Going to have to process this one:
Going to have to process this one:
Thanks for this link, Dosho.
Actually, I kind of expected such an article...
Thing is, when such tragedies occur, media and politicians quickly look for a culprit, so people can say "aha, that's why" and move on with their life forgetting about it.
So you just have to look whether the attacker
a) listened to certain music styles like Heavy Metal, etc. and/or
b) played video games and/or
c) had another religion than the one which is common in that country.
Chances are big one of this is true, et voilà, that must have been the cause, riddle solved.
You don't even have to say it really was the cause, just implying the possibility suffices.
I feel like this article has Buddhism as basically a red herring and/or straw man. People who describe themselves as Buddhists have killed before, this isn't the first time. Buddhism isn't a cure for severe mental illness any more than any other religion is. This article stems from the western tendency to see eastern practices as mystical and exotic.
I too expected an article. As it stands it seems quite innocuous compared to what the tabloids in the UK would have made of it - but I guess it is what some people will make of it. I wish Metta to all those affected by this incident.
The comments following the article pretty much "call out" the WP and its reporting on this issue.
The article does contain a few interesting points that are worth thinking about:
1) that in the West, Buddhism is thought of as nonviolent, or pacifist. When an individual who has followed Buddhism or practices Zen engages in violence, is the issue with the religion or the actions of the individual? An oversimplified question, but one that looms large in this piece and applies to all the world's faith traditions, not just Buddhism.
2) Buddhism is referred to in the article as the "upper middle way" for many Americans - the article and the subject interviewed claims that Buddhism (and Zen) is often practiced by more affluent and educated individuals in the US - a point worth thinking about.... there are Buddhist practice groups in some prisons and inner city communities in the US, but these are far outnumbered by Christian communities and programs.....
3) the connection between suffering and practice - there are individuals who come to a spiritual/meditative/religious practice to find relief from emotional distress - in the case of depression and other afflictions meditation may be helpful, but in itself is not always effective. Proper medical attention (physician's care, counseling, medication, etc.) is a tool to be considered/used in conjunction with a meditation practice. This point is not sufficiently explored in the article.
Just my initial reaction to some of the points made-
A very troubled fellow who happened to be a Buddhist ... and became a Buddhist because he was troubled. Many people turn to religions of all kinds when troubled.
Are all Christians or Muslims killers because some are?
The real culprit is the anger and division within us.
The Precepts guide us not to take life, to avoid violence. May all victims of violence (he among them) find peace.
PS - I do not say so easily about a newspaper of such high standards as the Post, but statements in that article border on religious prejudice and ignorant stereotyping. What dark side of Buddhism does it purport to be exposing?
This article is completely flawed from the beginning. To attempt and form a causal link between "unstable" man and "Buddhism" with context as, "he practiced Buddhism for x amount of time" is journalism at it's worst.
This tragic shooting happened a few blocks away from me. All true Paths advocate love, nonviolence, generosity, truth, and so forth. We all acknowledge that religions have been used as the pretext for genocides and atrocities. This, is the perversion of religious practices and not indicative of what they actually represent. Shame on the Post.
I feel this fellow's attitude of foregiveness is a lesson for us ...
PS - the TMZ commercial I m getting before the video is also a lesson in something ... though not sure quite what. :confused:
One of the things I also find tragic about this, is the reporting. Sadly, the adding of details about this event that do not apply - does it matter that he was Buddhist? No! His mental disorder drove him to do the act, not the fact he was a Buddhist. I find that some news organizations use these types of tactics to generate ratings and don't give any thought to the recourse of these statements.
Sorry for the rant, just my two cents.
I find this article from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship more thoughtful:
Our Permanent State of Violence: Why Aaron Alexis Could End Up Being A Great Buddhist Teacher
"...my sympathies and prayers to all those who knew the 13 victims, including Alexis. Losing your loved ones in such a violent, sudden manner is awfully difficult to swallow, no matter what your beliefs about life and death are. I grieve for the 12 people who woke up Monday morning and went about their days, only to find themselves in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Every bullet that ripped through their bodies tears through all of us as well. I grieve for the gunman who so lost his way in this life, and left it in such a violent, horrific fashion. I grieve for the families, friends, and loved ones who are now in shock, in mourning, in a place they probably never expected they would be. I grieve for our nation as well, which cannot seem to break through the oppressive haze of its collective shadows, and continues to spawn nightmare after nightmare across the planet."
