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Ayodhya, a remarkable change of heart

Monday, November 18th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — religious India is divided over the question of the Babri Basjid / Ram Janmabhoomi — was the mosque built over a Ram temple in Lord Rama’s birthplace? and who deserves the land where the masjid was destroyed? The Supreme Court has ruled — but here’s a story that sets the Ayodhya question in a different light ]
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The headline in India Today reads:

Kar sevak from Haryana who was part of Babri Masjid demolition, now preaches Islam, builds masjids

That’s from February 2018, but I only caught wind of it via a Brownpundits post by Dr Hamid Hussain yesterday.

Balbir Singh; a Rajput of Panipat was active member of right wing Hindu organizations Shiv Sena and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He had vowed to demolish Babri mosque and built the Ram temple at its site. In early December 1992, Balbir was part of the large crowd that had gathered at Babri mosque to demolish it. He was one of the first who climbed on the central dome of the mosque and removed brick after brick with pick axe.

He was given a heroes’ welcome when he came back to his town. He had brought back a brick from the destroyed mosque to be kept at local Shiv Sena office as victory trophy. However, his father Daulat Ram; a school teacher denounced his actions. It was time for reflection for Balbir and he was crushed with the guilt.

He found a novel way to atone for his actions. He converted to Islam (he was renamed Muhammad Ameer) and vowed to restore one hundred decrepit and abandoned mosques. So far, he has cleaned and rebuilt over ninety abandoned mosques in north India.

The message of this simple man is as powerful as that of a sage. Even if he had not converted to Islam, remained Hindu and repented in any other way to atone for his destructive act, he would have been a wonderful human being. He became exceptional by his conduct regardless of how rival communities view him.

That’s quite some story.

The Indian Supreme Court has ruled on the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi / Babri Masjid affair, giving a Hindu committee the disputed 2.7 acres on which the Babri Masjid was demolished, holding that an earlier Ram temple had been torn down and its columns repurposed to build the Masjid — and awarding 5 acres elsewhere for the building of another Masjid.

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I like Dr Hussain‘s idea:

This is the story of Ram Mandar/Babri Masjid. If it was up to me, I would convert this property into a peace garden where everybody is welcome to reflect and pray in whatever way he wished to whatever God he wished.

This mother and child might be on their way to such a garden:

And look who they’ll meet when they arrive:

The wandering poet-saint Kabir “in discussion with persons of differing faiths”.

What terrifies the Chinese about Falun Gong?

Monday, November 18th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — Falun Gong keeps coming front and center for a day or two, then fading back into the woodwork — so I wanted to get these points made, out there as an information dump for the likes of Rachel Maddow ]
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What we don’t understand is that the horror-terror of the Taiping Rebellion with its 20 or so million dead in the eighteen-fifties shadow-ghosts the Chinese government’s present fear of, hence hate at — and thus rage against — the 100 million or so practitioners of Falun Gong, so gracefully, graciously performing their qi gong dances on parkland grass, all across the realm..

TaipingThe Taiping Rebellion, 1850-1864

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As some of you know, I talked briefly with Ali Allawi, one time Iraqi Defense minister, at the October 9, 2007 Jamestown briefing on Iraq, and he said the same was true of Iraqi responses to a militia threatening to kill the Hawza or council of Grand Ayatollahs of Najaf, so as to replace it with their candidate for Mahdi — a revolt of several hundred sectarians, which was put then down with considerable Iraqi force assisted by air support from the US — in what was then the single greatest battle in the Iraq war. Allawi told me the Iraqi fear of a Mahdist rebellion stemmed from their memory of the Babist and Bahai rebellion of the 1860s “in that part of the world” — a memory which remains sore to this day on account of the tens of thousand of lives lost.

The Chinese have very good reason to be terrified when they find a group of — by one estimate — a hundred million followers of a charismatic leader, Li Hongzhi, whose apocalyptic teachings include an alien takeover of the human race:

The aliens come from other planets. The names that I use for these planets are different . Some are from dimensions that human beings have not yet discovered. The key is how they have corrupted mankind. Everyone knows that from the beginning until now, there has never been a development of culture like today. Although it has been several thousand years, it has never been like now.

The aliens have introduced modern machinery like computers and airplanes. They started by teaching mankind about modern science, so people believe more and more science, and spiritually, they are controlled. Everyone thinks that scientists invent on their own when in fact their inspiration is manipulated by the aliens. In terms of culture and spirit, they already control man. Mankind cannot live without science.

The ultimate purpose is to replace humans. If cloning human beings succeeds, the aliens can officially replace humans. Why does a corpse lie dead, even though it is the same as a living body? The difference is the soul, which is the life of the body. If people reproduce a human person, the gods in heaven will not give its body a human soul. The aliens will take that opportunity to replace the human soul and by doing so they will enter earth and become earthlings.

