Is there a Buddhist view of current affairs? Journal East is certainly setting out to provide one - and to provoke its readers into thinking through their own. Edited and written by Manjusiha from Triratna’s London Buddhist Centre, it’s seen a spate of thought-provoking articles recently. Here’s a few excerpts - for the rest, you’ll have to visit its website at journaleast.com
Suicidal Societies contrasts suicide bombers with the growing number of Tibetan protestors who self-immolate, saying “Yesterday, a rush hour bomb killed 55 in Damascus, Syria’s ‘worst terrorist attack since the start of the uprising… “Two booby-trapped cars loaded with more than 1,000kg of explosives and driven by suicide bombers carried out the terrorist blasts,” said the interior ministry. The explosions left two large craters.’ To my mind, there is one fundamental difference between these actions and those of the nearly 30 Tibetan monks and nuns who have set themselves alight in protest at the Chinese occupation of their country: in the latter case, the ultimate act of self sacrifice doesn’t harm others. What the monks and nuns teach us, in the act of self immolation, is that there is no end to the responsibility we can take for ourselves and others in pursuit of a better society. Every true act of kindness or generosity that we engage in, however small, has something of this flavour of self-transcendence about it”.
An earlier post, Elections, Islamophobia and Austerity , asks, on the eve of the recent elections in the UK, France, and elsewhere, “What is the reality of our situation?” and answers “It depends, as so often, on who you talk to. Some, like the New Statesman, portray things in left- vs. right-wing terms as though we were still living through the Cold War. Others would describe events in terms of the clash of monotheisms: ‘For 1,400 years, the Islamic and the Christian worlds have opposed one another, violently at times. We are living through one of those times.’ (Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West)”, before concluding with its own questions for the reader: “Where are we in all of this? What is your view of the times we are living through? There is a sense, for me, of history taking place, of tectonic plates shifting. How are we responding, if such a seismic shift is taking place? Do we find ourselves closing down, withdrawing through fear, in the face of dramatic societal and economic changes? Will we, as individuals, be ashamed, when we look back at this time, about the choices we made? Will we regret our passivity, our cynicism, our resignation, our hatred, when we arrive in the new world that is currently emerging? What will we say to the next generation, in retrospect? How strong is our faith in karma – that our actions and non-actions have consequences for ourselves, for others, for the society around us?” Challenging stuff.
Posts include book reviews, such as philosopher Simon Critchley‘s exquisite – and timely – book The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology, with Manjusiha commenting at length on Critchley’s suggestion that ‘religiously justified violence is increasingly employed as the means to a political end’ - being Critchley’s attempt to make sense of current times in terms of politics, religion and violence.