[ by Charles Cameron — Pat Robertson, the Taliban, Bamiyan, Buddha statues, a Zen tale, Petraeus and Pastor Jones ]
On a cold winter night, a big snow storm hit the city and the temple where Dan Xia served as a Monk got snowed in. Cut off from outside traffic, the coal delivery man could not get to the Zen Monastery. Soon it ran out of heating fuel after a few days and everybody was shivering in the cold. The monks could not even cook their meals.
Dan Xia began to remove the wooden Buddha Statues from the display and put them into the fireplace.
“What are you doing?” the monks were shocked to see that the holy Buddha Statues were being burnt inside the fire place. “You are burning our holy religious artifacts! You are insulting the Buddha!”
“Are these statues alive and do they have any Buddha nature?” asked Master Dan Xia.
“Of course not,” replied the monks. “They are made of wood. They cannot have Buddha Nature.”
“OK. Then they are just pieces of firewood and therefore can be used as heating fuel,” said Master Dan Xia. “Can you pass me another piece of firewood please? I need some warmth.”
The next day, the snow storm had gone and Dan Xia went into town and brought back some replacement Buddha Statues. After putting them on the displays, he began to kneel down and burn incense sticks to them.
“Are you worshiping firewood?” ask the monks who are confused for what he was doing.
“No. I am treating these statues as holy artifacts and am honouring the Buddha.” replied Dan Xia.
In light of that, compare and contrast this recent video of Pat Robertson:
with this video (I don’t think you need to see all of it, just a taste perhaps?) titled The Beheading of the Buddha, posted on YouTube and “presented” by Al-Muhaajiroun:
and both of those with this third video, of Pastor Jones, discussing both his own burning of the Qur’an and GEN Petraeus‘ powerful and intelligent response…
I think we should discuss these matters in an open and respectful way, and hope that this post will provide an appropriately respectful and open-minded framing for such a discussion.
As to my own view – I see a consideration that whatever opens us up to compassion and clarity is an icon and a grace, and another consideration that whatever closes us off from clarity and compassion is an idol or a poison…
For those of a scholarly bent, here’s a downloadable fatwa on the Taliban’s destruction of the great Buddhas of Bamiyan — from which the screen-grab below is taken: