Buddhist monks held in India for defamation

In Karnataka India a well known Buddhist monk and his associates has been arrested and charged with defamation and offending the religious sentiments of others. The Hindu newspaper, one of the largest in India reports that Bhante Bhodhidamma and four others are being detained without bail. These monks are associated with the Bijapur Indosan Sogenji India Community School and other projects which are designed to help Dalits, known previously as “untouchables”, under the International Buddhist Youth Organization which is affiliated with One Drop Zendo directed by Shodo Harada Roshi who is listed as their root teacher.

These charges under sections 153 (A), 295 and 504 of the Indian Penal Code are often used when one person or group feels some sense of offence or one person or group would like to censor another or as a form of legal harassment. It is one of the most over used and abused sections of the Indian Penal Code.

The original law has been around since the first Penal Code was codified in 1860 and has had little revision. It is also part of the basis for some of the thinking behind some of the censorship provisions that appear in the Internet Technology Act. A discussion of that aspect is available at the Bar and Bench blog which covers legal issues.

At present it is being used to attempt to get large social media and Internet companies to censor the content they provide. It has been cited numerous times to attempt to silence Salman Rushdie and other writers as well as journalists covering topics of religious sectarianism.

At the recent Jaipur literary festival four authors read from Salman Rushdie’s work and have now been charged with the same charges as the monks. From the Index on Censorship website’s article India: How to silence a nation the very same sections of the Code are being used:

The relevant sections under the Indian law are:

295-A (which deals with deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings)

298 (uttering words with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings),

153-A (promoting enmity between groups on religious grounds),

153-B (imputations prejudicial to national integration)

120-B (criminal conspiracy).

And section the related section 504:

504. Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace.

As the New Statesman puts it,

Mass outrage and censorship in India have a long history, thanks to Section 295a of the penal code, which outlaws "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs". This creates a situation where anyone can claim that anything is offensive and the government is obliged to act.

The law is incredibly vague and ill defined which leaves it wide open for all kinds of abuse. Once the accusation has been made the onus is on the defendant to use legal maneuvers as well as public pressure in order to demonstrate innocence. With most laws related to censorship it operates in a fashion that is backwards to the normal course of criminal prosecution in democratic countries.

With regard to the situation with the monks, they have garnered a lot of support. There are demonstrations on their behalf as well as being covered in one of the largest national newspapers.  The full report from The Hindu Monk’s arrest turns into a controversy

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I&I

“There is no ‘I’ existing as some substantial thing; there is only the ceaseless flow. This is true not only of me, but of all things.” — Kosho Uchiyama, “Opening the Hand of Thought”

Listening to so much Bob Marley over the past few days has renewed my interest in the philosophy, faith and beliefs of the Rastafarians.  As someone perpetually interested in what goes on in the world and why, the Rastafari movement was one that I found interesting as soon as I came into contact with it many many years ago. 

The Rastafari movement is not called “Rastafarianism”. The “ism” is somewhat offensive for quite a few reasons, mostly to do with Babylon things.

They especially reject the word “Rastafarianism”, because they see themselves as “having transcended -isms and schisms.” This has created conflict between some Rastas and some members of the academic community studying Rastafari, who insist on calling this faith “Rastafarianism” in spite of the disapproval this generates within the Rastafari movement. Nevertheless, the practice continues among scholars, though there are also instances of the study of Rastafari using its own terms.

from Rastafari movement

There is a well developed religious philosophy and several major sects within Rastafari. For a brief time there was a Black Supremacy aspect to some of the Rastafari philosophy. This tended to coincide with civil rights issues in other places at the time. However after a speech in 1963 by Haile Selassie Emperor of Ethiopia (who is considered to be the second coming of the Christ by the Rastafarians) at the United Nations in which he said:

“That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; That until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil….

We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community.”

much of the issue was reoriented away from dominance thinking back to a more egalitarian viewpoint.

I won’t go into all of that but one thing that really strikes me, as a Buddhist, is the concept behind Iyaric or particular vocabulary used in Rastafari.

I&I (or I and I or InI)

From Rasta-ites Question and Answer

I&I signifies I&I unity with JAH the Most High. As in I and I God, it is also used to signify I&I Rastafari bredren and sistren, also signifying I&I unity with the Most I. So it can mean I or we or even you, although now more I’s would say “the I” for you.

The dictionary definition below is from the Rasta Patois Dictionary

“I and I, I&I:
I, me, you and me, we (1)Rastafari speech eliminates you, me we, they, etc., as divisive and replaces same with communal I and I.  I and I embraces the congregation in unity with the  Most I (high) in an endless circle of inity (unity).”

From Rastafarian vocabulary

I replaces “me”, which is much more commonly used in Jamaican English than in the more conventional forms. Me is felt to turn the person into an object whereas I emphasises the subjectivity of an individual.

I and I is a complex term, referring to the oneness of Jah (God) and every human. Rastafari scholar E. E. Cashmore: “I and I is an expression to totalize the concept of oneness, the oneness of two persons. So God is within all of us and we’re one people in fact. The bond of Ras Tafari is the bond of God, of man. But man itself needs a head and the head of man is His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I (always pronounced as the letter ‘I,’ never as the number one or ‘the first’) of Ethiopia.” The term is often used in place of “you and I” or “we” among Rastafari, implying that both persons are united under the love of Jah.

The recognition of the oneness and unity of people, people with their god concept and people as equal expressions of a god or as maintaining a “sameness within difference” has appeared in many religions. Hinduism is the example that first comes to mind.

Within monotheistic traditions one might mark the differences between the god concept as either “transcendent” or “immanent”. Transcendent gods are differentiated from people and unreachable. Immanent gods dwell within or can be reached by human beings. Sufism, gnostic traditions within Christianity and Judaism all have the element of the immanent which sets them apart from the mainstream which views a god as something “other” or “out there” somewhere.

With traditions that don’t maintain such god concepts there is still this sense of unity. Buddhism exhibits that.

The I&I expression strikes me as quite similar to a lot of Buddhist concepts.

Interdependence (another I word) in the English language doesn’t go far enough to really capture how we are all in this together.

Intermersion if there is such a word might be more apt.

There is no end of one I and beginning of another.

I and I.

