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"Graciously bestow upon all men felicity, the summit of which is the knowledge of the Gods." [Julian, Oration to the Mother of the Gods]

Category Archives: Buddhism

David Loy & the White Buddhist’s Burden

David Loy still believes in le mission civilisatrice. How very quaint. Personally, I tend to disagree, as I discuss briefly over at my blogspot blog:

David Loy & the White Buddhist’s Burden

Barbara O’Brien joins in the smear campaign against Nepali Buddhism

Sudeshna Sarkar’s Journalistic Jihad Against Nepali Buddhism

Sudeshna Sarkar is the Kathmandu based journalist who grabbed the world’s attention last month by “reporting” that a 21 year old Nepali Buddhist nun was “facing expulsion” because, due to her having just been brutally raped by five men, she was no longer a virgin. Obviously, if such a thing were true it would be a genuine outrage.

The only problem is that there is no evidence to substantiate Sudeshna Sarkar’s allegations. And it seems that now, finally, Sarkar has at least tacitly admitted to making it all up.

Sarkar’s latest redaction of the story appeared yesterday (August 16) in a piece, under the title “Gangraped Buddhist nun faces new ordeal in Nepal“. This was picked up by several news outlets, sometimes with Sarkar’s name attached to it, sometimes only being credited to the Indo-Asian News Service, IANS. Her name is given on the byline for the piece as it appears at MSN India, at Yahoo News, at GreaterKashmir.Com , and at TwoCircles.Net, while Sarkar’s name is not found at the Asian Age, the Deccan Chronicle, and the Gulf Times.

And isn’t it odd that the story does not appear in the Times of India, which so prominently published Sarkar’s original allegations?

Recall that when Sudeshna Sarkar first “broke” the phony story about the nun’s purportedly impending expulsion, the headline was brutal and direct: “Gangraped Nepal nun now faces expulsion from nunnery“. In the body of that story, Sarkar claimed that “15 Buddhist organisations said that as a result [of being raped], she had lost ‘her religion’ and could be no longer regarded as fit to be a nun.” Sarkar also “quoted” an official of the Nepal Buddhist Federation, Norbu Sherpa claiming that Sherpa referred to the raped nun as a “damaged vessel”, and that she “can no longer be considered ordained.”

There followed (see Chronology of a Smear Campaign) a steady barrage of other articles rehashing and elaborating on the same allegations. Some of these were by Sarkar, many appeared with no byline other than a wire service acronym, and some were by other “journalists” who simply regurgitated Sarkar’s lies. Some stories claimed that there was a raging “debate” among Nepali Buddhists over the fate of the nun. Other stories claimed that the raped nun had already been “expelled”, but that now Nepali Buddhists were “debating” whether or not to “reinstate” her. Another bogus story line told the harrowing tale of brave Nepali Buddhists who “supported” and were “rallying around” the nun against the evil Buddhist establishment who wanted to expel her, or possibly had already done so. None of it was true. Not one word.

Now, over a month after first making those false allegations, Sarkar is still writing about the nun, but she has become strangely silent on the matter of the supposed “expulsion” (the expulsion that never happened and that was never “debated”). And she also makes no mention of any statement by “15 Buddhist organizations” (a statement that never existed, issued by organizations that Sarkar, in true McCarthyite style, never named). And Norbu Sherpa’s name, the one name that Sarkar did name, is now nowhere to be found.

Instead, in her August 16 article, Sarkar buries what is left of her smear campaign in the final paragraphs of the story. And even then all she will allow herself is a feeble passive-voiced vague-to-the-point-of-meaningless insinuation that “there was a debate over whether the raped nun was still eligible to remain a nun and her future became uncertain.” Who debated? What did they say? When did they say it? How, when, and where was the debate settled? And: What is it that is supposedly “uncertain” about the nun’s “future”? For that matter, is anyone’s future ever “certain”?

Since Sarkar took it upon herself to cynically transform an unimaginably heartbreaking personal tragedy into a propaganda war against Buddhism, it is only fair to wonder what her motivation might be, and, in particular, what her own views on religion are. I have no way of knowing whether or not she is a Muslim, but her writings often appear in news outlets owned and run by Muslims and/or targeted at Muslim readers, such Al Jazeera, Greater Kashmir, Two Circles, Gulf Times, and The Muslim World Review. Her stories often focus on various social causes, and she takes a special interest in purported instances of “abuse” and/or “oppression” perpetrated in the name of Hinduism and Buddhism. But despite frequently writing for a Muslim audience, and frequently writing about what she views as religious injustices, one never encounters anything written by her concerning social problems, abuses, or oppression associated with Islamic societies. Or, wait a minute, maybe that is precisely why her writing is popular with Muslim publications? Hmmmm. At any rate, she certainly has a special hatred for the Dharma, and has no qualms about fabricating outrageous falsehoods in order to further her anti-Buddhist Jihad.

