Wagner and Buddhism

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Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Feb 11, 2014 5:49 am

The influence of Buddhism on Wagner can never be understated, it inspired the undercurrents of a lot of his works. He even considered emigrating to Ceylon shortly before his death. Here's an interesting article which I just read on Parsifal as Bodhisattva:
http://www.monsalvat.no/india.htm

If we do consider some of Wagner's works essentially Buddhist, the since Wagner, there's not much in terms of western opera/music-drama inspired by Buddhism, some attempts at liturgy or folk type music though, or imitations of eastern styles. A big part of making a religion part of a culture is music, and eventually we will have to take on this task if we wish to see the advent of a more rooted and successful western Buddhism.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Simon E. » Tue Feb 11, 2014 10:18 am

If.


I wonder what Herr Wagner would have made of the large number of Jubu's ?
Frankly with friends like Wagner, Dharma would never lack for enemies.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Feb 11, 2014 2:03 pm

:offtopic:
Bryan Magee wrote:I sometimes think there are two Wagners in our culture, almost unrecognizably different from one another: the Wagner possessed by those who know his work, and the Wagner imagined by those who know him only by name and reputation.

Well, there's plenty of controversy over just how far Wagner's anti-Semitism extended beyond the pamphlet Das Judenthum in der Musik, as well as whether it is indeed racist, or sympathetic, since fundamentally it is only expressing a desire for integration. It's unlikely that he was anything accused of him, since he maintained such a high number of Jewish friends that he would have made a Nazi 50 years later be ashamed to have known him.

On the topic of Jubus, ironically enough, the "Buddhist-esque" Parsifal was conducted on it's opening night by Hermann Levi, a long time Jewish friend of Wagner. Jubus in general, I would also assume, are the type of people who are pretty much as far from what Wagner was describing in his essay as possible. Regardless, many of the most prolific Wagner composers, such as James Levine, today, are Jewish, and plenty of people are able to appreciate Wagner by actually listening to his music and reading what he wrote, understanding it in context, and not being turned off initially by his reputation - I for instance, while not Jewish, have some distant Jewish heritage, and initially was turned off by his reputation until I actually set aside my doubts and read and listened about him.

So why is Wagner viewed in the way you describe? 1. Because he's German, and members of the Cult of Churchill (most Anglophones) view all Germans as somewhat suspicious, 2. Because he (like Beethoven and Mozart) was used to assert German identity by the Nazi regime, 3. Because after WWII in 1947-50 Theodore Adorno wrote a number of popular essays on Wagner and Nietzsche to argue that they express fascist traits and the "authoritarian personality" that led to Nazis, a psuedo-psychological theory that Zimbardo has thoroughly refuted:


As to the question of whether Wagner would have been controversial today for his views, as he wasn't really in his own day, just replace sentiments expressed in regards to Judaism in the pamphlet with sentiments in regards to Americanism. Stephen Fry and Philip Hensher make this analogy in the following video, at about 1:40:00:

Hensher: There's so much to talk about with Wagner, the fact that we argue about him is just a sign of his intrinsic vastness. For instance, Wagner wasn't the only anti-Semite of the 19th Century, Schumann wrote appallingly of them through his life, he wrote, "Jews are always like that, don't pay any attention." Chopan was absolutely beastly about his Jewish publishers. We don't really care about their anti-Semitism.

Lebrecht: None of them said that the Jews should be excluded from the arts.

Fry:If I wrote an essay today, talking about the pernicious influence of American culture on the world, on the Coca-colaization of everything, and Starbucks, that makes everything uniform and homogeneous, that crushes down individual identities of nations, people would say "Oh he's very anti-American, Stephen." That wouldn't mean anything but if 50 years after I died, literally 50 years after I died, there came a leader of a people who rounded up there 10 years later all Americans that he could and gassed them, then people would look back on my essay on Anti-Americanism and say "That Stephen Fry, he was one of those Anti-Americans." It has a very different meaning, Anti-Semitism, cultural Anti-Semitism, of the 19th century, if you look through the black tunnel of the post-Shoah world.