Links

A little history and background of the Rastafari movement

Musical Interlude-Niyabinghi chants

Reggae music is not the only music associated with the Rastas. Burra style drumming, which influenced Hip-Hop appears. Of more central importance in the expression of the Rasta beliefs are Niyabinghi chants. Niyabinghi is also the name of one of the major “houses” or “mansions” (groups) of Rastafari.

Niyabinghi chants

are played at worship ceremonies called grounations,[14] that include drumming, chanting and dancing, along with prayer and ritual smoking of cannabis. The name Nyabinghi comes from an East African movement from the 1850s to the 1950s that was led by people who militarily opposed European imperialism.

Here is a grounation in South Africa which includes Niyabinghi chants, preaching, worshipful dancing and group walking chants in circumambulation.

And here is a much larger grounation with onlookers in Jamaica.

 

Someone in YouTube comments has written down some of the words for this latter video.

Them gi wi basket fi go carry water. Them gi wi basket fi go carry water. Ohhhh Jah Rastafari rule this land. Ethiopia land, Waa go home a Ethiopia land . Waa go home a Ethipian lan land oooh. Jah Rastafari rule the land. Repartriate, Go get a dread mek wi repartriate whaooo, Jah Rastafari rule the land…..

Same/Different. A Response to Daniel M. Ingram & Others

Creating medication out of my own tribulations. K’Naan

Drawing on the comments made by Daniel M. Ingram on my previous post Back to Suffragette City?  I offer this response.  His comment is quoted. Ennumeration is mine.

[1.] A simple point: Why I continue to somehow be associated with Brad Warner I will never understand. Aside from the fact that the word “hardcore” is associated with both of us for obvious pure book title reasons, our approaches, emphases, and paradigms are very, very different.

Clearly I am not the first one to lump approaches together.  It is a natural psychological process to categorize stuff even in broad strokes in order to approach it. And for those who do not delve too deeply, similarities are more apparent than differences. Here’s a couple of quick lists:

Similarities

  • based on personal experience as well as training
  • same generation
  • outspoken perspective
  • punk and hard core labels
  • claiming some kind of enlightenment
  • empowered/permitted to teach formally
  • book title words
  • rejection of fluff and New Age
  • rejection of ritual
  • rejection of Asian cultural accoutrements and formalities
  • rejection of formalist language
  • rejection of over-intellectualization particularly regarding the dharma
  • rejection of elaborate hierarchy
  • rejection of conventionality
  • rejection of non-English language terminology
  • rejection of institutionalization
  • avoidance or rejection of psychologization of Buddhism
  • occasionally combative
  • occasionally arrogant
  • focus on meditation
  • opposition to self-help approaches
  • alleges openness and honesty but derides critics
  • purist
  • secular
  • rational
  • populist
  • critical

That’s a start. Some points are more shallow than others.  Many of these could also be applied to Stephen Batchelor, Steve Hagen, Shinzen Young, Noah Levine and many others. Hence taken together the notion of a “movement” or general categorization emerges.

Differences

Subject Brad Warner Daniel M. Ingram
Background Soto Zen Theravada
Place of Study Outside of U.S. Japan Burma
Approach zazen specifically shikantaza meditation with focus on insight
Emphasis zazen insight
Paradigms -sitting as actualization
-focus on no-self as entry to realization
-ethics de-emphasized or secondary or resultant of practice
-process based meditation
-3 characteristics impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and no-self as entries to realization
-emphasis on ethics as a distinct part of the path
Realization sudden or sporadic progressive, continuous
Leadership/Teaching/Writing  Style mellow, artistic aggressive, technical, analytical
Occupation (only because both mention it in their works or in bios) musician, writer ER doctor
Theoretical Foundations Dogen
Nagarjuna
Pali Canon, Buddhaghosa, Vasubhandhu and related works

 

Those are only some of the differences. I hope that people will take note of these. When people encounter the work they will notice many more.

[2.] I read “Hardcore” Zen and found nearly nothing practical in it at all. I consider it among the worst wastes of paper on my dharma shelf. It didn’t seem to be anything one could actually follow and instead seemed mostly about him.

My reading of Brad’s books is that they are primarily autobiographies rather than practice manuals. That is how they’re written in any case and that is what he has stated about them. I’ve not read them to get advice related to practice but as both a viewpoint of a person’s experience with taking up and practicing the dharma for himself and also as  Zentertainment, if you will. Biography and autobiography are descriptive means to tell a personal story not prescriptive technical texts.

[3.] Try to practice from that book and see what I mean. Try to do a retreat from that book. Try to actually get enlightened from that book. Try to sort out what side effect of your practice is screwing up your life from that book and see how well you do. Try to do something “hardcore” from what is written in that book and see how far you get. What a sad joke.

One could try and practice from a phone book too and it would also be a sad joke. That’s not why it was written.

 [4.] To me, and this is just one opinion, “hardcore” should be about real mastery, real practice, real results, real empowerment to do all this stuff. How that book gets away with calling itself that is baffling.

The term “hardcore” does imply a certain rigor, effort and intensity. I agree.  It is just as likely that Warner’s use of it is in relation to the punk rock elements since he did play in a hard core punk band and as most of us know that is often abbreviated to “hardcore”.  His intention in the use of “hardcore” is not immediately evident. It is an apt descriptor for both the music and the dharma. Since his public writings in books and blog form generally use both music and dharma as subject matter it may be an attempt to indicate that.

The definition of hardcore is quite varied and that is one reason why some socio-cultural analysis and deconstruction may be useful, even in it’s “needlessly limiting way”.  But more on that later.

[5.] I am beginning to see this particular list (Ingram, Folk, Brad Warner, etc.) being codified into something that people just repeat as if we are all the same or even coming from the same place, and while Folk, Open Enlightenment, the Dharma Overground and I are very closely linked in many ways, though we all have our differences also, how Brad got on this list is beyond me except that people must not have read his stuff or simply didn’t understand either what he wrote or what I wrote or the others on the list are about, though I should be careful and let them speak for themselves if they wish.

Quite likely many people have not read the material, or not read it thoroughly, or not read it critically. It is convenient, as I mentioned, to categorize things in broad strokes. When those things are related to popular or fashionable trends, meaning quite a number of people are talking about them, certainly some people will latch onto the jargon without understanding the substance simply for the “cool” factor. It is to their own detriment not to the detriment of the people who are offering their perspectives.

This is true in any field and quite often true in Buddhist-related interactions. Plenty of jargon, little comprehension.