And for all I know Sarkar might be a Maoist, or a fellow traveler, engaged in the glorious struggle against the opiate of the people. And if she isn’t already on the Maoist payroll, she should seriously consider sending them a bill. And if you honestly think Maoism hasn’t nothing to do with this, check out this latest bit of news from today’s People’s Daily: Nepal Reaffirms Support for China.

Chronology of a Smear Campaign (Updated and Expanded)

“And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, from idle chatter: This is called right speech.”
[Samyutta Nikaya, 45.8]

On the night of June 24, a 21 year old Nepalese Buddhist nun was raped by five men. Over two weeks after the rape occurred, allegations appeared that a number of Buddhist organizations in Nepal had called for the rape victim to be expelled from her nunnery because she was no longer a virgin. Although no evidence has ever been presented that any such call for expulsion was ever made by any Nepalese Buddhist organization, this false allegation spread quickly on the Internet arousing outrage around the world.

Below is a list of 29 links (significantly expanded from this earlier list) to news stories and other material related to the rape of the Nepali nun and the subsequent outrage over the false claims about her “expulsion”. If one reads through all of the following, one will not find one shred of evidence that at any time was any attempt made to “expel” the rape victim from the Sangha of Buddhist nuns in Nepal. It looks, sadly, as if the world failed to learn anything from “the smoking gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud”, and “we will be greeted as liberators”. The more a falsehood is mindlessly repeated, it seems, the more it is believed.

It is interesting to note that the most recent version of the story, found in the Asian Age article published just today (August 16, see the last item on the list below), does not claim that the nun was expelled, but does still claim that there was a “debate” about expelling her, and that her future as a nun is “uncertain”, although both of those claims are directly contradicted by the public position taken (nearly a month ago) by both the nunnery in question and by the Nepal Buddhist Federation (see their statement of July 19 below, and also the July 22 Nepali Times article also listed below).

      1. Times of India (TOI), Sudeshna Sarkar June 27:
        Buddhist nun gangraped in Nepal bus
      2. My Republica (English language website based in Nepal), Prem Dhakal, July 6:
        Gang-raped nun’s family seeks justice
      3. TOI, Sudeshna Sarkar, July 11:
        Gangraped Nepal nun now faces expulsion from nunnery
      4. Sujato’s Blog (a blog from Australian Buddhist monk Anthony Best), July 12:
        Gangraped Nepal nun now faces expulsion from nunnery
      5. TOI, Times News Network (TNN), July 16:
        Debate grows in Nepal about gangraped nun (reprinted at Buddhist Channel website here)
      6. My Republica, Prem Dhakal, July 17:
        TUTH refused to treat raped nun
      7. Nepal Blogs, Matthew Frazer, July 18:
        In Support of Raped Nepali Nun
      8. Sujato (Anthony Best) again, July 18:
        Nuns and Rape: some links and a message
      9. Nepal Buddhist Federation, July 19:
        Official Press Release
      10. Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils, July 19:
        Letter to Nepal Buddhist Federation
      11. TOI, TNN, July 21:
        Gangraped Nepal nun likely to get re-admission in nunnery
      12. The Times of Iran, Bismillah News Agency, July 21:
        Gangraped Nepal nun likely to get readmission to nunnery
      13. Gulf Times, IANS (Indo-Asian News Service), July 22:
        Support grows for raped nun
      14. GlobalPost.Com, Jason Overdorf, July 22:
        Gang-raped Buddhist nun likely to be reinstated
      15. Nepali Times, Dewan Rai, July 22:
        “I wanted to murder whoever did this to my daughter”
      16. Aid Netherlands, Shreedeep Rayamajhi, July 22:
        A national level hospital denies admission to a rape victim
      17. Syracuse Buddhism Examiner, Harold Mandel, July 24:
        Gang raped Buddhist nun may come back to nunnery
      18. Inter Press Service, Sudeshna Sarkar, July 28:
        Religious Practices Oppress Women
      19. OneWorld South Asia, Sudeshna Sarkar, Aug 2:
        Nepal: Oppressing women in the name of religion
      20. GreaterKashmir.Com, Sudeshna Sarkar, Aug 3:
        Nepal’s Buddhist nuns rally behind rape victim
      21. My Republica, Prem Dhakal, Aug 3:
        Ani Choying takes gang-raped nun under her wing
      22. TOI, TNN, Aug 3:
        Nepal’s ‘singing nun’ comes to gangraped nun’s rescue
      23. News Today (Bangladesh), [no byline given], Aug 4:
        Religious practices oppress women
      24. UK Independent, Andrew Buncombe, Aug 5:
        Nepalese chant star gives refuge to nun shunned after gang rape
      25. My Republica, Surendra Phuyal, Aug 8:
        Where even a Buddhist nun isn’t spared (reprinted at the Buddhist Channel website here)
      26. Salt Lake City Deseret News, Michael De Groote, Aug. 9:
        Raped Buddhist nun’s lost virginity might mean she no longer can serve (Also reprinted at the Buddhist Channel website here)
      27. Twin Cities Star Tribune, Susan Hogan, Aug 10:
        Buddhist Nunsense: East vs. West over gang rape
      28. The Interdependence Project, Lawrence Grecco, Aug 15:
        The Importance of Following a Noble Path Over a Narrow One
      29. The Asian Age, IANS (Indo-Asian News Service), Aug 16:
        Gangraped Buddhist nun faces new ordeal in Nepal

