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Juxtaposition: chess in Wahhabism and Buddhism

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — on the focus of similarity — sameness or differences? ]
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SPEC chess is haram

As I said recently, juxtaposition does not imply eqivalence.

It is only too easy these days to see a headline like Chess is ‘haram and a waste of time,’ says grand mufti of Saudi Arabia and view it purely in terms of Islam. It is in fact an Islamic ruling, though non-binding (there was, in fact, a chess tournament scheduled to take place in Mecca today, January 22, 2016), and can also be found in Shia sources (Grand Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq has also ruled against the game) — but many people who intensely dislike Islam may nonetheless admire Buddhism, and the Buddha dispproved of the game, even when played “in the air”..

Hey, to get a better sense of what “in the air” means here, let’s take a look at a different, more informative translation (albeit on that would not have fit into the procrustean bed of my DoubleQuote format:

Whereas some honorable recluses and brahmins, while living on food offered by the faithful, indulge in the following games that are a basis for negligence: atthapada (a game played on an eight-row chess-board); dasapada (a game played on a ten-row chess-board); akasa (a game of the same type played by imagining a board in the air); pariharapatha (“hopscotch,” a diagram is drawn on the ground and one has to jump in the allowable spaces avoiding the lines); santika (“spellicans,” assembling the pieces in a pile, removing and returning them without disturbing the pile); khalika (dice games); ghatika (hitting a short stick with a long stick); salakahattha (a game played by dipping the hand in paint or dye, striking the ground or a wall, and requiring the participants to show the figure of an elephant, a horse etc.); akkha (ball games); pangacira (blowing through toy pipes made of leaves); vankaka (ploughing with miniature ploughs); mokkhacika (turning somersaults); cingulika (playing with paper windmills); pattalaka (playing with toy measures); rathaka (playing with toy chariots); dhanuka (playing with toy bows); akkharika (guessing at letters written in the air or on one’s back); manesika (guessing others’ thoughts); yathavajja (games involving mimicry of deformities) — the recluse Gotama abstains from such games and recreations.

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I trust that that juxtaposition of Mufti and Buddha carries an element of surpise. By way of contrast, one could always make a less surprising (less challenging?) juxtaposition, between the Grand Mufti — Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh — and Benjamin Franklin:

SPEC-chess-is-haram 2

Politics as a pocketful of curiosities

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a brief addendum to the previous post ]
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While we’re on the topic of religion and politics, so to speak, here’s a theological curiosity — a pocketful of the current presidency:

I’ll leave it to individual viewers to decide whether that’s an interfaith pocketful or a pocketful of theological impossibility — either way, it’s thought provoking.

Quick summary: Christianity 2, Hinduism 1, Buddhism 1, Casinos 1.

Nuclear sites and religion, flags and clouds

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Oak Ridge, Albi, Bushehr, a Sinan mosque, clouds formation, the Karmapas ]
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Cheryl Rofer very kindly suggested a DoubleQuote to me today, comparing and contrasting the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, Oak Ridge:

HEUMF at Oak Ridge

and the Cathedral of Albi — heart of the district in which the Albigensians / Cathars briefly and most interestingly flourished:

Albi Cathedral

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I particularly appreciate this juxtaposition because of an earlier DoubleQuote I posted, drawing a similar comparison between Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant:

bushehr 600

and the Mosque of the Conqueror in Istanbul:

mosque-of-the-conqueror 600

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Also notable as a DoubleQuote today is this image at the top of a Lion’s Roar post titled Is that the Karmapa’s Dream Flag over Colorado?:

Karmapa Dream Flag DQ

The Karmapa Lama is the holder of the oldest lineage of reincarnated high lamas in Tibetan tradition, and head of the Karma Kagyu stream of teachings. The flag of the Karmapas can be seen below:

flag of the karmapas 600

Here’s the brief video from which that cloud-image was taken:

h/t Jacob DeFlitch

Note also the resemblance to what is probably my personal favorite DoubleQuote, comparing & contrasting van Gogh‘s night sky and von Kármán‘s vortex street:

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It may be worth adding that the Buddha is not above using cloud metaphors, as this celebrated verse from the Diamond Sutra, here in Red Pine‘s translation, illustrates:

As a lamp, a cataract, a star in space
an illusion, a dewdrop, a bubble
a dream, a cloud, a flash of lightning
view all created things like this.

