Sectarian clashes between Muslim-minorities and Buddhists in Myanmar have allegedly angered the Islamic militant group, the Indian Mujahideen, and the Buddhist population and monasteries in India are at risk, according to intelligence sources.
India’s National Investigation Agency on Monday alerted the North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh about a possible terrorist attack on Buddhists and monasteries across the state, according to the Indian media.
After Bodhgaya in eastern India, where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, was attacked by the terrorist group recently, the security at Dalai Lama temple in Dhramshala in north India has been noticeably tightened.
The National Investigation Agency has reportedly sent a communiqué to the northern Indian state police, cautioning them about possible terrorist attack on monasteries, especially in Dharamshala, the exile seat of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Plans to attack the monasteries in North India were exposed by Obedu Rehman, an operative of the India based terrorist group, according to the Hindustan Times.
Earlier this month, a series of eight blasts occurred in and around the Buddhist shrine in Bodhgaya, injuring two monks- one Tibetan and one Myanmar.
The blasts took place a day after the birthday of the Dalai Lama.
The Tibetan spiritual leader described the attacks as “very sad” while noting that it could be an act of “few individuals” and “shouldn’t be considered serious.”
“We are thankful to the Central Government and the Government of Bihar for the security provided at the Mahabodhi Temple and express our full faith in the ongoing investigation of the serial blasts,” said Lobsang Sangay.
The Dalai Lama has sent a letter to the Myanmar opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi urging to find a way to end the sectarian clashes in the country.
Suu Kyi tlll date has taken no stance regarding the clashes. She recently expressed her wish to contest the 2015 presidential election. Many people hope that If Suu Kyi wins the presidential election; she might be able to end the clashes in the country.
Children, Mass Monasticism and a Culture of Silence
For centuries, it has been the cultural practice in Tibet (which has continued in exile) to send very young children to monasteries. The children are sent for a variety of reasons, including devout religious belief, education, poverty and a lack of family support. As Melvyn C Goldstein explains in Tibetan Buddhism and Mass Monasticism:
In Tibet, monks were almost always recruited as very young children through the agency of their parents or guardians. It was considered important to recruit monks before they had experienced sexual relations with girls, so monks were brought to the monastery as young boys, usually between the ages of 6-12. On the other hand, it was not considered important what these boys themselves felt about a lifetime commitment to celibate monasticism and they were basically made monks without regard to their personality, temperament or inclination.
Furthermore, according to Goldstein and other personal anecdotes, child monks who ran away from the monastery were generally not offered sympathy or support and typically scolded by their parents and family; with the child sent immediately back to the monastery. In The Struggle for Modern Tibet: The Autobiography of Tashi Tsering there is a first-hand account of abusive treatment at the hand of monastics.
Born in 1929 in a Tibetan village, Tsering developed a strong dislike of his country’s theocratic ruling elite. He was taken from his family near Drepung at 13 and forced into the Dalai Lama’s personal dance troupe. Severely beaten by his teachers there for minor infractions, Tsering (a heterosexual) was then raped by a well-connected monk (and other “official monks”) in exchange for protection, becoming a passive sex-toy or dronpo (Tib: guest).
Even in exile, many Tibetans enter monasteries as children below the age of 16, often as orphans or at a long distance from their parents’ home. Many children do not see their parents or family members for years; their sole place of refuge and care being the monastery. They are then expected to keep the celibacy vow through puberty and adulthood—not an easy task for an adult, let alone an adolescent.
Furthermore, whereas previously monastics lived in isolated places providing little contact with lay people, women or worldly activities, nowadays, the close proximity of monasteries to large towns and cities and the proliferation and easy access of internet porn and so on has no doubt increased and fed the monks’ sexual desire and frustration.
With this background in mind, issuing condoms to monks may not be the most ‘pure’ or suitable method, particularly in terms of preventing rape and abuse, but it is certainly a practical one if monks are contracting HIV and other STDs. The cultural background of “mass monasticism,” combined with the lack of child protection measures, leave child monastics particularly vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse. This is not to say that the majority of adult monks are abusing children (or that it is only a problem in relation to Tibetan Buddhists), but even if it is only a small minority it can have a devastating effect. It only takes a few rotten apples to spoil the bunch, as they say.
Ruben Derksen, a 26-year-old Dutch reincarnate lama who stars in the film Tulku, has stated that is is about time that Tibetan Buddhist institutions were “demystified and the shroud was removed.” Derksen, who as a child spent three years in a monastery in India, recently drew attention to the physical beatings that are a regular practice there. “I met Richard Gere and Steven Seagal, and they didn’t see any of this,” he says. “When celebrities or outsiders are around, you don’t beat the kids.”
