Time Magazine "Bad Buddhists"

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Time Magazine "Bad Buddhists"

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 08, 2011 9:25 am

So Time magazine has this following brief article:

Buddha, the most placid of the prophets, would himself have been perturbed by a letter which was received last week at the Buddhist Center, of Manhattan. The letter was signed by Professor Nicholas Roerich; it had been despatched from the terrain that lies north of the Himalayas, where the Roerich American Expedition (TIME, June 4) is now located. It detailed, in approximately 5,000 words, the degradation which Nicholas Roerich had discovered in Tibet during his four-year sojourn thereabouts. In condensed form, the letter said: Buddhism in Tibet, its ancient stronghold, has become a depraved Shamanistic religion. The celebrated Tashi Lumpo monastery, residence of the abdicated Tashi Lama, has been deserted and desecrated. Lamas, teachers of the people, tell fortunes for alms, by the haunches of mutton, or dice; they beg and cheat; to mystify the ignorant, they mutter squeaky conjurations or play with human bones. The forest-dwelling Buddhists revere arrows and absurd amulets. Conscious reverence for Buddha is held by very few.

The business of Tibet has fallen into ruin. A pitiful hut is described, in official documents as "a snowy palace." . . . In the big villages there is not a single store. . . . "In twilight people come to you begging you to sell them something but they do not dare to trade openly. . . . It is dreadful to think that the name of Buddha is intermingled with all this dirt, physical and spiritual."


http://www.time.com/time/magazine/artic ... 11,00.html

Thoughts?
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Re: Time Magazine "Bad Buddhists"

Postby Mr. G » Sun May 08, 2011 11:32 am

edit: deleted stupid comments for being oblivious of the date of the article. :lol:
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Re: Time Magazine "Bad Buddhists"

Postby ratna » Sun May 08, 2011 11:36 am

The article is from 1928. More than anything, it reflects Roerich's own prejudices and ideas of what Buddhism is supposed to be.
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Re: Time Magazine "Bad Buddhists"

Postby Mr. G » Sun May 08, 2011 11:43 am

ratna wrote:The article is from 1928. More than anything, it reflects Roerich's own prejudices and ideas of what Buddhism is supposed to be.


doh! didn't see that! :lol:
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Re: Time Magazine "Bad Buddhists"

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 08, 2011 1:07 pm

ratna wrote:The article is from 1928. More than anything, it reflects Roerich's own prejudices and ideas of what Buddhism is supposed to be.


They even called its a "Goddless Country" before the 14th Dalai Lama as an infant was brought forth.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/artic ... 14,00.html


Interesting to read these old accounts of Tibet. With Google Books you can also look at very old Life magazines which give that eras general perception of things. Buddhism gets a lot of positive remarks.
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Re: Time Magazine "Bad Buddhists"

Postby Astus » Sun May 08, 2011 2:07 pm

The article is a nice representation of the difference between the realities of books and actual humans. Such a discrepancy makes many confused even today.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Time Magazine "Bad Buddhists"

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 08, 2011 2:37 pm

Astus wrote:The article is a nice representation of the difference between the realities of books and actual humans. Such a discrepancy makes many confused even today.


I think in the 1920s the journalist or even the academics' vision of what Buddhism is (or is supposed to be), at least in the English speaking world, was informed by the British experience in Sri Lanka, Burma and to some effect China.

I imagine if some European or American first saw the temples of Burma before going into Tibet they'd be shocked at the latter what with portraits of deities coupling.

This might actually be a fun study to do: look at popular print media pre-WWII and examine the perception of Buddhism in the west.
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Re: Time Magazine "Bad Buddhists"

Postby Astus » Sun May 08, 2011 6:46 pm

Huseng,

Are you saying that cheap practices like fortune telling and house blessings were/are not everyday practices in Theravada countries? I think they generally are. And even today many conceive Buddhism as something pure and otherworldly thus seeing such things can be shocking.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Time Magazine "Bad Buddhists"

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 08, 2011 6:52 pm

Astus wrote:Huseng,

Are you saying that cheap practices like fortune telling and house blessings were/are not everyday practices in Theravada countries? I think they generally are. And even today many conceive Buddhism as something pure and otherworldly thus seeing such things can be shocking.


I don't know if fortune telling by monks is common in Theravada countries.

I've seen so many sides to Buddhism in multiple countries that these things don't shock me, but I know what you're saying.
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Re: Time Magazine "Bad Buddhists"

Postby James418 » Sun May 08, 2011 7:52 pm

Huseng wrote:
Astus wrote:Huseng,

Are you saying that cheap practices like fortune telling and house blessings were/are not everyday practices in Theravada countries? I think they generally are. And even today many conceive Buddhism as something pure and otherworldly thus seeing such things can be shocking.


I don't know if fortune telling by monks is common in Theravada countries.

I've seen so many sides to Buddhism in multiple countries that these things don't shock me, but I know what you're saying.


In his history of Tibet, Goldstein asserts that Tibetan society was a kind of systematised form of exploitation, which used the idea of karma to keep most of the people as little more than serfs exploited by the aristocracy and competing monasteries.
What are your thoughts on this?
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Re: Time Magazine "Bad Buddhists"

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 08, 2011 7:58 pm

James418 wrote:In his history of Tibet, Goldstein asserts that Tibetan society was a kind of systematised form of exploitation, which used the idea of karma to keep most of the people as little more than serfs exploited by the aristocracy and competing monasteries.
What are your thoughts on this?


Sounds kind of marxist to me.

I'm not that well versed in Tibetan history to write a quality response.

However, I would point out the monastics and aristocracy were likewise subject to karma just as much as those under them were. The lower realms were open to them just as much as they were to the underlings of society. Unfortunately, exploitation exists in most societies and I don't think Tibet was any exception. A lot of regions of Tibet were also historically autonomous in practice. There were plenty of nomads wandering about, too. You might classify the residents of such places as "serfs," but were they really? They were largely left to their own affairs.
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