The Language of Conflict

Following the recent terror attacks in London and Manchester and the apparently “retaliatory” attack last night outside a mosque in Finsbury Park this article by Andrew Olendzki on conflict is so appropriate………….

A lot of fighting is going on in both private and public discourse today. In a text known as the discourse about not doing battle (Aranavibhanga Sutta, MN 139), the Buddha puts forth suggestions on how we might lessen the conflicts around us. One stands out as making an important point about how we can use language to either provoke or reduce conflict.

It is very common for people to speak something like this:

All those who are committed to [x] are on the wrong path.

All those who are not committed to [x] are on the right path.

You can insert as the variable any belief, opinion, practice, or behaviour.

According to the Buddha, the trouble with this way of speaking is that it engages in “extolling” and “disparaging.” The real problem with this mode of expression is that it is praise or blame directed at a person, and either extols or disparages people who hold the views and engage in the activities specified. We can easily think of examples of arguments, debates, or political talks that are little more than ad hominem attacks, which focus on one’s opponent personally rather than on the matter at hand. As soon as the issue has to do with persons, we tap into primitive instincts for self-preservation and self-aggrandisement and evoke the deep psychological forces identified in the Buddhist tradition as greed, hatred, and delusion. Anytime a “self” is involved, that self is driven by the need to get or hold on to whatever serves it, at any cost, and by the need to deny or destroy anything that threatens it. When a person is extolled, their sense of self-importance and self-righteousness increases, and when a person is disparaged, their reflexes for self-defence are triggered. Both praise and blame evoke a sense of self, and the self always shows up ready to fight.

However, the Buddha was also very clear about the existence of a right path and a wrong path. His message is not that we should avoid conflict by not making distinctions or judgements about what is healthy or unhealthy, skillful or unskillful. Indeed, the clarity of his insight into what is harmful and what is beneficial for sentient beings is among the major contributions made to world civilisation by the Buddha. The matter is more carefully stated this way:

Being committed to [x] brings about suffering and is the wrong path.

Not being committed to [x] does not bring about suffering and is the right path.

The point is a simple and timeless one. There are all sorts of beliefs, opinions, practices, and behaviours that lead to harm, and many others that lead to well-being. By all means, let’s be clear about which is which, and share with others what we understand about this. But when we do this by disparaging people for their views, it will only trigger their existential defence mechanisms—and likely bring out their worst side. They may be hurt or get angry, and because of this either strike back or in some other way speak and act badly. Similarly, if we extol ourselves for our beliefs, it will feed into our own narcissistic tendencies. When alternately one criticises the beliefs and practices themselves, rather than the people that adhere to them, we create some space between the two.

At its worst, of course, the separation of persons from their views or behaviours does little good, for people often identify so strongly with these things that any criticism is taken as a personal attack. If you disparage my beliefs, I hold these so much as a part of who I am that you are essentially disparaging me. This is the insidious side of grasping, and of creating a self to which so many things belong.

At its best, the practice of discussing ideas rather than praising or blaming people allows for everyone to hold different viewpoints without going to battle. I can believe strongly that I am right and you are wrong, but still respect you, while you can maintain the view that you are right and I am wrong, and still put up with me. It is inevitable that there will be a wide range of beliefs, opinions, practices, and behaviours in this large and diverse world. It is not inevitable that people must hate one another on account of this.

It may be a modest contribution, but let’s see whether following the Buddha’s suggestion of using depersonalised language to critique harmful thoughts, words, and deeds, rather than attacking the people who wield them, can help end some of the fighting and muffle the call to battle.

Ajahn Brahm’s UK Dhamma Talks Tour

I’ve just had news of Ajahn Brahm’s upcoming “Real Dhamma” UK Tour, starting in October this year. Details are as follows:-

TUE, 10 OCTOBER 7:00 PM –
9:00 PM
Dhamma Talk: “Cultivating Ethics in a Cybernetic Age”
Venue TBA, London, UK.

WED, 11 OCTOBER 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Dhamma talk: “A Path With a Laugh”
Cross Street Chapel, Manchester, UK.

WED, 11 OCTOBER 7:00 PM – 9:00PM
Dhamma Talk: “Courage and Authenticity at Work”
Friends Meeting House, Manchester, UK.

THUR, 12 OCTOBER 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Dhamma talk: “At Peace With Uncertainty”
Kagyu Samye Dzong, London, UK.

Starting: FRI, 13 OCTOBER 7:00 PM
Non-Residential Weekend Retreat: “Unconditional Mindfulness”
Mary Ward House, London, UK.

The tour is in support of the Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project which aims to promote the teachings and practices of Early Buddhism, through establishing a Bhikkhuni presence in the UK.

Their long term aspiration is to develop a monastery for women who wish to train towards full ordination.

Here is an abstract from their latest newsletter……………………

ENCOURAGING BEGINNINGS

Since the inspired conception of Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project in Perth, November 2015, joyful steps – often taken in leaps and bounds – are paving the way to make Britain’s first bhikkhuni monastery a reality!

