------------------------------
The Urban Dharma Newsletter - January 2010
------------------------------

In This Issue: Buddhism, Forgiveness and Brit Hume

1. Theologian: Brit Hume is Right on Christianity, Buddhism Difference - Jennifer Riley
2. Let's Forgive Brit Hume - by Barbara O'Brien
3. Brit Hume's off message: Have faith, Tiger Woods, as long as it's Christianity - By Tom Shales
4. No Excuse for This Much Ignorance About Buddhism - by Barbara O'Brien
5. Differences in religions are well worth debating – by Ross Douthat
6. Buddhism and Forgiveness - Written by Father Joseph S. O'Leary

-------------------------------


HI,

Happy New Year

The first UD newsletter of the new year has to do with Brit Hume… The video can be found on the www.UrbanDharma.org index page… It’s worth taking a look (52 seconds) if you haven’t viewed it.

Find below a few articles and opinions that may shed light on the debate.

Peace… Kusala

–– –– –-

On Jan. 3, 2010 – Brit Hume participated in a roundtable on “Fox News Sunday” and among the subjects discussed were sports and Tiger Woods. He famously called on Woods to seek redemption and forgiveness found in the Christian faith rather than the golfer’s reported Buddhist faith.

“Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether or not he can recover as a person I think is a very open question, and it’s a tragic situation for him. I think he’s lost his family, it’s not clear to me if he’ll be able to have a relationship with his children, but the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal – the extent to which he can recover – seems to me to depend upon his faith,” Hume said.

“He’s said to be a Buddhist; I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith,” the veteran journalist said. “So my message to Tiger would be, ‘Tiger turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.’”

--- --- ---

1. Theologian: Brit Hume is Right on Christianity, Buddhism Difference - Jennifer Riley / Christian Post Reporter / Mon, Jan. 11, 2010 Posted: 04:44 PM EDT

http://www.christianpost.com/article/20100111/theologian-brit-hume-is-right-on-christianity-buddhism-difference/index.html

Journalist Brit Hume who urged Tiger Woods to “turn to the Christian faith” was right when he drew distinction between Buddhism and Christianity in terms of the concept of forgiveness and redemption, said a prominent evangelical theologian.

“I admire Brit Hume for saying something that was at the risk of bringing on this controversy because it really puts on the table the fundamental distinction of worldview: worldview A being Buddhism, worldview B being Christianity,” said Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., on his eponymous radio program last week.

Mohler, a sought-after commentator who has appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” noted that while other major religions in the world believe in a god or gods, Buddhism is a non-theistic faith.

Buddhist teachings say that existence itself is the problem and the major goal in life is to achieve nirvana, or total absence of existence. To live is to suffer, adherents are taught, and the way to end suffering is to detach oneself from life by following the Noble Eightfold Path.

“That is not what Christianity is about at all. There is a dramatic distinction,” declared Mohler, who highlighted that nirvana’s non-existence goal is about “emptiness rather than filling.”

In contrast, Christianity does not view existence as the problem but rather sin as the issue. Existence is good, especially humans who are made in the image of God. Moreover, heaven is “maximum…forever, eternal…perfect, glorified existence.”

Sin, the Bible explains, is not just a personal issue but it is an offense against a holy God who will judge the person. By comparison, there is no god in Buddhism that holds a person accountable for his “sins” (there is no concept of sin in Buddhism). Wrongdoings are seen as foolish choices that result in bad karma. The consequences of foolish choices are the kind of existence a person becomes after he is reincarnated and the delay in the process of reaching nirvana.

But in Christianity sin has eternal consequences, which makes God’s atonement and forgiveness of our sins through the death of His son remarkable.

“Christianity is a faith of redemption. Redemption requires a God who redeems,” the theologian stated. “Buddhism is a philosophy of life that points in a different direction. Brit Hume understands that when he said, ‘I don’t think Buddhism will get you to where you need to go in terms of dealing with your sins.’”