And therein lies part of the problem: it’s well-hidden. Although there are personal stories of abuse among the exile community, some people argue that they need to see more evidence; yet, there is no reason to disbelieve all these testimonies either.
Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are, historically and currently, some of the most advanced centers of Buddhist scholarship and practice in the world today. They have produced some of the world’s most inspiring, compassionate teachers and practitioners of Buddhism, the Dalai Lama and the 17th Karmapa being prime examples. For an adult, one of the best places to study and practice Buddhism is within a Tibetan Buddhist monastic setting.
Consensual masturbation and “thigh sex” between adult monks is not the chief concern here—albeit such activity from the monastic viewpoint is far from “pure” and, if done out of frustration as opposed to one’s sexuality, it is not particularly psychologically healthy either. What is more worrying is the presence of children in the care of these all-male institutions.
Who can these children turn to if there is a culture of abuse, shame, silence and denial in their community?
Being open and accountable on these issues will enable reform and constructive action. International children’s rights laws apply globally. This is not an issue relative to a particular culture or tradition.
Understandably, the Tibetan community in exile does not always respond well to criticism or suggestions for improvement, particularly when coming from non-Tibetans. In response to a Facebook discussion I started on this issue, a Tibetan replied that:
It is time for the Tibetan community to stop defending those who abuse and exploit their position of trust. Exposure of these cases and others that are widely known within our communities must be brought out of the closets. As a community, we have NO obligation to defend these people nor anything to be ashamed of. Their actions are not a reflection on the broader community. If we are to prepare for the post-His Holiness era, we better create a realistic and honest image of ourselves to the world. Starting now. As Tibetans, we cannot pretend all of us to be mini-Dalai Lamas. Our community is no different than any others, we have the good, the bad and the ugly. The world must see us for what we are.
If children are being left vulnerable in Tibetan monasteries, why don’t the Tibetan exile leader Lobsang Sangay and the Tibetan monastic authorities follow the Bhutanese example and call for an official report into the safety of child monastics in exile? At the least, in line with their publicly-stated desire to modernize, they could establish adequate sex education and internationally-recognized child protection measures in the monasteries and schools.
When are we going to get a public response from the monastic authorities on these alleged cases of physical or sexual abuse, particularly that of Kalu Rinpoche? If even Rinpoche’s allegations are not publicly investigated then what hope is there for a young, unknown orphan child undergoing a similar experience? What about kick-starting a public initiative that provides both monks and ex-monks a confidential, safe platform to register and report their personal tales of abuse and neglect in the monasteries?
These testimonies could then be compiled into an official document and delivered to the CTA and monastic authorities to respond to. A simple, preventative measure is to bar anyone from becoming a monk until the age of 18. At the very least, setting aside legitimate concerns about violence and sexual abuse, doesn’t it make more sense for a person to take the decision to become celibate after puberty, when they are better able to make an informed, adult decision about it?
On a positive note, Kalu Rinpoche is not just taking on the voice of a victim but also that of a pioneer, creating a school for children whose families are in financial difficulty and barring them from becoming monks until the age of 19. Whatever anyone might think about this issue, first and foremost (following Kalu Rinpoche’s example) we all need to think about what is in the best interests of the children. The reputation of Tibetans or Tibetan Buddhism has to come second to that.
Dedicated to Kalu Rinpoche and the children.
adele_wilde_blavatskyAdele Wilde-Blavatsky has an MA in Philosophy and previously worked as a Philosophy lecturer. In 2007, she co-edited a philosophy book Aesthetic Experience with Prof. Richard Shusterman and is currently working on her first collection of poetry and essays for publication. Since taking refuge with the 17th Karmapa in India in 2005, she turned away from Western Philosophy and materialism and has spent the last few years living and studying yoga, the Tibetan language and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy in India and Nepal. Adele is also a mother to a very active son, a qualified yoga teacher, freelance writer, part-time translator and a passionate political activist on issues related to gender, sexism, civil liberties, Tibet and human rights. Recently, she worked for Free Tibet, an NGO in London and as a volunteer for the Tibet-led and staffed NGO, Tibetan Centre of Human Rights and Democracy. She wrote a expose of Free Tibet’s working culture in 2012 and has also published articles in Elephant Journal, The Huffington Post, Tibet Telegraph and the Tibetan exile online publication Phayul.com.
