Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bodhisattvas in an election year - Case Three

Free speech is a practice principle - the free speech of all beings.

"Free speech as a practice principle" is not about exercising "my" free speech - what I want to say and what I see as true; asserting that is easy.

What do you do when others say what you do not agree with, even what you find offensive and wrong?

Do you allow and accept free speech for others?

We all can practice with this. What do we believe and say (even just to ourselves) when we hear or read others saying what we do not agree with? Or when issues are stated and framed in ways that highlight what we do not want highlighted, when the framing disregards what we think important? Do we react? Do we believe things about them, construct narratives? Do we notice these reactions and beliefs, practice in the midst of their arising?

The Diamond Sutra states, “No one can be called a Bodhisattva who creates the perception of a self, a being , a life or a soul.” (adapted from Red Pine’s translation).  In commenting on this, the Sixth Ancestor Huineng says “To employ  these four perceptions is to be a being. Not to employ them is to be a Buddha. When they (and we all can be “they”) are deluded, Buddhas become beings. When they are awake, beings become Buddhas.” Huineng also states, “non-abiding is to not be attached to characteristics of  dharmas (phenomena of form and mind).”

An example of free speech as a practice opportunity is in the fight between the Obama administration and some religious organizations over the power of the government to require these religious organizations  and their insurance plans to include contraception and the morning-after pill, which some oppose based on religious principles, religious conscience and precepts. 

There are those who see this issue as an imposition and infringement on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion. There are others who argue that the federal government has  (or should have) the power to assure that all will receive needed health care, and that the power to force insurance companies to provide this in the form of contraception for women (which has medical benefits in many ways) is within the purview of the government. And there are those who argue that there is an individual right to healthcare, including contraception, and the government can force employers to provide this.

How is it when others frame it in ways that you do not like, in ways you even find dishonest and offensive? How do you frame the issues involved? 

Do you allow free speech - that is, are you free of reactions to the speech of others? 

Do you liberate all beings - not creating and not holding the perception of a self, a being , a life or a soul?

Do you allow your mind speech, mind comments,  to arise and pass?

Do you notice your reactions to them,  and practice with these?

There are many areas of our life that we can clarify in the light of this free speech practice.

Clarifying so, may all innumerable beings be awake, be the Buddhas they are.

(c) 2012 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bodhisattvas in an election year - Case Two

"The War on Wyden

"Ticked off by Washington's failure to tackle big problems? Spare a moment for Oregon's senior senator. Mr. Wyden is the Democrat who in December had the audacity to team up with House Republican Paul Ryan on a proposal to reform and strengthen Medicare—the entitlement that is pushing the country, and seniors, off a cliff. As bipartisan exercises go, this was big, thoughtful, promising.
It was also a complete anathema to a Democratic establishment that is ideologically opposed to change, and cynically intent on using Mediscare to beat Republicans in 2012. Mr. Wyden, as a result, is taking a beating from his own.
"Ron Wyden, Useful Idiot," railed New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. "Is Ron Wyden trying to get Mitt Romney elected?" fumed the Nation magazine. Ron Zerban, a Democrat running for Mr. Ryan's seat, accused Mr. Wyden of giving the GOP cover and proclaimed him no longer a "Democrat."
The White House went defcon, insisting that the plan would cause Medicare to "wither on the vine." House Democrats hissed the plan would end "Medicare as we know it." Most informative was the gripe of a former Senate staffer: Mr. Wyden was taking away "a key argument for Democrats that are trying to retake the House." The nerve! 

Mr. Wyden notes there'd have been no plan had not Mr. Ryan agreed to "traditional Medicare remaining a permanent part of the program," a fact, he says, that rebuts any notion of it "withering on the vine."
The real problem, he acknowledges, is ideological opposition to any private-sector involvement—a position that frustrates the senator, since it is already reality. More than 40% of Oregon seniors already use private coverage, through Medicare Advantage or Medigap.
"This is a disconnected conversation," he pronounces. The Wyden-Ryan bill is simply acknowledgment that any serious entitlement reform must encompass choice and markets."

How do you see this case?

Do you have a reaction to some of the details noted - a belief about them?

Do we encounter similar circumstances in our life? What are they?

What is the practice opportunity and effort when we do?

(c) 2012 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Stranger Than Fiction

This reminds me of the joke about the boy who kills his parents
and then asks for mercy from the court because he is an orphan.

Reporters face trial for ‘invading’ Nazi’s privacy


Two Dutch journalists will stand trial in Germany for allegedly invading the privacy of the escaped Nazi warcriminal whom they helped expose.

