Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby nichirenista » Sun Jun 15, 2014 1:24 am

Okay here's the direct quote from Jacqueline Stone:

"Nichiren taught faith in the Lotus Sutra and chanting the Daimoku as an exclusive practice. In other words, chanting the Daimoku will result in every good thing that religion in medieval Japan was thought to provide: realization of Buddhahood, healing, practical benefits, protection, insurance for the afterlife, and so forth. It is all there in the Daimoku…. Keep in mind that praying for worldly benefits -- healing, prosperity, the protection of the country -- has been common throughout the Buddhist tradition, and it has a strong basis in Buddhist scripture. The Lotus Sutra, which is only one example, promises its practitioners ultimate Buddhahood, but also gives assurance that they won't lack necessities such as food and clothing. Historically, most Buddhists have simply regarded worldly benefits as existing on a continuum with spiritual benefits, including the ultimate benefit of Buddhahood. Nichiren Buddhism is no exception. And because it's a single practice teaching, all kinds of benefits are said to be encompassed in the Daimoku.

For Nichiren Buddhists, Faith in the Lotus Sutra is considered an expression of Buddha nature, which recalls Dogen's teaching that Zazen is an expression of Buddha nature. They believe that, for ordinary people, faith is the cause that opens the door to wisdom. For many convert Buddhists in the West, the central place of faith in Nichiren Buddhism, as well as Pure Land, might seem strange and even un-Buddhist. But this has little to do how the religion has traditionally been practiced and much to do with how Buddhism has been interpreted for the modern West."

http://www.tricycle.com/special-section ... line-stone" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sun Jun 15, 2014 3:26 am

Thanks, nichirenista.
It's still a bit vague, as I guess we should expect from an interview, but she doesn't seem to be thinking about anything earlier than the Lotus Sutra (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Sutra#History_and_background for its origins).

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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby nichirenista » Sun Jun 15, 2014 5:22 am

Article is titled "The final word." It's titled that because in the interview, she says that the Lotus Sutra presents itself as the final word on Buddhism. So it's not really necessary to reference earlier sutras.

This article is ultimately only about the Lotus Sutra.
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sun Jun 15, 2014 5:34 am

nichirenista wrote:Article is titled "The final word." It's titled that because in the interview, she says that the Lotus Sutra presents itself as the final word on Buddhism. So it's not really necessary to reference earlier sutras.

This article is ultimately only about the Lotus Sutra.

Ummm ... you introduced the article to the thread, which did not begin by taking the Lotus as the final word, and I entered the discussion to query your statement that, "[Stone] said that historically Buddhists in Asia have always viewed the fulfillment of spiritual and temporal needs as being on a continuum."
That statement is still not justified by what I've seen of Stone's interview, nor by your comment that "it's not really necessary to reference earlier sutras".

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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby nichirenista » Sun Jun 15, 2014 6:26 am

I quoted directly from the article. I don't see how I could quote it more plainly than from the passage below. Your response was simply that it was "vague", and I assume you say so because she didn't list the specific sutras and give direct quotes from them. My point here is that it would be unnatural for her to list the specific sutras and give direct quotes from them, because this is an article about the lotus sutra.

Here again is the quote. I don't see how it can be stated more plainly than this:

Keep in mind that praying for worldly benefits -- healing, prosperity, the protection of the country -- has been common throughout the Buddhist tradition, and it has a strong basis in Buddhist scripture. The Lotus Sutra, which is only one example, promises its practitioners ultimate Buddhahood, but also gives assurance that they won't lack necessities such as food and clothing. Historically, most Buddhists have simply regarded worldly benefits as existing on a continuum with spiritual benefits, including the ultimate benefit of Buddhahood. Nichiren Buddhism is no exception. And because it's a single practice teaching, all kinds of benefits are said to be encompassed in the Daimoku.

:anjali:
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby nichirenista » Sun Jun 15, 2014 6:39 am

Here is Prof. Stone's email address: jstone@Princeton.EDU She's very accessible. If you email her with your question I'm sure she will respond. She responded to me when I contacted her to thank her for her amazing work. Though the response did take several weeks, as she is very busy. :)
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sun Jun 15, 2014 6:56 am

Hi, nichirenista,
I will put my questions within the quote for clarity.
nichirenista wrote:I quoted directly from the article. I don't see how I could quote it more plainly than from the passage below. Your response was simply that it was "vague", and I assume you say so because she didn't list the specific sutras and give direct quotes from them. My point here is that it would be unnatural for her to list the specific sutras and give direct quotes from them, because this is an article about the lotus sutra.

