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And the Word was made Script and dwelt among us

Friday, June 7th, 2019

{ by Charles Cameron — the embodiment of the word in script affords calligraphers of all religious beliefs the opportunity to illuminate the written script with beauty }
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And the Word was made Script and dwelt among us…

This would describe the indwelling of the numinous presence within scriptures, a doctrine found in the Christian usage that terms the Bible the Word of God, and even more explicitly in the Islamic doctrine that the Qu’ran is the Word of God in a manner equivalent to the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation — that is to say, Christians teach that Jesus is the Word of God, Muslims that the Qu’ran is.

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Incunabula had tweeted:

The historian Tom Holland picked up on this, and commented:

How incredibly beautiful. It looks like something out of Rivendell.

H’e not the only one thinking along similar lines — there’s a Reddit that’s relevant here: The Tibetan Script looks much like Tengwar to me…could it have been Tolkien’s inspiration for written Elvish?. So let’s take a quick look:

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Let’s take a look: DoubleQuote:

Above, Tolkien’s Quenya script from the inside front leaf, lower border, of the first edition Lord of the Rings, in comparison with the silver Tibetan calligraphy of the interior of Incunabula’s Perfection of Wisdom in 100,000 Verses.

To be fair, Incunabula’s 13th-15th century work in gold and silver ink is a remarkable work of art, and it may be fair to compare it also —

—with the 9th century illuminated gospels of the Irish Book of Kells.

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Beauty, anyway — the word becoming scripture in script offers us a manner in which some glimpses of beauty — transcendent sister of goodness and truth — beauty become word..

DoubleVision: two troubles with religions

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — religious violence and sexual abuse scandals from a perspective grounded in comparative religion ]
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Two images from my feed a couple of days ago, similar enough that they make a (visual) DoubleQuote:


The Atlantic, Abolish the Priesthood


WaPo, Sri Lankan government blocks social media and imposes curfew following deadly blasts

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The first image above comes from an article in the Atlantic about child sexual abuse by members of the Catholic priesthood and accompanying cover-ups by the church hierarchy.

  • The Atlantic, Abolish the Priesthood
  • The abuses are horrific.They are horrific, horrific.

    My grouse here is that articles such as this focus on the Catholic Church, although Billy Graham’s grandson claims the situation is similar if not worse among Protestants; sexual abuse of spiritual authority and cover-ups are also found in so-called “sects” such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and in other religions altogether:

  • Vice, Billy Graham’s Grandson Says Protestants Abuse Kids Just Like Catholics
  • The Atlantic, A Secret Database of Child Abuse
  • Tricycle, a Buddhist magazine, Sex in the Sangha … Again
  • And if that’s not enough — consider this list of non-religiously specific sources of sexual abuse the Feeney Law Firm, LLC encounters in its practice:

  • Feeny Law Firm, Sexual Abuse and Assault Lawsuits
  • **

    The second image above is from a Washington Post piece of April 22nd, about “the aftermath of suicide attacks that killed hundreds of people” in churches and hotels across the island. The coordinated attacks were claimed by ISIS, but appear to have been locally planned and executed.

    Executed: what a word!

    My plea here is simple: that extremists should cease targeting followers of other religions in the names of their own various religions.

    As I’ve noted before, attacks here in the US and abroad have included:

  • The Gurdwara (Sikh temple), Oak Creek, WI, 2012
  • Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, NC, 2015
  • The Tree of Life and New Light synagogues in Pittsburgh, PA, 2018
  • The Al Noor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch, NZ, 2019
  • and violent extremists can be found claiming affiliation to these religions:

  • Judaism
  • Christianity
  • Islam
  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism
  • **

    Violence in the name of religion — whether personal violence as in sexual abuse or political violence as in the case of terrorism — is both human and deeply abhorrent. Understanding how widespread the human urge to violence in fact is will tend to put our recriminations against any particular religion into a clearer perspective. Religions, too, can benefit greatly from acknowledging, and not hiding, the shameful skeletons in their various closets.

