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Mrs McCartney and the Chinese Fur Trade

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  • #31
    Buddhism has certainly got its good points. I know that many Buddhists are grappling with the very issues I identified. For instance, the Dalai Lama has had some major rethinks since the Chinese booted out him out of Tibet (which was certainly no Shangri-La under feudal rule). Astonishingly, perhaps (given the circumstances), he has even expressed some leanings towards Marxism. Gandhi seems to be a big inspiration - although one mustn't forget that the good Mahatma had a western education and derived much of his thinking from Tolstoy.

    The Thai "forest tradition" I was involved with is very much fundamentalist (in the best possible way) and adheres as closely as possible to the Buddha's original teachings of 2,500 years ago. Quite fascinating, really. The way the Sangha (community of monks / nuns) is set up is really very democratic and is, in fact, a very early form of communism. Decisions are made communally, and there is a very short list of objects they are allowed to own (robes, bowl, umbrella and a couple of other things). They are not allowed to handle money and are only allowed to consume food that is offered to them by lay people.

    This is in marked contrast to the Tibetan system, where the monasteries were like university campuses and the monks had to pay their own way. Class divisions were preserved, with some very rich and others very poor. The "guru" system also puts me off Tibetan Buddhism, the idea that you should visualise your teacher as a Buddha seems to me to open the door to all sorts of abuse (as has indeed been alleged against some prominent Lamas in the West.

    I would strongly recommend the practise of meditation, however, as a means of preserving sanity! From what I gather, in Thailand joining a monastery for a year or so (it's not like Christianity - you're not expected to stay for good) is generally seen as a good career move and alternative to military service. Enlightenment is seen as such a distant objective, that most monks don't even bother with meditation. Instead, some of them have got very involved in social work, which is frowned on by the purists. It seems there is a Balance to be struck here, somewhere...
    \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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    • #32
      Some interesting points there. Speaking as a vegetarian it's very easy for me to rail against meat consumption, but what I find most disturbing is not so much that animals are being killed, but how they are treated and thought of. With factory farming they are reduced to mere machines which must be made efficient... :x contrast this with say the Bushmen in Africa where I believe they apologise to the animal before killing it! This may sound silly to some, but there's a certain respect there that comes understanding their place in the cosmos, as part of the food chain.
      We Western folk rarely pause to even think about where our food comes from, or products generally for that matter, let alone the ethics of it. Similarly where the products are going ie. are they reusable/recycleable...

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      • #33
        We Western folk rarely pause to even think about where our food comes from, or products generally for that matter, let alone the ethics of it. Similarly where the products are going ie. are they reusable/recycleable...
        For one thing there wouldn't be such a huge problem with obesity in western society if people had to go out and 'catch their own'.
        Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

        Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

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        • #34
          Jeezuz H.

          My wife and I are looking for a young alsatian as a family pet at the moment.

          That's upset me a bit.

          Thanks Mike (no sarcasm) - a dose of reality (our "Killer Ape inheritance" as, I think, Richard Morgan put it) in my cosy world is good medicine.

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          • #35
            Originally posted by Mikey_C
            Problem is - and I can say this having had some quite deep involvement with Theravada Buddhism a few years back - is that for a lot of Buddhists the emphasis is really on keeping your own slate clean rather than actually working to alleviate suffering in the world, which is seen as a pointless exercise
            Is this with the younger practitioners or with all Theravada Buddhist practitioners in general? The only reason I ask is that I am currently reading a book by the Dalai Lama entitled How to Practice and in it he makes it quite clear that it is all about helping others with their suffering. He writes:

            "When we truly recognize the oneness of all humankind, our motivation to find peace will grow stronger. In the deepest sense we are really sisters and brothers, so we must share one another's suffering."

            He mentions how the Buddha, having achieved enlightenment, spent the rest of his life helping others through their suffering and towards their own enlightenment.

            In other words, the Dalai Lama's argument is that not only is working to alleviate suffering in the world not pointless, it is absolutely necessary.

            Originally posted by ReaveTheJust
            My wife and I are looking for a young alsatian as a family pet at the moment.
            Be sure to get one, Reave! They're wonderful dogs! You won't regret it! Loyal, strong, playful, protective and sweet all in one. :D (Pssst. You can see a picture of one of my Alsatians here. Best dogs in the world!)
            "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
            --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

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            • #36
              '...Random shit happening...' - Mikey C

              'Life is the only game in town'....TheAdlerian

              In two brief phrases, my friends, you have summarised my entire spiritual philosophy. Many thanks. :)

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              • #37
                Originally posted by PsychicWarVeteran
                Originally posted by Mikey_C
                Problem is - and I can say this having had some quite deep involvement with Theravada Buddhism a few years back - is that for a lot of Buddhists the emphasis is really on keeping your own slate clean rather than actually working to alleviate suffering in the world, which is seen as a pointless exercise
                Is this with the younger practitioners or with all Theravada Buddhist practitioners in general?
                I've looked at this comment and realised its an unfair characterisation based on my own (wordly) perspective. If you deeply and genuinely believe in the Buddhist view of reality, then it follows that the only way you can really alleviate the suffering of others is by passing the teachings on and helping them to escape the cycle of life and death. All the Theravada Buddhist monks I met put a great deal of effort into this.

                The Dalai Lama is a representative of the Mahayana ("greater vehicle") school of Buddhism, which often claims to be more devoted to the wellbeing of others than the original Theravada ("Teaching of the Elders") school - which it therefore dubs Hinayana or "lesser vehicle" - because it just leads a single practitioner to the cessation of suffering. The "Mahayana vow" that Tibetan monks make is not to enter Enlightenment until all sentient beings are also enlightened. This is supposed to lead to a higher state of Buddhahood. However, I find this to be in practise something of a technicality: I wouldn't say that Theravada monks are any less dedicated to the wellbeing of others from what I have seen (but how is an ignorant person such as myself to judge?)

                Smoking is not technically banned by the Buddha's teachings, although the monks I knew did not practise it. There is some reference to "inhaling smoke through a tube" being admissable - although you can be pretty sure that didn't refer to tobacco, and use of an addictive substance does seem to run counter to the spirit of Buddhism. However, if the teachings were followed correctly, they would only be allowed to smoke when freely offered cigarettes, so I suppose dealing with the craving could be an challenging spiritual exercise...

                As regards meat - the monks can eat it unless the animal has been especially killed for them. They will ask if this is the case. I believe there is a quote from the Buddha that it's not what goes into your mouth, but what comes out of it that is important. I rather like that - good for bolshy vegans!

                The monks in the Buddha's day did wander around in the forests, although had to have daily contact with villages or else they couldn't eat, as they are not allowed to store food. The "monasteries" were originally places where they would congregate for certain festivals during set times of the year - such as the "rains retreat". Obviously in a 21stC Western context, they have to be much more settled out of necessity.

                The arrangements in Tibet were very different. First of all, you had a huge section of the population becoming monks. The big monasteries acted as feudal landlords with tied serfs. Not calculated to play well with the Reds! I read an article by a Chinese writer who pointed out that a great many Tibetans actually became Maoists and played an active part in the Cultural Revolution (don't forget that what Tibet suffered in that period, China did too). When the Communist Party became more revisionist and started to criticise what had been done in the past, they started to turn back to Buddhism, as they were so used to absolute realities that couldn't fail or get things wrong. Mao had been like a new god to them.

                I would be fascinated to learn more about how ordinary Tibetans view what is going on in their country. I know what the Dalai Lama and the religious hierarchy thinks, and I know what the Chinese government thinks. The person in the street you never hear.
                \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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