Dorje Shugden

There is a sect called Dorje Shugden. I only learned about it last week. It came up on my Facebook Page that there was a dispute between them & the  Dalai Lama. It seems the Daily Lama & this sect are at loggerheads. Indeed from what I read on the internet it seems that there has been some violence between the two. It is kind of my imaginary friend against yours. With religion of any kind we do have to have to suspend our rational selves somewhat.

Dorje Shugden seem to believe something somewhat different from what one could call orthodox Tibetan Buddhism.  But there isn’t a great deal of difference. They seem to believe in magic incantations & magic medicine. Which as I understand Tibetans have traditionally believed in. At the time of the Chinese invasion in 1951, the Tibetans invoked magic to counter the guns tanks & aircraft, the warplanes & the men of the invaders. The system of choosing the Dalai Lama is arcane & it seems to be by a system  of dreams & omens. Such is religion. It is full of magic & incantation. There is make believe in religion. Some of it may be true. Who knows? China had Maoism, now it has consumerism. Tibet had Buddhism. It still does, though, really it is hard to imagine Tibet ever being independant again. In fact, there are more Chinese living in Tibet than there are Tibetans & the Chinese have in fact managed to go some way to emasculating Buddhism. Tibet has become, indeed has been for some time, a Chinese province. There is much Western consumerism in evidence in Tibet these days. At least that is what we are led to believe.

The Dalai Lama shouted at a nun of the said Dorje Shugden sect or religion because she asked him what it was he had against it. The Dalai Lama said, this is not religion because it was spirit worship. He also said it wasn’t religion because he had read the scriptures & knew this was so.

Allegations have been made against the Dalai Lama. It is said that he is autocratic & doesn’t brook any opposition. This is at odds against all that we know about him.  Well, maybe he is an autocrat. Certainly he is human. Living the celibate life of a monk cannot be easy. The Dalai Lama certainly does well in covering up his own urges & instincts. It can definitely be said that he is much loved & it can be said that he is listened with awe.

Possibly it is a case of the elephant in the room. He never says anything too profound. He says he is a Marxist. Personally I doubt if he knows much about economics, Marxist or otherwise. It seems to me that he saying this to ingratiate himself with the Chinese. In fact, China is no longer a communist country in that sense. China has a capitalist economy these days & people can generally say what they like as long that they don’t criticise the government.

The  Dalai Lama does rather indulge in platitudes about having a compassionate heart & so on. He famously avoided stepping on an insect when he was visiting Ireland. He is a monk, apparently. But he doesn’t really live the life of a monk. He leads a simple life but hardly an ascetic life.

It is a pity that he has somewhat besmirched his reputation by shouting at the Dorje Shugden  nun. But all it proves really is that he is human. The platitudes that he has spouted are platitudes that are baldy needed. They are clichés. But clichés often hide much truth; besides they are comforting.

The  Dalai Lama talks about compassion, about love & respect; stuff like that. Obama doesn’t, Cameron doesn’t. Chairman Mao didn’t & neither do the present Chinese leadership.

But then His Holiness as Tibetans & others continue to refer to him has abrogated his political role. He is the spiritual leader of the Tibetans whatever that might mean. I have never been quite sure what the term spiritual means but I suppose in essence it means loving & respecting others, this emanating from self respect & having a deep feeling that the way is to treat others is with love & respect. The Dalai Lama does have that. I am sure the Dorje Shugden have this as well. There has been some historical trouble between them, that is between the Tibetans of whom the  Dalai Lama  is leader & the Dorje Shugden. Their leader seems to be called Zong Rimpoche. There seems to be even more of the cult of the personality surrounding him.

It is difficult to know what to make of it. Somehow one had thought more of Tibetan Buddhists. But then, somehow, for some reason, it is harder to be friends with those whose opinions are closest to yours than with those whose opinions are completely different. The Dalai Lama & the Dorje Shugden should make up their differences. The trouble with religion is that it isn’t true. They should make peace with each other. Their little differences of doctrine shouldn’t matter. Essentially they both believe in respect for all living creatures. They both consider themselves Buddhist. They are both Tibetan. They have bigger fish to fry than each other.

