Letters to the Editor

(May 7, 2007)


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Zimbabwe's Blue Eyes: Gregory Elich's Zimbabwe Under Siege

To the Editor:

I have just read the article, "Zimbabwe Under Siege," by Gregory Elich, dated August 26, 2002. What a load of twaddle, Elich does not even begin to scratch the surface of the internal or external problems experienced by Zimbabwe; socially, politically or economically. His work is one dimensional and he himself is doing exactly what he claims has been done to Zimbabwe -- he is viewing an African situation through his Western (probably blue) eyes!

Belinda Adams
Mount Coolum, Queensland, Australia - April 28, 2007


From Yugoslavia with Love (and Fear): Gilles d'Aymery's Un-American, Fly-Shit Melody (12/10/01)

To the Editor:

I've read the article today and you could see what happened to me at http://keepitraw.blogspot.com/ all for Ashcroft. You were right.

What you felt then writing it, was actually what I have been through during the last 5 years.

Just wanted to tell you that you were right.


Milos Vujasinovic
Belgrade, Serbia, Yugoslavia - May 1, 2007


Right to the Point: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #50 on Don Imus

Hey Monsieur d'Aymery,

Yeah, one has to wonder about those "people of color." Here, Sarko calls them racaille. Imus et al. would certainly concur.

Allez, bon vent. Give 'em hell.

Alouette Arouet
Paris, France - May 2, 2007


Books on Tibetan Buddhism: Milo Clark's Lies And Other Untruths

To the Editor:

This is prompted by a comment sent from a reader who asked for recommendations of books on Tibetan Buddhism.

What I am discovering recently is that there are, in actuality, few translations of Tibetan works which are not made from essentially Western perspectives, even those whose authors have names suggesting Tibetan origins.

Using English with all its deeply buried assumptions distorts the simplest ideas in Tibetan. To move from being Tibetan to thinking in English is a vast step. To get a hint, a very vague hint, look at some Tibetan writing and guess what it means. Writing, for Tibetans, is a relatively recent introduction. Knowledge is learned by hearing and passed on orally. Organizing thought in symbols arranged in some lineal fashion on surfaces is very limiting.

Watch a Tibetan "reading," his eyes do not move along the lines of writing, rather they gulp from memory perhaps refreshed by the words or language rather than directed by it.

In context of what follows, gathering awareness of the assumptions embodied in English seems more and more important to understanding Buddhism. The Mahayana (very roughly Middle Way) was extrapolated into Tibet where it mixes, in varying degrees, with the ancient Bonpo, indigenous to the Tibetan plateau. There it grows various arms named in English as sects rather than or more than ways of breath, ways of breathing.

Even the very best students or translators have a very hard time with cause and effect. I am learning slowly that Tibetans simply are. Everything for them just is. The "reasons" for any happening or encounter are of minimal necessity to ponder. Karma is another area open to vast misconceptions. I suspect this sense of place and being comes more from the ancient Bon beliefs than comes north with Buddhism from India.

If anything teeters at the far edges of Western/English awareness, it is trying to cope with just being. (Anybody remember the human potential movement?)

For example: As used in Buddhisms, the Sanskrit word "dukha" has a range of English meanings, from ignorance to suffering. Most Western or English translations choose the suffering context. In most English translations, that makes Sakymuni Buddha's core of four noble truths relate to suffering. The context of suffering in English is skewed toward pain whereas there are cogent arguments that a skew toward ignorance may be more appropriate.

Suffering, in its English context, suggests sensations that are felt. I feel suffering, we feel suffering, whereas most people are totally ignorant of being ignorant. I can tell when I hurt, can I tell what I don't know or when I don't know?

The four noble truths, eightfold path, etc., when dukha tends more toward ignorance than suffering take on different characteristics. I lean toward ignorance. Be aware, however, that few agree with me in this regard.

Therefore, the way out of ignorance is relatively simple: know who I am. Tat Tvam Asi (very roughly I Am That) in the Vedic context works very well here. The crossovers between the non-dual Vedic perspectives, Advaita Vedanta, and the non-dual Tibetan Vajrayana or Mantrayana visualized in the Yab Yam images, for instance, are notable if widely ignored (pun intended).

The core of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha in particular, rests in self-knowledge. He made sure to emphasize that he was not a god in any context. And he emphasized that doubt is essential to self-knowledge. I test my ignorance by doubting.

Gautama Buddha is just an ordinary human male who got through his ignorance. Tenzin Gyato, Fourteenth Dalai Lama, always identifies himself as just a simple monk. Most assume he is teasing us or this description is a put-on of sorts. As far as I can tell, his thought of himself is rooted in being a simple monk who wears the maroon robes that go along with his self-concept. I do not believe I have ever seen Tenzin Gyato in any of the grand brocades which other Tulkus, Rinpoches, Geshes, et al., are sometimes seen. (Correction: When he was in Beijing in the early 1950s, there is a picture I remember where he stands with the Panchen Lama and Mao. He and the Panchen Lama are dressed in silk brocade.)

I also think it is important to know that Gautama Buddha or Sakymuni Buddha, is only one of many Buddhas even in this time. The Buddha manifestations string across time however measured. In our terms, the next Buddha is Maitreya, due in the not too distant future. Some insist Maitreya is wandering among us at the moment. In this context, Maitreya and all other Buddhas are simply present. What keeps them away from us is our limits of perspective.

In any case, the core messages of Buddhism are wrapped up in wisdom and compassion. These thoughts are omnipresent and available.

Go to Snow Lion Press and get a huge selection of Buddhist offerings. Laird's book on Tibetan history as told by the Tenzin Gyato, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has a lot to recommend it as a means to establish context. The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, by Thomas Laird.

Milo Clark
Pahoa, Hawaii, USA - April 27, 2007


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Published May 7, 2007
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