August 28, 2010

Gender equality gets a black eye, Jeff Bridges & the Dalai Lama

Amanda Brown at The Anti-Room isn't too happy with the Dalai Lama's follow-up to his own comment that his next incarnation could very well be female. I'd heard the first comment but not the second she cites (I'm usually better at staying on top of these things but have been quite slow on this one).

Here's Amanda:

Buddhism has long been held as being the acceptable religion by many left leaning liberals, who would also count themselves in favour of gender equality. It is therefore a bit depressing to note the Dalai Lama’s recent comments about the possibility of a woman succeeding him.

He begins well enough.

“The purpose of the incarnation is to serve people about dharma.... If the circumstances are such, female form is more useful, then why not?”

Unfortunately he then lets himself and all of man and woman-kind down with,

“And I also mentioned in case Dalai Lama’s incarnation one female comes then must be very attractive female. So the very reason, you see more influence to others, an ugly female then may not much effective.”

It's possible this was humor, but Amanda has to wonder (and so must we all). And adding insult to injury, one male apologist has further ruffled her feathers. She won't name him, but here's what he said:

Well, to be fair, what he said was that an attractive woman would influence more people than an unattractive woman, so that is just being realistic.

You can no doubt track him down, but like Amanda, I'd rather spare him. And it's not like he's committed a grave sin, anyway, however much we Buddhists don't believe in sin, at least not in the old-fashioned oh-no-I'm-going-to-hell sort of way.

But I have a question: Wouldn't an attractive man also have an advantage? (He'd probably have to be tall, too, since tall men make more money.)

I have my doubts. Does anyone really think that looks give you spiritual cred? I'd think the reverse is true. Good-looking or famous or particularly well-to-do Buddhists have a tough time convincing people they're serious, and popular envy makes it only worse—it just doesn't seem fair that someone can be rich, famous, beautiful and spiritual. It's sort of like a great, good-looking athlete graduating at the top of his class. Or a supermodel winning a prize at a science fair. We just don't want it to happen. After all, there has to be some just compensation for being, well, not pretty.

Jeff Bridges, TricycleWhich brings me to our current issue: we'd never featured a celebrity on the cover before, unless the Dalai Lama counts as one, in which case we've done it twice. My predecessor never wanted to, nor did I—until recently: Several weeks back, after much discussion, we concluded that Jeff Bridges was an Academy Award winner no one could take issue with. Who could hate the Dude?

Turns out that so far, everyone likes him—young, old, aging, sick, and dying alike—except one contributing editor who wrote me that he hoped this was just a momentary lapse and not a trend (a former managing editor didn't like it, either, but she said it in such a friendly way it wasn't really a complaint). Otherwise, everyone's been pretty happy. Fact is, people seem to really like Jeff because he's, well, likable, and no one seems to doubt he might be on the path to enlightenment, too. It's all very believable—in any event, he's not getting the flak Steven Segal got.

Some background: It was our managing editor, Rachel Hiles, who first suggested it. She argued that if we were ever going to put a celebrity on the cover, he'd be the one, and we might not have another chance. I agreed. I like the cover and I don't regret it, but I'm still half expecting there'll be more complaints. Our readers aren't your average magazine readers—they're pretty particular and pretty unpredictable and make marketing research pretty useless.

So here's everyone's chance: you can sound off here, and we won't mind, whatever you think. But you'll have to comment now because I don't think we'll have another celebrity on the cover for years to come. I could be wrong, but I'm probably not. I don't think we're going to find another Dude.

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celticpassage's picture

I imagine he was joking, and telling the truth.

Everyone would rather look at a pretty woman than an ugly one.
Everyone would rather look at a handsome man than an ugly one too.

That's just the way it is.

Lucy-qjy's picture

With the increasing number of self-immolations,what do you think is going on in Tibet?
Is the Dalai Lama really a good man?

jjwalker7730's picture

The man-woman thing can be described by Jung ideas on the Trinity.
According to Jung, the cross represents man suspended between heaven and earth. And man is a four sided thing. The fourth (intuition, feminine), represented by gods feminine counterpart, was deleted by patriarchal force. This is the Trinity.
When something is stuffed into the unconscious, it gains autonomy and comes out grotesque such as the inverted trinity of Devil worship and other pagan ritual.
The quaternio (Cross) according to jung (Thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition) represents the complete person.
Mess with this and trouble happens.

abercrombie's picture

have been contented all the abercrombie & fitch. Every last product or service of this manufacturer is shelved within the outlet stores of Abercrombie and Fitch in an attractive and tidiest way

Namkhah's picture

This celebrity stuff is so trivial....

(Last updated on Monday, Aug. 30, 2010 9:51AM EDT)
"Chinese police fatally shot a Tibetan protester during a demonstration last week, state media reported Monday, saying the man was hit by stray warning rounds.

The incident is apparently the same one reported by U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia over the weekend when the broadcaster said at least four Tibetans were killed and 30 others wounded when police opened fire on demonstrators protesting the expansion of a gold mine they blamed for causing environmental damage.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday that a 47-year-old Tibetan named Babo died after being hit “by a stray bullet when police fired warning shots with an anti-riot shotgun.”