Wherever possible in the above list, the author is given by name. In some cases the only attribution available is to a wire service, such as TNN or IANS, and in other cases the proper attribution is to an organization.

It is clear that a single “journalist”, Sudeshna Sarkar, has been the main source of the endlessly repeated and baseless “vituperative attacks” (a term found in the Reuters Handbook of Journalism) against Nepalese Buddhism. But this smear campaign would not have been nearly so effective without the enthusiastic support of the Buddhist Channel and two Western Buddhist bloggers: Matthew Frazer and Anthony Best (aka, Sujato).

There is a great deal of repetition in what one finds at the 29 different links listed above. But that repetition (and especially what gets repeated and what doesn’t) is essential to how propaganda works. We choose what we want to hear, what we want to believe, and what we repeat to others. The truth is in there, but it is invisible to those who only look on the surface.

“I wanted to murder whoever did this to my daughter.” (Nepali Times story on raped Buddhist nun)

“I wanted to murder whoever did this to my daughter.”

(Follow this link to the original story at the Nepali Times website)

FROM ISSUE #563 (22 JULY 2011 – 28 JULY 2011)

[BY HER SIDE: Krishna Tamang tends to his daughter at the Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu. She hasn’t spoken to anyone since the rape a month ago. Photo by BIKRAM RAI.]

Krishna Tamang had taken his cattle out to graze on a meadow near his farm in Bhojpur in eastern Nepal. Dark clouds were gathering over the mountains beyond, and he had a sense of foreboding. At 2 pm, a neighbour ran up to tell him his daughter had fallen sick in Chainpur. Krishna borrowed some money and headed off with his brother.

Krishna says he felt like he had fallen off a cliff when police in Chainpur told him what had happened to his daughter. A 21-year-old apprentice at the Laligurans Rimthen Chholing Boudha Gumba in Dilkharka, the nun had been raped repeatedly by the driver and crew of a bus she was travelling in. They also stole the Rs 130,000 she was carrying that her sister Kabita Tamang, who lives in India, had sent home for constructing a new house in the village.

She was travelling from Khandbari to Dharan on 24 June, but a flooded river on the way forced the bus to make an unscheduled night stop. All the lodges in the village were full because of stranded passengers.

Although some passengers offered to share their room, the crew convinced her to spend the night in the bus. At 11pm, Drona Rai, sleeping in a bus parked nearby heard a scream and went to help. He was beaten up by the rapists.

The next morning there was commotion as word spread about what had happened. Members of the Limbuwan Volunteers were alerted, they caught the culprits in a place called Kharang and handed them over to Chainpur police.

By the time Krishna reached Chainpur the next day his daughter had been taken by relatives to Paramount Hospital in Siliguri in India after initial treatment at a local health centre. It took Krishna two more days to reach Siliguri and be by his daughter’s side.

“She was in a terrible state,” Krishna recalls, “she was still unconscious in the ICU. I wanted to murder whoever did this to my daughter.”

When her family couldn’t pay and the bills had exceeded INR 200,000, the Siliguri hospital evicted her. The family flew her back to Kathmandu on 15 July, but the Teaching Hospital refused to admit her despite request from members of National Women’s Commission.

