Back to Blogging, Short Version. Also Ghosts.

Short version: I was real busy and then I picked up a nasty cold. Savor the irony: I think that I got it at a National Outdoor Leadership School Wilderness First Aid class (two intensive eight-hour days).

I have all these links to comment on and books to review and, basically, I have done zilch. Expect a lot of short posts-with-links.

So let’s talk about the dead, specifically those from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Rod Dreher links to an article about a man whose visits to the area apparently led to possession — at least, that is how the Buddhist priest responded.

His wife had already left the house when he woke the next morning. Ono had no particular work of his own, and passed an idle day at home. His mother bustled in and out, but she seemed mysteriously upset, even angry. When his wife got back from her office, she was similarly tense. ‘Is something wrong?’ Ono asked.

‘I’m divorcing you!’ she replied.

‘Divorce? But why? Why?’

And so his wife and mother described the events of the night before, after the round of needy phone calls. How he had jumped down on all fours and begun licking the tatami mats and futon, and squirmed on them like a beast. How at first they had nervously laughed at his tomfoolery, but then been silenced when he began snarling: ‘You must die. You must die. Everyone must die. Everything must die and be lost.’ In front of the house was an unsown field, and Ono had run out into it and rolled over and over in the mud, as if he was being tumbled by a wave, shouting: ‘There, over there! They’re all over there – look!’

There is more, much much more. Processions of the dead. Vanishing hitchhikers. And stuff like this:

A fire station in Tagajo received calls to places where all the houses had been destroyed by the tsunami. The crews went out to the ruins anyway and prayed for the spirits of those who had died – and the ghostly calls ceased.

That would get my attention, since I have to drive past the ruins of neighbors’ homes every time I want to get out to the state highway. Luckily no one died here, no one human.

Were the Gods Angry with Japan?

Adrian Ivakhiv blogs on religious responses to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

All of this resonates with an immanence-based process-relational perspective: nature does what it does, it includes the “good” and the “bad” (which are relative to their perceivers), we are part of it and sometimes we get struck down in it. (Careful readers will know that when I say that good and bad are “relative to their perceivers,” this doesn’t mean that “everything is relative, anything goes, and whatever you think or do is as good as anything else.” The world is layered and folded: perceivers share their perceptual situations with other perceivers, so my “good” is closer to your “good” than it is to the good of an amoeba, a viral bacteria or cancer cell, or an asteroid whipping through the solar system. Hitler’s actions may have seemed “right” to him, but in a human context they come off as psychotic and grotesque. And as for “nature,” if it includes everything, becoming a fairly meaningless term, so be it. It corresponds to what, in an East Asian context, is thought of as “the way,” ziran, an active and unfolding “suchness,” or what Gregory Bateson called “the pattern that connects.”)

There is lots more with interesting links. Apparently even the mayor of Toyko took a “the gods are angry with us” line, although he later backed away from it.

Sometimes, the nonhuman world is not All About Us Humans.

Visiting Buddhist Ireland

Melinda Rothouse, Austin, Texas-based writer on religion and performance, visits a Buddhist retreat  in the west of Ireland.

In its former life, before being purchased by [the Buddhist organization], the building served as the courthouse where many of the IRA trials of the 1970’s and 80’s took place. He spoke of cells where IRA members were once held, under maximum security, while awaiting their trials.  These same cells are now dormitories and meditation rooms—talk about poetic justice.

She briefly surveys the Irish religious scene. In case you were wondering,

And what of the ancient Celtic/Pagan tradition that’s so identified with Ireland in cultural imaginings?  Sure, you catch glimpses and hear whispers, especially in the odd women’s retreat advert promising a reawakening of feminine power and sexuality, but it’s not really a living, viable practice as far as I was able to observe. . . . Well, as in America, people are looking for an alternative way to connect with the spiritual without all the cultural and historical baggage of Christianity.  Yoga studios and Buddhist meditation centers are popping up all over Ireland, as a brief Google search will reveal.

Given the fact that the Irish economy is down the tubes right now, “an emphasis on simplicity, quietude (certainly not always observed), communal living, recycling and composting, meditation and study” might just fit well with economic realities. And since the Celtic Tiger lived only twenty years or so (some say less), the older folks remember how to do without.

And as Rothouse rightly observes, “religious traditions are crossing borders as quickly as any commodity.”

You Cannot Think Those Thoughts!

A scholar co-edits a collection of essays on Buddhist warfare and “touches a nerve” to put it mildly.

Our intention is not to argue that Buddhists are angry, violent people—but rather that Buddhists are people, and thus share the same human spectrum of emotions, which includes the penchant for violence.

Setting immigrant Buddhism (Japanese, Vietnamese, etc.) aside, most Americans’ view of the Buddhism comes from intellectuals like D.T. Suzuki or various elite teachers, roshis, etc.

We Americans never saw Buddhism(s)  in its original cultural contexts.

As I recall, some medieval Japanese monasteries used to send out armed monks to fight in various political struggles, just to name one instance.