On Jan. 3, Hume participated in a roundtable on “Fox News Sunday” and among the subjects discussed were sports and Tiger Woods. He famously called on Woods to seek redemption and forgiveness found in the Christian faith rather than the golfer’s reported Buddhist faith.

“Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether or not he can recover as a person I think is a very open question, and it’s a tragic situation for him. I think he’s lost his family, it’s not clear to me if he’ll be able to have a relationship with his children, but the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal – the extent to which he can recover – seems to me to depend upon his faith,” Hume said.

“He’s said to be a Buddhist; I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith,” the veteran journalist said. “So my message to Tiger would be, ‘Tiger turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.’”

Hume received heavy criticism for “preaching” during a news show and for his “arrogant” advice to Woods.

Tom Shales, television critic for The Washington Post, wrote in a commentary that Hume’s remark would be remembered “as one of the most ridiculous of the year.”

Shales went further and wrote, “If Hume wants to do the satellite-age equivalent of going door-to-door and spreading what he considers the gospel, he should do it on his own time, not try to cross-pollinate religion and journalism and use Fox facilities to do it.”

But Hume’s supporters argue that it was an opinion-based news session and Hume approached the Tiger Woods scandal from a Christian worldview. They also contend that Hume had a right to express his opinion, as “there is no religious liberty without the possibility of conversion and persuasion,” wrote Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, in a commentary for The Washington Post.

“In this controversy, we are presented with two models of discourse. Hume, in an angry sea of loss and tragedy – his son's death in 1998 – found a life preserver in faith,” Gerson wrote. “He offered that life preserver to another drowning man. Whatever your view of Hume's beliefs, he could have no motive other than concern for Woods himself.”

The under-fire journalist, who said he came to a real relationship with Jesus Christ after his son’s suicide eleven years ago, maintains that he does not regret his comments.

"I don't want to practice a faith that I'm afraid to proclaim. I don't want to be a closet Christian," Hume said in an interview with Christianity Today. "I'm not going to stand on the street with a megaphone. My principal responsibility at Fox News isn't to proselytize. But occasionally a mention of faith seems to me to be appropriate. When those occasions come, I'll do it."



2. Let's Forgive Brit Hume - by Barbara O'Brien / Monday January 4, 2010

http://buddhism.about.com/b/2010/01/04/lets-forgive-brit-hume.htm

On Fox News Sunday, news personality Brit Hume had advice for the scandal-ridden Tiger Woods:

"The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith," said Hume. "He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of redemption and forgiveness offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger is, 'Tiger turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

Now, breathe calmly and remember verse 222 from the Dhammapada: "He who checks rising anger as a charioteer checks a rolling chariot, him I call a true charioteer. Others only hold the reins."

Brent Kelley, the About.com Guide to Golf, has an updated archive of the Tiger Woods scandals, so go there if you need to catch up. The man's had enough bad press lately and doesn't need any more from me. But it might be useful to respond to Mr. Hume.

I don't like to point out others' faults, but given the record I would think Christians would show a little more humility about offering advice to the sexually wayward. As Jesus once said, let those who have never sinned throw the first stones (John 8:7).

However, Mr. Hume is right, in a sense, that Buddhism doesn't offer redemption and forgiveness in the same way Christianity does. Buddhism has no concept of sin; therefore, redemption and forgiveness in the Christian sense are meaningless in Buddhism. Forgiveness is important, but it is approached differently in Buddhism, and I'll get to that in a bit.

I've been writing lately about the Precepts and how Buddhists understand morality. The article on the Three Pure Precepts probably explains this as well as any.

The Third Precept (of the Five Precepts) addresses sexuality. For laypeople, the Precept in Pali is Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami -- "I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct." Yes, "sexual misconduct" is bit vague, but I think most of us would agree that practices that are coercive, exploitative, deceptive, or hurtful would amount to misconduct. And it's also fairly plain that Mr. Woods's conduct has been falling short of the Third Precept, although we don't need to further belabor that point.