“We were told that the government hospital does not take this kind of case,” recalls the nun’s uncle, Surya Tamang. “We returned got to a relative’s house at 9pm after waiting at the hospital all day.”

After much lobbying with politicians, Teaching Hospital finally took the nun in the next day. Doctors told us she is suffering from extreme post-traumatic stress disorder. “She needs psychological and social support at this time more than medical treatment,” Vidya Dev Sharma of the hospital’s psychiatry wing, said.

The nun’s sister, Kabita, watches as she tosses and turns in bed, moaning. Her bed is near the door of a large ward full of patients. She covers her face with her blanket every time someone walks past. Kabita says her sister hasn’t spoken a word to her family, or to the doctors. She says: “Look at what those demons did to her, a young woman who has devoted her life to god.”

The family is now worried about her future. Although there were initial reports that the nunnery where she studied in Pharping had excommunicated her, the Nepal Buddhist Federation (NBF) has denied this. “I was misquoted in the Indian media, she was never expelled, there is no provision in Buddhism for excommunication,” said the NBF’s Norbu Sherpa.

The Nepal Tamang Lama Ghedung, an organisation of Tamang Lamas, has said it will reinstate the nun in the local Gumba in Sankhuwasabha once she gets well. Palden Lama of the Ghedung said: “Her celibacy was broken against her will, Buddhist philosophy is about protecting, rescuing and rehabilitating the victim instead of adding to the pain.”

The Sankhuwasabha District Court has sent all five accused to jail for further investigation. In Khandbari, government lawyer Krishna Bhandari says the court has recommended compensation and medical expenses for the victim. “The court will give its verdict once the legal procedures are complete. All we need now is statement of the victim,” Bhandari told Nepali Times.

Two members of the bus crew, bus driver Raj Limbu and conductor Bhuwan Gurung have already confessed to the crime, while the rest have pleaded not guilty. The maximum punishment is a jail term for up to 10 years, but since there is also a robbery charge, they could get an additional six year sentence.

However, the bus syndicates in Sankhuwasabha are lobbying with the local administration to have the accused released. They brought transportation to a halt in four districts in eastern Nepal this week to put pressure on the administration.

Donation inquiries should be sent to:

Chronology of a Smear Campaign

If one reads through all of the following, one will not find one shred of evidence that at any time was any attempt made to “expel” Ani Lhamu Karma from the Sangha of Buddhist nuns in Nepal. Nevertheless this baseless allegation has been swallowed whole by a number of people around the world, including many Buddhists.

Didn’t we learn anything from “the smoking gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud”, and “we will be greeted as liberators”??

Times of India (TOI), June 27:
Buddhist nun gangraped in Nepal bus

TOI July 11:
Gangraped Nepal nun now faces expulsion from nunnery

Sujato’s Blog (a Buddhist blog from Australia) July 12:
Gangraped Nepal nun now faces expulsion from nunnery

TOI, July 16:
Debate grows in Nepal about gangraped nun
(reprinted at Buddhist Channel website here)

Sujato again, July 18:
Nuns and Rape: some links and a message

Nepal Buddhist Federation, July 19:
Official Press Release

Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils, July 19:
Letter to Nepal Buddhist Federation

TOI, July 21:
Gangraped Nepal nun likely to get re-admission in nunnery

UK Independent, Aug 5:
Nepalese chant star gives refuge to nun shunned after gang rape

My Republica (English language website based in Nepal), Aug 8:
Where even a Buddhist nun isn’t spared
(reprinted at the Buddhist Channel website here)

Salt Lake City Deseret News, Aug. 9:
Raped Buddhist nun’s lost virginity might mean she no longer can serve
(Also reprinted at the Buddhist Channel website here)

Twin Cities Star Tribune, Aug 10:
Buddhist Nunsense: East vs. West over gang rape

Don’t Believe the Lies About the Raped Nepali Nun (Are Western Buddhists Fucking Stupid, Or What?)

A lot has happened since I first posted this. For more on this subject also see these follow-up posts:


On July 19th, the Nepal Buddhist Federation issued a press release concerning the horrifying case of a Buddhist nun from Nepal who was gang raped while traveling in India. The Press Release was in response to claims made in the Times of India that the rape victim was to be expelled from her nunnery because of the attack.
The Nepal Buddhist Federation statement makes it absolutely clear that the rape victim is still a nun and will be returned to her nunnery as soon as she is physically able to do so (she is hospitalized and still recovering from the attack).

