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Beer, Bush, Bin Laden & the Buddha

October 29th, 2004 Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s amazing what a couple of pints of beer do to a normally sober man. When I took my Boddhisattva Vow I gave up beer as a measure of commitment. My teacher, the Ven Khandro Rinpoche kindly gave me permission to drink beer five times during the year as she said “giving up beer will be hard for you”. The person next to me tried offering to give up fear, “How are you going to do that? Fear just happens to you”, said Rinpoche. At the end of that year I asked Rinpoche if I could take up beer again as my wine intake had rocketed and a quiet beer seemd like a good idea.

My last (beer-fuelled) post makes me a little sad in some ways. I still find myself falling into the black and white thinking that characterises 20th century thought. The 21st century is different, or at least we need collectively to ensure it is so. The black vs white, good vs evil thinking of the last century is that which is contaminating our world: both Osama Bin Laden and George W Bush fall into this trap: Me good, you evil. There is no absolute good and evil, black always contains a chink of light and white a speck of dust. This is fundamental to Buddhist thinking and we can see quite clearly how we have been lead to the position we find ourselves in by this fundamental error in understanding. As soon as we entrench ourselves in the egotistic position we are ‘honour bound’ to create war, even against people whose main past-time is writing about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The 21st century will be characterised by a more modern and more ancient understanding of the nature of things: their relativity and their co-dependence, two key concepts the Buddha pointed out some 2,500 years ago. It is not right to blame Bush, Blair, Bin Laden or anyone else for the messes we are in: they are all to blame and none of them. Even in their error, they are doing their personal best to do what they understand to be the right thing. And all are contributing causes to the situation along with many, many historical causes. We can not undo these things and find justice through hatred and dividing the world into good vs evil. We can only overcome them by love, much in the M Scott Peck sense of the world where it means to work to get beyond your own limited sense of how things are and move into an understanding of the other.

I need to love George Bush and the FBI, they need to love Osama Bin Laden, Palestine and European “lefties”: we all need to stop the war. And I must take better heed of Rinpoche’s last words to me on the subject, “Just remember”, she said, “too much of anything is bad for you”.

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