The Rape of Kalu Rinpoche
In October 2011, a famous and highly-respected reincarnate Tibetan Buddhist master, Kalu Rinpoche, posted a Youtube video in which he reveals the abuse he suffered as a young monk at the hands of adult monks in his monastery. Rinpoche’s allegations caused shockwaves within the Tibetan Buddhist community (particularly his western students). Since that time, I have not heard any Tibetan Buddhist teacher (especially those connected with Kalu Rinpoche) publicly respond to his allegations, let alone suggest there be a formal investigation and those responsible brought to account. One can only hope Kalu Rinpoche’s video exposure of this serious issue has not gone to waste and been brushed under the carpet in the hope that people might forget about it. Rinpoche recently gave an interview in which he details the rape he suffered:
Kalu says that when he was in his early teens, he was sexually abused by a gang of older monks who would visit his room each week. When I bring up the concept of “inappropriate touching,” he laughs edgily. This was hard-core sex, he says, including penetration. “Most of the time, they just came alone,” he says. “They just banged the door harder, and I had to open. I knew what was going to happen, and after that you become more used to it.” It wasn’t until Kalu returned to the monastery after his three-year retreat that he realized how wrong this practice was. By then the cycle had begun again on a younger generation of victims, he says. Kalu’s claims of sexual abuse mirror those of Lodoe Senge, an ex-monk and 23-year-old tulku who now lives in Queens, New York. “When I saw the video,” Senge says of Kalu’s confessions, “I thought, ‘Shit, this guy has the balls to talk about it when I didn’t even have the courage to tell my girlfriend.’” Senge was abused, he says, as a 5-year-old by his own tutor, a man in his late twenties, at a monastery in India.
If that weren’t bad enough, Kalu Rinpoche’s former incarnation was himself accused of sexually exploiting June Campbell, his former female student and translator. Her story is just one in a number of cases of sexually predatory and exploitative conduct by male Tibetan Buddhist teachers towards their (mainly western) female students (see Mary Finnigan’s recent article “The Lamas who give Tibetan Buddhism a bad name”).
Putting aside the issue of sexual misconduct and abuse, much has also been said and written about on the everyday specter of violence as corporal punishment within Tibetan monasteries. Stories of excessive corporal punishment and violence in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are commonplace.
One Tibetan man I know very well (who was a monk for 15 years from the age of 12) told me that physical beating of young monks was the norm in his monastery. He related a story to me of how as a young adolescent he was held down on a bed by four adult monks and beaten with a heavy stick for the minor infraction of being late to morning puja. I can also personally verify that there was a violent incident at a respected Kagyu monastery in Nepal a few years ago, where a young monk used a meat cleaver to attack another young monk about the head and body, almost killing him in the process.
How was it dealt with by the monastery? Instead of handing him over to the police on an attempted murder charge, the monk was kicked out of the monastery and no more was said about it. Such conduct would have resulted in a criminal investigation in the UK.
Buddhist monk Wirathu in Yangon, Burma. The 46-year-old has been blamed for inspiring sectarian violence
Radical buddhist nationalism is sweeping Burma, and at the forefront of the movement is a group more commonly associated with peace and tolerance: monks.
The most prominent among them is the controversial cleric U Wirathu, who gives passionate sermons from his Mandalay base calling on Buddhists to stand up against the “Muslim threat”.
“I believe Islam is a threat not just to Buddhism, but to the [Burmese] people and the country,” says the monk, whose boyish face and toothy grin belie the name his critics have given him: “the Buddhist bin Laden”.
The 46-year-old has been blamed for inspiring sectarian violence, which began in the long-volatile western state of Rakhine bordering Burma’s mostly Muslim neighbour, Bangladesh, but has spread to areas unused to such tension.
Hundreds of Muslims have been killed, mosques burned and many thousands driven from their homes.
Burma’s president, Thein Sein, will face demands to rein in anti-Muslim violence when he arrives on an official visit to Britain on Sunday. He has been invited by David Cameron to reward the gradual moves towards restoring democracy to Burma that began with the release from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader, in 2011.
The former general, once a part of the military junta that ruled Burma for almost 50 years, has been criticised for allowing the ethnic attacks to continue. He will also be questioned over official tolerance of outspoken figures such as Wirathu who are blamed by many for whipping up hatred against Muslims.
It is an accusation Wirathu denies, instead blaming all the religious violence on Burma’s Muslims, who make up 5 per cent of the population.
In the leafy courtyard of the New Masoeyain monastery, where he lives and teaches, billboards display gruesome images of butchered and burned monks and of Buddhist women raped and killed – alongside pictures from around the world depicting Islamist violence.