That'll be my comment on the issue, which is really out dated and coming to be understood as it is: nonsense. It's not the topic of discussion, and I'd like to know your actual thoughts on it if you have read the article.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Tue Feb 11, 2014 4:18 pm

Zhen Li, back to the topic of Wagner's anti-semitism as you have documented it for us: in another thread, you objected to the anti-semitic comments you attributed to one Karl Marx in his youth (Marx, as everyone knows, was himself Jewish). It seems to me that you defend Wagner from more serious charges than those you condemn Marx for. Would you mind clarifying your attitude toward anti-semitism vis a vis Wagner and Marx?

http://www.celan-projekt.de/todesfuge-englisch.html

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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Feb 11, 2014 4:34 pm

Wagner was also Jewish.

Marx's antisemitism runs through many, not just one (if at all for Wagner ) of his writings and is emotional and visceral.

The difference is that I do not believe the claim holds weight with Wagner, and does with Marx. The point I made for Marx was that his opposition to capitalism was probably based on his antisemitism.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Feb 11, 2014 5:39 pm

Edit since I didn't have time to finish earlier but am past an hour:

The difference is that I do not believe the claim holds weight with Wagner, and does with Marx. The point I made for Marx was that his opposition to capitalism was probably based on his antisemitism. Even if Wagner was antisemitic, the point is different.

You see in that thread it was related to what was actually being discussed, whereas here it is irrelevant. It's like starting a conversation with a stranger about the Buddha, and immediately being confronted with the retort that the Buddha said all sorts of mysogynist things and didn't allow women into the sangha for most of his life—without once listening to what he said on everything else, or considering the context of the remarks made about women. It's really not very constructive.

Or someone brings up the topic of Gandhi to make an illustration about the use of nonviolence, and someone immediately retorts by bringing up that Gandhi was vocally racist against blacks and advocated treating them as animals, or that he slept with underaged girls.

Do you see why it's irrelevant now?

If my sarcasm was in anyway inappropriate, I apologise.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Feb 11, 2014 6:48 pm

Marx was Jewish too.

In 1881Wagner wrote to his patron, Ludwig II of Bavaria: “I hold the Jewish race to be the born enemy of pure humanity and everything noble in it.”

Hmmmmm... sounds pretty anti-Semitic to me.

As to the question of whether Wagner would have been controversial today for his views, as he wasn't really in his own day...
And lynching "coloured folk" wasn't controversial in America in the late 1880's-early 1900's, but that doesn't make it any less despicable then, as now.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Feb 11, 2014 8:39 pm

Right, well that is pretty nasty, and I didn't read that before.

But it's still a different thing to lynch and kill, than it is to hold ignorant and hateful views. Like Stephen Fry said, if someone today were to hold that Americans were the sole enemy org e human race and everything noble in them, that certainly doesn't strike anyone today as out of the ordinary, and you may even find similar sentiments on this forum.

So I admit that Wagner was a reprehensible personality and a person of quite evil sentiments.

But are you never moved emotionally listening to his music? Don't you think you can enjoy beautiful music? Does Caravaggio''s crime reduce his value as an artist? Does Gandhi's anti-Africanism reduce his value as a symbol of nonviolence? And what do you think of the article and my OP.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Feb 11, 2014 8:53 pm

In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Feb 11, 2014 8:57 pm

Oh man! That's my favourite episode! You read my mind Rory! :rolling:
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Malcolm » Tue Feb 11, 2014 9:02 pm

Zhen Li wrote:But are you never moved emotionally listening to his music?
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Wagner is godawful crap.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Feb 11, 2014 9:06 pm

I don't know much about classical music.
BUT my sister is a huge "Curb Your Enthusiasm Fan", so I watched this episode when I visited her in Nova Scotia last summer and as soon as I saw the word Wagner, Larry David popped up in my memory.