Here is an article I came upon concerning Aaron Alexis stating "he was a regular meditator" and the effects of meditation on his actions. http://healthland.time.com/2013/09/1...of-meditation/
Here is a portion from the article:
"How does someone who engages in meditation, which is supposed to focus the mind, and is often associated with efforts to diffuse violence, rather than instigate it, perform the acts that Alexis is accused of executing? Alexis had a record of violent crime and, his father told the Wall Street Journal that his son had anger issues related to post-traumatic stress from participating in rescue efforts during the 9/11 attacks. A former boss, who met Alexis at a Buddhist temple in the Fort Worth, Tex. area, said Alexis was also a heavy drinker who came to chanting and meditation sessions regularly."
Lots to think about but the big issue is not this or that, was he Buddhist, was he a meditator. The big issue was his mental health and how that affected the outcome of this tragic event.
I saw a post on FB ( from a fellow Buddhist) about the fact it was brought up he was Buddhist. I had mentioned it as a reminder that we're all human. Just because our faith is in Buddhism doesn't mean we can't "lose our sh*t and flip the "f" out."
I enjoyed this article and it does give one a lot to think about.
I don't see why it was brought up in the first place. If he had been a regular church goer would it have made it int he news?
I haven't seen anything to suggest Buddhism was "the cause" in anything I've read.
And this to me was a more responsible and factual representation. This addresses that he fel out of regular practice, suffered from ptsd, and was an alcoholic.
Perhaps he was a Buddhist because he saw these things in himself and then didn't find results to his liking.
Some of his issues, such as the anger issues and depression I can side with. Frankly, sitting helps, but at the end of the day I see a doc and take my " be nice to others" meds.(no i'm not violent I just have a mouth on me when I get fired up).
Well just as easily, the article could have been written slanted in favor of Buddhism. If Mr. Alexis had kept up his meditation practice and become closer to the sanga, rather than have let it "fade away" for over 2 years, he might have avoided the emotional explosion that led to this tragedy. This article is just one more example of the "new journalism," based on opinion, speculation, lack of research and molding of facts to fit the writer's perspective, not hard facts, investigation and balanced reporting. Too bad the Washington Post is one more that's bit the dust.
Much metta to all involved in this disastrous event.
Koun Franz has just posted an article that touches on this tragedy in it he says:
The full article can be read here:http://nyoho.com/2013/09/18/what-are...hich-youll-go/Quote:
When we hear of someone committing an unthinkable act of violence, as Buddhists, our reaction should be to make it thinkable. We have to go there, to dig deep within ourselves, to crawl around and search in the dark until we find where, in our own minds, we are capable of treating another life so lightly. We must gaze, unblinking, at our capacity for treating others as disposable objects, or as mere characters in a story of our own creation. Let the media pundits and psychologists try to figure out why Aaron Alexis did what he did–why is not the right question. The question for us is how—not just, “How could he do it?” but “How could I do it?” Because you can. We can. And because soon, someone else, somewhere, will.
I agree that the journalistic content of the article is terrible (assassin is a word with a precise meaning that just doesn't fit here) and it is all too tempting and easy to look for reasons that make killers other rather than just like us but for circumstance and when they are like us (the same nationality, religion, ethnicity) it can hit hard.
When I lived in a dharma centre the resident teacher actually made us all aware that people with mental health issues often seek out Buddhist centres as a means of support and help. She made it clear that it could be very tempting to believe that we could heal such people but aside from offering friendship, anything else was to be left to mental health professionals. Some folk were even advised to avoid meditation until they had sought professional help. Mindfulness and other meditation may be good for mild to moderate anxiety, depression and other issues but suggesting that a severely depressed or psychotic person sit with their mind is bad medicine.
I imagine that most teachers are aware of the need to refer mentally unwell people to outside help but wonder if some sanghas do bite off more than they can chew? Not suggesting that this was the case here but the incidence of mental illness in Buddhist sanghas is not something I have ever seen written about. As well as the danger of thinking that dharma alone can effect a cure, mental health problems can cause feelings of isolation in a group setting too. Several people here have written about how they can feel cut off from discussions at times and that would doubtless be greatly heightened in cases of already existing anxiety or paranoia.
Anyway, this was just something that this article brought up in me and I would like to see a greater awareness of as people who are suffering will often gravitate towards meditation and Buddhism and few of us are qualified to deal with that. If someone had spotted that this guy needed help, maybe he could have been pointed in the right direction. Or maybe he already was and the PTSD was just too great.
Great sadness for him and all the victims.
It is interesting to read this article, then see identifying as a Buddhist, and sensitivities about how "we" are portrayed.
Koun epitomizes ". . .not two, one. . .".
Adding insult to injury in many of these cases, people seem to be tripping over themselves in a race to explain what happened. I read this article a couple of days ago in the Atlantic, thought it might be relevant: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/...es-how/266439/
I read the Franz Koun article and was going to post it before I saw that David already had. What he talks about is difficult for me to accept. Imagining/feeling the suffering is different that understanding that I can do the same thing. Maybe I can shine a beam into my dark side to see how I can go postal at work but what about the shooting of the children at Newcomb?
