Thursday, 29 May 2014

Bodhisattvaization and Buddhanization

I am employing here some new Hybrid-Sanskrit-English words, namely, “to Buddhanize” and “to bodhisattvaize” (as verbs) and “Buddhanization” and “Bodhisattvaization” (as nouns). I employ  “Buddhanize” (or “Buddhanization”),  not in the sense of making a person or thing “Buddhist,” for which one would rather use “to Buddhify” or “to Buddhicize” (and “Buddhification” or “Buddhicization”), but in the sense of elevating a person to the stature of a buddha. Similarly, by “Bodhisattvaization,” I mean the tendency, practice, or, process of elevating a person (such as a kind or a teacher) to the stature of highly advanced bodhisattva. These words have been inspired by apotheosis (from Greek ἀποθέωσις from ἀποθεοῦν, apotheoun “to deify,” Latin deificatio “making divine,” which are also called “divinization” and “deification” is the glorification of a subject to divine level. It is said (Wikipedia) that “In theology, the term apotheosis refers to the idea that an individual has been raised to godlike stature. In art, the term refers to the treatment of any subject (a figure, group, locale, motif, convention or melody) in a particularly grand or exalted manner.” 

An important personality in Tibet (be it a ruler, saint, or scholar) is often said to be an emanation of a certain bodhisattva or even a buddha. How do we explain it? Here is an attempt. Tibetan Buddhist mentality or attitude seems to presuppose that the teachings of the Buddha are or should be the causes and conditions for the wellbeing of sentient beings. The teachings of the Buddha can be said to living and effective, if and only if, they manifest in the form of what are known as the activities of the mkhas pa’i tshul dgu (e.g. education, contemplation, and mediation). Otherwise the teachings of the Buddha are either dead or are mere shadows. Existence of structures such as statues, books of scriptures—called the three receptacles (rten gsum)—are believed to be the physical representations of the Buddha’s body, speech, and mind. Temples and monasteries, complexes such as bshad grwa and sgrub grwa, are considered to be (infrastructural) “supports” (rten) and people engaged in the activities of the mkhas pa’i tshul dgu are usually considered “the supported” (brten pa). The assumption is also that benevolent rulers of a country would ensure that the infrastructures of the wellbeing of citizens are in place. Those rulers that support and promote the teachings of the Buddha are regarded as supporting and promoting the wellbeing of people in the country and hence considered emanations of certain bodhisattvas or even buddhas. Such rulers are often called “righteous kings” (chos rgyal). Likewise a ruler who causes the destruction of Buddhism would be seen as undermining the wellbeing of sentient beings and hence as an emanation of the Evil (bdud kyi sprul pa). If Chinese rulers in the past have been revered by Tibetans as ’Jam-dbyangs-gong-ma, it is because they believed that they practised and promoted Buddha’s teachings. If an emperor is considered an emanation of Avalokiteśvara or Mañjuśrī, the country under the rule of that emperor would inevitably be regarded as the abode (or field) of Avalokiteśvara or Mañjuśrī. Indeed Tibet has often been considered an abode (or field) of Avalokiteśvara. Important personalities of the past in Tibet who directly or indirectly contributed in promoting the wellbeing of sentient beings have thus also been considered emanations of certain bodhisattvas or even buddhas. This tradition or tendency can be perhaps seen as an unofficial way of recognising the contributions and achievements of a person.

§1. To begin with, Tibetan kings included in the group of chos rgyal mos dbon rnam gsum/bzhi have been considered emanations of bodhisattvas (or buddhas). lHa Tho-tho-ri-gnyan-btsan is said to be an emanation of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra or Buddha Kāśyapa. Srong-btsan-sgam-po is said to be an emanation of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. Khri-srong-lde-btsan is said to be an emanation of Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī. Khri-ral-pa-can is said to be an emanation of Bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi.
§6. According to the lDe’i chos byung (p. 183), lHa Tho-tho-ri-gnyan-btsan was an emanation of the Bodhisattva Kṣitigarbha. Srong-btsan-sgam-po was an emanation of Mahākaruṇika, Great Compassion. Khri-srong-lde-btsan was an emanation of Mañjuśrī. The monarch Ral-pa-can was an emanation of Vajrapāṇi. This source was provided by Dan Martin.