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Libya

Three years ago the Libyan uprising began. In the end with the help of Britain & France Gaddafi was overthrown. It never looked likely, in spite of a certain euphoria, that Libya would become a modern progressive liberal democracy. All the worst fears have been realised. Libya is in a state of anarchy. Too many people have guns. Too many have scores to settle. Libya is like so many African countries – for in the end, Libya is part of the Muslim axis which includes Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq & Iran. None of these countries has made (at least not so far) a successful transition from autocracy to pluralism.

It is a huge disappointment not just (one presumes) to the majority of people who live in these countries but also to the West which had pinned their hopes on the people who live in these countries having a better life, with more freedom & more civil liberties.

Libya is essentially, as far as one can perceive, a country made up of tribal people who do not like one another particularly. There are blood feuds to settle which are being settled. Guns & other arms seem to be commonplace almost entirely resulting from the conflict which resulted in Gaddafi being overthrown. He was eventually captured & killed as a result of Western technology locating his hideout. The manner of his death presaged the violence & disorder to come. Now it is being suggested that there is a military coup about to happen. This was how Gaddafi came to power. At the time, there were many who favoured him over the deposed King Idris who was unpopular for many reasons, not least because he was perceived as being too Western. There were many who favoured the overthrow of Gaddafi because he was perceived as not being Muslim enough. We have come full circle. Islam is an ideology which won’t go away, it seems. In Syria, Al Quaeda have been committing unspeakable acts of terror, as they have been in various African countries; Mali is one of them. The truth is that Islam is filling the vacuum left by the vacuity of modern capitalism & indeed modern socialism which offers no good reason for living apart from consumerism.

As the Middle East & North Africa descends ever further into chaos, as the West is being destroyed by the ravages of climate change, economic meltdown & crime, one can only look into the future with blank despair.

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work & non work

The actor, who has spent his life as a character in a soap opera said, “I would like to get back to work”. So that is what he calls it. Work can be anything & that is the problem. It can be working down a mine, it can be being a judge sending fellow human beings to prison for decades or in many other countries to their death. It can be working in a shop or a call centre or it can be playing professional sport. It can be playing music.

It is hard to believe that the women who have made the allegations against him would have done so were they not true. But the court said he was innocent, so he must be. Guilt & innocence, work & whatever the opposite is are hard to define. People who do the most useful & essential jobs are paid the least. People take pride in their jobs or they don’t. Sometimes people think that the job they are doing is beneath them. A female friend said to me a decade or 2 ago that she was looking for a job & would do anything. I said you could get a job as a waitress (which incidentally, is one of the most complicated jobs there is & requires a high degree of intelligence) She said, oh no I didn’t mean that.

In general when people talk about work, they are talking about suffering. There is a high degree of shadenfreude in work. We like to think that others are suffering in their jobs as much as we are. We resent others enjoying themselves. At least that seems to be the perception. I have nothing against actors acting, footballers playing football, tennis players playing tennis or musicians playing music. But there ought to be 2 words for work where there is now one. Or maybe there ought to be 3 words or even 4. The nature of what people do is so vastly different. Some people have talent. That is just the way it is. They normally end up earning lots of money & they often end up believing that they are better than other people because of one or the other or both.

When someone well known dies it is a cause for much mourning. When somebody obscure dies, few care; in fact few even know.

That is how life is. Many are called but few are chosen. Much art & writing & acting & so on are not done by the best but by the nomenclature. The same people are chosen time & again to, for example, to write radio plays. I remember several decades ago, one Saturday, there were 3 radio plays or adaptation on the one day by one person; his name is Allen Sadler. We don’t seem to hear of him these days. Maybe he never existed. The name might have been a nom de plume for a collective.

Guilt can be anything. It can be being opposed to the system, whatever that system is. It can be taking part in a peaceful demonstration or it can be something truly dreadful. Take Edward Snowden. Is he actually guilty of anything? The American government seems to think he is guilty of the most heinous of crimes. Most of the rest of the world acclaim him.

