive receptacles . It is a one way directive communication that does not await or even expect response from that which it labels as other. Its only purpose is to diminish its target and make them go away. One way or another.
[I’ve had to bold some sections because apparently a few people missed some of the crucial points and want to put words in my mouth and attribute positions to me which I did not utter. Maybe try reading what I actually said as opposed to what you imagined I said.]
Early morning Dec. 13: I was sitting at Delhi airport waiting to board my flight which was scheduled for 4AM. With time to fill I was looking around the Internet on my laptop and decided to check out the Blogisattva website. Turns out I had won one of the awards, in the category Best Engage-the-World Blog, from the six categories in which I had been nominated. I looked at that list:
- Best Engage-the-World Blog
- Best Achievement Blogging Opinion Pieces or Political Issues
- Best Blogging on Matters Philosophical, Psychological or Scientific
- Best Achievement in Skilled Writing
- Post of the Year! For the post: Sex and the Sangha:Forgiveness, Retribution or Justice
- Blog of the year, Svaha!
What kind of reaction to have to all that?
So I got on my flight, slept a couple of hours until it touched down briefly in Bangkok, ate a little breakfast on the plane and slept again until I reached Hong Kong where I had another few hours to pass. I wandered through the airport, looking for one of those airport massage set ups since my neck was stiff and painful due to both sleeping on the plane and the building results of a case of whiplash which occurred due to an accident we had on the way to Delhi the day before. Someone talking on a cell phone had clobbered us soundly from behind, causing damage to the car and two of the four passengers including me. The other injured person, my landlord’s uncle who was catching a ride to Delhi with us to visit his newly married daughter and see her new home for the first time, had bumped his head.
There is a massage/Chinese medicine outlet in the HK airport but it was a little too busy at the time and I didn’t feel like waiting around for an appointment, which may or may not have been completed by the time I had to board my next flight.
So I connected to the airports excellent, very high speed, free public wireless (YVR take a lesson) and checked my email. A note from my sister informed me that my uncle had just died.
I had just chatted on Facebook with my aunt the morning before I left home for the trip to Delhi and she had let me know that his condition, due to a stroke in June, had deteriorated and he hadn’t been wanting to eat any more. He didn’t want to participate in any kind of rehabilitation for the effects of the stroke since it happened. A lot of family members and friends had tried to encourage him but he had just given up upon realizing the paralysis of one side of his body.
These events set me to thinking about the months, as a teenager, that I had gone to live with that particular aunt and uncle in northern Canada, up near Flin Flon Manitoba. It was a tumultuous time in my life and I was not getting along with the rest of my family so to be in a new environment was really quite welcome (for everyone).
My flight was called and for the next 12 hours on the way to Canada, between naps, the distraction of a movie and meals, attempts to exercise my increasingly stiff neck, recalling things left undone and to some extent unsettled back in India, anticipating holiday travel plans to visit relatives including my aunt, there was a fair bit of turmoil going on in my mind.
Upon reaching Vancouver the jet lag of an 11 hour time change and the full on effects of the whiplash set in as I plowed through months of mail, unpacked, got laundry done, arranged further holiday travel and about a thousand other things.
So interspersed with these highlights from my past week’s life stream was the thought that I ought to address this Blogisattva situation. Considering that I had made some amount of noise about the advisability of this kind of competition on this blog in the posts The Buddhist Contest in 2008 (Yes I gave Tom a little grief about it in the past-so the current curators needn’t feel singled out) and Blogisattvas last June, as well as comments elsewhere there is some amount of, if not irony, then oddness about both being nominated and winning something.
I am highly ambivalent about awards because there is always a certain amount of subtext either immediately present or implied or imagined somewhere down the line. This subtext in this instance involves the Good/Bad Buddhist dichotomy, convert Buddhist stereotypes, the advisability of competition in the Buddhist endeavor, the potential of misdirected intentions, sensations of inadequacy-either Buddhist or writerly for being unmentioned, sensations of grandiosity-either Buddhist or writerly for being mentioned…the latter two reminds me of a little Voltaire quote that often applies to competition type situations:
The only reward to be expected from the cultivation of literature is contempt if one fails and and hatred if one succeeds.