A woman walks past a burnt out area in Sittwe, Myanmar, where dozens of Rohingya families used to live until fires destroyed the homes (GETTY)
He insists he does not believe in, and has not encouraged Buddhist attacks such as the riots a year ago in Rakhine that left 200 people dead and up to 140,000, mainly Muslims, homeless. Nor, apparently, has he joined those monks who have reportedly taken part in attacks.
He has, however, previously compared Muslims to “mad dogs” and called them “troublemakers”. Monks hold considerable sway in Burma, so when they condemn a single ethnic group at a time of political upheaval and uncertainty, critics say it is hardly surprising if violence flares. The solutions Wirathu offers to the perceived threat to Burma’s Buddhist majority are certainly provocative.
“I don’t know how you tame a wild elephant in your country,” he told The Sunday Telegraph, when asked what exactly he means when he says Buddhist Burmese should “stand up for themselves”, “but here the first thing you do is take away all their food and water. Then when the elephant is starving and weak you give him a little bit of water and teach him one word. Then you give him a little bit of food and teach him some more. That’s how we tame the elephants here.”
This is his metaphor for the imposition of economic sanctions on Muslims, who are also known as Rohingya, an ethnic grouping in the northwest that has long been denied Burmese citizenship. Buddhists, he insists, should not shop in Muslim stores, nor sell land to Muslims. This principle is being promoted by a movement, which he started in conjunction with other monks from southern Burma, known as 969.
Those figures are said to represent Buddhist virtues. In the form of a logo, however, they are a badge used to help supporters identify businesses as Buddhist-run.
It adorns videos distributed by the group showing scenes of destruction and violence supposedly caused by Muslims. It is also appearing increasingly at rallies, such as one held in Rangoon last week to protest against a front cover of Time magazine which described Wirathu as “The Face of Buddhist Terror”.
Wirathu has also proposed a ban on marriage between Buddhists and Muslims. “Women should not get married to Islamic men. If one Buddhist woman gets married to an Islamic man, it’s not just one less Buddhist [because Islam requires her to convert], but they will have one more and they will have lots of children so the population balance can change quickly.”
The poet and artist Soe Wei, who was a political prisoner of the Burmese military junta for two years, says that like many Burmese he finds it difficult to criticise a monk, though he does not share all of Wirathu’s opinions. Pressed on whether he sees Wirathu as a figure of terror or a man of peace, Soe Wei shakes his head then smiles wryly.
“I don’t see him as a man of peace. I’ve never seen anyone in authority really willing to have peace in Myanmar.”
We have barely recovered from shock over the story of wayward billionaire monk Luang Pu Nen Kham Chattiko as the media digs deeper into details of his wealth and alleged crimes.
It would not be a mistake to say that it was by chance that our society found out about the wealth of Nen Kham, aka Phra Wirapol Sukphol, from Ubon Ratchathani, who ran his religious business in the northeastern province of Si Sa Ket.
As layers and layers of scandal and crime are unfolded while the runaway monk is reported to have left France for the US where he has a huge mansion, we have come to realise that one major actor is missing from the picture. Yes, it’s the Sangha Supreme Council _ the ruling body of monks.
We have not heard a word _ let alone seen a move _ from this top body of the clergy on the shameful Nen Kham since day one after the scandal was exposed by the media.
However, one may argue that the council does not see the necessity to make any move at all as the National Office of Buddhism, which serves as the council’s secretariat, has joined the investigation with the Department of Special Investigation.
Perhaps the 22-strong council may think its regional office has already pursued the case.
Is that enough? I don’t think so.
The Nen Kham scandal is a disgrace not only to the billionaire monk but sangha society as a whole. This disgraceful case reflects flaws in Thai Buddhism and also the weakness of the Sangha Supreme Council as a ruling body that fails to maintain itself as a knowledge-based institute and is gradually suffering a decline.
If the council has attempted to turn things around, we are not yet convinced.
Otherwise, commercialisation of Buddhism, the root of all evil, would not be so rampant.
Undeniably, one of the flaws is the screening (or lack of it) in the ordination process. It’s an open secret that the system is too antiquated to select quality people _ scholars or those who really want…
Please credit and share this article with others using this link:http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/359466/sangha-must-face-up-to-sorry-state-of-clergy. View our policies at http://goo.gl/9HgTd and http://goo.gl/ou6Ip. © Post Publishing PCL. All rights reserved.