[6.] Regardless, stop associating Bradley and I in this way, please, without at least some differentiation and explanation.

The similarities are of the most superficial nature. One paragraph in the introduction of my book that uses the word “punk” and one word in the title hopefully doom me or the others who are associated with this sort of practice to be perpetually affixed to that guy’s stuff.

I do hope the differentiation and explanations outlined above are sufficient for a blog post.  The purpose of the previous post was to examine large scale groupings of counter-cultural instances of Buddhist-labeled viewpoints as they are presented and perceived in popular culture.  Since the author is quite capable of speaking for himself rather eloquently and straightforwardly,  I did not go into detail about the composition of that particular grouping. Considering my penchant for long-windedness that may not have been a bad thing.

The further point is, that if it is different, people will realize that once they get into it. And yes there will always be those who don’t want to realize that (or anything else), who don’t care or who simply don’t get it at all. No point in explaining things to a bag of rice, to paraphrase an old Zen metaphor.  

 [7.] I remember reading the line where Brad said that in one fell swoop he was just as enlightened as the Buddha: what a travesty of confusion and absurdity.

I too doubt that many people grasp all of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness  and no-self completely in one gulp. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible but even as separate conventional conceptual experiences they are somewhat overwhelming.

Dogen, patron of the Soto Zen sect wrote:

Those who have not illuminated each dharma, dharma by dharma, cannot be called clear-eyed, and they are not the attainment of the truth; how could they be Buddhist patriarchs of the eternal past and present?  (Shobogenzo, Zazenshin, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross) [quoted in Zen – Enlightened Wisdom, Delusion, and Confusion By Ted Biringer, on May 4th, 2010-read Ted’s commentary on that line for some serious hardcore Zen.]

This is very similar to the “noting” process that MCTB outlines, though on a somewhat progressed level.  Dharma here is used in it’s meaning of “things” or “aspects” [the word dharma has at least 4 meanings-Buddhadharma being only one]. There are reasons that 84,000 dharma gates get mentioned.  Even Tozan discussed 5 stages or ranks.

Glimpses via some kensho experience are common with dedicated practice. Lots of people have them.    And quite a few in the Zen community have said so, in one way or another. If one reads what they write carefully it is evident. Dosho Port and James Ford Roshi have said it, as has Ford’s teacher John Tarrant Roshi to name only a few. There are dozens, and certainly not all of them are teachers.

And in the Theravada based communities this is true as well. I just reviewed a book by Rodney Smith called Stepping Out of Self-Deception. It is quite unlikely that such a work could be produced merely by studying texts. It is extremely insightful and also pretty hardcore.

The opening of that awareness is the opening only, not the whole territory by any means. Many have said that the first glimpses are when the real work starts. I think that’s quite true. Some traditions talk about the 10,000 petaled lotus opening and others about examining the various aspects via visualization. I’m talking about Pure Land and Vajrayana [both Tibetan and Japanese versions].

It’s like ice breaking up on a frozen river. Cracks appear in the solidity. Movement ensues. But it’s not all clear and flowing in 5 seconds.

That kind of over-simplification does not benefit students. Watering down either the Dharma or the resultant experiences of long practice tend to introduce an unnecessary layer of mystification to the whole process. It’s not mysterious or mythical or magic. It is only a shift in perception. And it is a lot of work.  It’s fairly ordinary though, in that what is, still is, only perspective and experience of what is, shifts.

My impression of the realization process would render it to be more of a multi-dimensional fractal than a map of progression or stages. I think it is more subjectively fluid than clearly demarcated states. 

I don’t know Brad or his teacher personally and have only exchanged the occasional email with both of them  over the years. My impression though, is that Nishijima Roshi is considerably more “bookish”  [and knowledgeable] than Brad.

Brad tries to pretend to downplay the thing. Many of the hardcore set seem to play it up. There’s plenty of middle ground.

It is unfortunate if discussing this topic gets into a semi-enlightened dick-measuring contest.

Here is something related that Alan B. Wallace wrote:

“If our practice does not diminish self-grasping, or perhaps even enhances it, then no matter how austere and determined we are, no matter how many hours a day we devote to learning, reflection, and meditation, our spiritual practice is in vain.

A close derivative of self-grasping is the feeling of self-importance. Such arrogance or …pride is a very dangerous pitfall for people practicing Dharma. Especially in Tibetan Buddhism, with its many levels of practice, the exalted aspirations of the bodhisattva path, and the mystery surrounding initiation into tantra, we may easily feel part of an elite. Moreover, the philosophy of Buddhism is so subtly refined and so penetrating that, as we gain an understanding of it, this also can give rise to intellectual pride.

But if these are the results of the practice, then something has gone awry. Recall the well-known saying among Tibetan Buddhists that a pot with a little water in it makes a loud noise when shaken, but a pot full of water makes no noise at all.

People with very little realization often want to tell everyone about the insights they have experienced, the bliss and subtleties of their meditation, and how it has radically transformed their life. But those who are truly steeped in realization do not feel compelled to advertise it, and instead simply dwell in that realization. They are concerned not to describe their own progress, but to direct the awareness of others to ways in which their own hearts and minds can be awakened.” – B. Alan Wallace [via Rev. Danny Fisher]

[8.] Otherwise, the pointing out of the masculine and counter-culture elements is all fine enough and has its obviously valid points, though as you say, I hope that just because I happened to have a “masculine” writing style won’t keep anyone from being able to utilize whatever useful information I present and the other strains of this “movement”, which is to say that…

Having been excluded from activities and once even losing a job assignment due to my gender this concerns me greatly. That it still occurs in Buddhist circles is unfortunate and therefore merits some consideration and discussion.

When people get all literal and say women can’t get enlightenment or can’t even become monastics at higher levels it reeks of hypocrisy. Gender bias is a social construction, sure. But one that is ominously pervasive and destructive not only to women but to men as well. It is one of the millions of things that act as an obstacle to complete freedom.

It would be nice to just dismiss it since it’s all relative anyway but as delusional as it is on a massive level the effects are still felt.

By bringing it up and discussing the tone and encouraging everyone to familiarize themselves with the information I am actually trying to get that apparent obstacle out of people’s way. It’s not a real obstacle, only one if the reader wishes to make it so.