If one has failed, can Buddhism help one "recover"? I'm not sure "recovering" is a word a Buddhist would use, but let's go on ... the practice of metta, loving kindness, is essential in Buddhism. Metta is extended to all beings, including those who have wronged us -- even Brit Hume -- and also to ourselves. (See also the Metta Sutta.)

Sharon Salzberg said, "Metta means equality, oneness, wholeness. To truly walk the Middle Way of the Buddha, to avoid the extremes of addiction and self-hatred, we must walk in friendship with ourselves as well as with all beings."

Destructive behavior is understood to be driven by tanha, thirst, which the Buddha explained (in the Four Noble Truths) was the cause of dukkha, unease or suffering. Buddhism itself can be defined as a path of practice that helps us see through the delusions that give rise to tanha. And people have successfully applied these practices for 25 centuries.

So, we really do not need advice on "recovery" from Brit Hume, thanks much. Let us hope that both Mr. Woods and Mr. Hume awaken to wisdom.



3. Brit Hume's off message: Have faith, Tiger Woods, as long as it's Christianity - By Tom Shales / Washington Post Staff Writer / Tuesday, January 5, 2010; C01

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/04/AR2010010403101_pf.html

In "North by Northwest," cold and heartless bureaucrats in Washington realize they may have inadvertently sent a frivolous but innocent advertising man to his death, and one of them says, "It's so horribly sad -- why do I feel like laughing?" The dichotomy pops up all the time among observers of media, politics and the personalities who inhabit those spheres, and it probably always will, largely because people in those lines of work are, to state it in the most innocuous way possible, full of surprises.

Brit Hume was certainly full of something on "Fox News Sunday" this week. Hume, a part-time analyst at Fox since stepping down from his daily anchor role, sought to redefine the job of political pundit, apparently, when he stepped boldly up to the task of telling people what religious beliefs they ought to have. He prescribed in particular a remedial, therapeutic dose of Christianity for disgraced golfing champ Tiger Woods, a man whose lubricious private life has been haunting the headlines for weeks.

Noting that Woods has referred to himself as a Buddhist, Hume knocked his fellow "Fox News" panelists for mortified loops when he dissed about half a billion Buddhists on the planet with the remark, "I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith."

It sounded a little like one of those Verizon vs. AT&T commercials -- our brand is better than your brand -- except that Hume was comparing two of the world's great religions, not a couple of greedy communications conglomerates. Further, is it really his job to run around trying to drum up new business? He doesn't really have the authority, does he, unless one believes that every Christian by mandate must proselytize?

Oh, but there was much more to it. Since Buddhism is so lacking in news-you-can-use, Hume continued -- sinking into his own mouth-made mire -- "My message to Tiger would be: Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world." Whom did he sound more like -- Mary Poppins on the joys of a tidy room, or Ron Popeil on the glories of some amazing potato peeler?

You could almost hear the gears of YouTube turning as he spoke, and imagine the writers on "Saturday Night Live" trying to find ways other than the painfully obvious to satirize the moment and what it represents.

The easiest mistake to make would be to associate Hume's off-the-cuff, off-the-wall remark with the pathology of Fox News, a cherished target of the left just as the left is a cherished target of certain Fox personalities. Some of us cling to our faith that there is no institutional bias at the network, and that the business of Fox, to paraphrase Calvin Coolidge, is business.

Darts of derision should be aimed at Hume, not at his employer or at Fox News as a social force. Before one gets too carried away with Brit-bashing, however, it's worth a Google or two to investigate the origins of Hume's seemingly newfound fervor. Is he really known far-and-wide for advocating religious fixes for scandals and furors? He did say, at the 2008 Republican convention, "I'm 65, for God's sake," but that was a mere aside, not a statement of policy.