This file picture taken on March 22, 2012 shows Thai buddhist monks looking at discounted notebooks displayed at the Commart Thailand in Bangkok. The behaviour of Thailand’s Buddhist clergy has been thrust under the spotlight after footage emerged of monks settling into a flight on a private jet, sporting sunglasses and iPods while one apparently carried on a luxury bag. — FILE PHOTO: AFP –
The case against Thai monk Luang Pu Nenkham Chattigo gets more jaw-dropping by the day.
Last month, the 33-year-old Buddhist monk hit the headlines when a video showing him sporting aviator shades and sitting in a private jet with a Louis Vuitton bag by his side made its rounds on YouTube.
Last week, the country’s anti-money laundering office highlighted suspicious activity in his bank accounts.
A few days later, another set of allegations surfaced that he had been intimate with several women, including a then underaged girl.
Now there are even suspicions of drug trafficking.
Thailand, with more than 50 million Buddhists and more than 290,000 monks, is no stranger to monastic scandals.
The National Office of Buddhism reprimanded about 300 monks and novices last year for misconduct like drinking alcohol and having sex, according to an Associated Press report. Some have been caught with drugs and pornography.
Officially, monks have to uphold 227 precepts. These include not receiving money or buying or selling anything with money. In reality, though, the relationship between its most charismatic monks and money can be ambiguous, given the sizeable trade in amulets and the other religious artefacts in the country.
This is popular Buddhism as practised by everyday people – less oriented towards scripture and spiritual growth and more interested in mortal concerns like health, wealth and physical safety.
In his book Mediums, Monks and Amulets, the late anthropologist Pattana Kitiarsa described it as “a large scale, cross-social spectrum of beliefs and practices – incorporating the supernatural powers of spirit, deity, and magic – that have emerged out of the interplay between animism, supernaturalism, folk Brahmanism and the worship of Chinese deities, and state sponsored Theravada Buddhism”.
It is common, for example, to see buyers of new cars rush to get them blessed by monks.
Buddhist soldiers on dangerous assignments wear amulets bearing the likeness of popular monks to protect them from harm.
There are stampedes for particularly “powerful” amulets. In one, five years ago in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, a woman died.
Inevitably, a lot of money changes hands, in the forms of donations or payments for amulets blessed by popular monks to raise funds for their monasteries and other causes. The value of these amulets rise in secondary markets overseas, especially when the media runs articles on the good fortune or fortunate encounters by people who wear them.
The special Chatukham-Rammathep amulets that caused a stampede in 2007 were estimated to have generated a 40 billion baht industry in that year alone.
A large portion of these tax free baht go towards good causes. One of Thailand’s most iconic monks, Luang Phor Khun Parisutto, reportedly donated millions of baht towards health services and schools.
Unsurprisingly though, the large sums of money also attract the attention of less than righteous characters.
When Luang Pu Nenkham’s private jet video first caused an outcry last month, the National Office of Buddhism’s director-general Nopparat Benjawatananun called the monk’s behaviour inappropriate but indicated that modernity had made it harder for monks to draw the line between necessity and extravagance.
He told the AP then: “When Lord Buddha was alive, there wasn’t anything like this. There were no cars, smartphones or cameras, so the rules were much simpler.” As more and more people seek monks out for luck, fame and fortune, this is a demarcation that will be increasingly difficult to make.
Interesting article which proves Christianity does not have a monopoly on abuse. However ,this is nothing new in Buddhism as the monasteries of old Tibet were well known for child abuse
Buddhist monks arrested over Thai child sex abuse claims
Two Buddhist monks who allegedly organised acts of child sexual abuse have been arrested by Thai police, the latest controversy to hit a clergy struggling with challenges to its clean-living image.
Police in Chang Mai, in northern Thailand, said they had detained two monks for procuring a 14-year-old boy to perform sexual acts with an abbot. The alleged perpetrator was to be arrested as soon as a warrant was obtained, they said.
The pair, who deny any knowledge of the alleged abuse, could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, Police Colonel Wirachon Bunthawi told AFP from the northern city of Chiang Mai.
The police said the arrests were made on the basis of accounts from a driver and the victim himself, who claimed the two monks had taken him to see the abbot at the temple in Chiang Dao district several times since February.
“The abbot is still at the temple and we’re waiting for an arrest warrant for him,” Col. Wirachon said.
Buddhist monks rapped over private jet 17 Jun 2013
Tibetan monks to play Glastonbury 12 Jun 2013
Burma ethnic tensions rise after mosque and orphanage torched 29 May 2013
Dalai Lama doubts effect of Tibetan self-immolations 13 Jun 2013
The arrests of the two monks – aged 20 and 23 – comes as the Thai Buddhist clergy grapples with scandals that have damaged its reputation of morality and austerity.
