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Fri Jun 6th, 2014


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10:45 pm - In which I gad about
So, well, went to a Buddhist lecture finally, go me. Speaker for the Kadampa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Sounded promising- 'Buddha taught that happiness and suffering are feelings- parts of our mind- and so their main causes are not to be found outside the mind. If we want to be truly happy and free from suffering, we must learn how to control our mind.'

I'm rubbish at detecting accents, but my guess is Gen-la Kelsang Dekyong is northern Irish. Friendly funny woman. And quite sensible through three-quarters of the talk. But when we got to 'what's the cause of suffering and happiness?' the answer came out as 'karma.' Stuff you did a couple of lifetimes back now biting you on the ass. So begin to practise virtue and you'll be happy. 'I guarantee it.' Yes: a couple of lifetimes from now. This does little good just at the moment. I don't think people will be coming up and asking me why I'm so glowingly content ('are you on meds?' as the speaker put it) if I just stop drinking and avoid irresponsible sex. Because I do and they don't.

The karma thing is fine as far as it goes. Seems possible that the world might work that way, and as a disincentive to vice-- mh well, works as well as promising hellfire does in Christianity. But I think I'll stick with the Second Noble truth, simplified into 'suffering comes from wanting things your own way.'

As for Kadampa Buddhism itself, mh well also. If wikipedia has it right, western Kadampa's argument with the Dalai Lama boils down to whether their guardian divinity is a demon or a Buddha; and the odds seem rather heavy on the Dalai Lama having the right of it. Yes, Tibetan Buddhism does get weird.


Today I finally got myself to the museum for the Forbidden City exhibit. Pretty interesting, but I should have brought a list of the Qing emperors with me, because I kept getting the 4th, 5th and 6th ones mixed up. The exhibit has a way of putting these Emperors' quotes on the walls accompanied not by their name but their portrait. -_- The history line with portraits and names was back at the entrance-- and yes, I did keep making my way through the winding and confusing layout to go check which was the Yongzheng Emperor and which the Qianlong. Luckily it wasn't crowded: this would have been impossible at the terracotta warriors. Also the aerial view of the city itself, available on any number of i-pad-type installations with pop-up labels, was all very well: but nowhere was there a map with all the buildings labelled, even though the exhibit kept mentioning individual structures by name. (Nor did I realize these things on the wall were tablets until I saw the usual tech-savvy eight-year-old swiping one to enlarge the picture.)

(8 comments | post comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:mvrdrk
Date:June 7th, 2014 04:16 am (UTC)
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Buddhism in China didn't have a head until the Mongols. As I have now learned. The Yuan dynasty appointed the Dali Lama as the head of the religion. They didn't trust the Chinese population, so they appointed non-Chinese as heads for all things and organizations, and local Chinese as assistants to the heads so they could be advisers and translators. It's all very interesting!
[User Picture]
From:flemmings
Date:June 7th, 2014 11:29 am (UTC)
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The Mongols I can understand-- they were upstart parvenus, not used to cities and such. (sniff) What surprised me was that Buddhist rites were still practised by the emperors even in Qing. I'd have thought the Confucian suspicion of the religion would have taken over by then and relegated it to second-rank status.
[User Picture]
From:mvrdrk
Date:June 7th, 2014 09:22 pm (UTC)
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Buddhists, Daoists, and Confucianists managed to co-exist reasonably well thru all of Chinese history. Yes, there were attempts to wipe each other out from time to time, but mostly Confucianists kept to literature, education, and governance, Buddhists kept to charity and reincarnation, past and future lives if you will, and Daoists kept to how to live the life you currently had.

I think the minimal overlap in areas of concentration kept the conflicts down. Confucianists didn't like the caste system the Buddhists have, left over from their origins in India. And I think they had valid criticisms about the utility of withdrawing from the world or rejecting the world as 'not a way to solve problems'.
[User Picture]
From:flemmings
Date:June 8th, 2014 12:52 pm (UTC)
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I'm inclined to side with the Buddhists, of course, in that China's problems have always seemed unsolvable, and attempts to do so (think Mao's great leap forward) tend merely to exacerbate the problem.

At the very least, withdrawing from the world means you're not creating more mouths to consume already scanty resources.
[User Picture]
From:mvrdrk
Date:June 9th, 2014 03:19 am (UTC)
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True. But no governance and sudden change in governance is in some ways worse, that when the maximum number of people die. Oh, and Mao? Not a Confucianist. LOL!
[User Picture]
From:flemmings
Date:June 9th, 2014 11:11 am (UTC)
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Not a Confucianist, but wasn't Mao at least intending to be a benevolent ruler: greatest good for the greatest number?

Would a Confucianist have done it differently?
[User Picture]
From:mvrdrk
Date:June 10th, 2014 04:28 am (UTC)
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Benevolent ruler is ALL rulers of China. It's pro-forma, as it were. And yes, I think Confucianists would have done it differently. Very differently. It would have been rule by talking each other into the ground.
[User Picture]
From:flemmings
Date:June 10th, 2014 12:35 pm (UTC)
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As in parliamentary filibuster, but on both sides. ^_^ Not efficient in a crisis, but at least it does less harm day to day.

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