The following are three direct quotes from the NBF statement (full text here):

1. “Nepal Buddhist Federation has never said that she is expelled from the nunnery.”

2. “The members of the NBF personally met her and her relatives in the hospital where her condition is still very unstable. NBF also met the authorities of the Karma Samtenling Nunnery at Pharbing, which she left a year ago when she went to India to pursue further studies. She is not expelled from the nunnery.

3. “NBF in collaboration with our allied Association Tamang Lama Gedung Sangh and the concerned nunnery is taking steps to accommodate her back into the nunnery when she recovers and discharged from the hospital. NBF will do everything in its power to help restore the dignity of the nun and continue to fight for justice.

A number of Buddhist bloggers have seized upon this story with a great deal of hysterical self-righteous outrage, but without stopping to look into the facts. What is it about some Buddhists that they are so eager to believe the worst about the Dharma and the Sangha?

The original story in the Times of India (link) claims that “15 Buddhist organisations said that as a result [of being raped], she had lost ‘her religion’ and could be no longer regarded as fit to be a nun.”

The article, does not provide any official statement from even a single Buddhist organization, let alone 15! There are quotes from one official of the NBF (the only “Buddhist Organization” actually named in the article), and if one looks at what he says, it is clear that he at no point says that the victim will be expelled from her nunnery. And in the official statement from the NBF it is made clear that the official quoted in the article was not speaking on behalf of the NBF (nor is it stated directly in the article that he was speaking in an official capacity: this was merely insinuated by the Times of India “journalist”).

Although the Times of India “journalist” could not be bothered to substantiate his false allegations against Nepalese Buddhists with proper sourcing, he (surprise!) did mange to get a proper quote from a Catholic priest who was only too happy to comment on this non-story.

Anyone with a modicum of critical reading and thinking skills should have seen through this transparent smear campaign instantly. Instead, Buddhist themselves have moronically repeated these lies over and over again on blogs and online discussion forums.


Mencius, Jerry Coyne, and Chögyam Trungpa on Basic Goodness

Mencius said, ”Everyone has a heart that is sensitive to the sufferings of others. The great kings of the past had this sort of sensitive heart and thus adopted compassionate policies. Bringing order to the realm is as easy as moving an object in your palm when you have a sensitive heart and put into practice compassionate policies. Let me give an example of what I mean when I say everyone has a heart that is sensitive to the sufferings of others. Anyone today who suddenly saw a baby about to fall into a well would feel alarmed and concerned. It would not be because he wanted to improve his relations with the child’s parents, nor because he wanted a good reputation among his friends and neighbors, nor because he disliked hearing the child cry. From this it follows that anyone who lacks feelings of commiseration, shame, and courtesy or a sense of right and wrong is not a human being. From the feeling of commiseration benevolence grows; from the feeling of shame righteousness grows; from the feeling of courtesy ritual grows; from a sense of right and wrong wisdom grows. People have these four germs, just as they have four limbs For someone with these four potentials to claim incompetence is to cripple himself; to say his ruler is incapable of them is to cripple his ruler. Those who know how to develop the four potentials within themselves will take off like a fire or burst forth like a spring. Those who can fully develop them can protect the entire land while those unable to develop them cannot even take care of their parents.
[From: Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 2d ed. (New York: Free Press, 1993), pp. 22-23. (online here:http://www.chinapage.com/mencius2n.html)]

Jerry Coyne said (more recently): “One cold Chicago day last February, I watched a Federal Express delivery man carry an armful of boxes to his truck. In the middle of the icy street, he slipped, scattering the boxes and exposing himself to traffic. Without thinking, I ran into the street, stopped cars, hoisted the man up and helped him recover his load. Pondering this afterward, I realized that my tiny act of altruism had been completely instinctive; there was no time for calculation.

“We see the instinctive nature of moral acts and judgments in many ways: in the automatic repugnance we feel when someone such as Bernie Madoff bilks the gullible and trusting, in our disapproval of the person who steals food from the office refrigerator, in our admiration for someone who risks his life to save a drowning child. And although some morality comes from reason and persuasion — we must learn, for example, to share our toys — much of it seems intuitive and inborn.”

Chögyam Trungpa said: “Buddhist psychology is based on the notion that human beings are fundamentally good. Their most basic qualities are positive ones: openness, intelligence and warmth. Of course this viewpoint has its philosophical and psychological expressions in concepts such as bodhichitta (awakened mind), and tathagatagarbha (birthplace of the enlightened ones). But this idea is ultimately rooted in experience-the experience of goodness and worthiness in oneself and others. This understanding is very fundamental and is the basic inspiration for Buddhist practice and Buddhist psychology.