Earlier, though, when it was still the 20th century, Hume discussed, in an interview, his spiritual epiphany and what motivated it. "I came to Christ in a way that was very meaningful to me," he said; it was in the aftermath of his son's death by suicide in 1998. It would be indefensibly insensitive to mock Hume for his beliefs, especially considering the way he came to them, but that still doesn't mean one must cheer him on as he tries to turn a bully pulpit into a pulpit, period.

In a way that many others had spoken of this particular faith, Hume seemed so bolstered by Christianity that he just had to go tell it on the mountain. And the golf course. And Fox news-talk shows.

Whatever his motivations, and however his statement regarding Woods reflected Hume's own emotional turmoil, the remark will probably rank, even only a few days into January, as one of the most ridiculous of the year. It tends at the least to banish any wayward hopes that the looniness of the Bawdy Aughties is over; we're not out of the woods, or the Woods, yet. Oh no, the madness will go on and on and on, at least until some sanctimonious busybody takes it upon himself to go even roguer than Hume.

If Hume's remark is going to turn out to be a mere starting point, where in the name of all that's holy (really holy, genuinely holy) is the finishing line going to find us? Or leave us?

Hume has a message for Woods; lots of people will have a message for Hume. First off, apologize. You gotta. Just say you are a man who is comfortable with his faith, so comfortable that sometimes he gets a wee bit carried away with it. If Hume wants to do the satellite-age equivalent of going door-to-door and spreading what he considers the gospel, he should do it on his own time, not try to cross-pollinate religion and journalism and use Fox facilities to do it.

At the same Republican convention where Hume bemoaned his advancing years, he spoke of knowing when to leave the party and go home. "I'd like to walk away while I'm still doing okay," he said, "and not have people say, 'He was fading.' " It's easy to understand the sentiment, but Hume ought to know that what people are saying right now is a whole lot worse than that he's fading.



4. No Excuse for This Much Ignorance About Buddhism - by Barbara O'Brien – Tuesday January 12, 2010

http://buddhism.about.com/b/2010/01/12/no-excuse-for-this-much-ignorance-about-buddhism.htm

Fallout from what I'm calling the Great Brit Hume Flap continues. Editorialists and other commenters continue to offer opinions about Brit Hume's suggestion that Tiger Woods should convert from Buddhism to Christianity. Almost without exception, people defending Hume's remarks are profoundly ignorant of what Buddhism actually is.

But here's a challenge from conservative columnist Ann Coulter that I'm tempted to take up:

Is Buddhism about forgiveness? Because, if so, Buddhists had better start demanding corrections from every book, magazine article and blog posting ever written on the subject, which claims Buddhists don't believe in God, but try to become their own gods.

I can't imagine that anyone thinks Tiger's problem was that he didn't sufficiently think of himself as a god, especially after that final putt in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year.

Do you think, if I asked her politely, Ms. Coulter would print a correction to her erroneous claim that Buddhists "try to become their own gods"?

I'm sure many devout Christians flinch at Coulter's definition of Christianity:

Most perplexing was columnist Dan Savage's indignant accusation that Hume was claiming that Christianity "offers the best deal -- it gives you the get-out-of-adultery-free card that other religions just can't."

In fact, that's exactly what Christianity does. It's the best deal in the universe. (I know it seems strange that a self-described atheist like Savage would miss the central point of Christianity, but there it is.)

I have more respect for Christianity than to let that stand. For a Christian's explanation of why his religion is not a get-out-of-adultery-free card, see Peter Laarman at Religion Dispatches. Christians might want to demand corrections from Coulter also.

Meanwhile, Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, has been spreading the misinformation that Buddhism is nihilistic.

Falsely defining "nirvana" as "total absence of existence," Mohler said of Buddhism,

To live is to suffer, adherents are taught, and the way to end suffering is to detach oneself from life by following the Noble Eightfold Path.

"That is not what Christianity is about at all. There is a dramatic distinction," declared Mohler, who highlighted that nirvana's non-existence goal is about "emptiness rather than filling."