It said the protest in Baiyu county in Sichuan province near the Tibetan border happened about two weeks ago when Babo led a group of about 30 villagers to protest the arrest of Fu Liang for illegally exploiting gold mines in the area.

The area is a deeply Buddhist region filled with monasteries and nunneries and is known for its strong Tibetan identity and has been at the centre of dissent for years. It saw some of the most violent protests in the spring of 2008 after anti-government riots in Tibet."

Seth's picture

Google 'handsome' and 'Karmapa'. No one is screaming about that.

Mark's picture

What I enjoy about Tricycle is that it seems to reflect the whole grab bag of Western Buddhism -- from the ridiculous to the sublime, quite literally. All sides, all practices, all perspectives seem to show up on one page or another. In every issue I find something that deepens my practice and expands my understanding, and then I turn the page and find something that makes me roll my eyes and laugh out loud. It's a big, colorful, frustrating and fascinating riot, which I think mirrors all of the forces shaping the evolution of the dharma (not the least of which is capitalist consumerism, for better or worse).

AwakenAware's picture

I would first need to know and trust the environment in which the Dalai Lama supposedly made these comments, because he is a known comedian-at-heart and always playing and joking, and in the company of such folks as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and others similar, they easily could go on the road together as a comedy duo.

So I would need to actually see for myself the context in which this supposedly took place. Was he perhaps winking at a little girl when he said that? Did Tibetan cultural usages get mistranslated to English? Did he mean, perhaps, *balance,* since he meets constantly with scientists whose language parallels his own, and hence perhaps "symmetry" was intended? Had any part of his other, seemingly unrelated, discussion been referring to the shallow popular culture's inability to express itself in a more contemplative, mindful manner? Did he make ironic-like facial expressions when he said that (roll his eyes) relative to a previous discussion context?

Again, context is so important. Taken out of context, the ripples and parallels are endless.

By the way, Buddhism is about *balance.* Those barely exposed to it, or who are still learning it, may struggle intellectually to attempt to understand it, but once *realized* in its reality, it is all/awe about *balance.*

Ed's picture

Why do we make problems where none exists? Jeff Bridges is fine. Anyone on the cover is fine. No one on the cover is fine.

It's the cover of a magazine.

klochu's picture

<<it just doesn’t seem fair that someone can be rich, famous, beautiful and spiritual

It just seem that author of the above article does not understand the buddhist doctrine of karma (law of cause and effect) at all.

It is by all means fair - according to buddhism - that someone is at the same time super rich, super beautiful and spiritual.

According to buddhist law of cause and effect your previous positive actions bring positive friuts. Thati's it.

Angelina's picture

The DL is not a handsome - or even good looking in any sense.
Mother Theresa has come to peoples admiration despite her lack of physical attraction.
I think that the less attractive one is, and the more good they do, it is more appreciated than a good looking wealthy person.

Marko's picture

One of the five precept is something like, "I undertake the precept not to take that which is not given."

The DL had no intention of giving offense. Please don't take it.

RevGMS's picture

From what I saw, Jeff is as regular a Dude as any janitor. I kind of see this in the reverse, he has risen out of the depths of celebrity to join in equality. That and in a lot of ways his celebrity is inconsequential, his efforts for Engaged Buddhism are what the real story is. It is a matter of happenstance that he is some big time movie Dude. What's happening is that an energetic resourceful Buddhist is being spotlighted in Tricycle, the fact that he has celebrity is superfluous. And if his celebrity attracts people to explore mindful awareness, who otherwise would not have, that is just an extra bonus.

What I don't get is why other Buddhists are getting hung up on his celebrity in the first place. I can understand a Dudeist's preoccupation with the Duderino, but why are Buddhists so attached to this concept of celebrity. I would caution my compeers that the future will bring many famous people to Buddhism, and many Buddhists will become famous. One must not forget that the idea of fame is just another concept to be disregarded.

Shika's picture

Actually, now that you mention it, the Dude on the cover did induce a kind of wry, weary smile on my part -- a reaction I expect when looking at the cover of Star or Vanity Fair, not you guys. Not that I have a problem with the Dude. But one of the things I love about living at a Buddhist monastery is that everyone is equal when they walk through our gates, janitors and celebrities alike. We're all here to practice. Bridges is a very sincere practitioner, but he's not a teacher or a leader in any tradition, and shouldn't get face time in a Buddhist mag. just because he's a popular celebrity with a practice. The piece was well-written, and Bridges was affable, but the whole thing was kind of fluffy. It made it easier to want to open the magazine -- Hey, a celebrity! -- but harder to take what was inside seriously.

Shantivadin's picture

Unfortunately the Dalai Lama is probably right.
In our western culture (and maybe in eastern culture too) for a woman to achieve any amount of success, a woman can't just be a woman. She has to be appealing too.
Take Susan Boyle for example.
She has an amazing voice, but not so amazing in the looks department. Should that matter? Of course not! But what is the first thing they do to her? Make over!
That's people for you.

rudi's picture

yada, yada, yada... Tghe poor dude just doesn't seem capable of getting the 'politically correct' thing down... I suggest Eleanor Roosevelt for your next cover...

