Friday, September 02, 2005

Karma On A National Level

[I write the following with the utmost sympathy and passion for the plight of those caught in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.]

In the past five days, we've seen devastation second only to last year's tsunami in the Far East, heard reports of depravity on the streets, rape in the Superdome, snipers attacking fleeing hospital patients, policemen nearly killing a restaurant owner who wanted supplies so he could cook for the victims. From the media we get the usual pablum, and racial profiling (whites "find", blacks "loot").

And from our government? A vacationing Secretary of State watching Broadway shows, shopping for expensive shoes, and taking lessons on her backswing; an emergency relief infrastructure compromised due to National Guard/Armed Forces Reserves being used in a far off war; missing transport for thousands of poor people (mostly black) who couldn't find a place to stay, or find their own means of leaving town; and a vacationing president who takes two full days to react to what was obviously a national disaster, says the government doesn't have enough money to really help out anyone down there, asks his financially-strapped populace to help out, and (get this) turns to the international community for compassion.

Pretty fucked up, huh?

Now, if this were some other country, most wouldn't blink an eye. As horrendous as the footage from the far east was last year, there was still a certain amount of "that's over there" going on. Because this is happening here, when people look at the malignant chaos happening in New Orleans, they find themselves shocked (much as it happened during post-9/11), and ask, "what's going on?"

Well, there are plenty of scientific and political reasons for what's happening (read Molly Ivins' latest column for a sharp and incisive viewpoint on all this), but let's look at something a little more ephemeral: Karma.

Most of us are familiar with the basic concept of Karma. You know, cause and effect, what goes around comes around, etc. etc. What most don't realise, but many intuit, is that it's not just a person to person thing. Karma affects everything, and can grow in scope from person to community to area, growing in size to global and universal proportions.

The various sutras are filled with dire warnings about what happens to those who trangress the Mystic Law*, but many aren't as vivid nor as strenuous as those dealing with the events surrounding the activities of a "corrupt leader of a nation." (The worst is saved for the "enemy of the Lotus Sutra," which we may get into at some future point.)

Here, these are the direct result of continued unjust behavior by said corrupt leader (i.e. - burdening of the poor, killing of the innocent, influence by greed; but in Nichiren Daishonin's time, the biggest offense was, ahem, religious persecution). If this unjust behavior goes on unabated, and the ruler's power runs unchecked, then misfortune will befall the land/population.

These take the form of fires, lack of rain or too much rain, tumult, riots, death, revolutions, earthquakes, attacks from invading armies, comets from the sky (which, as recently as the 1800s were seen as a bad omen in Asian cultures)...

Now, let's see...Corrupt leader of a nation, religious persecution, abuses of power, burdening of the poor, greed influenced decisions, deaths of innocents. Okay, now, attacks from invading armies, riots, natural disasters, drought, civil unrest...


If the actions taken in the name of this country continue to be as rampant as they have been, we still haven't seen anything yet.

*Some would argue that, etymologically speaking, there isn't any difference between a god one worships, and a Mystic Law one should adhere to. The difference lay with where the power resides, one asks you to not to do something because it may piss off a higher power, the other places responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the person. One tactic uses fear, the other attempts to appeal to wisdom.

There is a difference, subtle, but important.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Standard Introductory Entry

So, okay, here's the deal:

I've been a practicing Buddhist for lo these past 11 years. Yeah, I sometimes stop going to meetings, and my studying also wavers, but I've been chanting ever since I began. This, most emphatically, does not make me an expert by any means.

But what is blogging, if not a forum for general louts like myself to post their semi-informed rantings and writings to the world at large?

And so, my writings for this blog are going to be based on the things I've learned, read and experienced during my tenure as a practicing Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist (SGI division). I am not interested in flame wars. Intelligent discourse, maybe, but I'm not really interested in getting into a "your buddhism is no match for mine" type of pissing match. (By the way, the water is deep, too.)

Make no mistake, this won't be no namby-pamby, sit in the corner and go "ohm" type of Buddhist bullshit...

Perhaps an origin story might be useful:

Blahblah mommy egg and daddy sperm, blahblah raised Catholic, blahblah became a Buddhist, blahblah.

Now, during the course of practicing, I've noticed these huge echoes between the things I was reading (Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, amongst others), and the world at large. As I became more aware of the echoes, the more I wanted to tell the world.

And there was my problem: Where do I start? I can't do so on most public forums, because, let's face it, who wants to hear "if Bush keeps this up, there will be a ton of shit falling on our heads later on*" from anyone? Let alone from someone saying that with a religious bent.

Therefore, my desire to say something diminished, even if my need didn't.

Somehow, it almost took me a full year of blogging, before using this forum dawned on me. It took a hurricane nearly destroying a major US city and its ensuing chaos for me to realize it. More on this later.

Better late than never, I suppose.

*As I was wont to do to the poor gals on the Meese list.

7/25/06 Addendum:

Just shy of a year later, and, while I'm fully committed to keeping this blog up, the fact of the matter is, coming up with things to say, with research, and yadda and bladda...It was hard to do it by myself. So, heeding the words of Paul McCartney, I decided to try with a little help from my friends.

While the roster will probably grow and change in the months ahead, what won't change is what, I hope, makes this blog different from other religioblogs: Candid, from the heart entries, filled with snark, wisdom, and bravery; as well as research. Unafraid to engage in discourse, but not putting up with bullshit. Oh, and cussing allowed.--TBO