Friday, January 01, 2010

Blasphemy In Buddhism

I found this on Sweep The Dust, Push The Dirt. He links this article. Which leads to these 25 blasphemies in Ireland. Among them: "Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”

First of all, Sangharakshita deals very deftly with the idea in his essay "Buddhism and Blasphemy", which I can't find an on line edition, but can apparently be bought here. He doesn't seem to be giving it away on his site where he give away quite a lot of amazing content. What I remember from reading the essay was a feeling that blasphemy wasn't really a problem in Buddhism.

The Dharma are the practical teachings that lead towards Enlightenment. Thus theory, philosophy and whatnot is only another aspect of motivating oneself on the path, if it does that. You can avoid theory, philosophy and probably do better on the spiritual path. You just need to know enough to get you going.

Secondly, I think actually Bjork articulates the wisdom of equality and non-discrimination, which is actually in line with Buddhism. I don't take her comment as offensive, because it's based on a false premise. You know, if you're not guilty, not point in getting defensive when someone makes a false charge. And she says she's most attracted to Buddhism. It's unfortunate she's snagged herself on this bit, but people are not fixed, perhaps 14 years later she's not in the same place.

Many of the comments from Sweep The Dust, Push The Dirt, point out that as Buddhist they don't eat meat, and think that animals are equal. So there's also that point, most of my Buddhist friends are vegetarians and vegans.

When the Dali Lama ate meat because his doctors told him he had to for his health, many people said, "see the Dali Lama eats meat." Of course he's the head of one of the six Buddhist sects from Tibet, but he's generally seen as the closest thing the Buddhists will have as a pope. Paul Williams in his excellent book Mahayana Buddhism points out that some scholars think the reason why Buddhism was easily overthrown is that there is no central authority. I like the freedom of Buddhism. Sure, you can find someone to tell you how to think always, but there's a real respect for the individual, in my opinion. So anyway, when the Dali Lama went back to vegetarianism, did those people who noticed he wasn't notice, and follow him? I doubt it. You can always find exceptions. The question is what is best for you to do, and I think vegetarianism is the ideal to strive for.

Some people get mixed up about what spiritual ideals are for. I think they are for striving towards, not judging others, or beating yourself up about. Which brings us back to blasphemy. I think some people like to "defend the faith," but faith isn't so much what Buddhism is about. Do I like Bjork saying "F*ck Buddhists"? Well, she's trying to make a point, I don't think she's walking up to someone meditating and kicking them. So I think she makes her point. Some people are provocative, I can be at times, to get attention, to dramatize thing. Howard Stern and Don Immus are shocking and get rich from it. It's hard to see a Buddhist getting their "knickers in a twist" about Bjork's comment.

So Ireland, another changing cloud of being, if you're trying to be tolerant and protective of Buddhism in Ireland, I appreciate that, but I'm not actually worried about blasphemy. And with a Great Grandfather who is Irish, and an avid fan of Irish literature and the country in general, well, I felt like expressing my opinion, inspired by Sweep The Dust, Push The Dirt. Thank you for your post.

2 comments:

Jack Daw said...

No problem and thanks for your insightful post. I personally don't get insulted when people "blaspheme" with any religion and I think anti-blasphemy laws are silly.

"I don't take her comment as offensive, because it's based on a false premise" ~ Precisely! I have no issue with blasphemy when what they are yelling about is a supernatural deity or sect of individuals. I do get a bit annoyed that I she could have done a bit of research into Buddhism before dropping "fuck's" all over the place.

"Many of the comments from Sweep The Dust, Push The Dirt, point out that as Buddhist they don't eat meat, and think that animals are equal." ~ Yeah...that. I eat meat and have no real plans of stopping that particular consumption. Although I agree that it is a perfectly fine thing to strive for IF you are doing it for mindful reasons then great but I think you can be mindful and a Buddhist and still eat meat.

"Do I like Bjork saying "F*ck Buddhists"? Well, she's trying to make a point, I don't think she's walking up to someone meditating and kicking them" ~ Yes. She is making a point but did you see that video of her kicking the crap out of a reporter? I wouldn't want her rolling up on me in the zendo followed by a gaggle of Icelandic thugs.

No thanks! But if given the choice between anti-blasphemy laws and free-speech? I would say "Fuck Buddha" anyday. But that is just me.

Cheers,

John
John

Jayarava said...

I hadn't noticed the Bjork comments before. But I think you've presented the case well. In Buddhism there is no, indeed can be no, blaspheme.

Not that practically speaking Buddhists have no scared cows or don't get upset when insulted. But there is no doctrinal basis, no basis for a law against saying anything. In Buddhism there is only the consequences of one's actions - if one chooses to be offensive then one has to live with that; but equally if one chooses to be offended (another form of aversion) then one has to live with that.

Perhaps Bjork was enjoining people to have sex with Buddhists - what fun that would be. There are so many of them, and so few of us, eh ;-) It might get a bit tiring though.

I still find it puzzling why someone good at singing should have her views on religion published. Or why the sex life of someone who plays golf for a living (boring!) should be international news. But such are the times we live in - we exalt the trivial.