Here again is the quote. I don't see how it can be stated more plainly than this:

Keep in mind that praying for worldly benefits -- healing, prosperity, the protection of the country -- has been common throughout the Buddhist tradition [All of the Buddhist traditions or only some of them? Since the time of the Buddha or since some more recent date?], and it has a strong basis in Buddhist scripture [Which scriptures? Mahayana, Theravada, or both?]. The Lotus Sutra, which is only one example, promises its practitioners ultimate Buddhahood, but also gives assurance that they won't lack necessities such as food and clothing. Historically, most Buddhists [In all of the Buddhist traditions or only some of them? Since the time of the Buddha or since some more recent date?] have simply regarded worldly benefits as existing on a continuum with spiritual benefits, including the ultimate benefit of Buddhahood. Nichiren Buddhism is no exception. And because it's a single practice teaching, all kinds of benefits are said to be encompassed in the Daimoku.

:anjali:

Does that make it clearer why I reacted against your "always" and later said your quotations didn't help?
As you say, her lack of detail here is not surprising and not to be criticised. I'm not criticising her for it either - rather, I'm saying that your statements were not supported by what she said.
As for the facts of the matter - whether praying for worldly benefits goes all the way back to the Buddha's time or not - I will be content with my present knowledge until or unless someone corrects it. I'm always willing to learn, but I like my learning to be soundly based and I haven't always got time to search for good sources. :reading:

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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby nichirenista » Sun Jun 15, 2014 10:45 am

I gave you the link to the article on a mainstream Buddhist magazine website. I gave you 2 full paragraphs from the article backing up the claim I made. And I gave you the email to the professor at one of the most reputable learning institutions in the world. It seems to me that I've done a bulk of this research for you already. I will admit that she doesn't use the word "always"; but it seems to me that what I have provided you with backs up what I claimed she had said. You just want to go deeper with specific examples -- which takes me back to the fact that I gave you her contact information. The lack of specific examples with annotation doesn't negate what she said. She's a well-respected professor of Buddhism at Princeton; I doubt she would make such statements in such a well-known Buddhist magazine and put her career on the line if she wasn't sure of what she was saying.
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby nichirenista » Sun Jun 15, 2014 10:50 am

I tell you what: I'll email her for you and get back to you with her answer should I receive a response. :anjali:
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby nichirenista » Sun Jun 15, 2014 11:08 am

The article ends with these two paragraphs from Jacqueline Stone. I believe the first paragraph in particular addresses why the Nichiren Buddhist practice of chanting for material outcomes is so controversial, in some cases, apparently, even hated, by some other Buddhists in the United States:

"The scholastic term Buddhist modernism refers to the style of representing Buddhism as rational, empirical, and dismissive of ritual, faith, prayer, and what to the modern mind might be seen as superstition. Buddhist modernism began in the late 19th century as Asian Buddhist leaders and Western converts and sympathizers sought to present Buddhism as the answer to this so-called crisis of faith brought on by the alleged incompatibility of Christianity and the modern rational scientific worldview. So certain elements were extracted from the larger religious context and presented as constituting the core or essential teachings of Buddhism, and other elements -- elements that always been a vital part of the tradition -- were marginalized.

The point is not that Buddhist modernism is wrong. Actually, I think it is part of Buddhism's continuing interpretive effort to frame itself in accordance with the demands of time and place. So, in that sense it mirrors what Dogen, Nichiren, Honen, and Shinran were doing. But it is well to know that, like other reinterpreted movements, it is partial and selective in its reading of tradition. Perhaps this points to one way the Lotus Sutra might be particularly important today. Because of its magnitude -- its vision, its influence, its openness to interpretation -- a historical understanding of the Lotus Sutra might be especially beneficial in helping contemporary Buddhists see what is truly distinctive in their different schools and also to identify common ground that had previously been unrecognized."


http://www.tricycle.com/special-section ... line-stone" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

(Incidentally, this article also from Tricycle points out that, unlike most other schools of Buddhism popular in the United States, Nichiren Buddhism came over largely as a result of people from Japan during the 20th century. In other words, Nichiren Buddhism didn't come here as a result of Buddhist modernism. http://www.sgi-usa.org/newsandevents/ne ... icycle.pdf .)
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby Son of Buddha » Sun Jun 15, 2014 3:55 pm

nichirenista wrote:
Son of Buddha wrote:
nichirenista wrote:Jacqueline Stone writes that chanting/praying for material gains "has a strong basis in scripture." (In case anyone reading this isn't aware of who she is, here is a video of her: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzJogeFyPE0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; And this is her site at Princeton: http://www.princeton.edu/~jstone/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; She's really amazing. Nichiren Buddhism is her particular focus.)


