Saturday, June 27, 2009

Compassion's Oeuvre

Cultural Revolution: sacking temples and monasteries, Tibet.

I would be very surprised if, within the next decade, China did not become the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth. I am not entirely convinced they have not already reached that status. Maybe media managers are conspiring to deny us the news, so we will keep on paying taxes, and shopping at Great Wall Mart.

Cultural Revolution: destruction of images, Tibet.

That China's Western expansion was drenched in blood should not surprise us. In America, our own Western expansion was likewise drenched in blood. What are they, if not the new Americans: the keen students of our example?

Yet, we say they are demons, and we are compassionate.

I wonder what that means... when we say "compassionate."


Cultural Revolution: burning scriptures and sacred art, Tibet.

If the outrage in Tibet had never happened, would you be able to read the English translation of a Tibetan book? Could you obtain a tangkha to hang on your wall? Would you have private audiences with gifted lamas? Would there be temples and stupas all over the world? How many non-Tibetans would have finished a three year retreat?

Cultural Revolution: destroyed images, Tibet.

Were these outrageous acts indeed an outrage, or were they a wrathful expression of compassion? An expression that we are not prepared to accept, because we are revanchiste, or because it argues with our self-cherishing notions of culturally-specific, individualized piety. In the Mani Kabum, there is a line, "Destruction by demons will be said to be reaching wisdom." I am not immediately or transiently suggesting that destruction by demons is reaching wisdom; rather, I am suggesting that the entire corpus of compassion's works exhibits many different faces.

I am saying that it doesn't do any good to sit around hating "demons" and praising "saviors."

The West heartily enjoyed its own Inquisitions.

Maybe the wrathful forms of compassion don't see it our way. In Tibet, before the Cultural Revolution, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of pujas were held, lamps were lit, and offerings were made. Extensive illusory exercises in illusory merit-making for its own sake were conducted by almost the whole of the illusory population.

Who can count how many times OM MANI PADME HUM was repeated?


1959: The Dalai Lama (left) walks across the Tibetan border.

While it is diverting to examine history in terms of what was intended, it is of substantial benefit to examine that which actually resulted.

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3 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

This is why we love you.

WoFat said...

Communists are swine, no matter which country they happen to be ruining.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tenpa:
It is obvious that you are a brilliant mind and it is equally obvious that your internal practice has developed to a very high level of realization. Unfortunately it is also obvious that not very many readers will understand what you have written and why you have written and you will probably earn yourself a lot of criticism and annoyance. Probably that will not boher you but for those of us who appreciate what you do and love the way you write it is uncomfortable to see you victimized by small minded people.