“Coming from a tradition that stresses human goodness, it was something of a shock for me to encounter the Western tradition of original sin. It seems that this notion of original sin does not just pervade western religious ideas. It actually seems to run throughout Western thought as well, especially psychological thought. Among patients, theoreticians and therapists alike there seems to be great concern with the idea of some original mistake, which causes later suffering-a kind of punishment for that mistake. One finds that a sense of guilt or being wounded is quite pervasive. Whether or not such people actually believe in the idea of original sin, or in God for that matter, they seem to feel that they have done something wrong in the past and are now being punished for it.”

As is so often the case with Atheists these days, Jerry Coyne makes the glaringly ignorant ethnocentric mistake of believing that he is arguing against all religions, when in fact he is arguing against Christianity. Mencius, a Confucianist scholar who lived well over two millennia ago, and Chögyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher who died in 1987, both affirm that “basic goodness”, to use Trungpa’s term, is inherent in human nature. So we don’t “need God” to be good according to the deeply religious views of Mencius and Trungpa.

The Top Ten Reasons Stephen Batchelor Is Completely Full Of Shit

This post is Part Three in a series concerning Stephen Batchelor, author of Buddhism Without Beliefs and Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist (here is a link to a list of Batchelor’s publications at his website). Here are links to the first two parts:
1. Buddhism Without Ironic Detachment
2. “I discover as I grow older …”

And now, here are the Top 10 Reasons Stephen Batchelor is Completely Full of Shit:

1. Herman Hesse said all of this already (almost a century ago), and said it much better.
For those poor souls who simply cannot tolerate any exposure to actual Buddhism, because anything remotely “religious” causes you to go into the spiritual equivalent of anaphylactic shock, that is still no excuse for lowering yourself to Stephen Batchelor’s homeopathically diluted version of Buddhism. Nearly a century ago, Herman Hesse blessed the world with his own beautifully written iconoclasizingly idiosyncratic redaction of the Buddhadharma: Siddhartha. (At least four new English translations have appeared since 1998, indicating that many people are already taking this advice.) Hey, just because you can’t handle the real thing that doesn’t mean you can’t still have some standards!

2. Also, Hesse was honest about the fact that what he was saying was not really what the Buddha taught.
A few years after first publication of Siddhartha, the author wrote that, far from promoting Buddhism, the novel actually represented his own “liberation from Buddhism” (Gessamelte Briefe, Vol. 2 p. 96 of the 1979 Suhrkamp Verlag edition. This is cited in Adrian Hsia’s essay “Siddhartha”, which in turn is to found in A Companion to the Works of Herman Hesse, edited by Ingo Cornils.). Hesse was perfectly well aware of, and perfectly happy with, the fact that the words he was putting into his protagonist’s mouth, and the ideas he was putting into his mind, were not the teachings of the Buddha but rather an eclectic mixture of Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Taoism, Jungianism and Buddhism, and that this mixture was of his own invention. Batchelor, on the other hand, delusionally insists that the world accept Stephen Batchelor’s personal opinions as the original, pure and true teachings of the Buddha.

3. There is nothing “agnostic” about Batchelor’s New Dispensation.
T.H. Huxley, who first coined and defined the term “agnosticism”, touched briefly on the subject of Buddhism in his 1893 essay on Evolution and Ethics. What Darwin’s Bulldog had to say on the subject was described by Caroline Augusta Foley Rhys Davids (who would later become and remain for 20 years as the president of the Pali Text Society) in her own 1912 publication “Buddhism: A Study of the Buddhist Norm“, as the “most remarkable contribution of any lay student to the philosophy of Buddhism.” My point in bringing up Huxley is twofold. First of all, Huxley’s own brief non-expert description of basic Buddhist teachings is far superior to anything Stephen Batchelor has ever written. Secondly, in the course of his presentation of Buddhist ideas, the Agnosticator in Chief demonstrates that the same “metaphysical tour de force” (Huxley’s words) by which the Buddha obliterated the notion of “Self”  can be, and indeed must be (and indeed in Buddhist philosophy for the last 2.5 millennia has been consistently), also applied to the notion of “Matter”: “the ‘substance’ of matter is a metaphysical unknown quantity, of the existence of which there is no proof.” But what is a crude materialist like Batchelor to do without the Mammon of “physical reality” to grovel before? This is the real reason why Batchelor long ago abandoned any pretense of being an “agnostic”.

