Tag: Buddhism

Nov 24

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: “If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Kill Him” by Annieli

All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else. -The Buddha

Marx: “constant revolutionizing of production uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all precious ones. all fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient prejudices and opinions are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”

Unlike the Marshall Berman book, the reality of human conflict today is not so much about modernism as it is modernizing in the pre-industrial context, the civilizing and evolving, uneven yet parallel, paths from primitive, pre-modern communism through feudal modes of production, many of which still operate today whether the American Taliban or their calabash cousins in South Central Asia. The Koch Brothers, as corporate despots, are no different in their ideological commitments to devoting their wealth to an Anti-Communist Christianity that memorializes a martyr like John Birch and promotes inequality and suffering from uneven economic development. It is not a stretch to compare sacralized warfare and sectarian violence where today’s Oath Keepers see themselves as displaced Zen-samurai or Ronin of the Tokugawa Era. For example the original film The 47 Ronin directed by Kenji Mizoguchi is released near to the date of the Pearl Harbor attack. and the 1998 film of the same name by John Frankenheimer with script by David Mamet refers directly to the same historical event. ” The popularity of the tale grew during the Meiji era of Japanese history, in which Japan underwent modernization, and the legend became subsumed within discourses of national heritage and identity.”

The connection or family resemblance of feudal despotism and a repressive political state apparatus that attempts to control reproductive rights or democratic representation is now mobilized by ideology and ideological institutions such as Religions, Governments, and Mass Media and are mobilized much like Pat Buchanan’s meme of a Culture War. Its bastardization into a variety of discourses about race, class, and gender occupy much of the time and space of DK. As a matter of making the analysis of contemporary events, especially those exhibiting false consciousness like acts of racism or other violence clearer, some variants of Marxist methodology can be useful beyond some inerrant textual applications of Marxological theories. Excuse the lapse into the technical but the recent histories of human conflict as well as conflict among humans and nature require methods that can help make even the simplest of practices more coherent under the “shock doctrine” of crisis capitalism. There is a fluid boundary between culture war and actual war much as there is between abstract and concrete violence.

Althusser explains that the SA (State Apparatus) functions predominantly by violence or repression and only secondarily by ideology. Similarly the ISAs (Ideological State Apparatuses) function predominantly by ideology but can include punishment or repression secondarily.

This diary begins with a consideration of a recent book on Buddhist Warfare, a topic which has interested others as representative of the apparent contradiction of perhaps more Western stereotypes about the peaceful resistance to authoritarianism by some Buddhisms (Tibet) and the hegemonic behavior of other Buddhist majority regimes (Myanmar/Burma) where punishment or repression seems anomolous to a population significantly Buddhist. There is no space here to discuss the complex sectarian struggles of global religions and the focus here is on the material justification of cultural violence in the context of this recent book edited by Jerryson and Juergensmeyer Buddhist Warfare OUP 2010. The ideology of any religion and its worldly sectarian practices can be considered as some Marxists did in the last century as Ideological State Apparatuses (ISA) in the case of the ambitions of early to mid 20th Century Japanese imperialism, Buddhism was manipulated to become an ISA in terms of forging a national will and an industrialized state to sacrifice for humans claiming the status of feudal deity-monarchs. In the cases of contemporary Thailand and Myanmar among others, the identity of Buddhism and a ruling class creates a complex set of contradiction for both Buddhist resistance movements and military-political elites no different structurally than many other regimes Marx described as an Asiatic mode of production, (AMP), and that Oriental Despotism reproduces itself structurally in many contemporary Asian corporatized ruling class economies that have many different oligarchic names such as Chaebol in South Korea, family-controlled corporate conglomerates. In Japan before World War II, large holding companies formed wealth groups, or zaibatsu, which dominated most industry. The zaibatsu were dissolved after the war, but keiretsu-large, modern industrial enterprise groupings-emerged. And the tensions between the imperatives for military and economic self-defense as well as the need for corporatist, oligarghic, yet familial expansion create more challenges for the many corresponding Buddhisms.

