Thursday, June 21, 2007


I think we're at risk of dancing on heads of pins here. What I see, in reading recent comments from all directions, is a common concern that our spiritual values not be dissociated from our our moral and practical responsibility for our fellow beings in this world. We can fuss over the terminology and its meanings, but I would argue that there's nothing, in Buddhist thought, that precludes social action. Intervention can take different forms, however. I suppose it might be argued, for example, that the Dalai Lama's pacifist, non-violent positiion vis-a-vis the Chinese presence in his country is passive and permissive; but there he is, rushing around the world, bringing his country's plight to the attention of admittedly mostly disinterested world leaders.

Is this "engagement" or "non-engagement"? Semantics, as usual, do more to muddy the waters than to clarify them. Are we not better off looking at practical outcomes rather than theoretical foundations? Or am I misunderstanding here?

Maybe I'm just being muddle-headed and not listening closely enough. Chalk it up to an unusually busy week: another reading from "The Real Bush Diaries" last night, this time for the good people at the Alhambra Democratic Club. Along with the blog, I'm finding this to be a useful and important way of making the kind of connection we're talking about. It's a matter of helping to raise and maintain consciousness in the world--and to keep the juices flowing in anticipation of next year's election. I'm also scheduled to record a public television interview later this morning, so my time is limited.

Meantime, best thanks for the great conversation. That, in itself, is engagement of the best kind--butting up against each other with the most potent of all weapons: ideas.


Quink said...

I'm still here, reading. Little to say at the moment, but I'm enjoying your posts.

PeterAtLarge said...

I'm having fun with your book, Quink. A good few chuckles of uncomfortable recognition. Though it does sound to me as though you younger guys were pretty much spoiled compared to us! Thanks for sticking with me--and please broadcast, as appropriate. Cheers, PaL

carly said...

I don't want to raise Peter's ire by pressing my point at a place where Buddhists agree. You all have too much invested in your religion to agree with me. I understand that.

The Dalai Lama isn't very effective, is he? And in Buddhist controlled Tibet, they handed the territory to the Chinese many years ago, in the form of protection. Because they were so passive, they lost control of it.

It wouldn't come up that world leaders could express their love for each other, but they often spend mindful time with each other, ex. Gorbachov and Reagan, Bush and Blair, and Sr. Bush and the Saudi family. But conditions on the ground haven't improved much, in fact have deteriorated, demonstrating to me, that it is not until other conditions of affinities have been met that things will ever go right. I haven't seen Buddhism playing any significant role in shaping the world. Right now, I would venture to say, the philosopical religions causing the most movement in the world are Evanglical Christians, Islam, and China, which is mostly due to its Taoist foundations. And China will soon be the most important influence, if it is not already. Understanding Chinese traditions of thinking and practical application will be the most important step in dealing with their power. And that power does not spin on their Buddhist segment.

In order for one to be an active rather than passive leader, he must be able to offer equitable and just solutions to those involved. How he does that is crucial. As Americans look for a leader, that should be their prime concern. Friendliness is secondary, and is of course, an additional necessary ingredient. I agree. We understood that lesson many years ago from Norman Vincent Peale. My own philosophy, taoist, has numerous lessons about friendliness. Cardozo asked me what he could do to become active and I suggested friendliness combined with movement and the wisdom of the sage in the written word.

Cardozo, attachments are not obstacles to the sage. No material is unproductive to a master. Turn your liabilities into assets. Become a master of the written word. And if you can make it funny and light, and more people will listen. ex: Michael Moore

PeterAtLarge said...

Ire? No. I get a lot out of these exchanges. Investment in religion? Again, no. I'm not a "believer." But that said, I wonder what the inhabitants of tiny Tibet--or the Dalai Lama, as their spiritual leader--could have done to resist their powerful Chinese aggressors, short of the genocide that would likely have ensued? I'm not convinced that "acrtive" resistance would have worked any more successfully than "passive." And while it's true that the more aggressive religions have done more to shape the world, the mess they've managed to create leaves room for the possibility--remote, perhaps, but perhaps the only hope--that something more like the wisdom of Buddhism (or Taoism!) will move in to replace the madness with a modicum of sanity. Monotheism, I believe, will eventually succeed in cutting its own throat--that is, if it doesn't succeed in destroying the human race first. I'm reading "God Is Not Great," by Christopher Hitchens, an incisive indictment of the evils monotheism has wrought in the name of spiritual aspiration. What we need in our next leader is someone who listens more to the practical wisdom of human beings than to the authoritarian dictates of some God!

carly said...

Tibet. Many of them did head for the hills with guns, locals, not the elite, monks,
and were killed or captured. I don't think many people know that many years before that, the Buddhist establishment allowed China to enter Tibet and control some in- fighting problems. In exchange for protection. They relinquished other, usually governmental responsibilities too. And we wonder why Chinese think they have entitlement there.

Monotheism is in the middle stages of changing into it's opposite, multiculturalism, of which Buddhism is a prime proponent. So is Tao-think, Not Taoism, the multi-theistic religion in China. That will change toward taothink.
The impermanence of things. Or as I would posit instead, the inevitability of change.
But, as I am saying, taothink has a better system of social control than Buddhism, which it could be argued, really has no framework for great undertakings.

"Leader". Well, if he listens to Democrats, there will be a lot of indecision and compromise not often for the better. I started listening to and studying western Buddhists, and they are very much like Democrats in the sense that there are so many caveats and versions and sects that I can't find one religion in there. They suffer from the "well, that's only true if you're such and such sect" syndrome. Seems like the religion of many little religions. Zen being the best, to me. They have some Taoist in them. But from what I'm reading of the metaphysics, there is philosophy about reality and the individual and illusion which bodes ill for governing. Not many guys to roll up the shirtsleeves and get a job done. This, historically, is what leaves room for a group of Nazis to storm in.

Just my thoughts, could be wrong.

Quink said...

Glad you like it. I'll do a little profile of your blog in the next week or two - I'm still here.