June 16, 2009

Is hatefulness outside the realm of Buddhism?

This is one of those opinion pieces that I think that only I am likely to write and that others are likely to tsk, tsk, look at me and say, "there but for the grace of Avalokitesvara go I."

As happens, a bunch of things suddenly came together that prompt me to write this essay.
  • A post in Danny Fisher's blog where Dano expresses disapproval for a hateful comment posted to his blog.
  • An incident in the mission dorm where several black guys decided to have a long, loud conversation before wake-up time about, in part, the terribleness of white people.
  • An article my friend Steve Curless wrote on the touchy subject of forgiving a serial child abuser and killer.
  • A paper written by Scott A. Mitchell about Buddhism getting all twisted apart by popular American culture.
  • Oh, and lastly, I got a book from the library called "Why we hate: understanding, curbing, and eliminating hate in ourselves and our world".
I tend to think that there are many benefits to having Buddhism undergo the bardo-like experience of adding "being interpreted by American culture" as one of its many manifestations.

American culture is rich, yet earthy; narcissicistic, yet there are many people with advanced spiritual development; and it's course & reeking, yet seeking & reaching.

Americans also tend to want to look into everything: uncovering hypocrisies; bringing down the powerful; fighting injustice. We consider ourselves the Center for this very sort of thing, which gives us some standing to think of the country as the Brightly Lit City on the Hill, the envy of the world (which is crap, somewhat).

But we Buddhists know better than others that America's chutzpah is its Achilles' heel. The arrogance and creaturely neediness of Americans dams the way to happiness.

So, how do we engage Americans? and make Buddhism comfortably a part of the American experience such that Buddhism shapes America at least as much as America has seemed to have overpowered Buddhism?

Surely, there is only One Way with a beast as multiheaded as America: we engage at every level.

The easiest of it ought to be to embrace what seems hateful: to understand it and engage it.

This is, afterall, the highest spiritual level. Christ went directly where he was most vulnerable (and got crucified; but I ask that you ignore THAT for the time being).

Though it isn't about Buddhism, at all, and was written just after the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, Why We Hate is pretty interesting and ends with a chapter called "An Enlightened Future."

Basically, the author advocates that we must move from an Us-v-Them world to one of cooperation, where all of us is us, which author Rush W. Dozier calls "us-us."
The problems of a worldwide consumer culture will ... have to be addressed. Is this culture sustainable given global resources? Because consumerism has no core values other than the market itself, it can be shaped by the changing tastes and desires of the consuming public. Those tastes are now heavily manipulated by the propaganda of advertising, which generally appeals to the primitive neural system. An us-us global civilization could move from limbic self-absorption within a culture of materialism to a culture of enlightened meaning. And in a more enlightened age – if tastes shift away from overconsumption and acceptance of the lowerest common denominator in cultural offerings – the market will shift as well.
The job ahead for us, then, is this ...
The task of the civilized world is not just to cease acts of terrorism but to curb and eliminate dehumanizing hate. We must expand the concept of "us" until it includes every human being and the idea of "them" falls into disuse as an obsolete stereotyping device. This can be achieved only through the constant and determined use of the advanced neural system when it has been bolstered by a first-rate education and supportive culture that protects the rights of all people. ... Humanity must embrace, both cognitively and emotionally [Wisdom and Compassion; prajna and karuna!!], what modern genetics tells us – we are a remarkably homogeneous young species within which, scientifically speaking, there is only one race: the human race.


~C4Chaos said...

when it comes to "hatred" i try to follow what good ole Sid suggested in the Dhammapada:

"Hatreds never cease by hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law." (Dp.1,5)

and when it comes to anger i also like how the Dalai Lama had put it: be angry at the action, not the actor. i think it applies to hate as well. but anger subsides and hate lingers. so i'd rather get angry than hateful.

easier said than done of course. but the more i apply this to my life, the more i notice that i don't get placed in situation where i feel the drive to really "hate" someone.

i can honestly say that i can't think of anyone right now who i hate. annoyed maybe, or maybe situations i really hate (e.g. false fire alarms in my condo. i friggin' hate the loud sound so much i want to smash the fire alarm myself)

but hate someone? i don't recall hating anyone, and i hope it stays that way :)


Tom said...

A few weeks after the window-breaking incident, I discovered for the first time intense certain fiery hatred. It subsided, but if I were to concentrate on the evil person and events, I supposed I could bring this absolute and certain hatred back. It wouldn't be difficult; the hatred is deserved. I just avoid going there with my mind.

At second level, I hate the Sacramento justice system and a collection of people in it.

And I hate some of the nonprofits in this town that are much more causers of misery and leaches in the industry of homeless help.

But I certainly agree with the ideals you espouse, Kind C4.