Sounding on Buddhism, April 13, 2011

I’m pushing forward with my new schedule for Sounding posts, where I collect a variety of links on a shared topic (“Cambodia, Buddhism, or Religion,” e.g.) and make a few comments about them.  Today is Buddhism day.

  • Aung San Suu Kyi’s son to temporarily ordain as a Buddhist monk
  • Meditation “Better than morphine?”
  • “New Books in Buddhist Studies” online service
  • Separation of Church and State, Equal Treatment, issues in Stupa on National Park Service land
  • Why Hollywood should just stop making movies about ‘other people’s’ religions as backdrop.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s son to temporarily ordain as a Buddhist monk

Did you hear that Aung San Suu Kyi’s son is going to ordain as a Buddhist Monk?  Apparently.  The son, whose heartthrob status will probably only be increased by this honorable, celibate, act (he is a heck of a good-looking young man), will ordain, but the explicit purpose of his ordination is unclear.  Very often, novitiate ordination is understood primarily as an act which makes merit for one’s mother, so it’s very clearly direct towards his mother.  But the act also dovetails with a sense of opening possibility for a renewed National League for Democracy political party (NLD).

Note this brief statement from the article:

NLD member Kyaw Htoo Naing said that Suu Kyi will also ask several NLD members to draw lots to choose who will present monk’s robes to Kim before offering food to him and other monks in an alms ceremony.

via Danny Fisher.

New Books in Buddhist Studies

Hey – here’s a promising new service: “New Books in Buddhist Studies,” a channel in the “New Books Network.” It’s still empty, but I’m looking forward to it!

Meditation “Better than morphine?”

The medicalization of mindfulness meditation continues with steam-train-like momentum. Meditation is “Better than Morphine,” says a report in the Journal of Neuroscience.  I think it’s fantastic that the benefits of meditation are being made available to a wide group of people. But headlines like that tend to be less helpful than they would like to be, because they imply that meditation could be a replacement for morphine, somehow, and thereby imply that those who cannot control their pain with meditation are somehow lacking, relative to their meditating peers.  Thankfully, the Interdependence Project, the blog which alerted me to this latest study, points out precisely this problem:

At the same time, ironically, it probably should be stated that mindfulness meditation will introduce us to types of pain we didn’t know we were experiencing, and how to work skillfully with those as well. So, unlike morphine, meditation is not a pain-killer, but rather a pain-facer. How has it helped you deal with physical or mental pain?

Stupa on National Park Service Land Poses New Legal Questions

Last year, an upper-level course on Durkheim and the theory of religion considered a then-current Supreme Court Case about whether it was legitimate to retain a Christian Cross as a memorial for US war veterans, in light of the separation of Church and State.  There are some real gut-buster statements in the actual records of this case (Salazar v. Buono: what, you thought case law was boring?), like the insistence that “A cross is never found on the grave of a Jew,” which had to be stated explicitly, against Justice Scalia’s statement that the Cross merely ‘marks a resting place of the dead.’

There’s a new case that seems related to this one. At Petroglyph National Monument, a stupa on the property is the subject of a new complaint, which cites the stupa’s existence at this location as a violation of the separation of church and state.

First, the land on which the Stupa was built is now public land (in the Mojave Cross case, the land is now private, but is surrounded by public land, and the problem of ‘reversionary interest’ on the part of the government was a key question), but was originally built on privately owned land.

Second, there is an issue of equal treatment: in a previous related case, a Catholic sisters group placed bible verses throughout the Grand Canyon park; after a complaint from the same group (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) that has complained about the stupa, the verses were removed.  However, only a few days later, the Deputy Director of the National Park Service told them they could go ahead and replace the verses.

So – issues of separation of church and state, issues of land ownership, stewardship, and reversionary interest, and issues of equal treatment under the law.  Should be fun!

Shut Up, Already, Hollywood! Damn!

Finally, I predict that The Hangover 2 movie is going to piss off a bunch of Thai folks, a bunch of Buddhist folks, and a bunch of Thai Buddhist folks. I don’t blame them. But hey – who knows? Maybe it’ll rise to the level of the first “Hangover” movie. Hmmmm…..


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