The video, which quickly went viral, prompted debate in the Thai Kingdom over monks’ compliance with Buddhism’s strict lifestyle code. Monks are required to live as ascetics, shun worldly possessions aside from a few robes and receive their sole sustenance from local residents, rules that are increasingly challenging in the modern world.
The clergy in Thailand has recently been scandalised by a series of cases reported in local media, involving drug-taking, drinking, gambling and the use of prostitutes by monks.
So what is it that you’re doing, and why?
Over the past seven business days, I’ve been meditating for 3 to 4 hours directly outside the entrance of Goldman Sachs headquarters. And I intend to continue sitting silently at Goldman HQ every single business day for the coming weeks and months. Soon this effort will grow beyond me, however. Starting yesterday, we’re holding hour-long group meditations three days per week.
The reason for my meditating at Goldman is that I seek to extend compassion to its employees and demand that they do the same for the worldwide billions affected by the bank’s practices. By meditating, I’m quite literally modeling a technique that cultivates the capacity for emotional states like compassion and empathy. On another level, I’m trying to communicate that I come in peace; I understand that Goldman Sachs bankers are people just like you and me. There’s nothing inherently evil or malicious about them. Like all people, they are the beautifully complicated products of a personal and social history.
Does that mean that we allow them to acquire huge amounts of money, while exacerbating global inequality and its effects? Absolutely not. But we intervene in the way that a family might intervene when their son has a drug addiction. That’s how I think of Goldman Sachs: addiction to greed. And greed, in its various forms, is something that everyone struggles with. The difference with Goldman Sachs is that greed on this scale is causing atrocious human suffering. So we need to put the harmful practices to an end, but with the love and goodwill of a global family.
What drove you to commit to doing this?
The large scale human suffering that is taking place, and the sense that our global trajectory is moving toward even greater amounts of suffering. That, coupled with the realization that our global and national systems of governance are simply not up to the task of preventing such harm. I’ve come to believe that a dramatic shift on inequity issues — like regulating Wall Street — will only result from a mass nonviolent social movement. I see myself as a small, sustained part of that effort.
It’s kind of like the “Standing Man” in Turkey. Has anyone joined you, like people joined him? Do you expect them to?
Yes, exactly. I draw a lot of encouragement from the Standing Man’s passive resistance. He exuded such dignity in his commitment to bearing witness. He seemed to say, “I may not be able to forcibly remove your tear gas cannisters, but I will not gratify you with the act of turning away.”
No one has joined me in the spontaneous way that they joined the Standing Man. However, people did reach out to me after I posted some photos to Facebook and Twitter. Also, from day one I’ve envisioned this Goldman Sachs meditation presence growing beyond me. As a former community organizer, I know that power is in numbers. In this case, we’re seeking to dramatically reign in one of the most powerful institutions in the world, so we must have lots of people as a counterweight.
What kinds of reactions are you getting from Goldman Sachs employees? What about other people?
To be honest, it is very difficult for me to tell how Goldman Sachs employees have reacted. I meditate with my eyes looking down at a 45-degree angle, so I do not know what their facial expressions have been like. No Goldman employees have spoken to me yet, either — well, that’s not entirely true. After the first couple days, the security guards became more and more chummy. Now, when I arrive, they ask me how my day has been. Recently, when my friend came to take a bunch of pictures, they stopped him to make sure it was all right with me.
Most other people have been supportive. They ask me what I’m doing or why, and they respectfully engage with my response. The meanest thing that happened so far was a man yelling, “Get a job!” Little does he know that I work full-time at a Mexican restaurant in Crown Heights. But millions of Americans do not have a job. Does that disqualify them from speaking out — or, in my case, sitting out — against injustice? I think not.
What would be your ideal outcome when you’re done?
The ideal outcome is the formation of a massive meditation protest that helps create political space for the dramatic reform and regulation of the finance industry — especially the megabanks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. I know this is a lofty goal, but it’s so terribly important. I envision a perimeter of meditators around the entirety of the gigantic Goldman Sachs headquarters. How incredible would that be?
Are you doing any support work to make your action part of a broader campaign, to make it more effective? Or are you focused on this act of witness?
Yes, I’m most definitely doing support work. As I said, I come from a community organizing background; so I know the importance of coalition building, outreach and trusting relationships. I also know that this kind of organizing is a slow process.