Does she list any "quotes from scripture" that say we should pray for material gains?


I'll upload a scan of the article later. Don't have it at the moment. But what she concludes the article "The Final Word" by saying is that it's not that the Lotus Sutra is all about making money and being rich and all materialism. It's that chanting the Odaimoku is said to bring about every positive end. Chanting Odaimoku is said to bring spiritual and material well being.


Where in the Lotus Sutra does it say that chanting its title will bring about spiritual and material well being?

Where in the Lotus Sutra does it tell people chant its title?
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby Myoho-Nameless » Sun Jun 15, 2014 5:44 pm

Not to imply that it DOESN'T say as much, I don't know if it does. However, plenty of what constitutes Buddhism is not in the sutras, sola scriptora is a protestant christian concern, not a Buddhist one. Ichinen Sanzen had to be teased out of it, by someone regarded as another Buddha no less.
I seem to have been like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

- Sir Isaac Newton
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby nichirenista » Sun Jun 15, 2014 6:30 pm

Stone writes in Original Enlightenment that the practice of "title exigis" (the belief that a book's entire content is summed up in its title) originated in China. Nichiren simply built on that. She also writes that he wasn't the first to chant the title of the Lotus Sutra. He was, however, the first to put it in a single-practice format. http://books.google.com/books/about/Ori ... O_KctXdecC
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby Queequeg » Sun Jun 15, 2014 7:48 pm

A couple contributions to the discussion -

As far as seeking material benefits, I can't recall anything off the top of my head in the sutras encouraging it. However, I don't think its disputable that lay people were encouraged to give to the sangha with some promise that their generosity would be rewarded with earthly prosperity.

From the Mahaparinibbana Sutta:
At that time the Venerable Ananda [4] was standing behind the Blessed One, fanning him, and the Blessed One addressed the Venerable Ananda thus: "What have you heard, Ananda: do the Vajjis have frequent gatherings, and are their meetings well attended?"

"I have heard, Lord, that this is so."

"So long, Ananda, as this is the case, the growth of the Vajjis is to be expected, not their decline.

"What have you heard, Ananda: do the Vajjis assemble and disperse peacefully and attend to their affairs in concord?"

"I have heard, Lord, that they do."

"So long, Ananda, as this is the case, the growth of the Vajjis is to be expected, not their decline.

"What have you heard, Ananda: do the Vajjis neither enact new decrees nor abolish existing ones, but proceed in accordance with their ancient constitutions?"

"I have heard, Lord, that they do."

"So long, Ananda, as this is the case, the growth of the Vajjis is to be expected, not their decline.

"What have you heard, Ananda: do the Vajjis show respect, honor, esteem, and veneration towards their elders and think it worthwhile to listen to them?"

"I have heard, Lord, that they do."

"So long, Ananda, as this is the case, the growth of the Vajjis is to be expected, not their decline.

"What have you heard, Ananda: do the Vajjis refrain from abducting women and maidens of good families and from detaining them?"

"I have heard, Lord, that they refrain from doing so."

"So long, Ananda, as this is the case, the growth of the Vajjis is to be expected, not their decline.

"What have you heard, Ananda: do the Vajjis show respect, honor, esteem, and veneration towards their shrines, both those within the city and those outside it, and do not deprive them of the due offerings as given and made to them formerly?"

"I have heard, Lord, that they do venerate their shrines, and that they do not deprive them of their offerings."

"So long, Ananda, as this is the case, the growth of the Vajjis is to be expected, not their decline.

"What have you heard, Ananda: do the Vajjis duly protect and guard the arahats, so that those who have not come to the realm yet might do so, and those who have already come might live there in peace?"

"I have heard, Lord, that they do."

"So long, Ananda, as this is the case, the growth of the Vajjis is to be expected, not their decline."