Such a situation is only beneficial for practice if one is willing to wrestle with it and one’s own competitive feelings. The competitive feelings of others are for them to wrestle.
Uku wrote in his blog post Why I don’t like blog contests and awards:
I don’t think this world needs celebrity-awards-contests-glamour-shit.
I don’t think the world “needs” that either but it’s here so it has to be dealt with.
Socially one is expected to follow a gracious script of acceptance upon receipt of recognition. I have been kind of stuck deciding if I want to play against the script about this award situation or not. In seeking the answer to that dilemma a few questions arose that I had to address. These are things like:
Is there such a thing as healthy competition? I don’t really think so. I have yet to see one example of competition where all, or even the majority of the participants feel satisfied with the outcome. If someone can name one such situation I’ll be happy to reconsider that position.
How are any of these categories quantifiable? To make a comparison between things there has to be some kind of criteria. And to be fair it has to be somewhat objective. There would be some distinguishing characteristics by which to judge. We have the 32 marks of the Buddha, either taken literally or metaphorically, but what are the 32 marks of “best blogging”? And with such an amorphous blog subject matter as “Buddhist”.
What does “engage the world” mean? The only time one is disengaged from the world is if they’re dead, so I don’t understand this category fully.
What am I doing here on this blog and why am I doing it? This blog is like a form of dana to me. The giving of what few gifts I have. Maybe not always the nicest gift sometimes but that’s what’s within my means at that particular moment. If such a gift is not appropriate for someone they are free to pass it on or just pass on it. That’s pretty much my theme today.
I am being “participated” here whether I choose to be or not. It’s a situation based on the decisions of others to put it another way. Quite a few things in life are like that. If my taxi driver decides to quit his job while we’re stopped at a red light then it’s likely I won’t get to my destination. If my grocer has an argument with a supplier then it’s possible my favorite cheese won’t be available. If a friend decides to make dinner for me then I’m going to be well fed or vice versa. Someone may decide to strap on a suicide bomb and blow it up at the market I’m visiting that day. Someone may decide to give me a winning lottery ticket for Christmas. It gets complicated when thought about in those terms.
Now I am not ungrateful for the nominations. That is a gift of sorts also. I feel the intention. So to those who chose to enter my name in the contest I accept under those terms. Thanks.
As for winning in this specific category I am neither going to fully accept nor fully decline. Nor am I going to follow the gracious script or play against it. I am going to rewrite it.
I want to give this award away.
And the blogger I want to give it to is Bhante Sujato.
He writes Sujato’s Blog:Buddhism for a small world: views and opinions and you can follow him on Twitter @sujato for blog updates. What he can do with a recycled, or is it regifted, Blogisattva Award I don’t know but he seems to be a resourceful person so I’m sure he’ll think of something.
I’m not doing this to try to make some kind of karmic merit, that manifestation of some kind of imaginary spiritual currency that in some situations pays off alleged debts or stokes the spiritually materialist egoic notions of accumulation. I don’t know Bhante Sujato, never met him and probably never will. He’s not my teacher or even an acquaintance.
But he really walks the talk.
Bhante Sujato is a student of Ajahn Brahm’s in Australia. Here is a full biography.
Bhante Sujato (Anthony Best) was born in Perth, Western Australia on 4/11/1966. He was brought up in a liberal Catholic family and attended a Christian Brothers’ school. Impressed by the profound visions of the world opened up through science, and especially the Theories of Relativity, he rejected his Catholic beliefs while in his teens.
He read philosophy and literature at the University of Western Australia for two years, but left to play rock n’ roll guitar. Together with the singer Peggy van Zalm, he formed Martha’s Vineyard, a successful indie band in the late eighties, which however broke up before realizing its potential.
After a number of years drifting around the alternative music scene, he became disillusioned and, needing a drastic change, went to Thailand in 1992. There, despite having no previous experience of Buddhism, he fell into an intensive retreat at a monastery in Chieng Mai. Afterwards he began to seek ways to embody and deepen the insights offered by this experience. Within a year he had arrived at Wat Pa Nanachat, the International Forest Monastery run for and by English-speaking monks in the tradition of Ajahn Chah. He asked for and was granted novice ordination, and in the following year took full ordination as a bhikkhu on 5/5/1994.