MSDF Hyuga, a contemporary Japanese aircraft carrier classified as a destroyer:

What is important for this brief narrative is the point of view reconciling the complexity of many Buddhisms within the context of such societies, the expansion of rationalized violence against a populace and the rationalizing discourse of remote killing. This is where the army does the killing so one’s own responsibility is intact. Drone warfare can represent the instrumental separation and distance possible and even resemble the Buddhist position or relative autonomy on just violence. In these cases, that group or even individual violence or exploitation are situated in a discourse of class struggle that has an ideological structure consistent with other capitalist and even pre-capitalist practices. There is some literature on the political economy of arbitrary seasonal regional violence in France in the late middle ages. This same discourse exists in the justification or rationalization of individual and group religious practices in military organizations working for governments that represent a separation of church and state. This is historically a relatively new term considering the number of theocratic regimes that do not recognize that formal or informal separation in contrast to democratic rules of law which attempt to keep public order in a republic despite the actions of corporate despots.


The theory of the Asiatic mode of production, (AMP) was devised by Karl Marx around the early 1850s. The essence of the theory has been described as “[the] suggestion … that Asiatic societies were held in thrall by a despotic ruling clique, residing in central cities and directly expropriating surplus from largely autarkic and generally undifferentiated village communities.” The theory continues to arouse heated discussion among contemporary Marxists and non-Marxists alike. Some have rejected the whole concept on the grounds that the socio-economic formations of pre-capitalist Asia did not differ enough from those of feudal Europe to warrant special designation. Aside from Marx, Friedrich Engels was also an enthusiastic commentator on the AMP. They both focused on the socio-economic base of AMP society.

Marx and Engels were trying to reconcile why development was uneven in the East Asian context, partially to explain European colonialism and the creation of spheres on influence based on new forms of extractible exchange in the form of mobile surplus value, in this case, opium as a medium of exchange value.



Opium Godown (Storehouse) in Patna, Bihar (c. 1814)

“China, one of those faltering Asian empires, which one after the other fell prey to the entrepreneurial spirit of the European race, was so weak, so much collapsed, that it did not even have the strength to go through the crisis of a people’s revolution, so that an acute indignation has turned into a chronic and probably incurable disease, an empire, so much decomposed, that it was almost unable to rule its own people or to offer resistance to the foreign aggressors”.

Asiatic mode of production

This is a controversial contribution to Marxist theory, initially used to explain pre-slave and pre-feudal large earthwork constructions in China, India, the Euphrates and Nile river valleys (and named on this basis of the primary evidence coming from greater “Asia”). The Asiatic mode of production is said to be the initial form of class society, where a small group extracts social surplus through violence aimed at settled or unsettled band communities within a domain. Exploited labour is extracted as forced corvee labour during a slack period of the year (allowing for monumental construction such as the pyramids, ziggurats, ancient Indian communal baths or the Chinese Great Wall). Exploited labour is also extracted in the form of goods directly seized from the exploited communities. The primary property form of this mode is the direct religious possession of communities (villages, bands, hamlets) and all those within them. The ruling class of this society is generally a semi-theocratic aristocracy which claims to be the incarnation of gods on earth. The forces of production associated with this society include basic agricultural techniques, massive construction and storage of goods for social benefit (granaries).

Yet colonial extraction and power projected itself easily into East Asia in the 19th Century, partially because of the kinds of labor agreements made in parallel with native merchant capitalists as well as a hegemonic ensemble of colonizing projects, each bringing its own version of Orientalist (sic) value to Europe. Yet concurrently and administrative violence brought to a country has its relatively autonomous indigenous religion still operating as an ISA in parallel to missionary Christianity where spiritual volition could be retained.

