Friday, September 25, 2015

buddhaphobia

The Dalai Lama said something stupid recently.  I've tried to find a way to defend it, but it seems pretty damn indefensible.  I've turned to thinking about why I want to defend him.

I've never been one to think he's some kind of perfect enlightened being or anything like that.  After all, he seems to hold a number of absurd superstitious beliefs and the like.  He's not so much a beacon of wisdom, in the intellectual sense, but of kindness and compassion.  He embodies the spirit of Tibetan Buddhism, which is not the most cerebral branch of Buddhism, anyhow.

So, my expectations of him are not all that high, but this sinks below even all that.  I can defend it somewhat, first of all pointing out that until we get some clarification, his intent may not be what it seems.  It may have been something he just didn't give much thought to.  It may be an issue that his own culture isn't exactly sensitive to, the way ours is.  Upon reflection, he may realize it was a dumb thing to say, or to be more generous, his weak grasp of western culture, and language muddled his understanding of the question, or his answer.

It feels like a bit of a stretch though.  Even considering all that, and the fact that he didn't appear to be taking any of it very seriously.. it seemed like a terribly stupid thing to say, no matter how I cut it.

(Jump to 5:30, for what I'm referring to)


I'm more inclined to say that he's allowed to say stupid things now and then.  We all are.  To have stupid ideas, like anyone else.  The challenge is not to be perfect in our ideas, but to be willing to reconsider them, when life points them out to us.  So maybe, most importantly, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, in the sense that he might reconsider, when asked what the fuck he was talking about.

What really irks me though, is the way so many people are jumping on this.  See, Buddhists can be misogynistic too, right?  Yeah, sure, this is just like stoning women to death, for getting themselves raped.  An abruptly dark turn, but I'm talking about having some perspective.  Not waving around bullshit false equivalences.  Not all muslims, I know, but you won't find justification for anything like that, in any Buddhist scriptures at all.  This might just have something to do with why they don't do shit like that.

It largely comes from the same people who seem practically giddy, as they point to Myanmar's Buddhist nationalists as proof that Buddhism is just as crazy as any other religion.  Nominal Buddhists, who just so happen to be in conflict with Muslims.  Coincidentally, of course, a religious group that seems to be in conflict with every other culture, almost everywhere they go.  Does this mean Myanmar's nationalists are without blame?  It's all the Muslims' fault?  Not at all.

Much like in the west, it means that admittedly ugly coalitions form, between ignorant racist xenophobes and rational people who are rightfully concerned about the intolerant ways Muslims behave, in so much of the world.  Not all Muslims, but a very concerning proportion of them, with direct lines that can be drawn from that intolerant violently oppressive behavior, and the words of their infallible religious texts.

(See Sura 5:33, for example, 4:89, 8:14, 66:9, or 98:6)

How dare anyone point out that religious doctrines matter, or that the followers of given religions behave differently from each other, I know.  This has been deemed to be some sort of rampant and inappropriate prejudice, to suggest that an ideology matters.  One that clearly states that anyone who opposes it's mythology should be slaughtered, being just the same as another which unequivocally promotes compassion for all living things.  The argument being that no one actually pays any attention to any of that; we all just express violence or compassion for reasons completely disconnected from our ideological aspirations.

Sorry, but I think it's just intellectually lazy and ignorant that this gets conflated with racism.  It is an especially hostile religion, which makes it difficult to believe that it's just a coincidence that it has the most hostile of extremists.  Every religion has it's questionable elements, but every other religion is allowed to be questioned, while Islam is stuck on the idea that doing so is blasphemy.  This creates a vicious cycle of regression, considering what the Quran says should be done to blasphemers.

This criticism is something that Muslim themselves need to face, not be shielded from, by supposed liberals, who think that even discussing these differences is just a distraction from what's really just veiled disdain for "the other."

How is a Buddhist any less "other" than a Muslim?  Islam is the second largest religion in the world, right behind Christianity, the second craziest religion in the world.  Historically, the other side of the same Abrahamic coin, spread through similar sort of violence and oppression.  Unlike every other religion out there, albeit at different points in their respective timelines.

What does any of this have to do with the Dalai Lama saying something stupid?  It's this moral relativism that leads to defense of Islam, that also seems to lead to this oddly enthusiastic loathing towards Buddhism. Often expressed by liberals, who in recent years have turned against Buddhists, in direct proportion to their embrace of Muslims.

There seems to be this view that Islam has been unfairly vilified, while Buddhism is unfairly held in high esteem, and thus needs to be knocked down to size.  One is brought up, while the other is brought down, without any regard for the ideas each espouses, how their followers behave around the world, or which is actually the minority.  It's all reduced to cultural differences between people, like any other ethnic difference.  A belief in bodhicitta, a belief in jihad, all just inconsequential words that divide people, for no good reason.  

Leading to this overblown condemnation of a Buddhist leader for saying something stupid, while being forgiving of extremist violence and practically turning a blind eye to incredibly widespread human rights abuses.  In the name of some sort of cultural fairness.

Yeah, this gets under my skin.  I think it's just so very misguided.  It was a dumb thing to say, but come on.  He's no Ayatollah.  He's still not even as bad as Pope Francis.

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