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Buddhism in the News


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jared Lee Loughner's Mental State.

Well, that was a short hiatus!! I'm glad I didn't force the inspiration though--force never works. It fights the natural flow of the stream of life. Now, on with the new post!!

(Artists rendering of accused killer, Jared Lee Loughner, in court. Photo Credit: Associated Press)

A federal judge ruled Jared Lee Loughner mentally incompetent to stand trial in the Jan. 8 shooting spree that gravely wounded an Arizona congresswoman after two medical experts agreed he suffered from schizophrenia and for several years has been troubled by delusions and hallucinations.

They said on the news that they will "attempt" to make him fit for trial. If he's not fit for trial, then he clearly wasn't mentally fit when he committed the crime. However, if we dope him up enough, we can throw him in prison and exact our revenge on a mentally sick man??? How can he be thrown in prison, after treatment supposedly makes him "fit for trial" when he wasn't mentally fit at the time of the crime? I don't for one minute excuse his actions, and firmly believe he should be isolated from society, in a hospital, for the criminally insane, for the rest of his life. However, that said, how can he be convicted as a mentally fit man, after the crime was committed as an mentally unfit man? By that logic, a prisoner who committed a crime as a mentally fit person should be able to be acquitted, if he later develops a mental illness that renders him insane.

Being someone with a mental illness, you can't just "make it go away." Now, I'm not a danger to society, like Loughner, (nor am I defending him) but it seems our justice system, and much of America, (if not the world) is ignorant as to the fact that a mental illness isn't curable--at this present time.
The last place we should put this individual is in prison, where he will only be agitated further, which could place the staff and other inmates in danger. I think it's safer for everyone to put him in a treatment facility where they have the medications, staff and experience with such cases. As distasteful as it may sound, he does deserve humane treatment. Just because he committed barbaric acts, doesn't give us the right to be barbaric in return. This isn't just a test of his sanity, but a test of how we will behave toward someone who has caused a lot of suffering. If we treat him with brutality in return for how he treated the Congresswoman, then we have just as much a lesson to learn about compassion as he does.

It scares me sometimes how vengeful people can be when they talk of torturing and tormenting prisoners for their crimes. I always look at people who speak that way in a different light. It makes me wonder what's going on in their heads!! It's scary how quickly their religious values and moral beliefs about laws and behavior go out the window when the target is a criminal. It's never ok to treat people in such a way--even if they are hardened criminals. Why? Because then we lose our humanity as a society--and within ourselves. If we behave that way toward criminals, then are we really that different from them?

~Peace to all beings~

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Low on Inspiration: A Hiatus.

As many of you can see, I haven't written much lately. Well, it appears that I've been bitten by the "writer's block" bug. Be sure to subscribe by email to the blog for my return. In the meantime, check out the vast archives, located on the lower right hand column of the blog. I will try to return soon, replete with fresh ideas and insights; it might be later today, or a couple weeks from now!! But, rest assured, I won't go far, dear readers!! As always, I'll be reading my fellow bloggers' posts in the meantime. May the time apart be filled with smiles, love and happiness for you all.

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Remembering Bob Marley, Who Died 30 Years Ago, Today.

Thirty years ago, Bob Marley died. It was a life cut far too short. He was so much more than a musician and icon of the popular musical style, reggae. He was a visionary, a healer and an inspiration to the down-trodden, listless American kids drowning in the chaos of modernity and especially to those of African heritage who have been oppressed. He was a rebel but one who eschewed violence in favor of radical love. I say radical, because it's easy to respond with violence to the problems Bob described in his songs. But, his answer was to trust in a higher power--love, which unites all beings. As the Dalai Lama says, no being wants to suffer.

Marley, woke up a sleepy, middle-class America to the injustices of the black man but his lyrics spoke to anyone facing a struggle against the corrupt powers of man poisoned by greed, hatred and delusion. In other words, the three poisons that Buddha warns us about. Come to think of it, I hear a lot of spirituality in his songs that Buddhist would agree with; along with his over-all energy of peace, love and simplicity. Unfortunately he wasn't with us that long but the sheer weight of what he has inspired in countless people spanning many generations shows that it doesn't take a lifetime to positively change lives forever. So, let us take inspiration from his example and be the change we want to see the world--today.

I will leave you with this quote, from then Jamaican Prime Minister, Edward Seaga about Bob Marley, said at his funeral:

"His voice was an omnipresent cry in our electronic world. Bob Marley was never 'seen.' He was an 'experience,' which left an indelible imprint with every encounter. Such a man cannot be erased from the mind." He certainly changed my life forever when I began my life-long love of his music at the age of 13. If you're a fan, let's take a moment to listen to his music and rededicate ourselves to his vision. May his legend live long and strong!! One people, One heart, One love. The video below is of musicians from around the world singing Bob's classic song, "One Love." For lyrics in English, click here. Enjoy!!