4. Why Settle For Goenka-Lite?
For several years, Stephen Batchelor lived as a Tibetan Buddhist monk and ostensibly was a student of Tibetan Buddhism. Then he changed teams and became a Zen Buddhist monk and lived in a Korean Buddhist monastery for several years while ostensibly studying Zen. In fact, however, during this whole time Batchelor was actually a practitioner, after a fashion, of “Goenka-style vipassana”. And in fact, what Batchelor “teaches” (and one can only refer to Batchelor as a “teacher” if one does so safely within the confines of ironic quotes) is nothing but his own personal interpretation of Goenka’s teaching. So, why accept some half-baked knock-off, when the real thing is readily available? An even more indelicate question is this: why has Stephen Batchelor never applied himself to a serious and systematic study of Goenka’s teachings, but has rather satisfied himself with only a minimal exposure to the teachings that he claims to hold in such high regard?

5. The Buddha actually did believe in and teach rebirth and karma.
“The slightest acquaintance with Buddhism, in virutally any of its forms,  shows that … Buddhism teaches that when people (or other beings) die, they are reborn according to their moral deserts …. In fact, Buddhism probably has the strongest idea of personal continuity found anywhere. Christians, for example,  believe in personal continuity through just one life that we live here on earth, and perhaps in a second life in a place or state of reward or punishment, a heaven 0r hell — although, since that is often considered to be ‘outside time’, it is not clear how the term ‘continuity’ can there apply. Buddhists, by contrast, believe in personal continuity over an infinite series of lives …. Though karma, ethical volition, is … only one of the elements of continuity in an individual’s life (and beyond), from the religious point of view it is the most important.” Richard Gombrich, What the Buddha Thought, pp. 11-13. Gombrich, it must be emphasized, is primarily concerned not only with the Pali Canon, but specifically with that part of the Pali Suttas that can most reliably be attributed directly to the historical Buddha.

6. Batchelor’s fundamentalism
Batchelor apparently could not be satisfied with presenting his own personal vision of what he thinks the Buddha should have taught (but did not) in an honest and straightforward way and for what it is. Nor was he interested in simply presenting his own personal interpretation of Buddha’s teachings as one valid way of looking at things. Rather, he insists, like any two-bit fundamentalist, that the vast majority of those who have called ourselves Buddhists for the last 2500 years have got it all wrong. And it just so happens that Stephen Batchelor, quite naturally, is just the guy to set us all straight. Like some Tudor-era Protestant “reformer”/psychopath, Batchelor sees evil forces lurking wherever  priests, or pomp, or idols, or rituals of any kind are to be found. But it is not enough for Batchelor to simply choose, for himself, to have nothing to do with these things of which he disapproves. Because Batchelor has convinced himself that he possesses The One Truth, and The One Truth must prevail. The priests must be exposed as frauds, the pomp splattered with mud, the idols smashed, and the rituals mocked and ridiculed and ultimately broken up by the mob.

7. What do you mean “we”, Kemosabe?
There is simply no getting around the ugly ethnocentric core at the heart of Batchelor’s New Dispensation. Batchelor’s mind works in a such a way that his own failures at Buddhist praxis must not merely be the fault of Buddhism, but the problem with Buddhism must be explained in racial and cultural terms. It is not that Batchelor was incapable of sincerely embracing and practicing Buddhism, you see. The inadequacy does not lie personally with Batchelor. No, that wouldn’t do at all. Rather it is a congenital malady afflicting all white people: “I’ve found that this denial of one’s roots, this denial of one’s cultural upbringing, is not actually possible to sustain. If one seeks to sustain it, one often ends up as a kind of mock Tibetan or pseudo-Japanese. Although I have tried to do that on occasion, dressing up in all of the appropriate regalia, more than that I feel it to be still seeking to find an identity outside that of my own culture. It’s, as Freud might say, impossible to repress these things. They simply come out in other ways.” [Deep Agnosticism, 1997]

8. There is nothing new, or interesting, or admirable, in the sad tale of an aging hippie manufacturing justifications for why he no longer feels quite so rebellious, adventurous and culturally flexible as he did in his youth.
I’m just sayin’.