In the West we have created societies which are a kind of paradise. Much of the rest of the World has become a hell hole full of irrational violence & poverty. In these places true suffering prevails.

The actor has been found not guilty. All that means is that the evidence was not conclusive. He claims to have had sex with over a 1,000 women. He must have been prodigiously attractive if there was no coercion involved in any of these conquests.

The 21st century has evolved in a strange way where what is valued is the shallow & superficial & where true worth is derided.

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Iran is flavour of the month

So Iran is open for business, for tourists, is it?

This is strange, one moment Iran is public enemy no.1, the next the country is flavour of the month.

This was in the Evening Standard magazine on Friday the 24th of January 2014

On the rails in Iran

Iran’s rogue-nation days may soon be over. President Rouhani  opened the country’s doors to UN nuclear inspectors in December & although a UK Foreign Office advisory warning is still in place, this Aladdin’s cave could prove too enticing for intrepid tourists to pass up. This October, the Danube Express is running its ‘Jewels of Persia’ tour, taking in the ruins of Persepolis, which in on the UNESCO World Heritage List & the cities of Shiraz, Tehran & Yazd. Demand & prices are high (from £8,695pp, Danube-express.com)

BUT

This was on both Nasrin Sotoudeh  & Jafar Panahi’s Facebook page

United Nations human rights experts are calling on Iran to halt what they call an “abrupt surge” in hangings in the country since the start of 2014. The call is contained in a joint statement from the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, and the UN special rapporteur on summary executions, Christof Heyns. The statement described Iranian authorities as carrying out the death penalty on prisoners with “alarming frequency.” The statement said at least 40 people have reportedly been hanged in Iran in the first two weeks of January, with at least 33 executions reported in the past week …

It seems that it is ok to ignore human rights abuses & go ahead & visit the country as though nothing is wrong. Iran seems to be successfully hiding the truth.

The idea of visiting a slaughterhouse like Iran as though nothing is amiss is wrong unless the tourists (for such they are) know nothing about the situation. Iran has been viewed in something of a positive light ever since the revolution in 1978 which overthrew the Shah. In part this is because the Shah was undoubtedly ripe for the picking. The Iran Iraq war was started by the evil Saddam Hussein. Iran was the victim of Iraqi aggression. Saddam Hussein undoubtedly thought he could march through Iran unopposed or at least almost unopposed.

From this has emanated the perception that there is nothing much wrong with the system in Iran. Or at least I think this must be the reason.

Iran has an image of being a cuddly soft toy which is much misunderstood. This shows, in part, how little people know (in spite of all the information available) It is also because of the history of Iran, the history of Persia. I remember seeing a film about Iran – probably several decades ago – about Iran. It was about a tribe who migrated twice a year. They took all their animals, goats & horses & so on, with them, across plains, through rivers. There was something wonderful about it. It seemed pre modern age. This image of Persia exists. Persia makes up a part of Iran but mostly the words are used interchangeably.

It happens. Much ideology gets in the way of the truth. It happened in the early years of the Soviet Union. Eminent people such as G.B Shaw went to the country & came back with glowing reports of the place. G.B. Shaw said I have seen the future & it works. The truth is that people were absolutely desperate for a better World & for this reason (amongst other reasons,) allowed themselves to be duped. Under Stalin, millions perished in the Gulag. But the country was still courted by much of the left. Many left the party after the Hungarian uprising (mis-named the Hungarian Revolution – it was not a revolution – A revolution would have resulted in the system changing – it didn’t – it resulted in the forces of oppression re-asserting themselves.) The Russian Revolution was a true revolution – it did change the system – completely.

The Iranians have had their revolution. But they are attempting – with some success to hide the truth of it from the World. They are aided & abetted in this by such useful idiots as Galloway, Jack Straw & Norman Lamont. In addition there are such journalists as Peter Oborne who is an apologist for Iran, at least on the nuclear issue.

There is a certain amount of compassion fatigue in the World. There are bad things going on all over the place. In all 4 corners of the World there are injustices. Most of them are apparent. Apparently human rights abuses in Iran aren’t apparent.