Mind you, this man is the president of a theological seminary. I fear this ignorance reflects what is being taught in his seminary. Dr. Mohler, I would never suggest that you convert. I'm asking you to follow the teachings of your own faith and stop bearing false witness against others.

"Emptiness" in Buddhism is not an absence of existence, either. I realize the doctrine of shunyata (emptiness) is very difficult to understand, but perhaps it's best not to speak of things you don't understand.

All week I've noticed that people most eager to promote Christianity as the one true religion are also the biggest offenders about misrepresenting Buddhism. It's as if they don't trust their own arguments and feel compelled to juice them up by lying about Buddhism. I find this fascinating, in a social-psychological sort of way, but I also find it very sad.

To have some knowledge of what one is writing about is a basic standard for journalists and other professional writers. Of course, people sometimes make honest mistakes with facts. But in the past several days I've read one op ed piece after another in which the author obviously didn't even bother to look up "Buddhism" in an encyclopedia. Or else the authors are using really badly researched encyclopedias.

I'm not asking anyone to convert. I'm just asking that people whose work is published in newspapers and on websites to get basic facts straight.

Although western travelers and missionaries have had contact with Buddhism for centuries, there was little interest in Buddhist teachings in the West until the late 19th century. The first English language translations of Buddhist scriptures were published in the 1880s, and a handful of western scholars who had spent time in Asia began lecturing about Buddhism in western universities about that same time.

So it wouldn't be surprising if editorialists and commenters of a century or so ago didn't know Buddhism from eggplants. But in 2010 there is no excuse.



5. Differences in religions are well worth debating – by Ross Douthat / 5:22 PM Monday, January 11, 2010

http://www.daytondailynews.com/opinion/columnists/ross-douthat-differences-in-religions-are-well-worth-debating--487954.html?printArticle=y

Liberal democracy offers religious believers a bargain. Accept, as a price of citizenship, that you may never impose your convictions on your neighbor, or use state power to compel belief. In return, you will be free to practice your own faith as you see fit — and free, as well, to compete with other believers (and nonbelievers) in the marketplace of ideas.

That’s the theory. In practice, the admirable principle that nobody should be persecuted for their beliefs often blurs into the idea that nobody should publicly criticize another religion. Or champion one’s own faith as an alternative. Or say anything whatsoever about religion, outside the privacy of church, synagogue or home.

A week ago, Brit Hume broke all three rules at once. Asked on a Fox News panel what advice he’d give to the embattled Tiger Woods, Hume suggested that the golfer consider converting to Christianity. “He’s said to be a Buddhist,” Hume noted. “I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. “

A great many people immediately declared that this comment was the most outrageous thing they’d ever heard.

The Washington Post’s TV critic, Tom Shales, mocked the idea that Christians should “run around trying to drum up new business” for their faith. Hume “doesn’t really have the authority,” Shales suggested — unless of course “one believes that every Christian by mandate must proselytize.” (This is, of course, exactly what Christians are supposed to believe.)

More plausibly, a few of Hume’s critics suggested that had he been a Buddhist commentator urging a Christian celebrity to convert — or more provocatively, a Muslim touting the advantages of Islam — Christians would be calling for his head.

No doubt many would. The tendency to take offense at freewheeling religious debate is widespread. There are European Christians who side with Muslims in support of blasphemy laws, lest Jesus or the Prophet Muhammad be sullied.

There are American Catholics who cry “bigotry” every time a newspaper columnist criticizes the church’s teaching on sexuality.

But these believers are colluding in their own marginalization. If you treat your faith like a hothouse flower, too vulnerable to survive in the crass world of public disputation, then you ensure that nobody will take it seriously. The idea that religion is too mysterious, too complicated or too personal to be debated on cable TV just ensures that it never gets debated at all.

This doesn’t mean that we need to welcome real bigotry into our public discourse. But what Hume said wasn’t bigoted: Indeed, his claim about the difference between Buddhism and Christianity was perfectly defensible. Christians believe in a personal God who forgives sins. Buddhists, as a rule, do not.