[9.] …I hope that people will focus more on reality and actually understanding what is happening than all this superficial socio-political-academic-gender-whatever, not that this isn’t an important part of the causal web in some unfortunate and needlessly limiting way.

We live in a needlessly limited world. We deal with the causal web every second whether we are enlightened or not. To discuss these matters, to take them apart, dissect them, examine them is not much different than what we do in meditation. Since we engage with no-self [awkwardly phrased I know] we also realize that the sense of solidity in conventional thought is bolstered by and in fact created by apparent, though ultimately unreal, social reality. 

So “this superficial socio-political-academic-gender-whatever” is as relevant as and indeed is as great portion a portion of that constructed illusory solid self as what we cling to in mind since that is part of it’s origin. It is not superficial by any means.  

From a larger, or more enlightened viewpoint let’s say, certainly these things are limiting. But for the majority of the population who do not currently have access to that viewpoint that’s all there is. To disassemble that, and particularly belief in the authority of the social, is to, in one way, see and demonstrate the constructed aspect of conventional reality.

And from Daniel M. Ingram’s essay Why The Notion That You Cannot Become What You Already Are is Such Bullshit

“…while the universal characteristics are always manifesting in all things and at all times, there are those that can perceive this well and those that cannot, and meditative training, conceptual frameworks, techniques, teachers, texts, discussions and the like can all contribute to developing the internal skills and wiring to be able to fully realize what is possible, as thousands of practitioners throughout the ages have noticed.”

and from Chapter 5 of MCTB

“From the conventional point of view, things are usually thought to be there even when you can no longer experience them, and are thus assumed with only circumstantial evidence to be somewhat stable entities. Predictability is used to assume continuity of existence. For our day-to-day lives, this assumption is adequate and often very useful.”

Superficiality is one aspect of reality. Unfortunately it is the one aspect that most people are entangled with.  So some may deem it to be a waste of time to acknowledge but without acknowledgement and demonstration of it’s lack of substance it remains an obstacle.

[10.] Just got done seeing Twilight Eclipse, by the way, and loved it, which my wife can’t understand at all. People who try to make gender stuff so straightforward are really missing something.

That was kind of my point. No one fits precisely into any codified gender definition. I personally enjoy martial arts and high altitude trekking and mountaineering. In this instance I am a woman who is advocating for other women to read this “masculine” toned work, to be bold and not feel intimidated by that superficial label, which I am not the first to point out. That is a statement in itself.   

The satire presented in my previous post is not to further entrench some either/or gender viewpoint but to illustrate the ridiculousness of it. So yeah, maybe some people did miss something.

In General 

Frustration with the misconstruing of the dharma and of personal viewpoints, commercialization, half-assed explanations,  feel-good platitudes, social nicening projects, self-help indulgence, cosmetic attempts at Buddhist practice, co-opting dharma to build intellectual Babel towers in part explains a lot of people’s interest in alternative viewpoints.

Sometimes though such viewpoints can become as entrenched and rigid as the scenes they wish to supplant.  Many that present these viewpoints also can spiral off into their own little world of “rightness” and certainty that precludes further progress and cuts off those who may benefit the most from the information presented.

Musical Interlude

K’naan Take A Minute

{Chorus}:
And any man who knows a thing knows, he knows not a damn, damn thing at all,
And everytime I felt the hurt and I felt the givin’ gettin’ me up off the wall,
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride,
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breathe,
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride,
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breathe,

How did Mandela get the will to surpass the everyday,
When injustice had him caged and trapped in every way,
How did Ghandi ever withstand the hunger strikes and all,
Didn’t do it to gain power or money if I recall,
It’s to give; I guess I’ll pass it on,
Mother thinks it’ll lift the stress of babylon,
Mother knows, my mother she suffered blows,
I don’t know how we survived such violent episodes,
I was so worried, and hurt to see you bleed,
But as soon as you came out the hospital you gave me sweets,
Yeah, they try to take you from me,
But you still only gave ’em some prayers and sympathy,
Dear mama, you helped me write this, by showing me to give is priceless.
{Chorus}
All I can say is the worst is over now,
We can serve the hard times, divorce is over now,
They try to keep us out, but they doors is open now,
My man Akon is gettin awards for covers now,
This is K’NAAN, and still reppin’ the S
Comin’ out of Mogadishu and still draped in the mess,
And no matter how we strong, homie,
It ain’t easy comin out of where we from, homie.
And that’s the reason why, I could never play for me,
Tell ’em the truth, is what my dead homies told me,
Oh yeah, I take inspiration from the most heinous of situations,
Creating medication out my own tribulations.
Dear Africa, you helped me write this, by showing me to give is priceless.
{Chorus}
Nothing is perfect man, that’s what the world is,
All I know is,
I’m enjoying today.
You know, ’cause it isn’t every day that you get to give.

And any man who knows a thing knows, he knows not a damn, damn thing at all,
And every time I felt the hurt and I felt the givin’ gettin’ me up off the wall,
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride,
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breathe,
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride,
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breathe,

Back to Suffragette City?

The Hardcore Dharma Movement, a post on Brooke Shedneck’s Wandering Dhamma blog as well as the excellent comments there, is part of what prompted this post. That post was based on Daniel Ingram’s book Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha (available online) and approach to awakening. There are a number of people including Kenneth Folk involved in this viewpoint of the Dharma. The central focus is awakening.  Many involved claim to have had awakening experiences.

But those experiences themselves are not what I want to write about here much. There are quite likely a lot of people who have had some glimpse of that. As to it’s depth or the depth of the understanding of it by said individuals is debatable.  Since no one can really know what it would be like until they personally experience it there is only conjecture. Quite likely many have reached the gate and maybe even stepped through but may not even recognize it as such.  Or they just may not care to acknowledge that. Or they may realize what every sensible Bodhisattva does “Holy shit there’s an awful lot of delusion and greed and aversion going around” and just get on with it. Or they may realize, in the words of the great Bodhisattva, Chris Rock:

Ignorance is bliss. Awareness is hell.

quote from an episode of the PBS.org series Make ’em Laugh

Not unlike Maezumi Roshi’s statement, when asked “What’s it like to be enlightened?”:

“Very depressing,” Maezumi said.

from About.com

For an interesting take on enlightenment you might want to read the short e-book available from Open Enlightenment.

