Monday, April 20, 2009

His Holiness, Our Holiness

Did you see the hat on that lama? Oy vey!

Who started using Catholic titles for Tibetan lamas? 

Where can I find him or her?

We need to have a little talk.

In Catholicism, a pope is called "His Holiness," or "Your Holiness." A cardinal is "His Eminence," or "Your Eminence," but you have to add "Cardinal" in there, as in "His Eminence Cardinal So-and-So." Archbishops and bishops are referred to as "The Most Reverend," and "Your Excellency," without distinction. Well, that's a disappointment. Why bother to be an archbishop if you don't get your own special form of address? Beneath bishops, you have a whole mess of monsignors, right reverends, very reverends, and very right reverends, but who cares about them?

Nowadays we call the Dalai Lama "His Holiness." The Gyalwa Karmapa also gets an H.H., as do Sakya Trizin, and a whole busload of Nyingmapa. I guess they are all popes.

We've also taken to calling tulkus "His Eminence." Does that mean that tulkus are cardinals? If they are cardinals, do they have a college and elect popes?

Lately, I've seen some Buddhist priests calling themselves "Reverend." Well, that begs the question: whatever shall we do about the rights, verys, very rights, and mosts? Switch 'em into Venerables? Hmm... venerable, right venerable, very venerable, very right venerable, most venerable: I can't say I haven't seen it, and neither can you.

Like everybody else, I've struggled with this nonsense. On the one hand, we wish to give no offense to the legion of well-meaning idiots who think medieval Catholic titles bubbled in blood are just the thing to put a shine on Buddhist priests. On the other hand, there is something vaguely disgusting about the practice. I mean to say, what's wrong with using our own forms of address?

I'm going to quit while I'm ahead. 

I just realized that I'm channeling Andy Rooney.

Rabbi Tenpa

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2 reader comments:

sebastiaan said...

Dear Pastor Tenpa,

keep channeling, the world needs more honorifics.

Malcolm said...

"Who started using Catholic titles for Tibetan lamas?"

The United Nations, when trying to figure how to address HHDL in the 1960's.