The Value of Culture

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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Sönam » Fri Jun 15, 2012 8:03 am

kirtu wrote:Well this is just a fact. Americans tend to not engage problems and Western Europeans, at least superficially or intellectually, tend to be willing to engage problems.

Kirt


Wouaaaaaaah ... that's the most biased thing I've heard for long.

American don't bring no problem at all to the planet, there behavior is perfect ... Europeans are the one who cause problem. When someone cause problem, better is to eradicate it ...

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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby underthetree » Fri Jun 15, 2012 8:26 am

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

Pronunciation: /ˈkʌltʃə/
noun
[mass noun]
1 the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively...

a refined understanding or appreciation of culture...

2 the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society...

3 Biology the cultivation of bacteria, tissue cells, etc. in an artificial medium containing nutrients...

4the cultivation of plants...

Origin:
Middle English (denoting a cultivated piece of land): the noun from French culture or directly from Latin cultura 'growing, cultivation'; the verb from obsolete French culturer or medieval Latin culturare, both based on Latin colere 'tend, cultivate' (see cultivate). In late Middle English the sense was 'cultivation of the soil' and from this (early 16th century), arose 'cultivation (of the mind, faculties, or manners'); culture (sense 1 of the noun) dates from the early 19th century


I think it's intriguing that 'culture' in common usage generally refers to the arts and the intellectual output of a society, whereas this thread immediately went with the anthropological meaning. 'Cultures burn books, then they burn human beings.' To me, that describes society turning on its culture. Books are 'culture,' the burning/burners arise from politics or social unrest. Kirt asked: 'Do cultures serve any real purpose for humans?' 'Purpose' might be the wrong word. Culture is what we leave behind us. What would we know about Gandhara, the Pala Dynasty, the Khmers, Pagan in Myanmar - and now pre-1951 Tibet without their cultural artifacts? Not just sculpture and painting and the rest of it. Nagarjuna is a cultural artifact. Huineng is a cultural artifact. You could say that termas are cultural artifacts. Belief systems rest almost exclusively on their accretions of culture.

The original question conflates culture with science and economics. Capitalism, for instance, is connected to culture but it is not culture in itself. The question of whether or not we should preserve capitalism should be detached from questions as to whether we should discard Mozart or Picasso or the Ajanta Caves.

From a Buddhist point of view, the early 16th century definition - 'cultivation of the mind, faculties or manners' seems significant. Isn't 'cultivator' one name for 'Buddhist?'
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Ogyen » Fri Jun 15, 2012 5:43 pm

underthetree wrote:Belief systems rest almost exclusively on their accretions of culture.


From an anthropological standpoint, you can account for all belief systems, the customs that go from what is 'normal' to what is 'good' or 'bad' to what foods are appropriate, etc etc. Culture is and isn't a catchall - we can discuss very specific aspects of it, because without humans, it wouldn't exist. Perhaps the most dangerous part of discussing culture is like discussing any abstract concept in that we all have slightly different connotations.

My two cents were mostly based on the dictionary definition, that which can encompass the entire set of accretions of a societal group from an ethnographic standpoint. So we can talk about specific cultures, individual and group cultures, plant cultures and bacteria cultures... :tongue:

There are many modern practices across all sorts of cultures performed in the name of "god" or the "good of the people" that are not crimes. The things Kirt is describing are crimes, not cultural norms. A people's art and the output of its culture cannot be the only part we look at, it's just the dead-record fossil of what was its living creature. Culture as a whole is a living breathing organic matrix that moves as its people do and it does change with time as people evolve or new elements are introduced into the culture. Agriculture changed the cultures of hunter-gathering completely.

The following example was just something I watched last night and was like... high culture huh? A cultural "custom" that remains (in many people's eyes - brutal) believed to be 'the way' to have women enter womanhood: female circumcision. Male circumcision is also an example, far less brutal with far less devastating consequences to the child/adult male body. Nonetheless, it is a custom that denotes an early rite of passage that yes, emerges out of compounded cultural accretions with a (senseless) basis steeped in blind belief that is in turn rooted in a system of beliefs that places values on the acceptability of the human body part being excised because of xyz reasons (superstitions around the cleanliness of the body). Like all customs tied into religious systems, they are accumulated and handed down within a an entire ethnic group that at some point in some remote past agreed that this was the way the body should look. JUST one example of thousands, but a stark one that shows a cultural custom from said accretions.