Cetanā  is a Buddhist term commonly translated as “volition”, “directionality”, or “attraction”. It can be defined as a mental factor that moves or urges the mind in a particular direction, toward a specific object or goal

It is no stretch to see the use of religion in legitimating state violence as seen in the image of the Taliban demolishing sacred Buddhist sites as motivating or rationalizing the initial invasion into Afghanistan and its continued use on a more informally profane way in the conduct of the subsequent wars. These are moments of justifying/rationalizing violence against self or Other (preemptive violence prevents a greater sin). In some historical cases they are the reasons for oppressing rival sects or religions to this day.

Feb 09

A History Lesson on a Cold Evening

The Bristol Post picked up a story last Tuesday that should have been told long ago…long enough ago that the story qualifies as LGBT history.  And that’s likely why the article was written:  it’s LGBT History Month in the UK.

I have to admit that I’m not as familiar with the story myself as I should have been, so I had to spend a few days educating myself…and then a day or two deciding how to deal with the slippages of reality I encountered in so doing.

The title of the Post article was Op by unknown doctor was a world first.  And that is true, but I’m not so sure that the Post really understands the history in its totality.  The title of the February 16, 2013 talk, Michael Dillon:  The Man Who Invented Transsexuals by Cheryl Morgan, which is is being presented at Studio 1, M-Shed, Princess Wharf and sponsored by OutStories Bristol stretches the truth terribly.

So what’s this all about?

Feb 21

Milarepa Day

After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the 1950s, a chain of human communication was threatened with breaking.

Two thousand five hundred years of continual communication of a spiritual tradition.  Twenty-five hundred years ago when Buddhism arrived in Tibet, the native spiritual tradition, Bon was not discarded by the great teacher Padmasambhava, an Indian spiritual adept who is credited with transmitting Buddhism to Tibet (and, according to the linked Wiki, Bhutan as well).

Transmitted.  That is an important word.

But first, today is Milarepa Day.

Milarepa

The link is to the Shambhala website (and the Shambhala organization), and will figure into all this later.

Nov 22

String Around the Spiritual Finger

If you are expecting anything normal, please skip to the next essay … oh wait, this is Docudharma, scourge of the intertron!

Nevermind.

String Around the Spiritual Finger

If compassion were

a person standing before me

or an animal, a tree,

or a chair or even a computer

or an I-pod,

I would bow before her, him, it

with some real confidence.

Photobucket

So write something

to effect you are not pure

but covered with slung shit,

encrusted, all sorts of gross images

till it can be seen, felt,

smelt, tasted, heard.

Photobucket

Then a shift of vision

to the lotus which grows

from that very exact same shit

and the vision I had a thousand

lifetimes ago about being

mired in that vile manure but

of my own free will

looking directly up at the

White Tara deity,

embodiment of compassion

from that foul pool

of obscuration and hopelessness,

and willingly feeling

I was contributing

to that compassion,

samsara

looking miraculously

upward, it was

no different than

standing in midtown

or wall street

walking down the street

never even thinking to

look up and then

you look up

and everything is

entirely different,

your view has

transformed.

a crazy thing!

so understand

and remember:

homage

to Tara is

homage to

compassion

1/22/09 – I didn’t have anything to blog about, but I wanted to drop in and make my dharmaniac mark for this is what I’m up to lately and what’s on me mind

Jun 12

The Wisdom Of Conscious Suffering

When I had cancer, a close friend asked if I ever wondered: why me? I told her that I didn’t. I told her that given that one in three Americans will, at some point, be diagnosed with cancer, I felt why not me? Cancer happens. It’s sometimes random. It happened to me. There was neither rhyme nor reason. It just did.

A different friend recently asked the same about a close friend of mine, who was just killed in an auto accident. A speeding semi veered into his car, in a national park, in Uganda, killing him and leaving his wife widowed for the second time and seriously injured. My friend wondered: why? Why him? Why her?