THE HAGUE – Two Dutch journalists will stand trial in Germany for allegedly invading the privacy of the escaped Nazi war criminal whom they helped expose.
Journalists Jelle Visser and Jan Ponsen are to report on Thursday morning to the courthouse in Eschweiler, a sleepy border town in western Germany. They will have to answer charges that they had violated the privacy and trust of Heinrich Boere, a Dutch Waffen-SS assassin.
He filed a complaint against the journalists for violation of privacy from prison. The investigation into the journalists’ actions began that year.The journalists for the investigative show Een Vandaag secretly filmed Boere in September 2009 at his home in Eschweiler, where he was also born. A German court sentenced Boere in March 2010 to life imprisonment for his wartime crimes.
German authorities began preparing an indictment against Boere in 2008. The Dutch government repeatedly sought Boere’s extradition since the 1980s, to no avail.
“This case is ridiculous,” Visser told The Jerusalem Post.“The German authorities took more than 60 years to prosecute Boere, but they took less than two years to prosecute the reporters who filmed him at large.”
If convicted, the journalists face up to three years in jail.
Accompanying the journalists will be representatives of the journalist unions of the Netherlands and Germany, as well asfamily members of people whom Boere had murdered.
One of them is the daughter of Fritz Bicknese, a pharmacist and father of 12. Boere executed him near Breda in July 1944. Also present will be Anny Schröder-Schilte and her sister. Her father hid people wanted by the Germans and their collaborators in his home until Boere reported him to the Nazis. Mr. Schilte, father of five, died in a German concentration camp.
“I was relieved to see the broadcast,” Anny Schröder- Schilte told the Post. “Finally the person who killed my father had a face. I knew who had done it. I was 12 when it happened and it all happened very fast. It is unbelievable that he [Boere] dares file complaints after what he did.”
“The judge in this case will need to balance the public’s best interests with those of the individual,” said Esther Voet, deputy director of CIDI, Holland’s watchdog on anti-Semitism, and former editor-in-chief of the country’s Jewish journal, NIW. “The public’s interest here clearly outweighs the individual’s.”
Along with Boere’s extradition, the Netherlands is also seeking that of Klaas Carel Faber, another convicted Dutch Nazi who fed to Germany. Faber is still at large.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bodhisattvas in an election year - Case One

On January 19, 2012 I wrote a note, to be found several blogs down, called Bodhisattvas in an election year.

I have had requests to expand on this theme in terms of the ongoing campaigns, and therefore will bring up cases from the media which are opportunities for us to reflect on these themes. I will choose examples from both major parties and from various candidates "to be fair."

Here is the first case, an excerpt from an article in the Atlantic online:

Have Democrats Succeeded in Pre-Destroying Romney?

FEB 2 2012, 7:45 AM ET 

Inside the left's little-noticed, relentless, brutally effective campaign to tear down the Republican front-runner in advance of the general election.

Tuesday's installment of the left's crusade to destroy Mitt Romney began like this: an operator chirping,

"I'd like to welcome you today to the Mitt Romney Would Destroy Social Security and Medicare Conference Call."

A few moments later, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, was on the line. "Thanks, everybody, for joining the call today," she began. Within minutes, she had accused Romney of "political pandering," supporting "the extreme tea party agenda," and lying to senior citizens, Hispanics and supporters of the space program.

Just another day in the life of the vast left-wing conspiracy.

Practically every day for months, Democrats and their allies have been hammering Romney like this. Unions, party committees at the national and state levels, independent groups such as American Bridge and Americans United for Change, and the Obama campaign itself have undertaken an unprecedented effort to tarnish the front-runner while virtually ignoring the rest of the GOP candidates. And it appears to be working......."

If you are interested in reading the rest of the article, it is here:

As I said in the original blog,  if we do not see the politician also as a 
Bodhisattva-to-be, as a Bodhisattva right now - even if they do not see it, 
even if they do not act it as far as we are concerned - than that much we 
can not be who we truly are. Instead, we are caught in the particulars of 
self-centered judgments. More important in terms of the creating and 
maintaining of stress, suffering and even harmful actions, we might 
nurture and be entangled in all sorts of reactive emotion thought and 
action growing from these judgments.

So, what do we see in the attacks on Romney portrayed in this article? 

No matter what our political position, can we see and go beyond our 
likes and dislikes, beyond those ideas and judgments of praise or 
put downs that arise; to see what we are holding to, to be present 
as this body-mind-moment? What are those quoted and portrayed 
in the article doing?

Do the disagreements and choices arise in the "bigger" container of 
not-praising, not-putting down, in the container of seeing beyond stories 
of self and other? 

What would it be to manifest the Bodhisattva way as political speech and 
action, political disagreements and debates, in these situations?

To aid our reflection, here is a nice quote from a Jewish Chasidic Master, 
the Baal Shem Tov :

"Fear builds walls to bar the light." 

Though light is not barred, for the fearful it seems barred.

(c) 2012 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Thursday, February 2, 2012

a counter-intuitive notion

From Atlantic online:

Why Your Prius Will Bankrupt Our Highways

FEB 2 2012, 9:45 AM 
Gas taxes have funded our roads for decades. But our fuel-efficient cars and tax-allergic Congress are leading to an infrastructure break-down. 
On Tuesday, House Republicans unveiled a highway spending bill stuffed full of red meat for their conservative base -- a Chipotle steak burrito wrapped in legislative language. It would bring the Keystone XL Pipeline back from the grave. It would gut funding for Amtrak and nix high-speed rail projects. And it would pay for its $260 billion price tag partly with royalties from expanded offshore oil drilling, including in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The drilling proposal alone probably makes this bill dead-on-arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But even if it's a political non-starter, it also shines a big, bright light on a critical problem. America's old system for funding its highways is breaking down like an old jalopy, and no politicians have offered up a good solution to fix it.
This isn't a new problem, but it's getting worse. Since back in the Eisenhower era, the federal government has maintained a Highway Trust Fund, paid for mostly by taxes on fuel, that helps cover the repair and construction of our country's roads, bridges, and mass transit. The idea was that drivers themselves should bear some of the cost the roads they used. Unfortunately, Congress hasn't raised the gas tax since 1993. Since then, inflation has eaten away at least a third of its value.....

the rest of the article is here:

The article concludes:

"If people who use roads aren't forced to pay for them, there's little the government can do to limit the amount of driving, or the wear and tear that would require more repairs.
"You know the old line about the Soviet Union's bread lines?" he asked me. "When you give something away for free, the only way to ration it is long lines."