6000 girls are circumcised (mutilated) every day, and in horrific conditions with no anesthetics, just a rusty blade used to remove their entire sex (clitoris, inner and outer labia), then sown up so nothing remains but scarification of what was once their genitalia with a matchstick sized hole for her menstrual cycle to trickle through (also causing great pain throughout her life and reproductive illness/complications including death). Add to it the absence of medical care after the child's been cut up, you just have a little girl of about 3-6 years old screaming for days in agony, some bleeding to death, others getting sick and dying from infection, complications... Yet, the mothers believe (out of their cultural accretions) that this is love for their little girls, because this is what it means to be a woman, without it, she cannot marry, have the honor of being a second class citizen in her society, she will be expelled from her home and people outcast like a whore - a non-entity. In the societies where the practice remains, THIS is a form of human high culture elevating women to their correct status. It ensures virginity, and the woman as undamaged property for marriage. It is also accepted in the culture that the woman is physically and mentally ill for the rest of her life after the removal pf her sex.

Does this mean that its value should be preserved? Let's hope not. Would you want to be born in that as a little girl? Yet, while the practice has been abolished in many countries, it is still not a crime - it is still actively sought by the women raised to believe what is between their legs is unclean to do the same to their young daughters. Yet the daughters, not all of them thought this was so great... There is a counter-cultural movement that is looking to eliminate the practice, educate the women that the Koran does NOT teach this practice, there is no reason for it, it is simply barbaric... but with culture, we come down to a set of 'points of view.' And that is the clash between 'right and wrong'... who's setting the aesthetic for the accretions? Can they simply be removed? Can they be changed just like that? History shows, no.

Thought I'd share.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby underthetree » Fri Jun 15, 2012 6:51 pm

As the father of two girls and as a lifelong Shakta, I can only regard female circumcision as the most abhorrent crime.

But if you don't mind me arguing for the sake of arguing, I would say that female circumcision falls under the second dictionary definition: 'the ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular people or society.' So not 'high culture,' which would be the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. If, though, a society which practiced female circumcision produced exquisitely beautiful circumcision tools, those might indeed make it into the high culture definition. Which, I totally agree, is a problem. It's always a problem. Museums are full of incredibly lovely swords and armour. Or Aztec carvings of human sacrifice. Or paintings by artists of genius depicting mass murderers, egomaniacs and psychopaths. On the other hand, they have preserved things of incredible spiritual power as well.

Come to think of it, that's a fairly good illustration of samsara.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby kirtu » Fri Jun 15, 2012 6:52 pm

Sönam wrote:
kirtu wrote:Well this is just a fact. Americans tend to not engage problems and Western Europeans, at least superficially or intellectually, tend to be willing to engage problems.

Kirt


Wouaaaaaaah ... that's the most biased thing I've heard for long.

American don't bring no problem at all to the planet, there behavior is perfect ... Europeans are the one who cause problem. When someone cause problem, better is to eradicate it ...


I think you have misunderstood me:
Eh bien c'est juste un fait. Les Américains ont tendance à ne pas engager les problèmes et les Européens de l'Ouest, au moins superficiellement ou intellectuellement, ont tendance à être prêts à s'engager problèmes.


Many American's tend to run away from problems or not acknowledge their existence or to think of them in narrow terms dictated by cultural norms. Western Europeans can do the same thing but tend to be more open and at least do acknowledge problems after a beer or two. Lots of exceptions though. People see things through lenses that can completely alter reality. These lenses are what are given to us by society (by our cultures) and many people do not think through their resultant perceptions.

Kirt
Last edited by kirtu on Fri Jun 15, 2012 7:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby kirtu » Fri Jun 15, 2012 7:24 pm

underthetree wrote: the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society...


as well as their symbols and uses. So more a semiotically oriented questions.

Nagarjuna is a cultural artifact. Huineng is a cultural artifact. You could say that termas are cultural artifacts. Belief systems rest almost exclusively on their accretions of culture.


You can say that Nagarjuna, Huineng, termas, rupas, the story of the Buddha, etc. are cultural artificats. Oriented historically or in the context of an identified society one has to agree with that. But correctly understood they are enlightenment artifacts.

Most things that societies produces are not enlightenment artifacts and cannot support beings without harming some of them at some level.

Most art does not harm people of course and some literature actually does produce humanistic enlightenment. But most cultural forms harm someone (like forms of power assertions that eventually result in many societies as murder).

Kirt
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Virgo » Fri Jun 15, 2012 7:27 pm

Ogyen wrote:6000 girls are circumcised (mutilated) every day, and in horrific conditions with no anesthetics, just a rusty blade used to remove their entire sex (clitoris, inner and outer labia), then sown up so nothing remains but scarification of what was once their genitalia with a matchstick sized hole for her menstrual cycle to trickle through (also causing great pain throughout her life and reproductive illness/complications including death). Add to it the absence of medical care after the child's been cut up, you just have a little girl of about 3-6 years old screaming for days in agony, some bleeding to death, others getting sick and dying from infection, complications...