Bhikkhuni Canda and and her team are currently organising Ajahn Brahm’s second teaching trip to England in consecutive years – a benefit event to build on the significant funds already raised and to further awareness of Anukampa’s mission. The tour is entitled “Real Dhamma,” because spreading the Dhamma as taught by the Buddha and preserved by the four-fold assembly of bhikkhunis, bhikkhus, laywomen and laymen, lies at the heart of our aspiration and manifests in the compassionate endeavour to increase training opportunities for female monastics.

One of the most uplifting benefits of the project so far has been to witness a dynamic new spiritual community taking shape! People of all nationalifies and from all walks of life have participated, helping us find firm footing. Thanks to them, here are some of our main accomplishments to date:

• February 2016: website (www.anukampaproject.org) gets up and running
• April 2016: ABP becomes a legal entity
• June 2016: ABP’s highly active facebook page is born
• October 2016: Ajahn Brahm’s unprecedented sell-out UK tour raises around £50,000
• November 2016: Anukampa receives a large, anonymous donation from an overseas supporter, which brings us up to around half the required funds for a modest property.

Fundraising enterprises such as book-selling in Thailand and sponsored head-shaving in Perth (any more takers?!) are ongoing and particularly welcome, as are the increasing number of teaching invitations being extended to Bhikkhuni Canda, by existing Buddhist groups. We are also establishing an “Anukampa Friend’s” Dhamma group in London and recently held the second meeting.

On April 12th 2017, Anukampa reached a major milestone, becoming registered as both a religious and an educational charity, which attests to the dedication and commitment of our trustees and key volunteers.

Our immediate next steps focus on building up our team. We recently welcomed a new volunteer book-keeper to assist in our treasury department and are now looking for a webmaster. The services of a lawyer would undoubtedly be very helpful going forward too. We will continue to organise benefit events and also retreats with various monastic teachers. After Ajahn Brahm’s 2017 teaching tour, will be looking for more people to help manage the online tour registration system and general administration, working closely with our outreach team.

In the coming year or two, we will experiment with having a temporary base in England for Bhikkhuni Canda and one or two lay guests who will look after her monastic needs. This will enable us to suss out the level of interest in a chosen area, as well as provide a much-needed space from where regular Dhamma talks and discussion groups can be held. When our core team (and accounts!) are mature enough, we will look for suitable properties for the monastery, in a beautiful natural setting. This should be secluded yet not isolated; private yet accessible by public transport. At present, intuition guides us south of and up to an hour and a half from London….but if the right place comes up elsewhere we are open!

(I wonder what they think of the Isle of Wight?)

Free from Fear

This reflection seems so appropriate considering the nature of the Manchester terrorist attack…..

Becoming lost in enjoyment brings sorrow; 
becoming lost in enjoyment brings fear. 
Being free in your experience of enjoyment means sorrow ceases,  
so how could there be any fear?

Dhammapada v. 214

Is it possible to truly live with all the pleasure and pain of life and at the same time remain free from suffering? Clearly, our confidence in the Buddha’s Awakening means we trust freedom from suffering is possible. Such confidence is a powerful motivator and contributes to the foundation on which we build our spiritual practice. And from a practice perspective, we are not just interested in what we experience, but also in the way we meet all our experiences. Out of unawareness we readily become lost in experiences; the joyous, the utterly intolerable and everything in-between. But when awareness is well-cultivated there is the possibility of receiving all experience without becoming lost; without obstructing freedom.

Ajahn Munindo

Triratna’s 50th Anniversary

This weekend the Triratna Buddhist Community will be celebrating its founding 50 years ago on the 6th of April 1967.

Formerly known as the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO), Triratna is an international fellowship of Buddhists founded by Sangharakshita in the UK in 1967 describing itself as “an international network dedicated to communicating Buddhist truths in ways appropriate to the modern world”. In keeping with Buddhist traditions, it also pays attention to contemporary ideas, particularly drawn from Western philosophy, psychotherapy, and art.

8 April 2017 a

The group has more than 100 branches around the world affiliated with the community, including in North America, Australasia and Europe. In the UK, it is one of the largest Buddhist movements, with some 30 urban and retreat centres.

Its largest following, however, is in India, where it is known as Triratna Bauddha Mahāsaṅgha.

This Buddhist group has its roots in the scattered contacts that Sangharakshita had in the 1950s with Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.

Dr. Ambedkar was an Indian jurist, political leader, philosopher, anthropologist, historian, orator, economist, teacher, editor, prolific writer, revolutionary and a revivalist for Buddhism in India. He was also the chief architect of the Indian Constitution. Born an “untouchable”, he converted to Buddhism and is credited with providing the inspiration for the conversion of hundreds of thousands of Dalits or untouchables to Theravada Buddhism. In August 1947, the new Congress-led government invited Ambedkar to serve as the nation’s first law minister. The constitution that he drafted provided constitutional guarantees and protections for a wide range of civil liberties for individual citizens, including freedom of religion, the abolition of untouchability and the outlawing of all forms of discrimination.