Another friend asked how I took the news. If I tried to think my way through it. If I tried to look for cosmic explanations, or if I was angry at the Universe, or if I was trying to look for silver linings. I wasn’t. My friend wanted to make sure that I wasn’t trying to think my way through it, because he wanted to make sure I was allowing myself to feel my way through it. To allow the pain to wash over me, and through me. Which is the only real way to respond to emotional trauma. Did I allow myself to cry? I certainly did. And I have, off and on, for days.

Mar 14

Seven Years Of Writing About State Killing (with Action Update!)

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

To be completely honest, when I began, I never expected that over the course of the next seven years I would write more than 200 essays about ending state killing in America.  But today I noticed– I usually miss the date– that March 18, 2009, is the seventh Anniversary of my starting a listserv about ending the death penalty.  And I see that I’ve written more than 200 essays about the topic.

When I started the listserv I described it like this:

The views and opinions of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who is also a buddhist. About pending executions, legal developments, the media, the abolition movement, contemplation, prayer, and engaged, nonviolent activism. Sent sporadically. Only for those who value all lives and are opposed to the death penalty. Not for debate.

Please make the jump.

Jan 13

Tibetan Singing Bowls

I mentioned Tibetan singing bowls a few nights ago, and got some lovely responses.  Here’s a glimpse of what can be done with them:

Jul 01

Buddha

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.

buddha

May 14

In Asia: The Best, The Worst, and the Most Criminal Of Humanity

Some of the worst of humanity, serial bomb blasts in the Indian city of Jaipur, killing 80, injuring 200:

Asia Times Online attempts to analyze the event, including the possibility that this is state-sponsored terrorism used as a type of cheap negotiation tactic.

May 13

Zen and the art of earth maintenance

A stumbling point for me in the practice of Buddhism is optimism.  I do not do optimism.  My thoughts on optimism parallel Ambrose Bierce.

Optimism: The doctrine that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong… It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.

I am particularly prone to pessimism (realism) when it comes to the response of our species to climate change. In reading the parable of the Burning House from the Lotus Sutra, I am tempted to wonder (which is as close as I come to hope).

Apr 25

Updated – China to Meet With the Dalai Lama

The big news from the AP:

BEIJING (AP) – The Chinese government plans to meet with a private representative of the Dalai Lama in the coming days, state-run media reported, after weeks of pressure from world leaders.

The official Xinhua News Agency said it had learned of the development “from official sources.” It quoted an unnamed official as saying there had been requests repeatedly made by “the Dalai side for resuming talks.”

snip

The official said “the relevant department of the central government will have contact and consultation with Dalai’s private representative in the coming days.” No date was given, and it was unclear exactly which representative was expected to take part in the meeting.

link: http://ap.google.com/article/A…

UPDATE  NHK has further analysis from their Beijing correspondent:

Apr 18

Updated – Tibet: New Protests, New Arrests In Tongren, and Growing Solidarity

The Associated Press has more details about the protests in Tongren yesterday, including information on arrests and the use of force by Chinese police and paramilitary:

Monks on Thursday called for the release of fellow Buddhist clergy. They were joined by area residents at a local market, according to the center, which is based in the seat of the Tibetan governmment-in-exile in the Indian town of Dharmsala.

The center said police who were rushed to the scene began beating participants, despite efforts at mediation by a senior monk.

Receptionists reached by phone at Tongren hotels confirmed the protest, saying a crowd had gathered near the local county government offices. “Today there’s no more protests. Those people were all seized,” said one receptionist.

snip

The women refused to give their names for fear of retaliation by authorities, who have reportedly offered rewards for information on people leaking news of protests and crackdowns to the outside.

snip

A worker at a Tibetan restaurant in downtown Tongren near the monastery said police attacked protesters indiscriminately. “They were randomly beating people,” said the woman, who gave her name as Duoma.

link: http://ap.google.com/article/A…

The AP reports that the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy has put the number of people arrested at over 100.

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