Dear Ogyen, that is a horrible cultural custom, but it doesn't mean all culture should be rejected, erased, or purposefully forgotten. In every culture there will be customs which are better not preserved.

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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Virgo » Fri Jun 15, 2012 7:28 pm

kirtu wrote:Many American's tend to run away from problems or not acknowledge their existence or to think of them in narrow terms dictated by cultural norms.

Kirt what are you talking about? Can you provide examples please?

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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Ogyen » Fri Jun 15, 2012 8:07 pm

Virgo wrote:
kirtu wrote:Many American's tend to run away from problems or not acknowledge their existence or to think of them in narrow terms dictated by cultural norms.

Kirt what are you talking about? Can you provide examples please?

Kevin


I got one for you: corporate fast food chains. Americans do not like to acknowledge their existence as truly and completely destructive culinary institutions to human health. Sure there's a LITTLE talk... but give me those 3 CHEESEBURGERS at 800+ calories a pop, a vat of soda and bucket of fries, which I'll eat in one sitting for only 6 bucks. I don't care if the hamburger patty is 70% pink slime with bonemeal by product and sand for cheap fillers, the bun contains chemicals not edible (many endings in -zoate) plus up to 20% bone meal by-product and sand filler, or that the lettuce, tomatoes and onion are gmo's with known destructive effects to the reproductive system of all mammals. Give me the taste of the cheeseburger and something I can feed my broke family. Just an example in concrete demonstration.

Problem not being routinely addressed engaged: the quality of the ingredients, the portions, the cost-effective appeal for poor people, the effect of the cheap (toxic) product on the human body. Industrialization at its finest corporate greed.

How it's viewed in narrow cultural terms - poor people's health just don't matter. And there's more of them every day in the US with a growing wealth inequality. "In America we cull the weak and disabled."-Rick Santorum - a good staunch republican.

There are MANY MANY more examples, that's just one.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Ogyen » Fri Jun 15, 2012 8:15 pm

kirtu wrote:
underthetree wrote: the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society...


as well as their symbols and uses. So more a semiotically oriented questions.

Nagarjuna is a cultural artifact. Huineng is a cultural artifact. You could say that termas are cultural artifacts. Belief systems rest almost exclusively on their accretions of culture.


You can say that Nagarjuna, Huineng, termas, rupas, the story of the Buddha, etc. are cultural artificats. Oriented historically or in the context of an identified society one has to agree with that. But correctly understood they are enlightenment artifacts.

Most things that societies produces are not enlightenment artifacts and cannot support beings without harming some of them at some level.

Most art does not harm people of course and some literature actually does produce humanistic enlightenment. But most cultural forms harm someone (like forms of power assertions that eventually result in many societies as murder).

Kirt


agreed.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Virgo » Fri Jun 15, 2012 8:53 pm

Ogyen wrote:
Virgo wrote:
kirtu wrote:Many American's tend to run away from problems or not acknowledge their existence or to think of them in narrow terms dictated by cultural norms.

Kirt what are you talking about? Can you provide examples please?

Kevin


Problem not being routinely addressed engaged: the quality of the ingredients, the portions, the cost-effective appeal for poor people, the effect of the cheap (toxic) product on the human body. Industrialization at its finest corporate greed.

Hi Ogyen. :)

These are mostly not about Americans ignoring issues. It mostly has to do with Left v Right opinions.

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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Ogyen » Fri Jun 15, 2012 9:10 pm

Virgo wrote:
Ogyen wrote:
kirtu wrote:Many American's tend to run away from problems or not acknowledge their existence or to think of them in narrow terms dictated by cultural norms.

Problem not being routinely addressed engaged: the quality of the ingredients, the portions, the cost-effective appeal for poor people, the effect of the cheap (toxic) product on the human body. Industrialization at its finest corporate greed.

Hi Ogyen. :)

These are mostly not about Americans ignoring issues. It mostly has to do with Left v Right opinions.

Kevin


Last I checked, left and right are made of Americans. It's a collective American issue. It affects Americans.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby underthetree » Fri Jun 15, 2012 9:43 pm

Kirt,

I understand your point and I agree with you almost entirely. The only point I'd make is that I think that mostly - not universally - the peak intellectual/artistic expressions of many societies are enlightenment artifacts to a greater or lesser degree. They have some transcendent value, they provide insight, they are transformative. Not necessarily in a Buddhist context but you can't have everything.