So back to the hard head body hat core dharma issue. One of the threads of discussion on Brooke’s blog post had to do with what some perceived as a masculine approach to dharma. Mastering the Core
Teachings of the Buddha, on which some of this nascent Hard Core movement is based is a rational, results oriented style that the author in the introduction states is “utilitarian and pragmatic” and there are lots of sports, video game and barroom metaphors as well as  “combative and abrasive” (quote from section 13)commentary in the book (Parts 2 & 3). Subsequently the author, Daniel Ingram, in a later interview calls it the way of ““dharma cowboys, mavericks, rogues, and outsiders” . These descriptors elaborate a classically male oriented view as well as being very embedded in American popular culture. But you know the book was written by an American guy so both the cultural and gender references are framed from that orientation

Here Ingram states his approach in the Introduction:

It is the unrestrained voice of one from a generation whose radicals wore spikes and combat boots rather than beads and sandals, listened to the Sex Pistols rather than the Moody Blues, wouldn’t know a beat poet or early ‘60s dharma bum from a hole in the ground, and thought the hippies were pretty friggin’ naïve. It is also the unrestrained voice of one whose practice has been dedicated to complete and unexcelled mastery of the traditional and hardcore stages of the path rather than some sort of vapid New Age fluff. If that ain’t you, consider reading something else.

That sounds like something of a Dharma manifesto. I kinda like it. Fluff gets up my nose. How though will Hard Core manifest in popular culture?

Guys on their eco-Harleys, crossing the rugged terrain, roping cattle (to release them into the wild) between waving sabers-both light and metal, or electric guitars in the name of realization and possibly saving all beings as they tear through the towns full of timid mid-western residents who are used to blowing bubbles in sharing circles and whispering transcendental mantras proffered by gurus in Mercedes. The patron saints are rugged individualists, defiant of authority and not afraid of plain or loud speaking. Robes in this mosh pit are made of denim with studs. Tattoo mantras cover brawny shoulders. Shaven heads signify the testosterone fueled energy of practice rather than the removal of the  “ignorance grass” of the Zen Buddhist.

Well I suppose I’ll have to get into my pleather Daisy Dukes, Doc Martens and sleeves-torn-off T-shirt in order to examine this phenomenon.  No, don’t picture that.

Why Buddhism Outside the Establishment?

The Buddhist objective is one of enlightenment. There are lots of side roads and alleys people like to take though. Refocusing on the objective, in the larger socio-cultural sense is common in many contexts.

Sometimes this manifests as fundamentalism and sometimes as a reaction to perceived fundamentalism and/or entrenched stagnant institutionalism.

Some folks have interpreted, not without reason, that the Hard Core Dharma movement is an example of the latter case particularly as Buddhism is presented in Asia. One commenter to Brooke’s post wrote:

“it breaks with some monastic and cultural traditions that people have interpreted very literally.”

I’ll just put my response to that here:

Am not convinced that literal interpretations are all that representative of monastics or cultural traditions. Some of the most literal minded have been converts. And the literalism seems to be baggage carried over from previous religious exposure. My sense is that it is more of an intra-cultural situation (North American convert Buddhist) rather than an inter-cultural one. And the hard core Dharma “masculine” approach is a reaction to that.

It strikes me in that respect to be a reaction against the “feminization” of North American Buddhism, which at times does resemble psychotherapy rather than Buddhist endeavor.

It is not the first time such a trend has occurred. The popularity of Zen benefited greatly from a backlash against the “softness” of much of the counter-culture of the 1960s. Many hippies left that scene to join Zen groups with their hard (Japanese) masculine forms. And the attendant minimalism that accompanies the aesthetic involved [was a stark contrast to the overblown psychedelic cultural forms]

I wasn’t old enough to be a hippie but the effects of that era still presented themselves as I was growing up. That’s one of the reasons I took up Zen as well as punk lifestyle.

This seems to be something of a cyclical cultural phenomenon.

I will delve into this further but for now the thesis is that whenever something becomes established a contrasting view or contradiction will emerge. This is the basis of dialectical analysis of which I may be overly fond. [This approach has nothing to do with Spiral Dynamics (Sarkar etal. redressed) or Integralist approaches, which have appropriated a lot of already-thought-out-ideas (think mashup), but it is grounded in traditional sociological and philosophical theory, as well as theories of historiography such as Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar’s Theory of Social Cycles which attempts to account for social change, and the dialectical materialism of Marx etal. and even harkening back to Hegel and others]

The Gender Thing

Buddhism has always been a man’s sport. What constitutes “manly” attributes varies from culture to culture. But wherever religion has become institutionalized it has taken on the patriarchal tones of the culture in which it has appeared. Merit, accomplishment and ability in women are irrelevant. It could even be called a conspiracy if it were a conscious effort. [See the links at the end for Professor Joseph Gelfer’s work]

It is perhaps inevitable that the hard core dharma viewpoint is put forward in contrast (or is it backlash) to all of the fuzzysoft, elaborate or bookish approaches. It is minimalist. Which I think not uncoincidentally is very much in vogue at the moment in North American culture.

Getting entangled in lofty complex philosophical discussions or creating endless artistic diagrams to chart progressive spiritual states isn’t part of the picture nor is working with self-indulgent explorations of “feelings” and hyper-sensitive sharing sessions.

To some people certain Buddhist places of practice might seem a little on the Rococo side, design-wise. It is also possible that holding up flowers and ringing bells may not have the punch that some would desire in their dharma practice. Sharing feelings, resolving personal problems and getting directions on life management issues may not seem to have much to do with awakening.

Dogen doesn’t strike me as much of a UFC fighter though Hakuin might have done well in local MMA tournaments. Tsongkapa and Nagarjuna likely weren’t into Iron Man training.

Brad Warner and his dharma punk posse frequently lament the lack of chicks in the Zendo.   And when they are there, the purpose seems to trend towards the social.

This is hardly a new trend. During the first wave of Zen popularization in the 60’s men took to it in significant numbers. We see evidence of this today when we consider the membership of the AZTA(American Zen Teacher’s Association)-the last time I calculated only 30% of teachers were women and of those many are of subsequent generations. Perhaps this was, in some cases, a reaction to hippy softness, flower power and the rise of the feminist movement.  Zen can be seen to offer a certain masculine, minimalist aesthetic as well as stereotypical male environments that include discipline, obedience to authority, structure and individual effort.