Sangharakshita, then still a bhikshu, participated in the conversion movement from 1956 until his departure to the UK in 1963 where he founded the FWBO recently renamed Triratna.

A little known fact is that Roma gypsies trace their origins to the Dalits of India and several have followed the lead of their Indian compatriots and converted to Buddhism, often as a response to discrimination. There is a sizeable Gypsy Buddhist community in Hungary, they take their inspiration from Dr. Ambedka and are officially affiliated to the Triratna Buddhist Community.

A Proposal for Peace – Buddhist Talk in Newport

 

(A better link is https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-proposal-for-peace-toward-a-more-humane-world-tickets-33147774887/amp).

A Proposal for Peace – toward a more humane world 
 
A talk by Robert Harrap

This talk introduces the work of Buddhist Philosopher Daisaku Ikeda,
who calls for greater efforts to protect human rights, safeguard the planet’s ecology, and the urgent need to ban all nuclear weapons.

Humanistic scholar, author and peace-builder Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a worldwide lay Buddhist organisation, has written and published a Peace Proposal every year since 1983, submitting these to the United Nations as part of his lifelong commitment to dialogues supporting world peace and the realisation of human potential.

The Isle of Wight members of the socially engaged Buddhist movement SGI-UK* are hosting a talk, followed by question, answer and discussion about the ideas underpinning 2017 Peace Proposal: ‘The Global Solidarity of Youth: Ushering in a New Era of Hope’, by Daisaku Ikeda. Ikeda’s contribution has earned him profound respect and more than 200 honorary doctorates and awards from universities, educational institutions and peace groups around the world.

Each proposal focuses on key themes and global issues that concern politicians, policy makers and individuals alike. Through each he promotes the idea of a world in which ‘no one is left behind’, and suggests ways that individuals can contribute towards, and thereby participate in, shared action which will lead to greater solidarity and the elimination of suffering. This year he particularly highlights the ‘role of youth’; ‘laying foundations to overcome division and inequality’; ‘abolishing nuclear weapons’; ‘restoring hope in the hearts of refugees’ and ‘building a culture of human rights’.

The talk will be delivered by Robert Harrap, SGI-UK General Director since 2013, and a Barrister in the areas of employment, social housing and human rights. Robert also appears regularly on the BBC Radio 2’ Programme ‘Pause for Thought’.

When: Monday, 8 May 2017

Time: Talk 6.15 -7 pm, followed by Q&A 7 – 7.30pm (doors open 6pm)

Where: Island Innovation VI Form Campus
Upper St. James Street, Newport, PO30 1LJ

This is a free event
As places are limited please register your attendance in advance on https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-proposal-for-peace-toward-a-more-humane-world-tickets-33147774887/amp

For more information:
contact: Harry Vernon 07854 005042

See www.daisakuikeda.org

Read a synopsis of the proposal

http://www.sgi-uk.org/global-solidarity-youth-ushering-new-era-hope

Read full text of proposal

http://www.sgi-uk.org/sites/default/files/peace-proposal/PeaceProposal_2017.pdf

Derek Parfit, Philosopher (and accidental Buddhist) Dies

Derek Parfit, the British philosopher who specialised in problems of personal identity, rationality, ethics, and the relations among them, died on Monday at his home in London. He was 74.

Parfit, who was associated with All Souls College at Oxford for his entire career, rose to pre-eminence with the publication of his first paper, “Personal Identity,” in 1971.

He developed a theory of identity that downgraded the notion, and the importance, of an irreducible self — the “deep further fact,” as he called it” — in terms not dissimilar to Buddhism.

Anattā (no-self, without soul, no essence) is the nature of living beings, and this is one of the three marks of existence in Buddhism, along with Anicca (impermanence, nothing lasts) and Dukkha (suffering, unsatisfactoriness is innate in birth, ageing, death, rebirth, redeath – the Saṃsāra cycle of existence).

Meditation helps one to view what is really going on within the construct which we call “me”. It is ever changing, dependent for its identity upon “exterior” factors and can be seen as merely a vocalised response to sensory inputs and re-run memories and random thoughts. It is impermanent (Anicca) , it will die.

It’s activities are constantly searching for fulfilment (Dukkha), the avoidance of the suffering we inflict upon ourselves when we can’t escape contact with that which we dislike or get what we want.

A Buddhist Father Christmas

The Listening Project is a BBC Radio 4 initiative that offers a snapshot of contemporary Britain in which people across the UK volunteer to have a conversation with someone close to them about a subject they’ve never discussed intimately before.

Just before Christmas Fi Glover introduced a conversation between a Buddhist Father Christmas and a Baptist chaplain about how they spend Christmas morning in the hospice. Another in the series that proves it’s surprising what you hear when you listen.