You'd get no argument from me that few if any human societies have ever existed that brought no harm to anybody. But I'm defining culture as art, music, literature etc and I think you're defining it very broadly as human social behaviour. I may be wrong, but I think you're talking about systems and constructs that I would say are trans-cultural (Marxism, Capitalism, sexism, racism, nationalism and the rest). I don't, incidentally, believe that either can be modified in the short term, in the real world, without causing incredible harm (I happen to be reading a biography of Stalin, which probably isn't making me very optimistic).
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Ogyen » Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:00 am

Virgo wrote:
Ogyen wrote:Last I checked, left and right are made of Americans. It's a collective American issue. It affects Americans.

Hi Ogyen,

For example, one of the issues you feel is not being addressed is the size of portions given at fast food restaurants, correct?

So, for you there is an issue, namely that portions are too big and that people overeat and get fat because of that. You have a point for sure.

Now for other people there is a very different issue-- the fact that someone else is trying to tell them how much they are allowed to eat when they spend their own hard earned money to purchase the food. To them, having a total stranger dictate how much they may eat at a sitting is a very big issue.

Both sides are fighting to get what they want. So your premise that Americans ignore this particular issue and do nothing about it is incorrect. People try to legislate so that government can control portions, other people fight against it. Both sides are addressing their respective issues (from their perspectives on the issue).

That is why I said your example does not show that Americans tend to ignore or not address issues and why I said that it has less to do with Americans not addressing issues and more with political opinions/attitudes.

Kevin


I see your point Kevin, but it ignores the essence of what I'm describing. Tautologically, you're right. What I'm pointing at is that you have to go further back on the chain of that causality where people duck their heads beneath the real issue. The real issue that the cultural value of "excess-is-desirable" no matter what overlayed with a puritanical-based emotional conditioning via education, media, and consumerism of 'what feels good is bad for you.' It's what corporate marketing plays on to sell, and has for many decades now. The excess consumption resulting from the emotional need created in large groups is what drives the market's need for excess production at the cost of many many important factors, including health. Greed is rewarded and favored over generosity. Culturally. At the large and small scale.

People are conditioned (emotionally) to believe they need to strive for that very excess to function and be happy and for the least amount of expenditure of resources. What's the expression, getting your bang for your buck? Those 3000 calorie meals for a few dollars. The concept is NOT a bad thing in itself, that we want to exercise moderate expenditure of our resources in a life where let's face it, things cost... but, when you dig into the concept and see how it IS being factually manipulated at the base culture we see its effects in how many only suffer more chasing the excess. Like most cultural conditioning, it's a rigged set-up to start with, just like those women feel they need female circumcision to be acceptable as women, and suffer.

To clarify - The problem is far more encompassing than someone dictating how much you eat in one sitting or how much you spend (a strange comment as it IS being dictated already - you don't decide how much a burger costs, the corporation does... you mean people just don't LIKE to become aware of how they're being controlled already??). The aggravation that anyone "should tell them how much for money or quantity" is just the cosmetic symptom of the real problem at which point people understandably balk. No one in the known world I've lived in likes to become aware of what the controlling factors are in their situations in such a way that can actively demonstrate their own lack of choice.

Portions, quality, where the politics of spending are (right or left) my examples of how that main (and bigger) problem of denial culturally manifests in the general American zeitgeist that is at the steering wheel. And the resolution of those issues was neither my concern nor focus, and I agree that yes they will be largely in the realm of opinions and attitudes well after the heart of the matter (greed is good) was overlooked. The point of ignoring the obvious problem is systemic. People WANT to ignore the glaring problem that a real double bind of denial exists in that you should want to have all the cake in front of you AND eat it too, it's something you deserve to feel as an entitled American. It makes people quietly crazy, sick, or detached, addicted, etc... I mean 1 in 4 people is on some big pharma Rx, also now culturally perfectly acceptable in the scheme of the excess-is-good underlying strata.

Americans have built pseudo 1984 Orwellian systems of control through the mass industrialization that feeds this 'excess is good' philosophy, Europe is close behind too. Yet Americans do ignore it by wanting to believe they're ancient democratic Greece where everyone has a say and a voice in the polis. The double bind where perception and reality clash is where denial is visible as something they do want to actively ignore, the proof is in the fact that they DO ignore it. Understandably. It hurts the head (and critical thinking capabilities in the average person around these things is also degenerating hand in hand with the weakening of America's educational institutions). Does that make my position more clear?
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Ogyen » Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:15 am

underthetree wrote:As the father of two girls and as a lifelong Shakta, I can only regard female circumcision as the most abhorrent crime.