Koun: "When the children were shot in Newtown, I didn’t want to ask what mattered—instead, I turned to Tracy and asked her, “How could someone do such a thing?” I felt crushed by it, like it had stripped me raw. I assumed at first that it was because I have kids, so now I hear that kind of story differently. And that’s not untrue. But the real pain of it, the wound I didn’t want to see, was the question I had managed to stifle in those first moments. I wanted to say there’s a limit and I’ve found it, that here, finally, I can say, “I am not that.” But that’s not the truth. I know. Whether through practice or the constant asking or just advancing age, I know better."
I'm not able believe I could do that. Is what Koun's saying a tenant of Buddhism or is it just his interpretation or opinion?
Hmmm, don't want to wax too philosophical. But it is a general tenet of Buddhism that any of us has within us (until we are Perfect Buddhas) the seeds and soil for greed, anger, ignorance, jealousy, violence and such. Given the wrong upbringing, the wrong situation we are thrown in, the wrong mental illness striking, we are all capable of many things we might not want to admit. We must be on our guard.
I need only think of "ordinary people" in Nazi Germany, Rwanda and the like who, in the heat of the situation, did unspeakable things.
This is one reason that in Buddhism, we do not generally speak of "bad people" ... just people who do "bad acts". We feel the real culprit is the greed, anger and ignorance in all of us. That does not mean, by the way, that we do not do what is necessary to stop or prevent such behavior (sending in the police, even shooting the person if needed to save many other lives). It is just that we feel he too was a victim of greed, anger and ignorance.
The vision of Samsara is that we all have potential to go up or down at any turn, one minute acting like good and gentle folks, the next day like saints, but the next day like animals or hellish fiends if we are not careful.
Yes, there could go you or me if our life was that person's life.
Metta for all. gassho1
Metta to All.
Thanks Jundo...I guess it's easier for me to say I can feel what he's feeling rather than do what he's doing. Got to mull this one over.
"his attendance there dropped off after about a year. He drank alcohol regularly and carried a gun"
Yet, huge part of the article deals with his Buddhism. Who knows what was going on in his head? News have to sell...
When I first experienced a dissolving of absolutes, I was not grounded, and panicked at not having a foothold. There was fear that i could do anything, and my own impulses were like a monster in the closet. If I stood by a ledge maybe I'd jump off? If I held a knife maybe I'd stick it in someone? It was a frightening time that had to be worked through, and was helped by the presence of a wise friend. There is no violence or perversity "out there" that isn't "in here", somehow this heart is big enough to contain it all .
The goal (yes, we have goals even though goalless!) is not to be "amoral", but rather to find a certain Peace, Compassion and Goodness even greater than small human judgments of good and bad, violence and peace.
I think it true in any religion or philosophy that one can find either a message of peace or an excuse for violence and bloodshed (such as the Christian Crusaders or 9-11 Hijackers). The same could be true in Buddhism if one does not live the non-violent, non-abusive, caring and charitable way that the Precepts guide us. For the most part (there have been exceptions through the centuries) most Buddhists seem to stay on the good road.
It isn't necessarily about a dark side, but about putting ourselves in the shoes of someone who is mentally ill. We can feel empathy for someone who has the flu because we have felt this ourselves. It is a bit more difficult with schizophrenia or other severe mental disorders that we have not experienced.
So, yes, I find it difficult to believe who I conceive of as "me" could do such a terrible thing. But if I had suffered as this man had obviously suffered, I would be rather arrogant to think that could not have been me.
Some murders are Buddhist but not all Buddhist are murderers. My simple take on it. As said before, people want an easy answer to process without any ambiguity. This man obviously had many psychological issues and should've tried to better himself... but seem people are in too deep of a hole to know this.
As for this man being a Buddhist, well, there was a murder in my town a few days ago, by a young Chinese boy. Does that mean all Chinese boys are dangerous? Of course not, one bad egg shouldn't ruin the entire batch. Christianity has been blamed for the cause of slavery, it was also a driving force in the abolition of slavery. No matter what holy text you read, whether you chant, pray, meditate--all of these things are really filtered though what kind of a heart you have. And, for many, the condition of our heart is directly related to our environment, either in the present, or how we were raised as children, or our mental state, not by what particular brand of religion is being followed.
A well stated op-ed in the Washington Post, in response to the earlier article ...