Your sign says “Begin Anew With Compassion.” Why that? Do you really think what Goldman Sachs lacks is compassion? Is meaningful compassion even possible in these institutions of hyper-capitalism?
The sign “Begin Anew With Compassion” is directed toward the employees of Goldman Sachs, not the bank itself. I’m not naïve enough to think that compassion can overcome the structural forces and financial incentives that dictate Goldman’s practices. In that sense, I think it’s absolutely valid for you to speculate about whether “meaningful compassion is even possible” within the constraints of a megabank like Goldman.
However, what I would say is that Goldman’s policies — as with all policies at all institutions — are enacted by people. And those people make a choice about whether or not to extend ethical consideration to those affected by their choices. That’s what we saw with Goldman Sachs Vice President Greg Smith in 2012. He realized that his actions were unethical, and he chose to resign from the firm.
What has the quality of your meditation been like, so to speak? Better or worse than at home?
To answer this, I need to describe my meditation a bit. My meditation practice is following the breath, which means that I focus on the sensations of a single body part — usually the belly — as air comes in and out. The challenge is that when thoughts arise, you simply notice that you’re thinking and immediately return your attention to the breath.
At Goldman, it has been a lot more difficult to sustain continuous attention on the breath. The noise of the street corner — combined with the personal and political significance of the location — makes for an extremely distracting environment. So, if we think of meditation as the practice of focus, then I would say the meditations are worse. But another crucial component of meditation is the practice of acceptance. The more and more I’ve meditated over the years, the more I’ve been willing to be nice to myself when I get distracted. And I think for that practice of compassion — for myself as a struggling meditator and for bankers as human beings — I think my meditations have been significantly better.
“You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog,” Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist monk notorious for his rants against Muslims, said in a sermon in reference to Muslims, The New York Times reported on Friday, June 21.
“I call them troublemakers, because they are troublemakers,” the Buddhist monk said.
I am proud to be called a radical Buddhist.”
Buddhism was often defined by the gentle image and words of exiled spiritual leader of the Tibet the Dalai Lama.
But the image totally changed over rising attacks by radical Buddhists against Muslims in Burma as well as Sri Lanka.
Burmese Monks are blamed for inciting hatred against Muslims
In Burma, Buddhist monks have championed a campaign against what they call “the enemy”, in reference to Muslims.
They have given sermons and firing speeches against Burmese Muslims, which resulted in several bouts of violence against the sizable minority.
More than 200 people were killed and thousands of Muslims were displaced from their homes after attacks against Muslims in western Burma last year.
More than 42 people were also killed in a new bout of violence against Muslims in central Burma in April.
Monks were blamed for inciting hatred against Muslims by preaching a so-called “969 movement” which represents a radical form of anti-Islamic nationalism that urges Buddhists to boycott Muslim-run shops and services.
Wirathu, who takes pride as a Buddhist Bin Laden, has thousands of followers on Facebook and his YouTube videos have been watched tens of thousands of times.
He also leads the extremist nationalist “969” campaign, encouraging Buddhists to “buy Buddhist and shop Buddhist”, seemingly with the intention of creating an apartheid state.
Its message is spreading through regular sermons across the country that draw thousands of people and through widely distributed DVDs of those talks.
Buddhist monasteries associated with the movement are also opening community centers and a Sunday school program for 60,000 Buddhist children nationwide.
Stickers with the movement’s logo are now ubiquitous nationwide on cars, motorcycles and shops.
The movement has also begun a signature campaign calling for a ban on interfaith marriages, and pamphlets are distributed at sermons listing Muslim brands and shops to be avoided.
Wirathu describes the massacre of Muslim schoolchildren in the central city of Meiktila in April in recent sermon as a show of strength.
“If we are weak,” he said, “our land will become Muslim.”
The new extremist notion of Buddhism in Burma is being criticized by rare voices from monks in neighboring countries.
“Myanmar (Burma) monks are quite isolated and have a thin relationship with Buddhists in other parts of the world,” Phra Paisal Visalo, a Buddhist scholar and prominent monk in neighboring Thailand, said.
Visalo believes that the notion of “us and them” promoted by Burma’s radical monks is anathema to Buddhism.
He also lamented that his criticism and that of other leading Buddhists outside the country have had “very little impact.”
Among the most disappointed with the outbreaks of violence and hateful rhetoric are some of the leaders of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a peaceful uprising led by Buddhist monks against the military rule.
“We were not expecting this violence when we chanted for peace and reconciliation in 2007,” said Ashin Nyana Nika, 55, the abbot of Pauk Jadi monastery who attended a meeting earlier this month sponsored by Muslim groups to discuss the issue.