Late 80’s and 90’s Buddhism began to open up and the New Age-a hippy resurgence of blissed out peace and dancing.  OK there’s a little more to it than that but it’s kind of boring and you can encounter it yourself in most New Age bookstores.

These alternating counter-cultures in America vis a vis Buddhism reflect the larger social trends in counter-cultures that most intersect with convert American Buddhist practices.

Characteristics Common to Counter-cultures

  • outsider status recognized both by participants and observers
  • minority viewpoint
  • relative economic powerlessness
  • discontent with status quo
  • idealism
  • inner directed (as opposed to following mainstream social directions)
  • explorative
  • fluidity
  • energetic expressions-extroverted
  • defensive (overtly or covertly)
  • alienation and often anomie
  • hedonistic in a relativist kind of way
  • escapist

Here are a  couple of tables that summarize the discussion of the progression in recent decades because I don’t feel like writing it all out:

Historical Trends/ Characteristics Beats Hippies Punks New Age
Era 50s, 60s 60s, 70s 70s, 80s 90s, 00s
Intellectual Yes Yes No No
Commercial No No No Yes
Hierarchical No No No No
Populist No No No Yes
Political Yes Yes Yes No
Activist Yes Yes Yes No
Associations and Representation Ginsberg, Kerouac etal Alan Watts None at the time. Emerging in the current Hard Core Dharma trend. Deepak Chopra, Adyashanti, Osho Rajneesh and many others
Additional characteristics Angry, disenchanted Exploratory Angry, escapist, pessimistic Hedonistic, blindly optimistic
Notes Related to the arts, particularly literature Music replaces literature as a central cultural pivot Music continues to tie like-minded people together

Currently there is a divergence in trends among enlightenment seekers outside the mainstream and to some extent attempting to move into the mainstream.  Here is a rundown of three of the more prominent streams.

Current Trends/ Characteristics Hard Core Integral and related movements Buddhist flavored self-improvement and self-help includes some kinds of psychotherapy, encounter groups, ecological and dietary groups and general social nicening.
Intellectual Mixed-critical thinking encouraged regarding experience. Theoretical or analytical examination not so much. Some anti-intellectual tendencies. Yes-with highly with specialized jargon. Theoretical/analytical examination within a controlled framework. Critical examination of self and others within the controlled framework. No-critical thinking about programs/ideas is not overly encouraged. Negative critical examination of the self is sometimes encouraged particularly be self-help marketers.
Commercial No Yes Yes
Hierarchical No Yes-complete formal structure, with labels. Levels of attainment are clearly demarcated. Yes regarding leadership. Not much formal structure regarding followers
Populist Yes No due to convoluted high-level language and monetary access barriers Yes
Political No No Yes- soft leftist
Activist Concerned with Social Justice Yes. The whole point is availability to all. Not directly. Theorizing on certain issues only. Mixed but tending towards No
Class Based Yes-mostly working and middle Yes-elites Yes-middle and upper
Cult-of-Personality Driven No Yes Yes
Associated Personalities and Movements Ingram, Folk, Open Enlightenment, Dharma Overground, Brad Warner, Noah Levine, [Stephen Batchelor, Steve Hagan to a lesser extent] Genpo Merzel,Diane Hamilton influenced by Ken Wilber, Andrew Cohen etal Some of the mainstream Buddhist press, elephant journal, Osho Rajneesh, The Secret, Lenz Foundation, some aspects of Integral, Byron Katie,many other self-help gurus, Bill Harris and Holosync, “Tantric” sex programs and retreats
Notes Rejection of “cultural” aspects.  Rejection of “soft and mushy” expressions. At times equating the two which leads to scapegoating and stereotyping of Asian expressions of Buddhism. Traditional  Asian Buddhism at times seen as effeminate. Attempts a theory of everything which includes self-help, transcendental awakening and attempts to meld social sciences, philosophy, religion into a rigid framework of developmental phases. Highly structured, self-validating and Also includes attempts to meld science or pseudo-science with Buddhist inspired therapies. There are other related movements such as techno-humanism (enlightenment via technology), techno-shamanism and  entheogenics (enlightenment via chemicals or drugs) which overlap with the Hard Core viewpoint to varying degrees.
Origins Beats, Punk Hippies, New Age, Self-empowerment, Positive thinking movement, Academia particularly philosophy, psychology and religion Hippies, New Age

The cultural gender contradictions-the male/female dialectic play out in these movements. Is it becoming Desperate Housewives vs Mad Men in the popular portrayals of dharma approaches? Coordinated pastel cushions clash with dark wood seiza benches? Not necessarily and I’m not trying to frame it in that kind of antagonistic fashion. There is no sound reason for women not to participate in the Hard Core Dharma approach and there is no sound reason for men not to participate in non-Hard Core Dharma approaches. It comes down to preferences, many of which are culture driven. There is yet to be an approach that isn’t gender or culture bound.

There are those who claim to have been “freed” of the cultural aspect but the error is usually one of not recognizing their own enculturation and its influence on the work. No one is culture-free. It is a massive delusion to consider one’s self in that category. If one speaks a language, interacts with others, participates in a society, culture is present. Always.

And the gender baggage that comes with culture is present as well. The best we can do is to try to recognize that when it presents itself and mitigate the effects so that inclusiveness can become a pro-active rather than a reactive result.

As to the effectiveness of the above mentioned approaches in reaching awakening here’s my opinion.

Regarding Self-Help and Psychotherapeutic Approaches as a Methodology to Enlightenment

Buddhism isn’t therapy. It’s purpose is liberation. Liberation is a result of effort.

My points of disagreement are based on the point of Buddhist endeavor. If one is looking for therapy and life skills there are other endeavors better suited for those ends.

So my score for Self-Help is:
strongly agree 10%
somewhat agree 30%
no opinion-not likely
somewhat disagree 40%
strongly disagree 20%

Regarding Integralism

It is no secret that I am not a fan of many of the Integralists and their occasional reactionary stance on gender as well as intellectual elitism and crass commercialism. Some of this I will be bringing up in future posts especially where Buddhism is being co-opted to serve the Integral cause.

So my score for Integralism is:
strongly agree 10%
somewhat agree 20%
no opinion-not likely
somewhat disagree 40%
strongly disagree 30%

Agreement is only based on the amount of material co-opted and reworked from already established sociological, psychological, religious, philosophical disciplines.