Never claimed to be cultured :tongue:
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
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brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism'

Postby Simon E. » Tue Feb 11, 2014 9:21 pm

' Wagner has glorious moments and awful quarters of an hour ' Rossini.

' They tell me that Wagner's music is better than it sounds ' Mark Twain.

' It is necessary to explain the involuntary repugnance we possess at the nature and personality of the Jew. ' Richard Wagner.." Judaism And Music ".


Wagner the Buddhist ? I think not.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Feb 11, 2014 9:30 pm

Zhen Li wrote:But it's still a different thing to lynch and kill, than it is to hold ignorant and hateful views.
The lynching and killing is sparked by ignorant and hateful views. If one then uses their talents to promote ignorance and hatred and that leads to lynching and killing then (I believe) one has a share of the responsibility for the action.
But are you never moved emotionally listening to his music?
Sure. I loved "Flight of the Valkyries" when I first heard it during the helicopter attack scene in Apocalypse Now. Overall though, I can't say I'm a big fan of Wagners style. I mean, I believe that the rest of Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) is pretty bloody awful actually.
Does Caravaggio''s crime reduce his value as an artist?
I love Caravaggios work, but he was a drunken brawler. Does his work express and celebrate being a drunken brawler?
Does Gandhi's anti-Africanism reduce his value as a symbol of nonviolence?
Yes, I feel that, unfortunately, it does.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Feb 11, 2014 11:16 pm

Maybe you're right Sherab about Gandhi, but anyway, I tend to find that people who don't like Wagner the most are the ones who haven't listened to him much. There are lots of very good moments in Der Ring, actually flight of the Valkyries is kind of middle of the range for me. The Rhinegold motif, the entrance to Valhalla, the funeral march of Siegfried, the finale, redemption through love, etc.

I also find the Buddhist basis for Parsifal and the theme of redemption from compassion, and resistance to temptation and anger very interesting too. Wagner may have been a poor example as a human of what he expressed in his music, but most great composers are a bit crazy.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Aug 11, 2014 11:09 pm

Just discovered this today.

An opera (in English/German and Pali) about Wagner's unfinished Buddhist opera:

Of course, Parsifal is a Buddhist opera, but it is not explicitly so.

Wagner Dream
Die Sieger (The Arhats)
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Malcolm » Tue Aug 12, 2014 12:01 am

Wagner.... :zzz:
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http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Dan74 » Tue Aug 12, 2014 1:12 am

Zhen Li wrote:Wagner was also Jewish.



Not really it appears:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Geyer#Life_and_career

But regardless, I think it is off-topic, as the OP suggested to drag this thread into the discussion of Wagner's antisemitic views when it is about the relationship of his work to Buddhism.

I think we should be mature enough to distinguish someone's repugnant views and the rest of their work, inasmuch as it presents something of value.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby kirtu » Tue Aug 12, 2014 3:39 am

Zhen Li wrote:The influence of Buddhism on Wagner can never be understated, it inspired the undercurrents of a lot of his works.


Die Dame wie mich duenkt gelobt su viel. (Methinks the lady doth protest too much).

Can't be understated?? What a thesis! Strangely I didn't see any Buddhist references at Haus Wahnfried and this is the first I've ever heard of such mussing .... but I'll go ahead and check out the reference ....

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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Mkoll » Tue Aug 12, 2014 4:19 am

Wikipedia wrote:Wagner's final opera, Parsifal (1882), which was his only work written especially for his Bayreuth Festspielhaus and which is described in the score as a "Bühnenweihfestspiel" ("festival play for the consecration of the stage"), has a storyline suggested by elements of the legend of the Holy Grail. It also carries elements of Buddhist renunciation suggested by Wagner's readings of Schopenhauer.[173]

Sounds more like "Wagner and Schopenhauer" rather than "Wagner and Buddhism".
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