Sunday March 9, 2014
His Holiness the Dalai Lama just told Larry King that gay marriage is "OK" -- "I think it's individual business. If two people--a couple--really feel that way is more practical, more sort of satisfaction, both sides fully agree, then OK " In light of previous statements by His Holiness that homosexual sex amounts to "sexual misconduct," this seemed to be a reversal of his prior view.
But it isn't really, if you look at the issue from his perspective. I wrote an article explaining the Dalai Lama's views on homosexuality and gay marriage, based on things he has said going back a few years. It's important to understand also that the Dalai Lama doesn't speak for all of Buddhism on matters regarding sexuality, just Tibetan Buddhism.
Thursday March 6, 2014
The Associated Press reports that His Holiness the Dalai Lama said a prayer in the U.S. Senate today. This is good; the U.S. Senate needs all the help it can get.
From the report, I take it His Holiness quoted from the Dhammapada: "With our thoughts, we make our world. Our mind is central and precedes our deeds. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you like a shadow that never leaves." He also said a Bodhisattva Vow: "As long as space remains and as long as sentient beings remain, until then may I, too, remain and help dispel the misery of the world."
His Holiness also met briefly with members of the House of Representatives, who put aside partisan difference (briefly) to praise the Dalai Lama's efforts to promote religious freedom and tolerance.
Thursday March 6, 2014
One of the challenges of Buddhism is that, on the one hand, we're told not to believe something just because an authority figure or an ancient scripture says it (see "The Kalama Sutta"). We are our own arbiter; we are our own refuges, or islands, or lamps, depending on how you translate things. On the other hand, we're told that our conventional understanding, including sensory experience, is a big illusion. Is this not something of a catch? How is this reconciled?
I've found that it's possible to find a "sweet spot" between skepticism and credulity, affirming what seems wise to me but staying open to the wisdom in teachings I don't understand yet. When I say "staying open" that means "I don't get this and don't believe it, but maybe there's something here I'm not seeing, So I'm not going to toss it out. I'll keep it over here on this shelf where I can see it, and maybe someday it will speak to me." And sometimes, someday, it does.
But from listening to others I take that that for some people the sweet spot is really hard to find. More often than not, westerners tend to err on the side of skepticism, quickly rejecting teachings that don't make immediate sense. Occasionally I hear from someone who has tilted too far in the other direction, adopting Buddhist teachings as a belief system without bothering to experience directly what the teachings are directing us to experience. But that's relatively rare.
Wednesday March 5, 2014
I've been trying to wrap my head around current events in Thailand, in particular to see how the monastic sangha might be connected. Over the past few weeks there have been waves of protests in Thailand that turned violent late last month, and I read that one prominent monk is protest leader.
From what I can tell, the situation in Thailand is very different from what we're seeing in Burma and Sri Lanka. One monk, Buddha Issara, abbot of Wat Or Noi in the central Thailand province of Nakhon Pathom, is very visibly involved in the anti-government protests. He has been criticized for being surrounded by thuggish bodyguards and has been photographed handling money, which is a violation of the Vinaya.
My impression from reading news stories is that Thais are not happy about a monk getting mixed up in politics.The Buddhist Association of Thailand, a long-respected lay organization, has called him out for destroying the image of Buddhism. Buddhism in Thailand appears to be much less militant than in Burma or Sri Lanka, possibly because Thailand never dealt with being a European colony.