President Hassan Rouhani has said that Iran is open for business. No doubt it is. No doubt in the modern World, the modern capitalist World, all that counts are innovation & the opportunity to make money.

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Syrian refugees

We live in one World. A World that is torn with strife. It is hard to think of a time since World War 2 that is so chaotic & war torn. It isn’t just Syria. It is also much of Africa, Tibet, Mexico & other Latin American countries where war & poverty prevail. In the 21st century, the human race, in terms of intelligence & love & compassion hasn’t advanced at all. Evolution is confined to things other than the human spirit. Indeed man’s capacity to wage war has increased to an almost unimaginable level.

It all began (I suppose) with the invention of the musket. In, for example, Roman times, remote control warfare consisted of throwing boulders with massive catapult machines.

In the last century, nuclear weapons were invented & were dropped on Japan. The Kalashnikov, a rifle so simple that almost anybody could use, was invented.

Inevitably, all this violence spills over. Since the beginning of the existence of the human race, the human race has committed acts of violence against itself. It does seem to be in-built.

The Syrian refugees are suffering as much as anybody since the cessation of hostilities in 1946. In wartime we become (unfortunately) accustomed to the extreme suffering of civilians. Much (for example the use of depleted uranium) is deemed a war crime. But this doesn’t prevent those waging war to carry out acts so deemed.

There are wars in large parts of Africa, where indescribable, well almost indescribable, atrocities take place.

The war in Syria has been going for about 2 years. There are talks, peace talks apparently, in Switzerland. But they don’t seem likely to yield anything. After the probable break-down of the talks in Switzerland, hostilities are likely to continue, possibly for years before one side or the other prevails. Intervention in Iraq has not turned out well. Non-intervention in Syria has not turned out well.

The question being asked is, does the United Kingdom have an obligation, moral or otherwise to take in some refugees?

The problem is political, not moral. There is much feeling about immigration in the UK. Indeed there is in the whole of Europe. There is too, much xenophobia in Europe. There has been for as long as I have been alive, in the UK, much xenophobia, much racism. We do not want to spoil our little paradise. For such it is, in spite of all the issues of crime & poverty & so on which afflict our country. All this is relative.

Devastation in Syria or at least parts of it, for sure, is on unimaginable or almost unimaginable scale. Photographs of it, published on Facebook & elsewhere, show the kind of destruction seen during World War II but not since really.

It could be called compassion fatigue; it could be called hardening our hearts. We are unwilling to help.  It can be called many things. The present government is hardening its stance. Its excuse is that it is giving millions of pounds of aid – medical aid I suppose – maybe clothes. It is difficult to know what can really help the situation. But somehow it has come to pass that Syria, led by a stern & cruel dictator has become an area of complete desolation. Refugees are streaming out   There are said to be hundreds of thousands of them in Lebanon & Turkey. President Assad had achieved a certain legitimacy – if dictators ever can do this. But this legitimacy has long since evaporated.

The question is not whether the UK & other EU countries have a moral responsibility to allow refugees to come to the UK, maybe for the duration of the conflict or maybe to settle permanently. We do have such an obligation because we are just One World. The question is whether it is politically possible. It isn’t. Already, there is so much hostility to the East & Central European visitors; there would almost certainly be even more hostility to those from the Middle East.  No government could survive such an onslaught. There is a slight tendency to believe that demonstrators are always on the left, that demonstrators are always the good guys. But this is not so. In the 60s, the British politician Enoch Powell stirred up much racial hatred with his rivers of blood speech. Dockers & others came out in his support. Even now, there are those who opine that he was right. I remember it well. His views were amongst many people, common currency.

The Home Office is turning down individual cases of Syrians seeking entry to the UK. It is causing great distress to people who are already in enough distress.

In the end, the moral argument doesn’t make a lot of difference. In politics it rarely does.

My Member of Parliament, at least for the duration, is Sarah Teather. She has been campaigning on behalf of Syrian refugees & is due to give a sermon on the subject at a Cambridge college evensong. I wish her luck. As a practicing Catholic & a practicing politician, she is in a tricky position.

