Friday, 9 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie - a Buddhist Perspective

Hatred never ends through hatred.
By non-hate alone does it end.
This is an ancient truth.

The Buddha – Dhammapada 5

The peaceful vigil Wednesday night in the Place de la Republique in central Paris.

First thing to say is that what follows is my personal take on the events in Paris and how the Buddha's teachings relate to them...............

A central theme of the Buddha's teaching is to recognise and avoid reactive, unskillful behaviour. Skillful actions, and words, are those that promote the peace, safety and wellbeing of others, unskillful words and actions are those that harm other beings.

Judgemental views and opinions are particularly unskillful. It is therefore helpful to look at everything in terms of being somewhere on a spectrum rather than being an opposite of something else; right - wrong, good - bad, righteous - evil, US - THEM. It's all the same spectrum and all of us place our words and actions at different positions along it.

On that basis the cold blooded killing of ten journalists and two police officers (one of them a muslim) because of some cartoons which upset some other people is way over on the unskillful side of the spectrum. But what about the cartoons themselves?

You could argue that causing offence to others is harming them and thus "unskillful", however what causes the harm is that person's reactive response to the perceived slight and affront to their belief in what they consider the "truth" and that leads us on to the whole mire of conflicting religious world views. This is not to say that it's all down to the other person and you can say and do what you like and it will be "skillful", the clue is in the description - skillful. 

What is needed is an openness for all of us to honestly and critically examine our beliefs and opinions and to acknowledge that they are just sets of ideas that we, as individuals, have i.e. they are uniquely ours anyway. If a provocative cartoon or written article promotes that assessment and enquiry I feel that, however "painful" the process might appear to be, ultimately it is beneficial.

There was an  impressive and commendable show of solidarity from all mainstream religious leaders in France. In the West there are often interfaith exercises in dialogue and togetherness but how many of the participants actually believe that the other's faith is right, as "good" as or better than their own. None, or they would surely convert to that belief system.

Moving to the further end of that "belief" spectrum the ideas that an individual has chosen to adopt in terms of their interpretation of reality are more likely to become entrenched, extreme and ever more intolerant and thus judgemental and unskillful in relation to the beliefs of others and lead ultimately to such outcomes as the recent events in France.

I was going to say that for a humane and sane comment on the attack on Charlie Hebdo listen here to Thursday's "Thought for the Day" from Mona Siddiqui, who is Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

For some "strange" reason the BBC still hasn't posted either the recording or the text of Prof. Siddiqui's talk................ 

I will post them as soon as they become available.

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