Wednesday, May 15, 2013


The Dalai Lama was in town again today. People paid up to $75 for tickets to hear him speak (I gather receipts over expenses go to charity). He's a regular to the area, since the Deer Park center is just down the road in Oregon, and he's quite popular. By all reports he's a good man, with wide curiosity. Less commonly known is that he's ... (surprise!) ... Buddhist, and holds to some unpopular doctrines about sexual morals, and unless I misunderstand has some uncomfortable ideas about greed. These aren't the same as the Christian doctrines, because of radically different understandings of the nature of man, but the practical applications of those doctrines look pretty much the same. Not so with others; the religions are not equivalent.

I'm rehashing the old complaint that he's admired as a symbol of something most people never bother to understand. They're satisfied with a pop Buddhism that makes no difficult demands and requires no self-discipline. Meditate for an hour a week and sign petitions against the death penalty and order the hummus plate in front of your friends. No need to understand the pantheon or the rules or the calendar.

I commented on the previous post that an American Indian could probably satisfy the hunger of the Newtown parents to have the Newtown school purified, by chanting and waving eagle wings and blowing tobacco and sage smoke against the walls. But they wouldn't really understand either with heart or mind. Tony Hillerman's best efforts can't give the full meaning of what the Navaho life is like, and the bystanders at Eagle Days (myself included) only understood a simple cartoon of what the blessing of the eagles was supposed to be doing. It was exotic and mysterious. A Newtown purifier like that would likewise be exotic and mysterious, and that would probably be good enough.

Imagine a Catholic priest sprinkling holy water in the building. The devout Catholic would have the sense of the church brought to heal the place--he's used holy water himself. The Protestant wouldn't see that--it would be a ritual disconnected from the rest of his life and faith.

We need the holy to transform and purify, but in lieu of that we'll take the mysterious.

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