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Death of Osama bin Laden and the Middle-Path of Buddhism.

(World War II Holocaust memorial in San Francisco, California, USA.Photo by Victor Zhang).

James: I believe that we should avoid killing 99.9% of the time but sometimes it's unavoidable. However, I believe we must walk the middle-path between killing out of vengeance and killing to protect and save countless other lives. Osama bin Laden was a threat to innocent lives the world over and sometimes killing one person is the right action to protect millions. I think it comes down to what action causes the most suffering; letting a dangerous mass murdering terrorist to roam freely, killing at will, or killing that terrorist to protect the rest of the world?

In other words, avoiding the extremes of indulgence in everything from eating too much food to being cavalier about violence and death. Then there is the opposite extreme of avoidance of all pleasures in life. As well as, living in denial that we live in a violent world that sometimes requires a rigorous but measured defense against those who would enslave and murder thousands of innocent lives. Imagine if everyone in the world said during World War II that violence is never justified and Hitler was allowed to continue his brutal invasions of country after country. And, that, he would continue and expand his operations to murder millions of innocent Jews in gas chambers and by execution squads. In that instance, it seems crystal clear that to just sit in meditation and avoid an exploding world while hellish forces seek to enslave the globe, kill anyone not like them in mass numbers and cause untold amounts of suffering to men, women, children and old people is an extreme position to hold.

We can not sit in far-removed cloisters and monasteries and look down upon that kind of suffering with a detached view to avoid violence at all costs. How is it compassionate to allow the entire world to be plunged into a hellish realm of global warfare and extreme suffering out of an absolutist attitude against violence? Is that the approach we should take if we come along an adult raping a child or attempting to violently hurt them? Is it really compassionate to just look the other way and ignore that kind of suffering? That seems completely nihilistic to me. There is a famous poem about avoidance in the face of unrelenting violence and absolute suffering. It was written by Pastor Martin Niemöller who sought to describe the dangers of inactivity by German intellectuals during the rise and reign of terror by the Nazis:

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

James: I believe that being interconnected means being responsible for the suffering of others. This isn't simply about not hurting others but includes helping those in need when they are suffering at the hand of others. And, ending the suffering of those being murdered in their beds at night by terrorism or mass murdered in gas chambers by Nazis falls within that field of being responsible for their suffering. If we are called upon to help end suffering of others than we can't absolutely, categorically avoid violence.

We are to respect life but not cling to it at all costs. The same for death, thus, the importance of the middle-path. I believe it is one of the most important, helpful and practical teachings the Buddha taught to assist us in living in a complicated world. Still, as I said, violence should only be used when all other means of solving violence are extinguished. And, it should never be done with hatred in your heart. It should only be used to protect the greater populations of innocent beings. And, I believe that one's intention behind the violence is vital. If it is out of protection of innocents then I believe that it causes less heavy karma than doing so out of glee or hatred. Also, when violence is necessary, it should be done with as much compassion as possible. That may sound strange but let me explain; when having to kill, one shouldn't maim or torture in the process.

It's not something to rejoice in, or celebrate though I must admit I felt a twinge of joy when I heard Osama was dead. I'm not perfect and I have since tried to temper my emotions in regards to his death. It's a horrible thing to have to kill another being but this world isn't as clear cut as "good or evil." The teaching of the middle path shows that life requires a more nuanced approach to events that often requires actions we may dislike.

Perhaps some might see this as odd considering I'm a vegetarian but animals do nothing to harm us or cause us suffering. Whereas, mass murderers, terrorists and armies bent on world domination threaten all of us. If we truly believe in interconnection then a threat to one person is a threat to us all. I know some purists will disagree with me but I do think rare violence is justified if it avoids the suffering of masses of innocent lives. Something else to consider, even the most Buddhist countries on Earth like Thailand and Korea have a military. Unfortunately, we can't pretend to live in a world that is rainbows and unicorns. There are violent people out to destroy millions of lives and to allow them to do so would be extremely nihilistic.

Still, violence should be avoided in 99.9% of circumstances. I don't support war just to go to war such as the Iraq war but there are times, I believe, that we must act in order to avoid the greatest amount of suffering (World War II). I know some of you might think this doesn't make me a very good Buddhist but I think it's being realistic. I feel it's walking the middle path of balance and reason to deal with a very complicated world that requires avoiding absolutism. I know this is a sensitive topic and I don't mind if you disagree with me. However, I would hope that my readers are mature enough to discuss this matter without resorting to insults. Please, be as respectful as you would want people to be toward you.

~Peace to all beings~

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