Regarding Hard Core Dharma

This is a view of the movement as a whole and not just on Ingram’s book.

Most of the objectives of the Hard Core Dharma people I agree with. The more people who can awaken the better.

And I agree with, and have written extensively about, most of the same criticisms the author voices about “Western” Buddhism. Particularly section 15 Content and Ultimate Reality in the Hard Core Dharma book contains some rather blunt statements that I’m inclined to agree with.

It strikes me that what is outlined in the Hard Core Dharma book corresponds very closely with classical Theravada approaches. It covers the same territory in any case.

My reservations come though with the scapegoating of Asians as impetus for the minimalist movement when it is more likely a pre-existing condition within the movement’s culture itself. The intra-cultural issues that are more reactions to previous religious exposures rather than inter-cultural factors.

And the masculine tone that it takes harken to very stereotypical American masculine imagery. And it does have a masculinity and I’d even go so far as to say an American cultural style of masculinity to it in terms of effort, attainment, individuality, defiance. But clearly women have these attributes as well though are not socially encouraged to manifest them. We can change that.

So my score for Hard Core Dharma is:
strongly agree 20%
somewhat agree 65%
no opinion-not likely
somewhat disagree 10%
strongly disagree 5%

Hard Core Dharma As A Future Buddhist Movement

Just because someone attempts to deconstruct the cultural significance of a particular strain of thought in order to understand it better doesn’t make what’s written necessarily a condemnation of it. Or a condemnation of masculinity or of all emerging movements.

In fact of the three approaches I’ve identified above, this one is actually very much in sync with my own approach, maybe because of familiarity with the counter-culture which engendered it, maybe because of the focus on awakening rather than some other objectives, maybe because of the straightforwardness of expression, maybe because it accords with and respects Buddhist history and thought (with some reservations), maybe because it’s not trying to reinvent the Buddhist endeavor but merely restate it more clearly for a contemporary audience, maybe because it’s minimalism, unlike that of Stephen Bachelor and others, isn’t all that minimalist.

And maybe because the list of characteristics noted upon reading, which include anti-authoritarian, political, aggressive, informal structure, experience overshadows but does not discard doctrine, disenchantment with established traditions, skeptical, exploratory, boundary breaking and transgressing, individualist, creative, DIY, non-hierarchical, are also part of my world view.

In general though, it is far more likely, given the current Zeitgeist, that the New Age/ Self-improvement paradigm will prevail if only because of it’s consumer appeal and apparent ease of acquisition. It demands little or often nothing but a certain economic status.  And it is also apparent that the Integral approach is rapidly becoming folded into that commercial project at the high priced end. This means as long as people remain deluded enough to think that money can buy happiness with relative ease, the actualization of awakening will escape most.

In Chapter 16 of Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, Adobe/.pdf version, Revised 2008 version, the author provides an overview of many obstacles to learning and actualizing the Buddhadharma. One such is the general misunderstanding of what enlightenment entails and what a teacher actually provides:

[Students] may think, “After all, they are enlightened, aren’t they? They must be completely sane and balanced. They must know about how to have the perfect relationship, how to find the prefect job, how to invest in the stock market, how to talk to their mother, how to end world hunger, how to rebuild a carburetor, and all other such details of wise living on this Earth. After all, isn’t enlightenment about understanding everything?” Gadzooks!

… enlightenment is about understanding the fundamental nature of all things, and what they happen to be is ultimately completely and utterly irrelevant to enlightenment. Thus, very enlightened beings understand something fundamental about whatever arises or however their lives manifest, i.e. its impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and emptiness, as well as all of the stuff about the True Self…

However, they have no more knowledge about the specifics of the world, i.e. content or subject matter, than they have acquired in just the way that anyone else acquires knowledge about the specifics of this world.

For people who are on the Buddhist path, meaning that the objective of awakening is their objective, then the whole book may be quite helpful to eliminate some of the obstacles and misunderstandings that abound. Women are permitted to read it too. I would encourage that.

Related Links

Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, Adobe/.pdf version, Revised 2008 version

A relatively new blog Masculine Heart discusses men’s issues in an interesting, rational and non-reactionary manner (meaning I haven’t read the word Feminazi there just because a woman comments). There are numerous contributors and it is curated by the very well read and reasonable William Harryman of Integral Options Cafe. It offers the same good quality and well researched viewpoints. It does incorporate some Integral content but that is not the principle focus.

The End of Men by Hanna Rosin. Published in The Atlantic magazine, this article outlines some of the issues that are appearing as gender roles and the emerging shifts are more closely studied, particularly related to economics and education. There were many reactions on-line to this article but you all know how to use Google so I won’t look them up.

Joseph Gelfer is a professor of religious studies as well as gender studies focused on the male. There have been Women’s Studies departments in academia for quite a few decades, although many now have been renamed Gender Studies yet still focus almost exclusively on women, so it is long overdue that men are given the opportunity to examine their own roles and relationships in culture and all it’s aspects.

Joseph Gelfer’s works include:

The Masculinity Conspiracy-which is a book in progress that is available online

Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculine Spiritualities and the Problem of Patriarchy-a print book in which the author re-frames the issues of patriarchy and men’s spirituality.

Joseph Gelfer’s blog– which looks at various issues related to the subjects of Religious Studies, the Masculine and Spirituality

Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality is an online, scholarly, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal. Joseph Gelfer is the executive editor. The articles range through all types of spirituality and men’s relationships with spirituality. Issues of class, institutions, gender relations, queer expressions of spirituality, race and many others are subjects of this interesting journal.

Musical Accompaniment

David Bowie-Suffragette City

To Whom It May Concern-An Open Letter to the Owner of Buddhism

To: The Owner of Buddhism

From: One of the Multitude

Subject: Permissions

Dear Sir;

I am told that Buddhism is a patriarchal religion therefore I address you as sir. And since I am not familiar with the official title of The Owner of Buddhism it is the most apt honorific I could think of.

Now, I’ve gone about clearing nearly everyone off of this blog over the past few weeks so you and I could get down to the facts of this matter without a lot of interference. And quite frankly some of the issues that I must bring up might be a little bit embarrassing for both of us.

It has come to my attention that I may not be practicing Buddhism correctly. And in fact it has been postulated that I may not be a Buddhist at all since I do not have the requisite club memberships among other things. There are also a number of related issues which I would request you to clarify.  Please bear with me while I outline some of the specifics.