When such people grow up, they will help replace humans with aliens. They will produce more and more clones. There will no longer be humans reproduced by humans. They will act like humans, but they will introduce legislation to stop human reproduction.

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These people — the middle-class practitioners of a form of Qi Gong which Hongzhi teaches — office workers, teachers, grad students, grannies — are imprisoned in droves by the Chinese government, and according to Falun Gong representatives abroad, subject to their organs being harvested to sale to those in need of transplants — a peculiarly horrid business, as I can attest, being myself in need to a functioning kidney or two.

One can disagree with their religious beliefs, and still sympathize with their predicament under brutal Chinese repression.

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The traditional Chinese dance troupe China doesn’t want you to see

The traditional Chinese dance troupe China doesn’t want you to see is touring the world on behalf of Falun Gong:

Shen Yun seems like a kitsch dance troupe. But Beijing sees it as the propaganda wing of the Falun Gong movement, and a threat to their rule – and hounds the dancers from city to city, trying to sabotage their shows.

Or try this:

The company has five separate touring troupes that carry out a dizzying schedule, a kind of Cirque du Soleil of the east backed by a seemingly bottomless publicity budget. They have played the Lincoln Center in New York and the London Coliseum. In a single week last spring, they hit Philadelphia, Honolulu, Charlotte, Kansas City and Huntsville, Alabama. Then Barcelona, Salzburg, Bremen, Baden-Baden and Paris.

Well, but then New York dance troupe says China banned shows over Falun Gong links.

A New York-based dance troupe has accused China of forcing the cancellation of its shows in South Korea over its links to a banned spiritual movement that Beijing calls “an evil cult” intent on “mind control”.

Shen Yun, a performing company affiliated with the Falun Gong movement, accused China’s government of shutting down their shows in Seoul. The Chinese government maintains that the troupe is “a political tool” of Falun Gong.

Mind control? Perhaps the whole troupe — all five troupes — are one collective Manchurian Candidate — China, beware!

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Here, in any case, are the Facts about the So-called “Shen Yun” Performance by the “Falun Gong” as the Chinese Embassy in Seoul sees them. Chief among these facts are some pretty astonishing apocalyptic and medical claims:

Li Hongzhi, the chief ring leader of “Falun Gong”, claims that the mankind has been destroyed 81 times, and that he has delayed the explosion of the earth by 30 years. He claims that the mankind is corrupted, and the earth is the biggest dumping ground of the universe, and that by practicing “Falun Gong”, the “true law” above all religions, one would never become sick or get in danger. He even claims that the Holocaust of Jewish people by Hitler was a result of the changes in celestial phenomena…

Li Hongzhi is certainly capable of astonishing apocalyptic announcements, as evidenced by his 1999 interview with the Asian edition of Time, which I quoted above.

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Look, there’s more than one side to this coin:

In Sum:

  • Apocalyptic groups with charismatic leaders have indeed proven problematic, as the case of Jim Jones in Guyana showed us in the West — but to the Chinese, the case of the Taiping Rebellion, with its twenty-plus people dead back in the second half of the nineteenth century, no doubt looms largest.

  • On the other hand — people deserve the right to their religious opinions, even if those opinions differ from the norms of the society around them. And tragedy can ensure when — under the dismissive label “cult” — the state takes it upon itself to intervene, as the FBI holocaust of the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX, teaches us.
  • A very cunning linguism, and more

    Monday, November 18th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — I can’t claim to be the originator of that title phrase — I found it in a book of literary criticism many years ago — but anyway, this post is about examples of form — content optional ]
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    Twinning:

    The images are striking, stunning. Under the title, The Double Vision of Alicia Rodriguez Alvisa, Doreen St. Félix‘s opening para on the phorographer’s double portraits is worth quoting in some detail:

    Alvisa has olive skin, ringlets of curls, and dark, thick eyebrows. She uses different wardrobes and poses to delineate between the two manifestations of herself. Immediately, we know we are observing a psychological exercise. ..

    Which woman is the true Alvisa? Is it the woman lying nude in a tub, her eyes closed, or is it the robed woman kneeling before her, a wrist extended over the water in a way that feels both caring and dangerous? Is it the woman in a baby-doll dress, glancing wistfully out of a window, at the city outside, or is it the woman in underwear, looking, with concern, at her counterpart?

    Is the question itself flawed — the idea that one self should vanquish the other?

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    A congressman whose name I do not know, addressing the question of whether Democrats should cease using the Latin Quid pro quo and instead say something more readily identifiable such as bribery or extortion, quoted as part of a mash by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, November 14 2019:

    Using Latin, per se, is not something I tend to do, Hallie..

    A lovely piece of reflexive self-mockery, eh?