9. Arrested Development.
I read Siddhartha when I was 17. It is important to read Hesse when one is still young. Along with Carlos Castaneda. If one did not manage to read these things when one was 17, then there is perhaps no harm in allowing such an indulgence at a later stage in life. But this kind of reading material must be understood for what it is: a starting point, a point of initial departure. Batchelor appeals to westerners who are still spiritual infants, a state ideally experienced in one’s late teens. Sadly, though, Batchelor’s audience is not primarily made up of teenagers, but rather of those who are, like Batchelor himself, trapped in a perpetually infantilizing and narcissizing state of arrested development. But once we have had our fill of pabulum (regardless at what age this finally happens) it is soon time to move on to solid food. Like actual Buddhism and actual Shamanism.

10. Batchelor, by his own admission, has never made a serious attempt to study and practice actual Buddhism.
According to his own account, Batchelor did not apply himself to the practice of Tibetan Buddhism during his years as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Rather, he chose to devote himself to the practice of his own personal conception of “Goenka-style vipassana”. And during his years as a Zen Buddhist monk, Batchelor cultivated an attitude of “ironic distance” from his teacher, and only put Kusan Sunim’s teachings into practice “in a way that corresponded with my own interests and needs.” [for sourcing see: Buddhism Without Ironic Detachment] And at no time during his years of supposedly studying and practicing “Goenka-style vipassana” has Batchelor ever made a serious effort to systematically learn Goenka’s teaching as it is actually taught by Goenka.

Soyolmaa Davaakhuu: Amazing Mongolian Woman Artist

Recently I was looking around for images of the Hindu/Buddhist Goddess Kurukulla, and I came upon the website of the amazing Mongolian artist Soyolmaa Davaakhuu. Wow.

Prints of her gorgeous paintings are available for sale at her ImageKind website (linked to above). In addition, she has also published a book, Deep Knowing: A Woman’s Journey in the Buddha Dharma Reflected in the Art of Soyolmaa Davaakhuu. (Scroll down to see a 6 minute video based on the book.)

The following biography is taken directly from her website (linked to above):

Soyolma Davaakhuu’s parents were prominent artists under the Communist regime, who managed to keep their Mongolian cultural and Buddhist art heritage alive to pass on to their talented daughter. Soyolma attended the Ulaan Baatar Fine Arts College and the University of Arts and Culture in Ulaan Baatar, both of which she graduated with honors. She has worked as a professional artist since her graduation in 1998 and has participated in dozens of exhibitions in Mongolia and abroad.

In 2008, Soyolma was named Female Artist of the Year by the Union of Mongolian Artists. The award is especially coveted because the recipient is chosen by the greatest artists in the country.

Soyolma is known for her eclectic approach which includes the traditional Mongolian Buddhist arts such as thangka painting, embroidery, appliqué, temple dance masks and costumes, etc., to contemporary urban expressionism.

Her work, from traditional to surreal, is always transformative, exploring themes of dreaming and awakening, the hidden and revealed, and more often than not, celebrates enlightenment manifest in feminine form.

And here is the description of the Goddess Kurkulla, also taken from the website (here is a link directly to the painting “Woman of Power”, depicting the Goddess):

Kurukulle (Kurukulla) is translated in Tibetan as Rigiyedma meaning “She who is the cause of Knowledge”. She is also sometimes called Red Tara. She symbolizes desireless desire and the ability to achieve goals without attachment to outcomes. Her bow symbolizes the aiming for a goal and letting go. She is very popular in Tibetan folk magic as she is pre-eminently the Buddhist deity of enchantment and has the ability to bewitch other beings. Kurukulle may be called upon to exercise her powers of enchantment and bewitchment to subjugate evil spirits, demon and humans working against the welfare of humanity and spiritual evolution. She is often called upon at new beginnings such as the building of monastery, starting a business or other venture to subdue all forces that stands in the way. She represents empowerment of the feminine in a patriarchal milieu.

More than any other figure in the Buddhist pantheon, Kurukulle has becomes the Buddhist goddess of love and sex, corresponding to the Western goddess Venus. In this capability her flower-entwined bow and arrow serves as Cupid bow rather that the huntress Diana seeking a goal. According to the texts Kurukulle embodies perfect and alluring feminine form; she has a beautiful face and voluptuous body. She is red in color signifying enchantment and magnetism. She is single faced because she embodies non-dual wisdom beyond conventional distinctions of good and evil, and naked because she is unconditioned by discursive thoughts. She holds bow and arrow entwined with flowers because she can give rise to thoughts of desire in others minds. Her compassionate activity energetically manifests in both Samsara and Nirvana. She dances, and as she dances, she enchants and subjugates demon of ego. Most modern scholars believe Kurukulla originated in Uddiyana as a tribal goddess and because of her popularity became associated with the Bodhisattva Tara. She has also been adopted by Hinduism.