The most important thing in the Buddhist club, well second most important after establishing dominance, seems to be friendship. I am all for friendship. But Buddhist friendship seems to mean agreeing with everyone unless you are trying to boost SEO or some other stats and then you should indicate that somewhere online lest others think you are actually serious about what you write.  It did not occur to me to write facetiously. And it particularly did not occur to me that others would also do so. Perhaps that is one of the requisite skills I lack in this Buddhist endeavor. I shall dispense with this naivete forthwith. Provided that meets with your approval.

There is a requirement to use a few elaborate or sparse Asian words as my public identifier instead of the name I was given at birth. This is particularly important on Twitter. No one advised me of this protocol. Was there a memo?

History revisionism seems to be a popular mode of tailoring one’s persona to fit in with the club. I am sorry but I have not been doing this on my blog or with my words. I was under the impression that karmic responsibility was my own to deal with. If there is some shortcut which allows me to circumvent that by employing this method could you please outline the benefits of that as soon as possible?

In a similar vein it appears that I have been misleading others. It was put forward that my communications could possibly be believed by those who choose to read them.  The fictional nature of the relative  is well explained  in many Dharma writings and teachings. Is some kind of overt fiction disclaimer therefore necessary?

Apparently I have the average empathy level of a steroid filled body builder going into ‘roid rage. I am not any of those so what gives? I thought Buddhism was supposed to fix these kind of imbalances. Could this be menopause related and could you recommend a good mantra for it?

On a related topic, that of compassion, there is also some disturbance. I have been informed that compassion means to kiss everyone’s ass in public and then go home and cut myself down in the bathroom mirror in order to relieve my anxiety. Others have demonstrated to me the proper procedure quite thoroughly. They have even been kind enough to provide examples for my use. These include “arrogant”, “incomprehensible”, “reprehensible”, “failure”, “ignorant”, “non-Buddhist”, “nuisance”, “crucifier” (oh how very Christian of you).  I would prefer not to practice compassion in this fashion. Are there other options available?

Have I been reading too much? The information that has recently come my way states that a few lines of the Kalama Sutra are the only required reading.  Will there be a test on this? How will it affect my ranking within the Buddhism as owned by you? Do hearing Dharma talks count as study and should I curtail that activity as well?

I had considered writing this letter in poetry form. However it has been made known to me that such form is considered to be in bad taste and that the preferred forms are conglomerations of New Age quotes attributed to the Buddha, or rants.  I have occasionally attempted the latter with mixed results. Said rants are usually greeted with conglomerations of New Age quotes attributed to the Buddha. The theme of these quotes is generally an admonishment to quietude followed by well-wishing.  Is there a formula manual for compiling such responses? Can I get it from Amazon?

As a white person who’s side am I supposed to be on in any dispute?  Apparently I have chosen the side of the wrong people once too often and this has agitated some of your representatives.  Same question regarding those with religious status as convert. These demarcations have unsettled numerous of your agents as I seem to have a habit of picking the wrong side. Are there some special guidelines I need to know about? Is there a course that will teach me how to recognize my “true dharma brothers and sisters”, who I have apparently recently betrayed, as opposed to (?) false dharma brothers and sisters I guess?

I am informed that there is also some kind of issue regarding my motivation. It is not enough to practice for the purposes stated in the Four Noble Truths which involve myself. Nor is it enough, in the Bodhisattva tradition to practice for the release of other’s suffering. Practice must now involve “taking responsibility for the human conscience” according to one of you more boisterous representatives. I am not sure as to the meaning of that phrase. I interpret it to mean telling everyone what to do in minute detail since that is the example they presented to me. Is that correct? If so where may I obtain the necessary equipment with which to examine each individual Buddhist claimant I encounter? And does such examination count as practice?

Politics. Are we in or out there?

Altruism. It has been made apparent to me that some sort of resume is required which lists every altruistic act that I have committed in my entire lifetime. This is for comparison purposes with other representatives in order to determine dominance in conversation and other areas. Would I get extra points if I put it into a searchable database?

Now I have tried to ask these questions of several people who may or may not be within the consortium of Buddhism owners. A response was not forthcoming. Additionally they vehemently deny any ownership of Buddhism despite wearing the uniform. But then again I don’t speak any of their applicable non-European origin languages very well. I had to use a lot of dictionary style translation so perhaps they thought I was just looking to buy some toilet paper. That happens to me a lot when I travel.

But maybe that was for the best. None of these others has ever given me detailed instructions the way the representatives of the English speaking owner, yourself, have. And your organization certainly has a lot of representatives. Sure the other guys told me about the Tripitaka and meditation and rituals and stuff. They even told me about the many options available within their branches should I decide to become an affiliate or even go full-time. There were even openings available at that time or in the future should I decide to avail myself of them.

But apparently these things are not relevant to the actual Buddhism as owned by yourself. That is the group to which I am, by some kind of default, deemed a member.  I am reminded of this on a regular basis. So I just thought it was time to get this cleared up.

Now was there some meeting I missed between the representatives wherein my actions were to be so singularly scrutinized and sanitized so as to fit into the organization? Postal service here is rather haphazard so I may have missed the invitation.

And finally sir, will you sign my permission to be scrappy letter? It seems that any words that are not in agreement with the majority need to be sanctioned by a higher authority.

Sincerely,

NellaLou

Musical Accompaniment-Take it to the Limit done by the Fabulous Etta James

All alone at the end of the of the evening
And the bright lights have faded to blue
I was thinking bout a woman who might have
Loved me and I never knew
You know Ive always been a dreamer
(spent my life running round)
And its so hard to change
(cant seem to settle down)
But the dreams Ive seen lately
Keep on turning out and burning out
And turning out the same
So put me on a highway
And show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time
You can spend all your time making money
You can spend all your love making time
If it all fell to pieces tomorrow
Would you still be mine?
And when youre looking for your freedom
(nobody seems to care)
And you cant find the door
(cant find it anywhere)
When theres nothing to believe in
Still youre coming back, youre running back
Youre coming back for more
So put me on a highway
And show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time
Take it to the limit
Take it to the limit
Take it to the limit one more time

Links

What is Buddhism? Jayarava has made a great post that takes up a number of issues presented here.  And he is not writing facetiously.