August 29, 2007
“You just cannot be a meat-eating environmentalist,” says Matt A. Prescott, manager of vegan campaigns for PETA. Many of us have heard by now that cows are worse for the earth than cars. (The carbon cost of ice cream is particularly high, as it must be refrigerated throughout its "lifespan" -- hence just being vegetarian isn't good enough.) None of this nonsense in beef-eating Britain, where they are working instead to change cows' diets to cut down on methane production. But hold on, John Bull, it's not just the methane: You save more water by not eating one pound of beef than you would by not showering for a year (or so says Treehugger.com.) Is it a bigger lifestyle change to downsize your car (or -- horrors -- take the bus) than give up eating meat? I don't know, PETA -- let's try for inclusion, things we can do together, rather than exclusion. Telling everyone they should be vegans is not going to get a good response. Let's say veganism is a long-term goal for the people of Texas. What should they do in the meantime? It seems a bit early in the game to declare meat-eaters enemies of the people. But it could be later than I think!
Buddhism is rising in popularity in Europe, especially Germany, says a German delegation visiting Sri Lanka. Well, duh -- haven't Germans been down with Buddhism since pre-Theosophical days? But according to this article, Buddhism is still not officially recognized as a religion by Germany. Man, they're strict. I thought they had a debate over whether Scientology was a religion or not. (Answer: Not. Germany strongly objected to Tom Cruise playing the role of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a great German hero who plotted to assassinate Hitler.) The Nazis were into Buddhism, especially Tibet, so I suppose it was tarred with that brush. Germany and Austria still have to tread lightly very around a lot of issues that barely register with Americans and even other Europeans.
Speaking of Tibet, in case you thought it was all rainbows and unicorns before the Chinese army rolled in, this Chinese government press release is here to tell you there were problems in Tibet under Lamaist rule too. So there!
Here's a long, tortuous (and almost torturous) essay on homosexuality in Sri Lanka / Theravada Buddhism that ends on a note of tolerance. We have some issues with this on our own shores in the U. S. of A. One of the opponents of tolerance of homosexuality is of course involved in a "juicy scandal" -- The more repressed your society, the more titillating your scandals.
12th-century Buddhist sculptures found in an Indonesian cave. Buddhism used to be a big deal there. (What evidence will survive for archaeologists to discover that will prove Buddhism flourished in the West?)
Some heat for the Dalai Lama vis a vis Darwinism. It is probably dangerous for Buddhists to trot out quotes like Einstein's saying Buddhism is the most compatible religion for science. (This quote may be apocryphal anyway, according to religioustolerance.org.) No religion will satisfy the rigorous demands of science, nor should any religious believer try to justify his religion in the light of science. Einstein had a religious sensibility, but today's science is atheistic, which doesn't necessarily mean it is innately hostile to religion, but rather that religion has no place in the workings of science, nor does science have a place in religion -- or if you prefer, spirituality. Buddhism is the least repulsive religion to scientists for a variety of reasons, many of them misconceptions and holdovers from antiquated Western understandings of Buddhism. But if you embrace Buddhism because you are scientifically minded yet crave some sort of spiritual dimension in your life -- oh, hell. Well then enjoy it.
- Philip Ryan, Webmaster