Hourani / Ignatius, Clint Watts / Buddhism, Hindutva / Dhimmitude

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — some unexpected and enlightening juxtapositions ]
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Three textual DoubleQuotes:

The first, as you’ll see, consists of two brief excerpts from David IgnatiusAtlantic piece, How ISIS Spread in the Middle East, which is worth your attention as a follow up to Graeme Wood‘s What ISIS Really Wants, and mentions Soren Kierkegaard , Baywatch and the Bay of Pigs, so what’s not to like?

SPEC Hourani Ignatius

That’s the use of DoubleQuotes-style thinking — comparative, analogical — occurring quite naturally and informatively in a long-form essay.

My second example is quite different, in that it features an interesting article by Clint Watts of FRPI, using the terminology of “near” and “far” enemies first introduced by Abd Al-Salam Faraj, and note the very different use of the same terms in Buddhism.

SPEC enemies near and far

The terms “near” and “far” used to describe enemies in Buddhism represent metaphysical rather than geographical distances — the far enemy is the polar opposite of a given virtue, while the near enemy seems at first glance to be an embodiment of the virtue in question, but is in fact an inauthentic version, to be avoided. The doctrine concerned is expressed in terms of the four Brahma Viharas or highest emotions.

Finally, there has been a lot of talk in recent years about the Islamic term dhimmi, and I was intrigued to run across a very similar concept applied against Muslims in an early Indian discussion of whether India should be partitioned or not:

SPEC dhimmitude

On reflection I realized that all sorts of other groups operate along similar lines. I found this definition — note incidentally the somewhat language-game-changing remark, “A minority is defined not by being outnumbered” — in a Pearson Higher Ed textbook online:

Minority groups are subordinated in terms of power and privilege to the majority, or dominant, group. A minority is defined not by being outnumbered but by five characteristics: unequal treatment, distinguishing physical or cultural traits, involuntary membership, awareness of subordination, and in-group marriage. Subordinate groups are classified in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, and gender. The social importance of race is derived from a process of racial formation; any biological significance is relatively unimportant to society. The theoretical perspectives of functionalism, conflict theory, and labeling offer insights into the sociology of intergroup relations.

Immigration, annexation, and colonialism are processes that may create subordinate groups. Other processes such as extermination and expulsion may remove the presence of a subordinate group. Significant for racial and ethnic oppression in the United States today is the distinction between assimilation and pluralism. Assimilation demands subordinate-group conformity to the dominant group, and pluralism implies mutual respect among diverse groups.

Did you read that? Frankly I’m at a loss to know whether these two paragraphs were intended as black humor, or are simply humorlessness:

Other processes such as extermination and expulsion may remove the presence of a subordinate group.

Hunh?

Sunday surprise: kundalini’s rising and the jukebox blows a fuse

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — some examples of deep dreams, mechanical and spiritual ]
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In the upper panel, a claim made for the Deep Dream Generator:

SPEC kundalini deep dream

In the lower panel, an image of the chakras or lotuses in the subtle body, through which the kundalini serpent rises from deep sleep to full spiritual awakening.

The “sixth level” in the chakra system would be the Ajna chakra:

The Ajna chakra is positioned in the brain, directly behind the eyebrow center. Its activation site is at the eyebrow region, in the position of the ‘third eye.’

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Deep Dreams:

Here’s what Google’s Deep Dream Generator comes up with:

Deep Dream

Here’s an early statue of Arya Lokeshvara from the Potala Palace, dating to the 7th century and described as the Potala’s most sacred statue:

Bhairava thangka 600

This is a detail from Hieronymus Bosch, The Temptation of St Anthony:

detail, the-temptation-of-st-anthony-1516-1 bosch 600

From one of the marvellous array of manuscripts of the Beatus commentary on Revelation:

Beatus 600

Here’s a deep dream in words, from Hermann Hesse..

GBG as organ 600

Another, from Shakespeare:

shakespeare 600

A secular deep dream..

Alice red queen 600

and a deep dream — as surreal as all the rest, yet capturing “no more than” simple reality — in a photo posted today by Bill Benzon:

Benzon coke 600

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Roll over, Beethoven:


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