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Posts Tagged ‘monk’

ImageThe fires of suffering and strife rage around the world,” and continue to rage in the Rakhine state of Burma. Recent sectarian strife between Arakanese Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslim community have claimed the lives of at least 78 people, and displaced over 80,000 fleeing from the violence. With the situation degenerating into a vicious cycle of hate begetting hate, it has come to light that some Buddhist monastics are actively engaged in fanning the flames by calling on lay people to disassociate with the Rohingya and actively blocking humanitarian aid to the refugee camps.

Shame on any monastics who would use their moral authority to suade others in enhancing suffering. While their Arakanese identity may compel them to act in ways that hurt others, they also wear the ochre robe and carry with it the freedoms and responsibilities of their monastic precepts. Their renunciation embodied by the first precept has now been made useless. By their own actions, these monastics demonstrate that they do not deserve to wear the ochre robe.

I realize that the situation is not so black and white. However, the Arakanese and Rohingya alike are sharing in pain. The face of suffering is the same among all people and the cycle of violence rings throughout history. In the late 1960’s, my parents, their families, and many of their Toisan community were driven away by the Burmese and fled into Maoist China. Though the conditions were not great, at least they had a state which would accept them as Han Chinese and would provide a home.

The Rohingya have no state advocates and have shuttled back and forth between Bangladesh and Burma for many decades. Burma’s Presidential Office has stated that “It is impossible for Burma to accept people who are not ethnic to the country and who have entered illegally.” Their situation grows more desperate as the violence continues, as more people are displaced, and as more languish in camps without the infrastructure or supplies to support them. Organizations that have stood up for the Rohingya include the UN and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation. Unfortunately, as the violence continues, the Rohingya’s list of advocates now include the Pakistani Taliban, who have said, “We will avenge your blood.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, in your Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, you acknowledged the ongoing strife in your native Burma. We all celebrate your release and your continued work for democracy in your country. This means that you are again a politician for your constituents: speaking on their behalf, and sharing their concerns. Your freedom to speak as you choose is also delicately tied to the whims of a state still emerging and fragile in its transition towards democracy. Nevertheless, the moral authority you possess reaches across national boundaries as we lend you our ears. Please speak out. Your voice as a mediator are needed in this conflict. Lend your compassion with the humanitarian aid organizations  and help to relieve the suffering in Burma.

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Over on The Huffington Post, Deborah Jiang Stein asks whether a Buddhist skateboarding monk is “a contradiction or a product of the modern age.” She’s referring to the image of a monk on a caster board at Mount Emei that sparked criticism in China Skateboarding Monk(“Monks should seek quietness and riding a skateboard is such a contradictory thing to Buddhist life”) and humorous applause elsewhere (“What could be a better example of the middle way than balancing on a skateboard?”). You’ve probably already seen this news pop up on the Buddhist blogs (like here, here, here and here). The contradictory aspect of this episode isn’t the monk, but rather the Buddhist community—as evidenced by the range of reactions that appear online.

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optical illusion

I recently posted an article about “karma” that I found on the Examiner that I thought was very well written. As with any concept in Buddhism, describing what “karma” is the length of an article can be very tricky and difficult to do in a comprehensive yet easy-to-understand manner. I thought the author of this article, Emily, achieved both and therefore posted it on my Facebook account.

My friend pointed out that the way Emily described karma diverged from the way another author, Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw, described karma from another article I had posted on Facebook a while back. I reread both articles and she was right, they did conflict in the way they described “karma”. But both descriptions seemed valid. Both authors seemd to know what they were talking about and I never thought twice to think they conflicted until my friend brought it up. So who’s right and who’s wrong? Who has the more accurate description of karma?

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Mind Reading

On one trip to a certain monastery, my friends and I were about to leave when one of my friends asked me if it were possible to get one of the abbot’s books on Buddhist meditation. She was interested in a specific book that he’d talked about the day before. I asked a member of the temple board, who was standing around. He told me to go over and ask the abbot himself, who was up on one of the monastery’s hills.

As we came up to the top of the hill, we saw the abbot walking down beneath a parasol. We stopped and without saying anything, put our hands together and bowed. He saw us, smiled and said, “Go look in the shed over there. If it’s not there, there might be a copy in the main shrine room.”

How did he know that we were looking for the book? We hadn’t told him what we were looking for! So naturally, we spent the rest of the day talking about his telepathic ability.

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Where Elephants WeepWhen writing up my last post, I forgot to check with Cambodge Soir. As I read there today, I found out that the rock opera Where Elephants Weep has not been banned outright, as is also reported in a (translated) piece on KI Media. I found the Cambodge Soir report particularly insightful, relating who exactly said what and also including the views of the monk, the government and the opera representatives. You can read the original report in French by Ung Chansophea and Alain Ney on Cambodge Soir. My translation is below.

I must ask for forgiveness in advance. My translation from French is as bad (and liberal) as it is from Khmer. I hope that you can at least walk away from this with an understanding that there is a more complex story behind a headline as simple as “Monks Force Rock Opera Off Air.”

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Okay, I admit the title of this post is not quite accurate. Actually, it should read “Nickelodeon Featuring the Avatar”.

Since 2005, Nickelodeon has featured an animated series called Avatar the Last Airbender, airing three seasons and winning an Emmy Award in American animated television series. Originally tageted twoards 6-11 year olds, this show has gained popularity among many outside the age bracket – including me. What I find most intriguing about Avatar is that it features a main character, a child monk named Aang, who adheres to Buddhist principles and even talks about basic Buddhist ideas such as forgiveness, nonviolence, and attachment. Though Nickelodeon never directly refers to Buddhism, the fact that one of the most popular and widely watched networks targeted towards children features a hero that succeeds in his journey based upon Buddhist concepts is amazing. I applaud Nickelodeon for producing this show and encourage anyone interested after reading this post to watch it for themselves. 

WARNING: this post MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS for those of you who have not watched all three seasons of Avatar. (more…)

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On Thailand

Earlier I posted some thoughts on the political situation in Thailand. Five minutes later I deleted my post. For the most part, I unnecessarily rehashed an old court case back in 2001, but my emotions on the political scene are pretty simple. I’m skeptical of all sides, I don’t trust any of them in government, and I hope that democracy can be restored and a stable government achieved. Any other opinion I have on this situation, specific or otherwise, isn’t something I care too much about.

But more to the point, I want to write about Buddhist-related issues here. That political post was out of line. Granted, even highly revered Buddhist monks mix into the current Thai political crisis (a [in]famous blog post here). I suppose that topic’s fair game, but then this is one issue that saddens me too much to write about it. Given how much I rant, that means a lot. Maybe more on that topic once this crisis has moved on and emotions have cooled somewhat.

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