§2. Thon-mi Saṃbhoṭa is said to be a speech-emanation (gsung gi sprul pa) of Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī. See the Ka khol ma (p. 107).

§3. Mar-pa (emanation of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra)? Check!

§4. Rwa-lo (emanation of Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī).

§5. Sa-paṇ, Klong-chen-pa, and Tsong-kha-pa = emanations of Mañjuśrī (rGya bod, s.v. bod kyi ’jam dbyangs rnams gsum).

Secretism in Buddhism

In the midst of doing things one is supposed to be doing, thoughts/ideas may occur to one that seem to require writing down. Many of what seem beautiful/creative/unusual ideas/thoughts that occur to one never get recorded because one does not have the time to write them down. What a pity! I have tons of other things to do but I am nonetheless jotting down these few thoughts that occur to me now, namely, some thoughts related to “Secretism in Buddhism.” 

I follow the abstract of Paul C. Johnson, “Secretism and the apotheosis of Duvalier.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 74(2), 2006, pp. 420–445, where the following is stated 
( “‘Secretism’ refers to the active invocation of secrecy as a source of a group’s identity, the promotion of the reputation of special access to restricted knowledge, and the successful performance or staging of such access.”

Some venues of exploration would be: What would be “secrets” according to Buddhist sources? Are there “secrets” in Buddhism? What kinds of secrecy can be traced in Buddhism? Why would one keep certain information secret?

“Secret” as an adjective is said to mean “not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others.” As a noun, it is “something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others: a state secret | at first I tried to keep it a secret from my wife.” It can also mean “something that is not properly understood; a mystery: I’m not trying to explain the secrets of the universe in this book.” 

In Tibetan Buddhist sources such as the exegetic works of the *Guhyagarbhatantra, two expressions are used to describe “secret/secrecy,” namely, sgab pa’i gsang ba and sbas pa’i gsang ba. But what exactly is the difference between sgab pa and sbas pa? The verb sgab pa seems to be “intransitive and yet autonomous” (and behaves like the verb ’gro ba, which is a verb of motion and thus intransitive and autonomous). Perhaps one can regard sgab pa as a reflexive verb and hence translate it as “to hide/conceal oneself, “to go into hiding,” or, perhaps contextually “to remain concealed/hidden.” The verb sbas pa is transitive and autonomous, and hence mean “to hide/conceal (something).” So it seems that sgab pa’i gsang ba means “secret/secrecy, which is characterized by [the information of someone/something] remaining hidden/concealed [for reasons such as profundity/transcendency/mystery].” Perhaps such a “secret/secrecy” can best be equated with “natural/innate secret/secrecy” (rang bzhin gyis gsang ba). Such a “secret/secrecy” may be made public or open to all but may still remain hidden/concealed. It is more like a puzzle or riddle. For one who has solved the puzzle/riddle, it would no longer be a secret. But it remains naturally hidden or concealed to anyone who has not solved or cannot solve it. The expression sbas pa’i gsang ba may be understood as a “secret/secrecy, which is characterized by [the information of someone/something] being deliberately hidden/concealed [for reasons such as untimeliness, inappropriateness, or, unsuitability of revealing it].” 

The issue of whether there is at all what one might call “secret teachings” in pre/non-Mahāyāna Buddhism may be debatable. According to some, Buddha has revealed everything and nothing remains hidden/concealed. According to others, what the Buddha revealed to his disciples constitutes only a fraction of what he knew. But we cannot deny that certain practices, even Vinaya practices, are not revealed to all and are “kept hidden” from certain persons mainly for some specific reasons.

Of course in Mantric Mahāyāna, the idea of secret/secrecy, becomes even more significant. The bottom-line seems to be that an information may “remain secret” because it is profound or complex, and an information is “kept secret” because revealing it to certain persons under certain circumstances would be detrimental to those persons.

The idea of secret or secrecy would work or would be applicable only to those persons who are not omniscient. For those who consider the Buddha to be omniscient, the Buddha would have no secrets. Nothing can be “kept secret” from the Buddha and nothing “remains secret” to the Buddha. The Buddha has nothing to hide and one cannot hide anything from the Buddha!