James Shaheen's picture

@ Ian - He said it in English, and personally, I think he was joking. He's a man in his 70s from Tibet and I'd give him a break. He emerged from what amounts to feudalism in Tibet to take a deep interest in science, world culture, and human rights, and has a mind more open than most. If he's wrong about something--whether it's female ordination or same-sex relationships--well, nobody's perfect. Consider also that he has senior students who are openly gay and expresses no hostility toward them nor does he exclude them in any way. He says the next Dalai Lama may be female. Adhering to rules in texts he has inherited will last until a new consensus in the sangha emerges--something I've heard from a scholar/student of his once. Question is, do we want to wait around for that to happen? Probably not, and we don't have to.

Of all Buddhists to become world-renowned, he isn't such a bad pick, so we can consider ourselves lucky!

Ian's picture

I don't believe the Dalai Lama said this. I suspect it was far more likely to have been a glitch in translation. "More attractive", for example, might have nothing to do with looks, but rather, "more able to attract". Conversely, "Ugly" might mean "less able to attract" or "mean-spirited". I know he is entirely able to be fallible, like the rest of us, but I think it very unlikely that he would make such a broad-sweeping insult, as has been indicated.

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00pelican00's picture

I like that Bridges is on the cover, I hope they interview other Buddhist celebrities. I would like to see an interview with Tina Turner and others. Sorry if that is shallow, however how many times can I read "how to meditate". I would like to see "A Practitioner" column. Just a random practitioner interviewed from time to time. One week Bridges, next week a Buddhist auto mechanic, next week Tina Turner. I find the Buddhist community fascinating.

RevGMS's picture

I think it was a wonderful choice. Where western Buddhism is trying to define it self, having the Dude on the cover will help other lost Dudes find their way to their own personal Dharma. Sure there will be an element of superficial Buddhism inspired pop culture, but is that such a bad thing? With the pop will come substance also, and a little Buddhist influence over pop culture can only be a good thing.

If there is one true awakening amongst a dozen plastic ones, then it is well worth it.

Plus, it's the Duderino mang! A stellar example of abiding and awareness.

Dennis W. Zerull's picture

In regard to the Dali Lama's comments, I don't see any controversy. The Dali Lama was speaking to the very core of what humans do. We are more attracted to a pleasant physical aspect of a human being rather than an unattractive one. We tend to see with our eyes and not our hearts and form opinions because of ego. And that false sense of self presents images and judgment that are an illusion and separates us from compassion and understanding. I believe the Dali Lama in his wisdom was purely using humor to make his point and meant no malice or harm what so ever.

James Shaheen's picture

About gender equality: I can't imagine the DL wasn't joking. The much more important issue is female ordination. If the next DL is a woman, will they allow her to ordain?

Source: The quote appears in a number of newspapers--you can Google it. The Dalai Lama, at this point, isn't advocating or pushing for female ordination. He has also spoken out against Buddhist same-sex couples--if they're Buddhists they shouldn't do it, he told the CBC in an interview. There's so much good in the Dalai Lama but it's okay to think he's misinformed about some things and to disagree with him publicly when he is.

Jeff Bridges: Like I say, we like the Dude. I understand those who don't want to see a celebrity on the cover of Tricycle, but in this one instance we thought it made sense!

Chana Dennis's picture

You give a perfect example of what i first posted. Thank You!


Maura's picture

The Buddhist way surely is to not ban anything by category: "in aversion, weeds spread," said Dogen. Celebrities are beings, too.

Chana Dennis's picture

What else is new? That is what news is all about. Readership. How many magazines you sell. So the editors want to say something to attract readers and make their popular. Especially when the economy is in dire straights.
I wonder if the local garbage man who reads a lot of Buddhism and tries hard to live a good and upright life would make the cover of tricycle. I doubt it. It is not newsworthy, and very few people are interested in that which is all too common.
This trend of making Buddhism "popular" is taking off like a jet liner. Soon everyone will be a Buddhist, while never understanding the reall message of awakening, and absolute transformation of a persons being by finding their original Buddha nature.
This is not a complaint, just an observation. I mean what else can you do when the tsunami of pop Buddhism sweeps America.

Bas's picture

Before getting into any argument on this, is it possible to get a source on that quote? Possibly with the entire interview? It's rather hard to weigh pros and cons based on two quotes...

David Howarth's picture

Much as I appreciate Jeff Bridges and the role he played so convincingly in "The Big Lebowski", your coverage of Bridges here strictly concerns his long interest in Buddhism and socially engaged Buddhism in particular. This is a side of Jeff Bridges that is seldom seen, and your magazine and online video presentation have provided the perfect forum. More power to you, and if you are going to choose celebrities for your cover, what better choice!

Carl Davis's picture

If this is not the bestselling issue of Tricycle so far, because 'The Dude' is on the cover, I'll eat my meditation cushion.

And surely if you can extend your readership and the teachings of the Buddha, then it's all to the good, yes?