He spent three vassa studying under Ajahn Brahm at Bodhinayana Monastery, and several years in remote hermitages and caves in Thailand and Malaysia. In early 2003 Bhante Sujato returned to Australia, arriving at the property then known as the Citta Bhavana Hermitage. The decision was made to develop the hermitage into a training monastery, and the name was changed to Santi Forest Monastery. Since that time the monastery has grown rapidly and has accomplished a number of milestones, including the first samaneri ordination on 9th Mar 2008 and many bhikkhu upasampatha, not to mentioned the various completed or on going building projects and many more future projects pertaining to the financial situation.
The vision for the monastery has always included a role for nuns, and Bhante Sujato has become well known for his articulate and passionate support for the fully ordained bhikkhuni lineage, the most pressing controversy within contemporary Theravada Buddhism.
The main influences in Bhante Sujato’s spiritual development have been threefold. Most obvious is the lifestyle of the forest tradition in which he was immersed. This demanded a strict application of the Buddhist monk’s code of discipline (Vinaya) and the repeated reminder that one’s entire life must be dedicated to the practice.
The second great influence was the Buddha’s early teachings. Having spent nearly ten years studying the canonical Pali scriptures, he became increasingly aware of the outstanding and little-known fact of the existence of thousands of parallel passages in Chinese, Sanskrit, and Tibetan texts. This congruence is regarded as the single most important historical clue to the Buddha’s original message, and Bhante Sujato has taken the lead in introducing cross-tradition text studies to the Buddhist community.
The third major spiritual influence comes from his two main meditation teachers. From the little-known Thai monk Ajahn Maha Chatchai he learnt the practice of loving-kindness that still forms the backbone of his own meditation and teaching. From Ajahn Brahm he learnt especially how to understand this practice within the overall context of the Buddha’s path. In recent years Bhante Sujato has taught Dhamma and meditation to a varied audience in his local area and internationally, and has spoken at several major international Buddhist conferences and events.
His writings explore the earliest Buddhist scriptures, using a comparative and historical approach to illuminate the process of formation of Buddhist ideology and identity; books include A Swift Pair of Messengers, A History of Mindfulness, Beginnings, and Sects & Sectarianism.
A special field of interest is the role of women in Buddhism, and particularly in the revival of the bhikkhuni order within the Theravada tradition. Bhante Sujato brings his text-critical faculties to bear on this urgent modern dilemma, in addition to his work in actually establishing a bhikkhuni community at Santi.
He has acted and spoken fearlessly on supporting the bhikkhuni ordination. He had explicitly expressed his genuine wish…in the statement, “My vocation is to work with the international Sangha for the establishment of the four-fold community worldwide. I think we need to accept that this is where the future lies.”
Bhante Sujato was one of those involved with the bhikkhuni ordination that took place last year and caused such furor in Thailand. He has written a lot about that on his blog.
He also writes about other topics that are pretty important including consumerism, progressive politics, environment, drug legalization, Thai vinaya reform, pornography, poverty, fundamentalism, Christianity and interreligious dialogue, sexism, racial issues, gender issues, schisms within Theravada, philosophy, psychology, consumerism, human rights, world events, ethics, freedom and of course Buddhist practice.
When someone is part of an establishment and has given over their life to fulfill the principles of that establishment, to go against it based on the uneasiness of conscience that certain aspects of that establishment may engender, is very difficult. It is far easier to go along to get along and just attend to one’s own personal business. It is far easier not to risk anything.
But for those few individuals who cannot just go along the risk is of everything. That is everything they’ve committed their life to, everything they’ve become familiar with…just plain everything. The risk is of rejection, ostracization, removal of all that one’s life has been dedicated towards until that point. That’s huge and it’s also fairly uncommon. And to chronicle it, as a participant, is revealing and useful to those of us who also would seek to speak truth to power in our own ways.
Taking such risks have very little rewards. Not that rewards are the least bit related to the motivation of the risk taking.
We all share the struggle in this world, so we all share the glory as well as fleeting as it may be.
Thank you friends for your consideration of the words you find here and for the opportunity to respond to your kind gesture. I hope you understand.
Thank you Bhante for all you do. It is an inspiration.
Bhante Sujato has kindly responded to being regifted the Blogisattva http://sujato.wordpress.com/about/#comment-7302