    As David Ronfeldt would say: Onwards!

    To weaponize metaphors.. thoughts as clothes, clothes as thoughts

    Monday, May 13th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — if i may be a bit presumptuous, language is a topic for the wise — in this case, how language can be used as a knife ]
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    I was reading a Vice News piece, Leaked chats show white nationalist group’s plot to infiltrate Turning Point, and was struck by the phrase “weaponize metaphors” in the paragraph:

    Part of Identity Evropa’s strategy now relies on its ability to weaponize metaphors to make their white nationalism seem more acceptable, like referring to “European heritage” — which white nationalist often use as a euphemism to mean “white” — or seizing on mainstream conservative issues like immigration.

    I frankly don’t see”metaphor” and “euphemism” as equivalents, but at least we’re looking at the language used to convey a political stance, albeit an abhorrent one.

    **

    Semioticians won’t be surprised to see that clothes can also be a mode of signalling — of conveying meaning — every bit as much as verbal language. In fact, to paraphrase my title, we can see here that thoughts can be viewed as clothes, clothes as thoughts.. Indeed, in the paragraph immediately before the one I just quoted, we read:

    According to the leaked Slack chats, about 200 members were expected to attend a secret Identity Evropa conference in Kentucky last weekend. Consistent with their brand overall, the event had a fairly strict dress code: Attendees were urged to wear “dress slacks or chinos” — no jeans. Some attendees fretted about whether they had enough time to get their suits dry-cleaned.

    Clothes as thoughts, thoughts as clothes..

    **

    Speaking of semioticians — Charles Sanders Peirce, the father of semiotics, coined the phrase “the play of musement” which I’ve been toying with recently. Here’s a play, a musement of my own:

  • There’s the music of the spheres, around and within us.

  • Then there’s the boundary layer, the troposphere, the ozone layer, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, the thermosphere, the exosphere and so forth, space, deep space, and deep deep space —

  • or if you’ll believe the brilliant jazz comedian Lord Buckley riffing on Albert Einstein — we should also add “the zonesphere, and the vautisphere, and the routesphere, and the hippisphere, and the flippisphere, and the zippisphere, and the gonesphere, and the way-gonesphere” — hey, the “way-gonesphere” has a distinctly Prajnaparamita feel to it, no? —

  • or better yet, there’s the atmosphere, which includes equally both the sphere of weather out the window and the realm of emotional tensions within a room, group or event..

  • and what Dylan Thomas calls “the weather of the heart”..
  • **

    But really, listen to the whole Hip Einie thing, Buckley gets into the 1905 Annalen der Physik and more:

    And consider the profound beauties of the Heart Sutra with its mantra, and Dylan Thomas marvelous poem:

  • Prajñaparamita, Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone utterly beyond, Enlightenment hail!
  • Dylan Thomas, A Process In The Weather Of The Heart
  • Some end in ashes, some wind up in stained glass

    Sunday, May 12th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — and some, high lamas, emanations of Avalokiteshvara, become poets of the erotic.. ]
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    You know my early mentor Fr Trevor Huddleston CR? I posted three photos of him here, one with Louis Armstrong and a trumpet, one with Nelson Mandela, and one exactly as I knew and now remember and honor him:

    Well, today I saw for the first time an image of the stained glass window dedicated to him in Lancing College chapel:

    For more on Fr Trevor, see The Life of Trevor Huddleston, Makhalipile (the Dauntless One)

    Mandela said of him:

    Father Huddleston was a pillar of wisdom, humility and sacrifice to the legions of freedom fighters in the darkest moments of the struggle against apartheid.

    His fearlessness won him the support of everyone. No one, neither gangster, tsotsi nor pickpocket would touch him. Their respect for him was such that they would have tried – and if they did it could have cost them their lives. His enormous courage gave him a quality that commanded the respect of the place

    and:

    No white person has done more for South Africa than Trevor Huddleston.