Encouragement to the laity is all pretty much along these lines. Most religion follows this general paradigm: There is a super order to reality; this super order is subject to cause and effect; appeal can be made to the super order to alter the course of events; proper conduct is awarded by the super order in the desired alteration to the course of events. The Buddha's teachings did not depart from this in any radical way; but rather, the Buddha recommended behavior and actions that accorded with Buddhist teachings rather than the traditional rituals. This is on full display in the Kutadanta Sutta (Bloodless Sacrifice). The Buddha taught replacing the traditional rituals for pleasing the gods which were performed for material gain with what amounts to ideal Buddhist behavior for laity. He does a subtle switch without altering people's primary motivation for performing god-pleasing rituals - personal prosperity.

I tend to believe that we have a limited picture of the early Buddhist community and its practices simply because the people who preserved the scriptures - the renunciates - had a particular emphasis in their practices. I don't think this does means that everyone in the Buddhist community saw things the same way - The Buddha was given the title Bhagavan very early on, a term that generally referred to divine beings. I don't doubt that people went on pilgrimages and gave to the Sangha with the expectation that it would lead to their material advantage. The world is full of all kinds of people. Some people have no need or interest in enlightenment. I think the Buddha was fully aware of this and accommodated these types of people by accepting the basis of their religious motivation and incorporating it into the Buddhist worldview.

Son of Buddha wrote:
Where in the Lotus Sutra does it say that chanting its title will bring about spiritual and material well being?

Where in the Lotus Sutra does it tell people chant its title?


"O Majusri! Even the title of this Lotus Suta cannot be heard in incalculable lands. How much more is it unable to be seen, accepted, preserved and recited!

Chapter 2

Those śrāvakas or bodhisattvas,
Who have heard even a single verse
Of the Dharma that I have taught,
Will all become buddhas.

Chapter 2

If,in the presence of the Buddha any beings such as these hear a single verse or line of the Lotus Sutra, and thereupon have even one thought of rejoicing in it, I will bestow upon them my prediction that they will attain highest, complete enlightenment....If, after the parinirvāṇa of the Tathāgata, any being hears even a single verse or line of the Lotus Sutra, and thereupon has even one thought of rejoicing in it, I will bestow upon them the prediction that they will attain highest, complete enlightenment... If there is anyone who preserves, recites, expalins, or copies even a single verse of the Lotus Sutra, or who respects this sutra as if it were a buddha, or who reverently offers it various flowers, perfumes, necklaces, fragrant ointments, scented powders, burning incense, canopies, flags, banners, clothing, or music, or who simply honors it with his palms pressed together, know, O Bhaisajyaraga, that this person has already paid homage to tens of myriads of kotis of buddhas of the past! Such people have completed their great vow in the presences of all the buddhas and yet they have been born as humans out of their compassion for sentient beings.

Chapter 10

Wherever he dwells, walks, or sits,
Or recites even a single verse,
A stupa should be built,
Made beautiful with adornments,
And paid homage in various ways.
Wherever the heirs of the Buddha may reside,
There the Buddha himself will take pleasure in its use
And will always be dwelling,
Walking, and sitting within.

Chapter 17

If anyone hears this sutra
In the Dharma assembly,
And joyfully teaches others
Even a single verse...
[they get great benefit]

Chapter 18

Etc.

Since the earliest times, the sutras have been chanted in shortened mnemonics - these seem to have evolved into dharani and mantra. The entire meaning, of a teaching is contained in a dharani or mantra - if you know how to decipher. The same logic was applied to the title of sutras in China. Zhiyi's Fa Hua Hsuan-i (Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra) is a voluminous commentary on how the entire meaning of the Lotus Sutra is contained in its title, 妙法蓮華経. All of the benefit of the sutra is said to be contained in this title, the most important "single verse" of the entire sutra. That's why its chanted.
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sun Jun 15, 2014 11:06 pm

nichirenista wrote:I gave you the link to the article on a mainstream Buddhist magazine website. I gave you 2 full paragraphs from the article backing up the claim I made. And I gave you the email to the professor at one of the most reputable learning institutions in the world. It seems to me that I've done a bulk of this research for you already. I will admit that she doesn't use the word "always"; but it seems to me that what I have provided you with backs up what I claimed she had said. You just want to go deeper with specific examples -- which takes me back to the fact that I gave you her contact information. The lack of specific examples with annotation doesn't negate what she said. She's a well-respected professor of Buddhism at Princeton; I doubt she would make such statements in such a well-known Buddhist magazine and put her career on the line if she wasn't sure of what she was saying.