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Don’t let their heartbeat stop on St Valentine’s Day

Prisoners in Iran are denied medical treatment. Whether they live or die is of no consequence to the authorities. Many of them are guilty of being mohareb, that is one who wages against God. It is akin to burning witches in Europe in mediaeval times.

On Valentine’s Day we will remember these victims. The poor people condemned to die because they are deemed not sufficiently religious enough for the Mullahs. In Iran it is enough to defy the authorities in the slightest way to end up in prison. In the prisons, the inmates are tortured & often executed. The condemned have to line up to be beaten or to be hanged. Often  prisoners are refused visits from their families, even when they are dying whether from disease or because they are condemned to death. They die from diseases in which there is these days medical help available. The people of Iran are suffering under the yoke of a  theocracy; a medieaval theocracy at that.

In the West, we are so overwhelmed by reports of terrible suffering that we try to turn our backs on it.

We  in the West sometimes make the mistake of believing that anybody from the Middle East & North Africa  are Muslim. But this is far from case. Many are atheist, many are Christian, some are Judaic. Often it is these who suffer. They are considered to be infidel. Those who turn away from Islam are what is known as apostates.  The penalty for being an apostate is death. Salman Rushdie for example had a fatwah upon his head because of his book Satanic Verses. He was an apostate or perhaps he wasn’t. Maybe originally he was a Christian or a Hindu or maybe he never believed in anything. I have a friend from Iran who consistently has to explain that she is not a muslim – she is an atheist. In Iran this is a crime, it is waging war on God. The paradox of it all seems lost on the apparatchiks of the theocracy.

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Haiti 2014

In Haiti, the devastating effects of the 2010 earthquake were compounded by the cholera outbreak. It was identified as coming from South Asia. It has had a devastating effect upon Haiti. It has spread to neighbouring countries. Diseases have often in history been a driving for change. In England it brought about the end of the Feudal System. In Haiti it has increased the urgency in providing greater hygiene for the people, many Haitians don’t have running water.

It seems that cholera was brought to Haiti by the Nepalese contingent of the United Nations. Undoubtedly some progress has been in Haiti but whether it will slide back to its previous state of poverty…

Previously it had been ruled by the Duvalier dynasty who brought terror & despotism to the country. Duvalier junior was forced to leave the country in 1986 but returned after the earthquake & seems to be in favour again. There are clamours for him to be put on trial. But Haiti has other things to worry about. Justice is a much overused word. It seldom has any meaning. Duvalier was a bad & tyrannical leader but Haiti is busy trying to make life bearable for the rest of its inhabitants.

There has been much aid poured into Haiti. The United Nations is congratulating itself on its efforts. Yet there remain 4 years after the earthquake many homeless. The figure is reported to be 600,000 in October 2013; that is people living in camps. The world has certainly been taking its time. How long before everybody is housed? Already it is 4 years. Of course it was an absolutely devastating earthquake but these poor people have had to endure these conditions more than 4 years. At the present rate, one supposes that it will be 2 or 3 years before the camps are closed down. Crime is rampant in n Haiti. Disease is rife. The people rely on hand outs. And the place remains in an earthquake zone.

It is impossible to prevent earthquakes. They just happen. It is certain that man will never be able to control the tectonic plates. Certain areas of the World seem to be more unstable than others. In Japan for example, hundreds of earthquakes occurs every year. The Tsunami of 3 years ago was but one but was the most severe earthquake in living memory. In the UK, where I live, also an island state, we hardly ever have earthquakes & when we do, they are minute.

The Haiti earthquake was an opportunity by the rest of the World to create the New Jerusalem. Instead of which, progress has been slight & the people are, on the whole, still suffering greatly from the event. Religious groups have been muscling in seeking converts, aid agencies have been giving some help, some of it aid without strings. But the population remain one of the poorest on the planet.

What with the earthquake, the cholera epidemic, the arcane social system which includes slavery have combined to ensure that the recovery process since the 2010 amounts to not much.

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