    **

    A parallel observed:

    Parallels, like the dyadic photo-pairings above, are always worth noting, and at times revelatory:

    **

    A troubling turnaround, visible in court proceedings at Guantanamo:

    they’ve really turned the detainees into martyrs and victims.

    As we all know, martyrdom is a potent Islamic concept — letting CIA torture lend undoubted experiential realism to the sense that one has been victimized, almost martyred, is among the black sites’ least appealing features.

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    Ooh, and a humorous apocalyptic ref:

    As my friend Tim Furnish might say of that word, “apocalyptic”:

    Joshu and the poets

    Monday, November 18th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — From Joshu, Japanese zen master who recommends having a hot coal caught in your throat, metaphorically speaking, to Isaiah, Hebrew prophet, to whose lips it is said an angel pressed a burning coal ]
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    Said Joshu, proffering the word “Mu” in answer to the question “Does a dog have buddha nature? in one of the great koans of the Zen text, The Gateless Gate”:

    If you really want to pass this barrier, you should feel as though you have a hot iron ball in your throat that you can neither swallow nor spit up. Then your previous conceptualizing disappears. Like a fruit ripening in season, subjectivity and objectivity are experienced as one.

    You have a hot iron ball in your throat that you can neither swallow nor spit up. That’s how you must feel, so that by means of this koan, “your previous conceptualizing disappears” and “subjectivity and objectivity are experienced as one.”

    There are few barriers in our contemporary western world so difficult to pass — “the first responders running towards the burning Twin Towers as everyone else was running away” would surely qualify.

    **

    And yet and yet.

    And yet, the thing is, “buddha nature”, or”original face” as another koan names it, the condition in which “subjectivity and objectivity are experienced as one” is prior to the condition in which they are experienced separately as “subjectivity” and “objectivity” — it’s “original”.

    So if yo find yourself suffering from “subjectivity” and “objectivity, you’ll need that “hot iron ball in your throat” to get back to origins. But if you’re there, where “subjectivity and objectivity are experienced as one” — no problem.

    In fact, after you’ve “solved” — “resolved” might be better — a koan, your zen master is liable to suggest you look through a book of “capping verses” such as this one, Zen Sand, kindly published by the University of Hawaii Press, to find one verse that caps or sums up your experience.

    The thing being that some poet wrote that verse, after experiencing something very close to what you experienced.

    **

    Which suggests that either:

    literally hundreds of poets arrived at “subjectivity and objectivity are experienced as one” without going through the “hot iron ball in your throat” stage by being poets, in other words, they simply kept to the “original” state beyond dualism — in which case poetry sounds like a fine route by which to avoid all that throat-blistering terror or..

    the poets routinely go through the “iron ball” barrier on their way to poetic clarity — a possibility which would oleave traces, surely, in their poems..

    Such as:

    Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ hierarchies?
    and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart:
    I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence.
    For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
    and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    Every angel is terrifying.
    And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note of my dark sobbing.

    That, as you may know, is Rilke, in the first of huis Duino Elegies.

    Or this:

    No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
    More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring. ..
    My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
    Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing…

    World sorrow — can there be any greater?

    But those words are the words of a Catholic priest, a Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins — and I left out the two most remarkable lines in that poem, lines in which he despairs of the Holy Spirit or Comforter, and the Virgin Mary, Mother of the world in Catholic theology:

    Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
    Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?

    Coming from a Catholic pruiest, those are noteworthy, certainly surprising lines.

    **

    Or this, from Rilke again, triggered by Hopkins’ speaking of “world-sorrow” — here Orpheus speaks of Eurydice:

    A woman so loved that from one lyre there came
    more lament than from all lamenting women;
    that a whole world of lament arose, in which
    all nature reappeared: forest and valley,
    road and village, field and stream and animal;
    and that around this lament-world, even as
    around the other earth, a sun revolved
    and a silent star-filled heaven, a lament-
    heaven, with its own, disfigured stars —:
    So greatly was she loved.

    It may be the poets ahve swallowed more grief than that “hot coal” could muster — but then consider the story told in Isaiah 6. 5-7,. Isaiah speaks:

    Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

    Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

    One may always wish, trembling, for an angelic visitation.

    cat : football :: snake : baseball ?

    Monday, November 11th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — the zoo unleashed here on the fields of football and baseball, a DoubleQuote illustrating that comparison can be invidious ]
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    Let’s start with a cat on the field (football), tweeted by Timothy Burke

    Burke comments:

    Kevin Harlan’s Westwood One radio call of the cat on the field is, as you might expect, an all-time great call. How much of a pro is Harlan? He worked a sponsor read into it.

    **

    Okay, I’ll cap that with a snake on the field (baseball):

    cat : football :: snake : baseball?

    But that’s ridiculous. Comparisons are invidious, QED.


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