And it’s at least plausible that Tiger Woods might welcome the possibility that there’s Someone out there capable of forgiving him, even if Elin Nordegren and his corporate sponsors never do.

Or maybe not. For many people — Woods perhaps included — that Buddhism promotes an ethical life without recourse to Christian concepts like the Fall of Man, divine judgment and damnation is precisely what makes it so appealing. The outrage that greeted Hume’s remarks buried intelligent responses from Buddhists who explained their faith, contrasting it with Christianity, and describing how a lost soul like Woods might use Buddhist concepts to climb from darkness into light.

When liberal democracy was forged, in the wake of Western Europe’s religious wars, this sort of peaceful theological debate is exactly what it promised to deliver. And the differences among religions are worth debating. Theology has consequences: It shapes lives, families, nations, cultures, wars; it can change people, save them from themselves, and sometimes warp or even destroy them.

If we tiptoe around this reality, we betray every teacher, guru and philosopher who ever tried to resolve the most human of all problems: How should we live?

It’s reasonable to doubt that a cable news analyst has the answer to this question. But the debate Brit Hume kicked off a week ago is still worth having. Indeed, it’s the most important one there is.

Ross Douthat writes for The New York Times.



6. Buddhism and Forgiveness - Written by Father Joseph S. O'Leary

http://www.hsuyun.org/chan/features/outreach/607-forgiveness.html?lang=en

Christianity is based on the idea, or rather the event, of divine forgiveness: “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also [must forgive]” (Col. 3:13). Why was this reality so little actualized in Northern Ireland? Even now, when a measure of rational political coexistence has been achieved, there is little cordiality or friendship between the Christian communities of the area. Such cordiality would be the fruit of mutual apology and mutual forgiveness, but even that seems to be far from people’s minds. The word “forgiveness” is not a popular one; it sounds like the jargon of sentimental preachers. It is easier to forget than to forgive, for forgiveness implies a relationship with the one to be forgiven—that is not desired. But peace-building means cultivating a mutuality of concern with the one that had been comfortably categorized as the enemy. It also involves defusing the religious and national ideologies that have bred intolerance, hatred, or violence.

The topic of forgiveness may seem at first sight remote from the concerns of Buddhism. Buddhism does not conceive of ultimate truth in the guise of a personal God. Its concepts of error and defilement do not readily translate into the Biblical notions of sin and guilt. The Buddhist solution to unwholesome dispositions is to overcome them by following the path that leads to release; acts of pardon and grace have little to do with it. In some early Buddhist texts, the emphasis falls not on forgiving, but on the foolishness of taking offense in the first place:

He abused me, he struck me, he overcame me, he robbed me”—in those who harbor such thoughts hatred will never cease.

He abused me, he struck me, he overcame me, he robbed me”—in those who do not harbor such thoughts hatred will cease. "

-- Dhammapada 1.3–4; trans. Radhakrishnan

In contrast, Biblical rhetoric is full of references to enemies, slanderers, persecutors. Buddhism might unmask a delusion here, rather than go on to talk of forgiving one’s enemies and blessing one’s persecutors. Biblical salvation is atonement for evils that have already occurred; but Buddhist salvation is more an effort to prevent the evils from arising in the first place. When they have already arisen, it calmly proceeds to dismantle them by going back to their roots. One universal process of karmic causality presides over all evils and the cure for them. Even the ultimate goal of undoing the chains of karma and entering the freedom of nirvana is attained through following this analytical procedure. There is no supernatural dissolution of bondage to evil by an act of grace (at least in early Buddhism). Thus, when we seek resources in Buddhism for a clarification and underpinning of the Biblical ideas of sin, forgiveness, grace, reconciliation, and atonement, we face the risk that these notions themselves will disappear in light of Buddhism’s higher wisdom.

