Jul 8, 2006

If this is true, it's really creepy

Is Barbara Bush the love-child of Aleister Crowely? Unlikely as it seems, Cannonfire makes a good case, and the resemblance in the photos is uncanny.

Power of Nightmares

My latest Toronto Star column is out; Public Discourse is Dominated by Fear, in which I argue that the public is being manipulated by fear. I've already received critical email saying that I'm being "unrealistic" and

With all due respect to those who believe in the peaceful teachings of Buddha, Christ, et al., such teachings have done little to stem the violence over the centuries - Hitler, Pol Pot, Kim Ill Sung, Osama bin Laden, and many others were stopped by firm and powerful military action.
One reply to this would be historical; the only 20th century war in which the western democracies were involved that can even remotely be seen as a war to stop an evil tyranny is WW2 and even that case is problematic. After all, the war was started by Britain and France in 1939 to save Poland, but the end result was that Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe passed from Nazi to Soviet tyranny. And, as I've argued before, the time to stop Hitler peacefully was 1919. Given the excessively punitive Treaty of Versailles, Germany was bound to come under some kind of extremist government sooner or later. You cannot destroy the economy and infrastructure of an advanced industrial society and not expect political dysfunction.

Which brings us to Iraq. The lead up to that war was a classic case of fear propaganda. Remember the mobile anthrax vans, the secret nukes ready-to-launch in 45 minutes and all the rest of the male bovine excretement?

Of course there's nothing new in this, except maybe Colin Powell's Power-Point show at the UN. Hitler used similar methods. Getting back to 1939, the German press was full of scare stories about the "Polish threat" and even blood-curdling accounts of Polish terrorism against peaceable German civilians in East Prussia. Most Germans were probably taken in. After all, in 1939 the Volkische Beobachter was the "mainstream media."

If you want a good overview of the use of the cynical use of terror by politicians, you couldn't do better than checking out the three-part BBC documentary; Power of Nightmares. This is an excellent historical overview of the parallel rise of Islamic Fundamentalism and Neo-Conservatism, strange shadows of each other. The neo-cons, who are powerful in the Bush and Blair regimes, are followers of an eccentric academic philosopher, Leo Strauss, who taught at the U. of Chicago back in the 40's and 50's. As portrayed in the documentary, he basically taught (like Plato) that elites have a duty to lie to the masses for their own good, otherwise they will just get lost in idleness and won't be motivated for civilization advancing projects. There was a small cabal of these neo-cons powerful in the Reagan whitehouse who pushed the myth of a devastatingly powerful Soviet war-machine, at a time when the real Soviet Union was barely held together with baling wire.

The same group is even more powerful in the Bush administration, and without even a putative Soviet boogeyman to fuel the industrial-military complex they had to come up with something. That's where the world-wide Islamic terror conspiracy comes in. Except, according to the documentary, it doesn't.

Al Quaeda is a myth, according to the video. There is no world-wide co-ordinated conspiracy, just disconnected groups of disaffected individuals. The video doesn't get into the back-story of 9/11 much, but there is more and more reason to suspect that what you read in the Times ain't necessarily so either. And let's not forget this image, could be straight out of a James Bond movie, but instead by very soberly promoted by Donald Rumsfeld on national TV. (In the video you can see him saying, "and there isn't just one of these, there's dozens of these.")

So we're all being scared into giving up our civil liberties and send our soldiers off to fight wars of occupation here there and elsewhere. But then, Oceania was always at war with Eastasia, wasn't it?

Jul 5, 2006

Arrow River Announcements

There will be a day of Mindfulness held at the Arrow River Hermitage on July 22, from 7 AM to 9 PM. All are welcome to attend.

Also, the Arrow River Newsletter is out. You can get either a hard copy or an e-copy by sending an email to the editor at riverdhamma@sympatico.ca

Conference News; Women's Ordination

I've been back from my travels in the United States for a couple of days now. Weather is beautiful, the hermitage hasn't burned down in the meanwhile and there's a big pile of firewood delivered and waiting for the saw. Took my first dip in the Arrow River too, it's a short season for river bathing here, unless you're a total masochist, so I like to take the chance while it's on.

One of the stops on my journey was the Bhavana Society in West Virginia, for the monastic conference. This is an annual event for Buddhist monks and nuns of various traditions to get together and compare notes. It's heartening to see that the traditional monastic form of Buddhism is so well established in North America.

One development over the last decade or so has been the growth of women's ordination. There were three theravada bhikkhunis at the conference; the women's order is now pretty much established in Sri Lanka and making inroads into Thailand.

There was a presentation by Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron, an American woman ordained in the Tibetan tradition regarding the efforts to get the female order going in that school. I hadn't realized it was such a complex matter.

A little history; when Buddhism split into eighteen schools in the period after the Second Council, that also meant eighteen ordination lineages. At least three are still extant; the Theravada lineage of course remains unbroken, at least on the male side, as this is the only one of the original eighteen schools still in existence. The recent restart of the Theravada bhikkhuni order was seeded with Dharmaguptika nuns from Taiwan.

The Dharmaguptika lineage seeded the Mahayana orders of East Asia before it's founding school died out in India. Chinese Bhikkhus (monks) and Bhikkshunis (nuns) are ordained in this lineage; which interestingly enough, was originally transmitted out of Sri Lanka at a time when Dharmaguptika was present there alongside Theravada. This lineage is the only one that maintained an unbroken female ordination transmission.

The Tibetan monks are ordained in the Mulasarvastavadin lineage, at one time a very strong school in Northern India. Like the Theravadins, the female line was broken at some point. The recent small numbers of women ordaining in Tibetan schools have all been ordained in the Dharmaguptika lineage, like their Theravada sisters.

Now, it seems, the Tibetans are looking into the minutiae of Vinaya to see if there are ways and means to restart the Mulasarvastavadin female ordination, so that the bhikshunis will share the same samvasa (community for ritual purposes) with the bhikshus. The current controversy rests on the question of whether it would be legal under Vinaya for monks alone to ordain nuns.

This is all a bit more detail than most readers would be interested in, but is still a pretty rough simplification. So, whenever anyone asks why there aren't more female monastics in Buddhism, the answer is; we're working on it.