August 23, 2007

Still Looking for the Ox under Sacred Mountains

lookingfortheox.jpgI've always liked the Ten Oxherding Pictures, and I came across these beautiful ones recently, from an artist named Tim Jundo Williams (©2001) on pages belonging to the Boonville One Drop Zendo. This one is the first, Looking for the Ox. Click the picture to see more. The style reminds me of the paintings Tolkien did for the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Sad news of the Reverend Gyosei Handa, who died in a freak accident involving his rider-mower. Good for him, cutting his own grass. No work, no food. He worked tirelessly for peace and will be sorely missed.

We all remember the Danish cartoon controversy over the images many Muslims found offensive. A Malaysian newspaper recently printed an image of Jesus holding a cigarette. There probably won't be any riots over this. The image of Jesus, unlike Mohammed, is quite ubiquitous (and often commodified) and also, as some pointed out in the wake of the Danish imbroglio, Christians, even fundamentalist Christians, have a profoundly different relationship to art and artistic representation than many Muslims, fundamentalist or not. And defusing things further, the Malaysian newspaper promptly apologized.

A piece in The Times of India about "the inclusive nature of Buddhist philosophy":

It is clear that in order to practise Buddhism you are not expected to become a monk or retire to a forest or cave. You can practise it even while living with and caring for family and discharging your duties towards family members. Similarly, the caring and sharing is extended to [the] entire society in which you live. It is through compassion that you evolve, and thereby raise your consciousness.

China meanwhile is doing its part to protect its Buddhist heritage, this time coughing up some coin to preserve a small Buddhist temple, said to be the smallest in the world:

Costing two million yuan (263,800 U.S. dollars) and occupying 380 square meters, the museum would also benefit the tourism industry in Xinjiang, Wu said.

The temple is only four square meters, with a 65-centimeter Buddha statue inside. So presumably the temple will be inside this museum? The West likes Buddhism. And the West has money. So put away your computers and iPhones and get on a plane to China (or India.) Heck, you can even bring the iPhone with you.

China also banned mining in the sacred Wutai mountains in the north-central state of Shanxi after local monks protested:

The Wutai Mountains, the dwelling place of Manjusri Bodhisattva, the Buddha of Wisdom, are home to 47 temples dating back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD- 220 AD) and about 3,000 Buddhist monks and nuns. ...

But the sacred mountains are also home to rich iron ore deposits, and have been vigorously exploited by mining companies. About 10 mines have been set up in the area.

This follows a similar protest by Buddhists in southwest China (i.e., Tibet) over the same thing, mining in sacred mountains. Unfortunately for Tibet and its sacred mountains, there are resources under there the People's Republic wants. They need that iron to make steel products to sell to the West. It is a simple economic analysis very faintly flavored by the cost of bad P.R. -- What brings in more money, tourists or iron ore? Everyone knows they are re-shaping Tibet to make it more tourist-friendly -- the majority of tourists at this point come from mainland China -- but guess which will win in the end?

This brings up a depressing analogy that applies to all of us all over the world -- renewable sources of energy will never be implemented by money-hungry corporations (and their shareholders who demand dividends) until it is cheaper than using fossil fuels, and fossil fuels will only be cheaper than green solutions in terms of plain dollars when it is very late in the game indeed. So without some vision and leadership from our elected leaders on this (since private corporations, driven to maximize profits, don't believe it is in their economic interest to develop green technologies) things look pretty dark. But China's galloping economy will arrive at this crisis point first, unless they industriously drain Africa's resources for a long time, and therefore will develop the technologies first. Then the West can buy those technologies from China the same way we buy everything else China makes.

More oxherding pictures from a Japan Times Online article on a new exhibition in Tokyo on the Gozan (Five Mountains) Zen temples: Tenryuji, Shokokuji, Tofukuji, Kenninji and Manjuji. Plus an older article on "Madi-Zen Avenue" marketing:

Mara Einstein, author of Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age, said Christians, Jews and Muslims have media watchdog groups that protest when advertisers offend. But Buddhists and Hindus generally don't have such groups.

"There's a sense in advertising that Eastern religions are fair game," she said. "There's no fear of reprisal."

Finally, everyone's favorite Urban Monk, Barry Graham, points us to a smashing post by the estimable Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed, On (Not) Getting By in America:

Global capitalism will survive the current credit crisis; already, the government has rushed in to soothe the feverish markets. But in the long term, a system that depends on extracting every last cent from the poor cannot hope for a healthy prognosis. Who would have thought that foreclosures in Stockton and Cleveland would roil the markets of London and Shanghai? The poor have risen up and spoken; only it sounds less like a shout of protest than a low, strangled, cry of pain.

- Philip Ryan, Webmaster

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