But if you don't mind me arguing for the sake of arguing, I would say that female circumcision falls under the second dictionary definition: 'the ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular people or society.' So not 'high culture,' which would be the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. If, though, a society which practiced female circumcision produced exquisitely beautiful circumcision tools, those might indeed make it into the high culture definition. Which, I totally agree, is a problem. It's always a problem. Museums are full of incredibly lovely swords and armour. Or Aztec carvings of human sacrifice. Or paintings by artists of genius depicting mass murderers, egomaniacs and psychopaths. On the other hand, they have preserved things of incredible spiritual power as well.

Come to think of it, that's a fairly good illustration of samsara.


As a mother from three cultures outside the practice, female circumcision is abhorrent and a subjugation of woman in a social, physical, and mental state to not be able to feel sexual pleasure.

Pyramid constructions, or any HIGH culture artifacts (and there are many you even mentioned) DID cost human lives, those large ones like the pyramids were the deaths of the slaves usually at the end of a master's whip. The remnants are beautiful sure, but they still cost a lot of human blood... Diamonds are beautiful, and so is gold, and go into high culture. Do we preserve (can we even? Is there a choice to?) those bloody practices in the cultures that created these lasting beauties? I don't think we necessarily even can, all things get lost eventually, impermanence consumes it all... it's called entropy. Eventually it all goes to dust.

I think I ultimately agree with you, I mean beauty emerges from human suffering, like the deathless arises in the human from samsara. Boy am I chatty on this topic!!! :twothumbsup:
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jun 16, 2012 6:09 am

When we talk about preserving culture, we are talking about music, art, crafts, literature, sciences, medicine, healing traditions, etc., the things that make human life wonderful and diverse.

We are not talking about preserving deviant or exploitative social and economic phenomena.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jun 16, 2012 6:45 am

For example, one of the issues you feel is not being addressed is the size of portions given at fast food restaurants, correct?

So, for you there is an issue, namely that portions are too big and that people overeat and get fat because of that. You have a point for sure.


There was probably a calculated business model with fast food that looked at how initially increasing portion sizes would raise costs, but ultimately get more people in the door and more regularly.

Interestingly, in Asia a lot of fast food restaurants are blooming like flowers in spring. They are quite successful as there is minimal cultural opposition to their existence. In China McDonalds is prestigious and popular. It has a positive association with the strength of western cultures. The images of Hollywood, for example, are conflated with "western food" (which they think of as Pizza Hut and McDonalds). It isn't considered unhealthy by the general population.

In Japan and here in Taiwan a lot of youth eat it nearly everyday. However, obesity isn't an issue yet because the portion sizes are still kept in check (I imagine that might also be on the minds of big business -- don't let people associate fast food with obesity, or they'll flop real quick). In North America people are aware fast food makes them obese, but keep eating it. If there were such associations here in Asia, people wouldn't eat it.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby kirtu » Sun Jun 17, 2012 1:56 am

Malcolm wrote:When we talk about preserving culture, we are talking about music, art, crafts, literature, sciences, medicine, healing traditions, etc., the things that make human life wonderful and diverse.


No - we are talking about " the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society..." "as well as their symbols and uses".

We are not talking about preserving deviant or exploitative social and economic phenomena.


That's the problem. The cultures of all societies are harmful. There is quite a bit of noise about "moral hazard" in the American media. The problem is that American culture itself is the moral hazard, as was German culture from 1900-1945, Cambodian culture at least from 1975-1982, Serbian and Croatian culture from 1989-1995, etc. All of these cultures supported organized murder. Why? What are the cultural elements that support such evil activity and what can we do to eliminate it? Western culture should have been immune to organized (or even disorganized) communal murder and other negative activity, but it wasn't. Christianity should have kept people from mass immoral behaviour. However Christianity was subverted and used as a tool to support the exploitation of power. Similarly Buddhism has been used more recently to support genocide in Sri Lanka, something that should have been impossible.

So are humans just technologically advanced murderous apes whose primary goals are the use and exploitation of power? If so, we are in desperate shape.

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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby kirtu » Sun Jun 17, 2012 2:44 am

Malcolm wrote:When we talk about preserving culture, we are talking about music, art, crafts, literature, sciences, medicine, healing traditions, etc., the things that make human life wonderful and diverse.

We are not talking about preserving deviant or exploitative social and economic phenomena.


How do we tell?

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Well , I can only add three attachments so I'll put them on an external page.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

“All beings are Buddhas, but obscured by incidental stains. When those have been removed, there is Buddhahood.”
Hevajra Tantra
kirtu
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jun 17, 2012 2:56 am

kirtu wrote:The cultures of all societies are harmful. ]
Kirt



I don't share your cynicism. But you're more interested in being "right" than sharing perspectives.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

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