I tell you what: I'll email her for you and get back to you with her answer should I receive a response. :anjali:

That sounds fair enough - thanks.
Just by way of clarifying what's going on: you made a claim which I didn't completely believe and cited Stone as authority but what you quoted from her did not in fact back up your claim, so the onus is on you to do the "bulk of this research".
That's absolutely normal, e.g. if I claimed that Angelina Jolie was a Vogon and you (quite rightly :tongue: ) disbelieved me, the onus would be on me to prove my claim, not on you to disprove it.

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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby nichirenista » Mon Jun 16, 2014 12:29 am

Actually that's where we disagree. I feel that what I provided backs up what I claimed; and you say it doesn't. I used the word "always," when the actual statement contained this: "Been common throughout the Buddhist tradition." You should probably keep in mind that this is the forum for discussion of Nichiren Buddhism, and the article I quoted says that this practice goes all the way back to Nichiren himself. In other words, this practice has "always" been a part of Nichiren Buddhism.

At any rate, the point I was making was that this practice is not something invented in the US in the 20th century by SGI. It goes all the way back to Asia, and has been there for several centuries.
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby rory » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:10 am

Oh for goodness sake's people pray to Kannon (Guanyin) for all kinds of material things, for sons, riches you name it. It is the norm all over Mahayana Asia and I'm sure regular people in Theravada countries pray for material benefits as well. Additionally across most sects in Japan the goma (homa) ritual is done to bring benefits. Buddhism was originally brought to Japan to benefit the state, esoteric rituals were brought from China to ensure sons to consorts and fertile fields and rain for the nation. Material benefits are normal; Western Buddhism and Western Buddhists to my mind have a Christian-leftover ascetiscims/dislike of worldy benefits. I have no problem praying for them as well as to propagate the Dharma. In my case I prefer to study, meditate, chant mantras and have an eclectic practice.
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Dharani of Amoghapasa Avalokitesvara:

Om amogha-padma-pasa-krodhakarsaya praveshaya maha-pashupati-yama-varuna-kuvera
brahma-vesa-dhara padma-kula-samayan hum hum

heart mantra: Om amogha vijaya hum phat
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby Kim O'Hara » Mon Jun 16, 2014 3:17 am

nichirenista wrote:At any rate, the point I was making was that this practice is not something invented in the US in the 20th century by SGI. It goes all the way back to Asia, and has been there for several centuries.

Had you made that clear, I would not have challenged your statement, but "always" and "throughout the Buddhist tradition" go further back than that, whether you use the words in the Nichiren forum or paint them on the wall of the nearest police station.

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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby Kim O'Hara » Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:19 am

rory wrote:Oh for goodness sake's people pray to Kannon (Guanyin) for all kinds of material things, for sons, riches you name it. It is the norm all over Mahayana Asia and I'm sure regular people in Theravada countries pray for material benefits as well. Additionally across most sects in Japan the goma (homa) ritual is done to bring benefits. Buddhism was originally brought to Japan to benefit the state, esoteric rituals were brought from China to ensure sons to consorts and fertile fields and rain for the nation. Material benefits are normal; Western Buddhism and Western Buddhists to my mind have a Christian-leftover ascetiscims/dislike of worldy benefits. I have no problem praying for them as well as to propagate the Dharma. In my case I prefer to study, meditate, chant mantras and have an eclectic practice.
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Rory

Hi, Rory,
I know this is how most Buddhists practice (and you're quite right about Theravadins, btw) and I'm all in favour of diversity - whatever works, works. :smile:
I don't even have a "dislike of worldly benefits" - if they come my way, I will enjoy them. But I don't count worldly gain as a spiritual benefit or a goal of my spiritual practice. At most, it's an incidental benefit.

:namaste:
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Re: Lotus Authenticity and Implications...

Postby nichirenista » Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:26 am

rory wrote:Material benefits are normal; Western Buddhism and Western Buddhists to my mind have a Christian-leftover ascetiscims/dislike of worldy benefits.


I probably should not open this can of worms, but…. I recall a comment from a Jewish member in an earlier discussion who said that it is part of Christian tradition to revere poverty.

But I think we may be struggling with a different issue in the United States. The US is a very much a capitalist society. Maybe some people mistakenly believe that Nichiren Buddhists are trying to merge heartless capitalism with Buddhism.
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