Here’s an easy way to get laughed at: join a group of people discussing the war in the Middle East and propose that the Buddhist religion offers a practical path to peace.
I tried arguing this in my office at work on Friday, with predictable results. I remain undeterred, because I continue to hope that religious leaders unaffiliated with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic spheres of influence might be able to play a mediating role in the current conflict. Those of us who wish for change in the Middle East need to actively recruit peacemakers who could possibly establish a dialogue with all parties involved (the alternative is to sit around and watch Condoleeza Rice represent our best hope, and I’d just as soon sit around waiting for the Kansas City Royals to win the World Series). I’m glad that the U.S.A. and France have managed to draft a resolution for the United Nations to vote on, but the work these diplomats are doing is utterly tactical. It’s an important immediate step, but it lacks the kind of moral inspiration that can move people as well as governments, and thus it only addresses the symptoms of war rather than the root causes.
As I’ve written about elsewhere, I am an ethnic Jew but have been a religious Buddhist since I was a teenager (which was a long time ago). I tend to think of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions as more similar than different, and I think of the wonderful traditions of eastern religion (not only Buddhism but also Hinduism and other great intellectual legacies from India, China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and Tibet) as a rich source of alternative thought. This is a theme I’d like to develop over time on this website, and I’d like to begin today by presenting a few relevant eastern-themed links.
• You may have caught some episodes of Bill Moyers’ Faith and Reason, a PBS series featuring exploratory conversations about religion with various international writers. The episode featuring Pema Chodron is fascinating. Chodron, a Buddhist nun, emphasizes the concept of Buddhism not as an extreme choice but as a “middle path” for a wholesome life. Her prescription for balance and realism strikes me as very useful in the current world climate.
• The Sprout is a good article by Gudo Nishijima of Dogen Sangha.
I hope I won’t seem impatient if I express a wish that well-known Buddhist institutions and leaders would play a more active role in current worldwide dialogue, not because they are obliged to but because their help might make a big difference. I am surprised that this isn’t obvious to those I am addressing.
For example, I understand that Tricycle is a magazine and not a blog or a news source, but I am disappointed to visit their site and see very little discussion of the current situation in the Middle East. I am sure this represents a missed opportunity.
And, I complained last week that the Dalai Lama does not seem to be actively offering his involvement at this time either. I googled his name and all I came up with is the upcoming Peace Jam in Tennessee. Is this the best he can do? I would like to call on the various religious leaders of the world to please consider what they can offer in terms of dialogue and mediation right now. Much is at stake, and wisdom is in short supply. Maybe we need less jamming, and more peace.