At least in this regard, Buddhism differs from these religions, and this should be made crystal clear to the average citizen. Alexis would have been hard pressed to find and reference any Buddhist sacred scripture that supported his mindless actions at the Navy Yard. But does the average citizen understand this about Buddhism? Probably not. Or does the average citizen, due to his/her negligible understanding of non-Western religions, now assume that because Alexis was allegedly a practicing Buddhist, that Buddhist doctrine could somehow be interpreted to support this behavior? Maybe. But Alexis’s act should now be used profitably as a teachable moment. That is to say, Buddhism cannot condone, nor can any Buddhist scripture be found that would allow, this type of deplorable bloodletting.
What a good article it distills all that has been said on this thread. Thank you Jundo.
As Jundo said, sometimes deeply troubled people seek out Buddhism because they see a spark of hope there. I'm sure many of us here are such people. Unfortunately there are those individuals who for whatever reason just snap and nothing could have prevented it. Metta to the victims, their families and friends, and to the friends and family of this deeply troubled person.
Thanks for this new article, Jundo.
It was good, but there was one passage that I have my problems with:
So as soon as you break a Precept you are not a Buddhist anymore?Quote:
So, was Alexis, who is also reported to have been a “hard-core drinker,” a gun-lover with previous gun violence arrests, and a murderous killer, a Buddhist? In name only, based on these facts. And based solely on the observance of the basic Buddhist tenets described above, and other such tenets as metta, or loving-kindness, Alexis cannot accurately be defined as a Buddhist. This is because, simply put, Buddhist is who Buddhism does.
Sorry, that sounds too easy, and moreover it is a logical fallacy called "No true Scotsman" (clicky):
Person A: "No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."
Person B: "I am Scottish, and I put sugar on my porridge."
Person A: "Then you are not a true Scotsman."
(See more info at the above Wikipedia link.)
According to that logic the crusaders were not Christians, because a true Chistian does not kill; in WWII no German was a Nazi, because a true German is not a racist, the responsible people for 9/11 were no Islamists, because true Islamists don't kill... etc. the list is endless.
With this argumentation no ideology in this world would ever be responsible for someones behavior. Of course I don't think Buddhism was the cause here and I agree with most other things that were said in the second WP article, but this argument is cheap IMHO.
Anyway, just wanted to point it out.
Timo, I've never thought of it that way before, how interesting. I've had several debates with Christians about things such as the Crusaders, and the response is always "but they were not true Christians"
Like I said before, you can be Christian, Buddhist, or whatever, it's what is in your heart as to how you are going to live your life. The bible can be used as a weapon to flame the fan of bloodshed, or it can be used to motivate people to spread love and kindness. How is it the same book can be used for such opposite actions?
Totally agree with you.
Indeed, this argument is used by many people nowadays who identify themselves with an ideology/philosophy/religion/concept/you-name-it.
BTW: Jundo wrote something interesting about the killing Buddhists in Myanmar:
What is it that makes a person who they are? What is the true identity of the self that represents a person. Was Aaron Alexis a Buddhist? He held the answer within his being to the truth of that matter but he also held many other things and that is now how he will be remembered. Here is something that I ran across that spoke to me. It may not be the answer to any questions concerning Aaron but then maybe it is.
The words to this poem can be found here: http://www.poetrybycharlescfinn.com/pleasehear.html
Thank you for the post, Timo. Another good read. I've said this on facebook before, when I've come across fiery debates on homosexuality--if you religion is causing you to cloud your compassion, it's time to change your religion.
Like Jundo posted, I too have seen many Christians act much like these Buddhists. They put themselves in a bubble, by choice obviously as I live in a country where illiteracy is not a problem. They read only the bible (and of course, their interpretation of it is the right one), listen to Christian speakers, Christian music, Christian friends, church, church, and did I mention church on almost every single night. Now, that's all fine and dandy. I'm not here to judge how ppl should live their lives. However, what I've noticed, is that when someone does this, their religion becomes a catalyst for isolation, which leads to an "us" vs. "them" mentality. Then, it becomes difficult to relate to them, how can you when everything is filtered down from their perspectives on life. When this happens, there is no wiggle room for growth. You do not hear the stories of other people in other races, religions, and sexual orientation. This isn't a Christian problem, it happens all the time, all over the world. And it saddens me that we, as a human race, do not spend more time listening to others' stories more often, and less time being critical of others, regardless of how "different" they may appear.
wow hard topic and it is a reality that one call himself or herself a buddhist without trully living the dharma, the same way someone can call himself a catholic without following the full path. And like everything in this world we cannot judge the whole for just a part, not all buddhist have mental illnesses and that guy maybe was truthful to some part of his practice and at some point his mind just snapped or maybe he wasn´t truthful at all XD. Who knows? maybe even he doesn´t kow.