Buddhism Bashing: No Apologies Expected


Recently, I received a group e-mail from a Buddhist who noted that there was “no apology yet” from Fox news about “Buddhist bashing” in regards to the reporter who suggested that Tiger Woods leave his Buddhist faith because the reporter believed it did not emphasize forgiveness nor offer him redemption.

I have been thinking about why a Buddhist would expect an apology. For one of the teachings of the Buddha is about the 8 ” worldy dharmas” ; one of them is being attached to hearing pleasant words or praise which tends to only increase our sense of ego and pride. Wanting to hear nice words about “me” being “good/smart/nice” is not that different from wanting to hear nice words about “my” religion”. More important in Buddhism is to say nice things to others and stop our selfish concern about “me”. For in Buddhism, it is this selfish mind that causes so many problems.

Instead, as Buddhists, we are taught to practice patience when harsh words are spoken to or about us, to reflect on our own past actions of harsh words (which, from a karmic view, were the causes for the current verbal attack) and to practice compassion toward those who verbally insult us, knowing that they too are only creating the causes for their own future suffering. As well, we attempt to use only kind words so that a) we do not harm others and b) we create more positive potential in our minds, to become loving human beings. All those are teachings of the Buddha. To expect an apology is not aligned with what the Buddha taught.

In my own family, we have three different faiths: Christian, Islam (yes, my youngest brother converted years ago) and myself as the only Buddhist who happens to be a Buddhist nun. We also have those of no faith. My family notices both the outer world and even our inner family members’ misconceptions about each others’ religion or even some mild prejudices toward those who don’t practice any religion. We try the best we can to understand and accept each other. While my family is not perfect, in some ways we are a microcosm of the outer world for our family is very large and gathering more ethnicities and religions as we grow. We try to practice as much acceptance as possible; maybe my family is a good example for the world. I do not know.

When I hear a misinterpretation of Buddhism from a family member, I think of His Holiness the Dalai Lama as my example of how to handle it. He has been a solid role model in my life of a true open heart towards those he meets regardless of others’ walks of life. He talks often of the “good heart” and emphasizes the importance of respecting all religions and all peoples of the world. His Holiness never requested an apology from China despite decades of severe human rights violations against his own people. On the contrary, he has been steadfast in his non-violent approach. With him in mind, when someone makes a negative statement about “my” religion, I need to ask myself if I want to address it with frustration and pride or if I want to practice patience and perhaps, only if they are interested, to share my view of the religion I practice. What is more important? Expounding my own views and being “right” or creating an environment of trust and peace with those right in front of me?

Christians may ask “What would Jesus do?” I sometimes ask myself: “What would His Holiness do?” I doubt either of these men would expect an apology from Fox news. No, I believe the Dalai Lama would likely laugh and skillfully engage the biased reported in a very pleasant conversation. Just his loving kindness toward the reporter would would cause the reporter to doubt his own assumptions about Buddhism.

I have learned a lot from my younger brother (the one who has been practicing Islam for years now) and his wife who have explained to me that overall Islam is a very peaceful religion. I have listened to my brother’s stories of how his wife and three innocent children have been discriminated against purely due their appearances. Is it not often the case that a small group from each of these world religions become fundamentalists and self-righteous to the point of harming others? When we investigate, we see that the violence begins within our minds and hearts. It begins with an attachment to a certain idealogy. How much does my own mind reflect that same self-rightousness? This (the tendency to judge others) is the inner terrorist whom I must guard against. In the outer world, people bomb others and the media sterotypes Muslims as terrorists, but the origins of the real enemy, as Ghandi said, lies in our hearts and minds, as individuals. Then it gets acted out in the world. So as a world family perhaps the practice of tolerance toward those whose appearances or beliefs differ than ours is the necessary medicine. Most wars are fought not only for soil, but over ideas, beliefs. It all starts from within our minds and hearts.

As I age, I notice that the world becomes more grey and less black and white. What I mean is that I may notice a person in the airport cleaning windows who has more concentration and patience than I will ever have as a Buddhist. And someone wearing a religious hat may be more judgmental than another who claims no religion yet has never hurt anyone with their thoughts. The essence of a person’s being and their actions speaks louder than any sermon or ideology regardless of the faith.

I agree with His Holiness the Dalai Lama that some day we may be able to go beyond religion but that many people need religion. In the meantime, he supports people to stay in their own religion and NOT convert to Buddhism if it is not right for you. In our faith, we are taught to never ever try to convert others; that we must respect everyone’s choice for their own religion. Perhaps those of us who are Buddhists can practice forgiveness and forbearance as we address these misconceptions about our religion without faulting anyone. I expect no apology from Fox news and can only pray to have the strength to do what I watch so many of my Christian brothers and sisters do: turn the other cheek. And work on reducing my own tendencies toward judging others.

May the world be a lot lighter by us all taking ourselves and our rigid beliefs about each other a lot less seriously!

With love, Ven Gyalten Chimey

posted by gcsanghablog for Ven Chimey
Fox News article referred to in this post

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