There is a deep tension between the Indian wisdom that grasps ultimate reality in impersonal terms and regards ideas of a personal creator as at best provisional skillful means (upaya) for those who need them, and the Christian conviction that ultimate reality is most fully and concretely known when it gives itself the voice and face of a personal God. Even as we remain convinced of the primacy of the personal God of Scripture, we can allow the impersonal conceptions to play against it critically, providing a perspective that prevents the drama of sin and forgiveness from being reduced to an infantilizing schema of placating an offended Father.

Mahayana ( “Great Vehicle”) Buddhism, with its plethora of savior figures, makes place for a warmer, more positive conception of forgiveness than we find in early Buddhism. But even there salvation centers not on forgiveness but on release from delusion and suffering through meditative insight into the nature of reality. Buddhism queries the reality of the passions that make forgiveness necessary and also queries the reality of the objects of those passions. My anger, resentment, and hatred are delusions, and so is the crime or offense the other is thought to have committed against me. Indeed, my very concept of “myself” and of “other” is pervaded by delusion and fixation. Even if these Buddhist ideas were totally untrue, it would still be very wholesome to meditate on them at a time when national, ethnic, and religious identity has so often shown a murderous face.

The person harboring resentful thoughts may as a matter of fact have been abused, struck, overcome, or robbed, yet his brooding on this imprisons him in delusion and fixation. Memory of past offenses plays a huge role in contemporary culture, and there is insufficient reflection on the dangers of clinging to such memory. Much current rhetoric makes the hurt, anger, traumatization felt by victims into a kind of sacred cow that cannot be questioned. Instead of seeking to heal and dispel their wounds, victims are encouraged to nag at them and to seek “closure” by some form of vindictive payback. Hatred is still regarded as a strength rather than a poison. One must seek to understand the rage of the oppressed, but without forgetting how rage tends to become blind and rigid, feeding on itself. Rage finds stereotyped expression in destructive acts. Its delusional aspects must be undone if the energy of indignation is to be converted into flexible and strategic action.

Equanimity is the attitude most prized in early Buddhism, not only because it is the condition for the effective practice of loving-kindness, compassion, and sympathetic joy, but because it excels these as a realization of spiritual freedom. The balanced person never takes offense. Yet in Mahayana Buddhism, balance tends to yield pride of place to compassion, and forgiveness becomes more than a matter of spiritual freedom. Within the altruistic bodhisattva ideal, the bodhisattva recognizes in the enemy an occasion for practicing forbearance. But he also practices forgiveness for the enemy’s sake.

To regard your enemy as your best friend, as a bodhisattva sent to help you, is an attitude enjoined by the Lotus Sutra, which shows the Buddha describing his arch-enemy, Devadatta, as one who benefited him in a previous existence and one who is destined to become a great buddha. What facilitates such attitudes in Buddhism is the notion that there is no permanent identity in either the offender or the offended. Practice of the art of forgiveness entails willingness to recognize our own lack of substantial being, the totally contingent, dependently arisen, empty texture of our existence and our history. Compassion (karuna) is based on realizing the equality of oneself and others and also practicing the substitution of others for one self.

First published in Dharma World 31, Nov.-Dec. 2004

Father Joseph S. O'Leary was born in Cork, Ireland. He taught theology at the University of Notre Dame and Duquesne University before moving to Japan in 1983. He has been teaching English Literature at Sophia University since 1988. His publications include theological works such as Questioning Back and Religious Pluralism and Christian Truth; in addition he has written extensively on James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.

------------------------------------------------
The Urban Dharma Newsletter Archives:
http://www.urbandharma.org/nlarchives.html
------------------------------------------------
The Los Angeles Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue:
http://www.urbandharma.org/bcdialog/index.html
------------------------------------------------
Support www.UrbanDharma.org with a Donation:
http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma6/dana.html
------------------------------------------------
The Urban Dharma Podcast and Audio Dharma Talks:
http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma9/dharmatalks.html





Powered by YMLP.com