One ethical enigma comes to my mind. Suppose if Māra (or the Devil) were to entrust me with a secret, would I reveal it to anyone, say, for example, for a very noble purpose? I personally would not give my word to the Māra (or the Devil) to keep his secret but if I had given my word, I would try to keep my word. This would be not to please the Māra (or the Devil) but to keep my own ethical-moral integrity.

The chancellor of Germany (Mr. Helmut Kohl) had promised his donors to keep their donation anonymous. The donation turned out to be problematic and he was pressured to reveal the anonymity of his donors but he did not yield to the pressure and decided to keep his promise. Despite the scandalous nature of the donation affairs, I think that Mr. Kohl has been able to maintain, at least in one aspect, his ethical-moral integrity. He might have even wished that he had not given his word to keep the source of donation secret but because he had given his word, he decided to keep his word, that is, whatever may be the consequences. I know many people were horrified at Mr. Kohl’s decision and action, but personally, somehow, I find Mr. Kohl’s decision quite respectable and admirable because I find “betrayal,” even of Māra, to be innately ignoble. I also know that Mr. Snowden is a hero for so many people in the world and his actions of revealing secrecy has been celebrated as heroic deeds. His motives may indeed be noble but again he had the choice to give or not to give his trust to the Government for which he worked and he did give his trust. As much as I try to sympathize with him and his cause, I have a fundamental problem with his breach of trust (i.e. treachery) and act of betrayal. I find there is something innately ignoble in betraying someone. I may in praxis even betray someone but I would be ashamed of my ignoble deeds, let alone celebrate them as noble deeds. Had Mr. Snowden got those secret information as a spy employed by the enemies of his country, then perhaps there would be other issues but not the ethical-moral issues related with the breach of trust. Of course, my statements would be relevant here only under the condition that we regard trustworthiness as a kind of virtue or ethical-moral value.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

A Buddhist Philosophy of Entertainment?

I am just wondering how Buddhism would view entertainment. One dictionary states with regard to the origin of the word entertain: “The ORIGIN late Middle English: from French entretenir, based on Latin inter ‘among’ + tenere ‘to hold.’ The word originally meant ‘maintain, continue,’ later ‘maintain in a certain condition, treat in a certain way,’ also ‘show hospitality’ (late 15th century).” I have a feeling that “entertainment” in the sense of “the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment” as in “everyone just sits in front of the television for entertainment”) would be seen as means of a distraction and a waste of time. But “entertainment” would be permissible under two conditions: (a) it alleviates pain of other sentient beings or makes pain more bearable or (b) it serves as offerings to (and show of respect for) those worthy of respect (i.e. the Three Jewels). In both cases, it should be a cause of puṇya.   

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Plato’s Analogy of the Cave and the Buddhist Analogy of the Moon

The Allegory of the Cave, also entitled Analogy of the Cave, Plato’s Cave or Parable of the Cave is said to be presented by the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato in the Republic to compare “the effect of education (παιδεία) and the lack of it on our nature.” “Plato has Socrates describe a gathering of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to designate names to these shadows. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.”

Normally I find comparison risky for several reasons. But I venture here to draw at least some similarity between it and the analogy of the moon found in some Tibetan Buddhist sources such as in Mi-pham’s commentary on the *Guhyagarbhatantra. Also the  analogy of a dialogue between various sentient beings with regard to the perception of what is known as “water” (to human beings) discussed by Rong-zom-pa may be comparable. Likewise the analogy of two princes used by Klong-chen-pa may be comparable as well. Also my own analogy of “Magic Eye 3D Card” may work.

The Moon Analogy

Suppose person A has never seen the actual moon in the sky. Person B who has seen the moon tries to describe it to A in words. A then obtains an abstract understanding of the moon. B goes on to depict the moon with a sketch/painting. A gets even a better idea of the moon.  Likewise B shows A the reflection of moon in the water and finally the real moon in the sky. The moon is the true reality/luminosity. These stages are described as: go yul tsam gyi ’od gsal (tshogs lam), dpe’i ’od gsal (sbyor lam = ri mo bris pa’i zla ba lta bu on drod rtse gnyis & chu nang gi zla ba lta bu on bzod chos gnyis), don gyi ’od gsal (mthong lam), slob pa’i zung ’jug gi ’od gsal (sgom lam), mi slob pa’i zung ’jug gi ’od gsal (mi slob lam = sangs rgyas kyi sa).