Facing parades of extremist monks, Taunggyi Muslims were terrified by a visit by Wirathu and other 60 honking motorcycles.
“I’m really frightened,” he said, stopping in midsentence when customers entered his shop.
“We tell the children not to go outside unless absolutely necessary.”
Rights groups have accused the Burmese police of turning a blind eye to attacks against Muslims.
The anti-Muslim violence has raised doubts on the success of Burma’s transition from 49 years of oppressive military rule that ended in March 2011.
Burma’s Muslims — largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent — account for an estimated four percent of the roughly 60 million population.
Muslims entered Burma en masse for the first time as indentured laborers from the Indian subcontinent during British colonial rule, which ended in 1948.
But despite their long history, they have never fully been integrated into the country, widely considered as foreigners.
The Dalai Lama will remain the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the focal point of Tibetan national aspirations, said spokesman Yeha Boloorma.
As head of the dominate Gelug branch of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama was the top religious leader for Tibet. Many of his predecessors also served as Tibet’s political ruler, and the Dalai Lama himself served as head of government there after Chinese troops marched into his Himalayan homeland in 1950.
Playboy was formed in 1953 by Hugh Hefner, who has been in “sexile” as well ever since. The Dalia Lama will not have to change his wardrobe. “We like to be comfortable around the Mansion and the Dalai Lama will fit right in,” said Hef.
Many of the “Hef Girls” are happy to have the Dalai Lama move in. “He’s a little younger than Hef, and a lot cuter,” said Dolly Hart. “There’s something so special about him,” said Paige Peters. “I get a good vibe being around him and well… let’s just say it’s a very spiritual experience being with him.”
Beijing has always claimed Tibet has forever been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the region was virtually independent for centuries. But now, the Chinese are now willing to talk to the Dalai Lama and are sending a large delegation of leaders to the Playboy Mansion to talk to him.
Women are always the ones to bring men together.
Party at Hef’s house!!
By Frank Lake on June 11, 2013
Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader says that he obviously realises that Langdon gets through the ordeal, because the character also appears in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ which comes after ‘Angels and Demons’, although the Dalai Lama, like many, first came to Dan Brown through the more successful second book.
His Holiness said that he ‘hasn’t got a frigging clue’ why anyone would want to rip the pages out of his copy, and that this kind of thing was ‘just fucking typical’.
He says if he doesn’t get any response, he’ll just have to ‘buy another bastard copy’ when he next goes through an airport, or maybe hope that the film gets shown on the flight, although he’s only really interested in finding out what happens at the end, and doesn’t see why he should have to sit through the whole thing.
Observers have commented that with the number of people worldwide seeking to take a leaf out of his book, this kind of thing was inevitable.
Tenzin Gyatso, the exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetan people found himself at the centre of a political controversy today when it was revealed that he had neglected to enter a number of gifts and good deeds done to him by fellow Buddhists in the Official Register. Since the so-called Cash for Reincarnation Scandal of the late 90s, it has been mandatory that senior Buddhists report all gifts, considerate deeds or just kindly thoughts of which they have been the chief beneficiary.
‘The karma register was devised to ensure that powerful Buddhists were not abusing their position – but it has got the stage that you can’t even hold a door open for the Prime Minster of Sri Lanka without him having to make a note of it…’ claimed a spokesman for the Dalai Lama.
Among the specific charges against the spiritual leader of Tibet is that on 13 February he left his umbrella in a restaurant but was reunited with it when a fellow diner came rushing out after him having noticed his absent mindedness. ‘There is no record of this random act of kindness’ said the Official Karma Watchdog; ‘Nor of the occasion when his holiness mentioned that he liked early Britpop, and one of his office support staff did him a compilation CD of Blur, Pulp and Oasis.’ Under the strict rules laid down in an appendix to the Kangyur or sacred texts, all samsaric good karma must now be declared.
‘People have been praying for him, sending their figurehead best wishes and good luck messages and only a fraction of this good karma appears in the official record,’ said the Karma Czar. ‘We have a copy of a letter from an Glastonbury woman who said she was sending out positive energy to the Tibetan leader, but he has not recorded how much positive energy he received nor the dates on which he sensed it.’
A spokesman for the Dalai Lama claimed that this ‘very minor scandal’ had been whipped up by the Chinese authorities to try and deflect from their own oppression in Tibet, but added ‘Anyway, failing to register the good karma is bad karma, so the karma is cancelled out and he’s back to where he was in the first place.’