Saturday, April 21, 2007

Earth Day

A special thanks, on this lovely day, to Digital Dharma for the reminder that tomorrow is Earth Day, and that the Earth needs metta, too! And for providing this link to an urgently important essay by James Hansen, the NASA scientist who came out in public recently to complain that the agency had been trying to silence him on issues related to global warming.


Mark said...

Peter, I just wanted to thank you for that essay on metta. It was very insightful and articulate. I really enjoyed reading it and the information it gave me. Thanks.

carly said...

Art, Joy, and Metta

Peter. I, too, am sticking with the theme of metta in an effort to make clear in my mind how it works. I am curious to know what Buddha himself said about how metta works exactly. Since time doesn't permit me to study two philosophers to that depth, I compare my flimsy impression of metta in light of what Lao Tzu said in his texts and is written in Tao Te Ching.

Buddha's and Lao Tzu's spheres of influence intersect to form a large area of light. One such area is Buddha's "happiness" and LT's "joyousness". Extending LT's law of attraction of affinities, he speaks of the different kinds of joy. He speaks of the benefits of gladdening the people. He speaks of the joyous assent needed for the people to follow a ruler, who must secure it from the people by doing what is right. He taught that the greatest thing about making the people joyous is that they keep one another in order.

Bush fails miserably, here too. According to Lao Tzu, it would mean that if there is any joyousness in Bush it is not expressed in doing what is right.

And of your ideas in these pages, he draws a direct connection between one's own joyousness and the joy of others. LT notes that by keeping still within and experiencing joy without, one can prevent joy from becoming excessive, (for even joy will turn into its opposite and become melancholy or worse). But importantly, he taught that the joyous mood is infectious. And that one must be able to experience joy himself before he will affect others. As of all his laws, he taught, these forces are not external to things, but internal and joy makes itself felt, that is, it is self-governing. One need only to experience joy and others of like mind will join.

I like that word 'infectious'. Enthusiasm is another form which LT treats as infectious.

This implies that happiness need not even be mentioned. For some people to preach it is not to practice it. This may contribute to the general feeling that American Buddhism seems trendy. Americans too often incorporate ideas superficially. Sometimes it has the effect of a guy walking around saying, "Peace, brother". And the tone of saying happiness to this or that can seem a little ingenuous. Since joy is a silent force, in this regard, the expression of joy, begs another important discussion. And for me, an artist, is an important area in communication.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, Mark. And Carly, the joyousness of which LT speaks is surely related to the Buddha's idea of happiness. For the Buddha, as I understand it, happiness increases along the path to enlightenment, as one distinguishes more and more clearly between the superficial happiness that the satisfaction of our desires offers, and that "true" happiness which is precisely release from those desires--as well as from the aversions--that dictate our behaviors. I personally don't think the "Peace, brother" syndrome is anything more than sentiment. It doesn't have much to do with Buddhism, except at the most superficial level.