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Buddhism in the News


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Reviewing "Not in God's Name" by Paula Fouce.

India. The cradle of Eastern spirituality (if not the capital of world religion) is where the documentary, Not in God's Name begins. And the nourishment of that spiritual child is the Ganges river. The beginning scenes on this mystical and legendary body of water are stunning in color, lighting and scope. Truly the imagery evokes sensations of viewing a unique and sacred place.

However, we are also reminded in these initial moments of the dark side of religion--hatred and violence. We are guided through this mine field by the Paula Fouce who spent many years traveling the subcontinent. She saw the best and worst in religion.

Including militant Sikhs who sought to secede from India but were violently expelled from their sacred shrine, which mixed two traditionally explosive ideologies together--religion and politics. In the aftermath many dead Sikhs and soldiers littered the streets and even the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi became a casualty of this clash.

She was assassinated for ordering the raid. As Indira Gandhi was a Hindu, her assassination pitted radicals of the two great religions of Hindiusm and Sikhism against each other. Religions that at their heart are supposed to be about peace and acceptance. I was moved by the images and in one particular quote by Blaise Pascal:

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious convictions."

The Dalai lama is interviewed for this documentary and he reminds us that the aim of most religions is to provide inner peace. In addition, he admonished us that there need not be one religion, and that they exist because of the various types of personalities upon this planet. In part I would suggest based on our different and varied karma.

The film goes on to spotlight the main religions of India (Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism) and how they have influenced the culture to create such a unique place in the spiritual world. Hindu sages and Muslim Imams speak about tolerance in the movie yet we are reminded as well that the two religions have often violently clashed. The movie made me think that unfortunately many adherents become blinded by pride and in doing so pervert their faith into a cause that succeeds only by the downfall of the faithful in other religions. This has often taken the form of violent clashes over disputed holy sites in a deluded clinging to the outward, physical representations of their faith. Sadly many see holy sites as able to provide some sort of outward infusion of spirituality into their inner lives. And while they can be helpful, clinging to them and fighting over them is not just counter to teachings of these great religions but violations of human dignity.

The Buddhist part was short but good and I especially liked the quote the great non-violent Ashoka would said that if you denigrate one religion who denigrate yourself. I also really liked how the narrator spoke of the Dalai Lama as not only being a symbol of political and religious freedom to Tibetans but to all people of the world.

My only complaint about this documentary was that the time line and narrative 0often jumped around a bit but yet the message was never diluted or lost because of that editing.

Not in God's Name is a testament and a potent, timely reminder of just how quickly religions can become the opposite of helping mankind evolve toward a more harmonious life and society. Overall I would suggest this documentary to anyone looking to better understand the many religions of India and how they interact. Another reason to see this film is that it is in the running for an Emmy award nomination in the Non-Fiction Special Category. The Los Angeles Times listed it as a front runner.

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Vajramate said...

Thanks, James for alerting me to this.

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