1998-01-15 - South Florida Sun Sentinel - Buddhism
8E Sun-Sentinel, Sun-Sentinel, Sun-Sentinel, Thursday, January 15, 1998 PB BUDDHISM FROM PACE IE 'Enlightened one' may resume life via reincarnation 5.5 million Buddhists, perhaps 1 million to 1.5 million of them non-Asians. non-Asians. non-Asians. They are drawn by the practical side of action and meditation, suggests Nathan Katz, an expert in southern Asian religions. "Buddhism appeals to something something in the American spirit," says Katz, chairman of religious studies at Florida International University in Miami. "It has to do more with techniques and experience experience than speculations. Buddhism Buddhism says, 'Test out what we teach.' " And South Floridians have been testing it. A 2-ton, 2-ton, 2-ton, gold-covered gold-covered gold-covered gold-covered image of the Buddha was dedicated amid prayers and chants last weekend at Wat Bud-dharangsi, Bud-dharangsi, Bud-dharangsi, a Thai temple in south Miami-Dade Miami-Dade Miami-Dade County. The Tibetan-style Tibetan-style Tibetan-style Tibetan-style Padmasambhava Buddhist Buddhist Society in West Palm Beach plans a winter retreat starting Saturday. Soka Gakkai, a Japanese form of Buddhism, runs a $20 million, 125-acre 125-acre 125-acre conference center in western Broward. Delray Beach's Morikami Museum hosts thrice-weekly thrice-weekly thrice-weekly meetings by the Southern Palm Zen Group, teaching another another Japanese form of Buddhism. And in Miami, the Avalokiteshva-ra Avalokiteshva-ra Avalokiteshva-ra Buddhist Studies Center is a common ground for Thai, Chinese Chinese and Tibetan approaches. The teachings, more than four centuries older than Christianity, began in the Himalayan foothills when a prince named Siddhartha Gautama left a life of luxury to search for truth. Sitting under a bodhi tree, he decided that the way to peace was to shed all fears and desires through discipline, meditation and respect for others. others. This realization earned him the title of Buddha, or "enlightened "enlightened one." FROM PAGE 1E He doesn't expect quick resolution of land's status I think my approach has the best chance of succeeding, which is to neither ask for nor seek independence independence and show a willingness willingness to remain with China so long as we have genuine self-rule self-rule self-rule in the fields of education, culture and particularly religion. How can a communist regime govern religion? Q. You are both a political and a religious leader. If you had to choose one role over the other, which would it be? A. Oh, the religious role, definitely. definitely. I feel my way of thinking is better suited to the spiritual role, not political. Politics is only one element in the life of a society. Religion provides the right kind of motivation, the right kind of mental attitude. Q. How do you reply to young people who believe there is little to show for your advocacy of nonviolence? nonviolence? A: I argue with them about how effective the violent way would be. . . . Even if we have 100,000 rifles and sufficient ammunition, ammunition, to the Chinese this is nothing. Suppose 100,000 Chinese are killed. Then the Chinese immediately immediately bring in another 200,000 soldiers. The result is more suppression, more oppression, oppression, some publicity and headlines headlines in major newspapers for a week or two, and that will be all. Q. Even China's critics concede that China has in some ways modernized modernized Tibet Do you think modernization modernization would have occurred if the Chinese had not invaded? A. There is no doubt. I believe that after I took on the responsibility responsibility (of being the Dalai Lama), most probably we would have come in contact with the outside world, and then automatically change would have come. Since my childhood, I have had a keen interest in technology, and from the time I was 13 or 14, 1 have had a keen desire to build a road between between India and Lhasa. Q. Why should American politi- politi- File photos Model shows 2-ton 2-ton 2-ton gold-covered gold-covered gold-covered image image of Buddha at Wat Buddharangsi in south Miami-Dade Miami-Dade Miami-Dade County, After his death, Buddhism Buddhism gradually gradually divided into several wings. Theravada Buddhism, the southern Indian Indian and probably probably the original style, empha Thurman sizes meditation meditation and monastic life. Mahayana Buddhism, in the north, teaches many ways for laity as well as monks to achieve enlightenment. In eastern Asia, Buddhism fused with Taoism to form Chan in China, China, Zen in Japan. Tibetan Buddhism synthesizes all forms, along with esoteric Indian Indian techniques such as meditation, meditation, divination and sexual self-control. self-control. self-control. Thurman, professor of Indo-Tibetan Indo-Tibetan Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies at Columbia University, considers Tibet the great repository of all forms of Buddhism. "In Tibet, they've been churned and processed, refined like butter," he says. "Tibetan Buddhists have concentrated the DALAI LAMA cians risk relations with China over the issue of Tibet when most Americans Americans have so little contact with Tibet? Tibet? A. Two of the fine points of my proposal for Tibet directly affect interests of the United States. One is that Tibet become a zone of peace, a buffer between India and China. The second is that we control the amount of ecological and mineral exploitation of Tibet. Tibet. A good relationship on the basis basis of mutual trust between India and China is in the interest of world peace. All the major rivers that flow through Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and China originate in Tibet. If there is a dramatic change in the environment, it will affect millions of people on this continent. Q. You are the envy of many American politicians because you have a coalition of supporters ranging ranging from archconservatives to Hollywood Hollywood liberals. Not many people can count both Jesse Helms and Richard Richard Gere as friends. How do you do that? A. To me, of course, it makes no difference whether someone is a leader or a beggar, as long as they have good human feeling. I feel this kind of attitude an openness, an extended hand is most important, irrespective of one's belief, religion, or way of thinking. On a personal level, Jesse Jesse Helms seems like a very good human being, at least to me. I don't know how he is with other politicians. (Laughs) The same goes for Richard Gere. Q. If you weren't the Dalai Lama, have you thought of what you might have become? A. If I had stayed in my own small village, then most probably a farmer or a mechanic or, say, the driver of a bulldozer or a tractor. After that, I don't know. I feel if the opportunity comes to return to Tibet, I would like to go to as many places there and in mainland China as I can. But I do not want to discontinue or neglect neglect my connections with friends in the outside world. I consider the friendship, support and help we have received during our difficult difficult period very, very precious. Q. How do you relax? A. Oh! Meditation, for quintessence of the Indian movements." movements." Tibetan Buddhism is also distinctive distinctive for a belief that a Buddha, Buddha, or enlightened soul, can reincarnate reincarnate in order to continue serving his community. The current current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is believed to be the 14th incarnation incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the deific father of the Tibetan people. people. He therefore combines an authority of church and state akin to that of an ancient pharaoh. The Dalai Lama also appeals to the American sympathy for the underdog. Since Chinese troops marched into his land in 1950, activists activists charge, 6,250 monasteries have been destroyed and more than 1.2 million Tibetans have been shot, tortured or worked to death in labor camps. This could be seen as the third wave of American interest in the East. Nineteenth century Tran-scendentalists Tran-scendentalists Tran-scendentalists such as Henry David David Thoreau wove their metaphysical metaphysical beliefs from Buddhist and Hindu cloth. The counterculture counterculture of the 1960s gravitated to Buddhist teachings as an alternative alternative to capitalism and the Vietnam Vietnam War. This time around, Thurman says, aging new agers are looking for something beyond the latest fad. "They're realizing that crystals crystals and such have limited value. They're looking at old tried and true methods." Buddhism is already affecting American religion, and being changed by it, observers say. "Re-newalist" "Re-newalist" "Re-newalist" Jews and "contemplative" "contemplative" Catholics have added Buddhist Buddhist meditation methods to their own. Meanwhile, American egali-tarianism egali-tarianism egali-tarianism has given rise to lay Buddhist leaders and theorists. And the U.S. interest in good works has created Buddhist shelters shelters for the homeless. "We're not Indians; we're not Japanese; we're American," says Mitchell Doshin Cantor, a Zen priest and director of the Southern Southern Palm group. "Buddhism is evolving." Q. Nothing else? Reading a book, watching sports? A. No sports. Of course, some exercise and prostrations in the morning. In my own experience, if your mental state remains calm, alert and fresh, that in itself itself is a form of relaxation. There is no anxiety, doubt, or tension inside you. Q. So are you free from doubt? A. When I say doubt, I mean a lack of self-confidence. self-confidence. self-confidence. I think I have almost no doubt. As far as my motivation is concerned, as long as it is generally sincere and I try to sustain it and then do my work with confidence, even if my work doesn't achieve its goal, it doesn't matter. No regrets. Q. How do the films about you affect your diplomatic efforts? A. They are definitely helpful. If you look at the support we received received in the early 1960s, it was mainly from governments with certain reasons. As far as America America is concerned, at that time support support for Tibet was part of a grand strategy against communism and Eastern power. The support we are receiving now is because of growing sympathy and concern. It is a reflection of the media practically every place I have visited, visited, the media have been very supportive. This has had an effect on governments governments that have been reluctant reluctant to say or do something about the Tibet issue. Therefore, these films will certainly increase the public's awareness, and as a result, result, more sympathy and more concern will come. Q. Do you ever regret that perhaps perhaps you did not have a choice in the life that you have had to lead? A. Perhaps. I don't think about preferring this or that. If there is real opportunity for choice, then of course it is right to think. Otherwise, Otherwise, there is no use thinking about it. Now I realize that if I utilize this position properly, it will be a good opportunity for me, as a Buddhist monk, to create a lot of positive merit. Also, as a human being, if there is a challenge, challenge, it is a good opportunity to utilize the meaning of your life, After all, the purpose of our life is to do something good for others. others.