    He was a giant.

    **

    All of which got me thinking about stained glass as an alternative destination to ashes..

    Desmond Tutu was another whose life was decisively influenced by Fr Trevor — and he too can be found in stained glass:

    MaryAnn Randolph writes:

    This, in St. Mark’s, Minneapolis, is what is called the Peacemaker’s Window. In this magnificent stained glass you will find: Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Archbishop Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and many others.

    Giants, all — and inspirations, inviting us to join them!

    **

    Ah, Gandhi-ji and the Dalai Lama — it delights me to see stained glass extending to peacemakers regardless of their religious affiliations!

    I’ll leave you with an image of Green Tara, female Buddha to whom the “Great Fifth” Dalai Lama — who unified Tibet, established Lhasa as its capital, and worked to bring together the various lineages of Tibetan Buddhism together with the earlier shamanic Bon tradition — was devoted:

    The Dalai Lama himself, in each of his incarnations, is considered an emanation of the Buddha of Compassion, Avalokiteshvara.

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    It was the Sixth, beloved successor of the Great Fifth, who was the rascal poet, writer of such gently erotic verses as:

    This white bow in its cloth cover,
    On whom shall I bestow it?
    I will place it gently inside
    My lover’s tiger-skin quiver.

    Ah, but he’d be hard to capture in stained glass —

    I’ll leave you with him and his compassion, and with the Love Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama.

    Enjoy! Delight!

    Jackass and catfish, catfish and gourd

    Friday, February 1st, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — an almost-Darwin-Award-worthy foolishness, coupled with a masterpiece of Zen art — just the sort of post I’d love to post, for my own sake, even if no-one else is listening ]
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    Unbelievable!

    That’s a serious journal article about a seriously un-serious drunking game.. And if you can’t read the fine print, not to worry — the two top articles below will brief you nicely..

    Readings:

  • Atlantic, This Is What Happens When You Drunkenly Swallow a Live Catfish
  • LiveScience, A Drunk Man Swallowed a Live, Venomous, Spiny Catfish.

  • Acta Oto-Laryngologica Case Reports, A Jackass and a Catfish
  • **

    By way of contrast:

    Here’s what the book’s about:

    Zen art poses a conundrum. On the one hand, Zen Buddhism emphasizes the concept of emptiness, which among other things asserts that form is empty, that all phenomena in the world are illusory. On the other hand, a prodigious amount of artwork has been created in association with Zen thought and practice. A wide range of media, genres, expressive modes, and strategies of representation have been embraced to convey the idea of emptiness. Form has been used to express the essence of formlessness, and in Japan, this gave rise to a remarkable, highly diverse array of artworks and a tradition of self-negating art.

    In this volume, Yukio Lippit explores the painting The Gourd and the Catfish (ca. 1413), widely considered one of the most iconic works of Japanese Zen art today. Its subject matter appears straightforward enough: a man standing on a bank holds a gourd in both hands, attempting to capture or pin down the catfish swimming in the stream below. This is an impossible task, a nonsensical act underscored by the awkwardness with which the figure struggles even to hold his gourd. But this impossibility is precisely the point.

    Read or view:

  • Getty Research, Japanese Zen Buddhism and the Impossible Painting
  • Getty YouTube lecture, Japanese Zen Buddhism and the Impossible Painting
  • **

    On the zen of swallowing, or not:

    In Zen work, an existential contradiction, Mumon’s “red hot coal,” sticks in the student’s throat; the inability “to swallow it or spit it out” precipitates a crisis to be resolved through an insight that is simultaneously an existential gesture. “If I am whole and complete as I am, why do I feel ignorant and incomplete?” might be one formulation of the conundrum, though encoded in a ritual question like “What is the sound of one hand?” The greater the contradiction, the greater the tension — ”doubt mass” — and the greater the breakthrough, according to Zen tradition.

    Source:

  • Tricycle, Fruitful Contradictions: The Zen of mathematics

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