e g r e g o r e s

"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: comparative religions

David Loy’s “Buddhist” revanchism: five more examples

Is the capacity to recognize social injustice for what it is really “distinctly Western”? Uh, no. But please don’t take my word for it. There are a five significant historical examples in this post:

David Loy’s “Buddhist” revanchism: five more examples


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.

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.


“A Witch In Love” (aka “Yuhee, The Witch”, aka “Witch Amusement”)

The Korean TV romantic dramedy “Witch Amusement” ran for a grand total of 16 episodes from March to May in 2007. The story centered on a young single professional woman in modern day South Korea who was derisively referred to as “manyŏ” (“witch”) behind her back by the people who worked for her.

The name of the “witch” in question is Yoo Hee, and the Korean title of the show was “Manyŏ Yoo Hee“, literally, “Witch Yoo Hee”. In Korean this is a rather clever play on words that can also mean “Witch Amusement” or “Witch In Love”.

The reason for referring to Yoo Hee as a “witch” is that she is seen as unfeminine and “cold”. She does not wear make-up and she always dresses in black clothes, and also wears glasses. She is also portrayed as pathetically unsuccessful in her attempts to have relationships with men.

The character of Yoo Hee (played by Han Ga In) is very similar to the Witch character portrayed by Kim Novack in the 1958 “Bell Book and Candle“, and also to the journalist/activist/feminist character played by Katharine Hepburn in the 1942 “Woman of the Year“. For that matter, all three characters show striking parallels with the real life story of Queen Elizabeth I, but with one major difference, for Elizabeth never married, and reigned as one of the most powerful and successful heads of state the western world had seen since the fall of Rome.

In contrast to the “Virgin Queen”, however, the three fictional characters Yoo Hee, Gil Holroyd (Novack), and Tess Harding (Hepburn), all end up surrendering their “unfeminine” independence to comply with social conventions in exchange for that ultimate goal that is the true heart’s desire of all “real” women: the love of a good man. (Don’t worry, I’m not really giving very much away by telling you this….)

As was the case with both “Woman of the Year”, and “Bell Book and Candle”, the lead character in “Witch Yoo Hee” is portrayed as proudly independent and highly successful. Han Ga In’s character is even a martial arts master who can (and when she feels like it, does) kick any man’s ass.

But despite (or rather, because of) her professional success and all around self-sufficiency, Yoo Hee is miserable and lonely, for, as a woman without a man, she is in an unnatural state. In fact, her greatest shame is that she has never had a second date. She has even programmed a list of “dating tips” into her phone to refer to during her unsuccessful string of blind dates (some of these dates turn out to be guys who lost a bet!):

  • Try to act cute.
  • Have a good appetite.
  • Act interested in the other person.
  • Try to find things in common.

Now, as I said already, just knowing that Yoo Hee will fall in love doesn’t give very much away. It’s pretty obvious where things are headed already by the end of Episode 1, and Episode 2 quickly removes any lingering doubts. Or does it? Let’s just say there is a lot more to the story than what has been (somewhat misleadingly) revealed here.

If you want to know more about “Witch Amusement” just check out the truly amazing website “dramabeans“, where two Korean-American women bloggers (who go by “javabeans” and “girlfirday”, and who may or may not be sisters, and/or criminals-on-the-run-hiding-from-the-law, and/or the same person,) provide detailed (and wonderfully snarktastic) commentaries on “kdramas” and other facets of “K-Pop” culture generally.

The cool thing, imnsho, about reading about “Witch Amusement” at the website “dramabeans” is that you have this hackneyed western cultural meme of the frustrated/liberated woman/witch being played out in a highly industrialized and in its very own and very strange way highly westernized country (and in a culture with its very own and very much alive-and-kicking ancient indigenous tradition of magical practitioners, most of whom are women), and then this all gets translated and reinterpreted for a western, English speaking audience by young Native-born Americans who happen to be young, successful professional Korean women who are obsessive fans of Korean pop culture. It is a cultural and sociological house of mirrors!

Personally I am very curious about this Korean word translated into English as “Witch”. I poked around and found two other occurrences of the word manyŏ:

사자, 마녀, 옷장 이야기 /
Saja, manyŏ, otchang iyagi /
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (by C.S. Lewis)

포르토벨로의마녀 /
Pʻorŭtʻobello ŭi manyŏ /
The witch of Portobello /
A bruxa de Portobello (by Paul Coelho)

So who is this Mencius fellow?

Anyone familiar with the great Chinese philosopher Mencius could not help but think of him if they happened to read Jerry Coyne’s July 31 USA Today piece As atheists know, you can be good without God. That’s because Coyne opens his essay with a personal anecdote illustrating “the instinctive nature of moral acts and judgments,” which was the defining theme of Mencius’ philosophy (and which Mencius famously illustrated in a way highly reminiscent of Coyne’s anecdote).

For those not familiar with Mencius, and/or those who know a little and wish to learn more (a category in which I place myself) a very handy resource is the article on Mencius in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (the entry is by Kwong-Loi Shun, Chair Professor of Philosophy at Chinese University of Hong Kong, and he is also author of Mencius and Early Chinese Thought). And for anyone not familiar with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, it is to wikipedia as Buffalo mozzarella is to Cheese Whiz.

Here is how Professor Shun begins his article:

Mencius (fourth century B.C.E.) sought to defend the teachings of Confucius (sixth to fifth century B.C.E.) against other influential movements of thought, especially those associated with Mozi (fifth century B.C.E.) and Yang Zhu (fifth to fourth century B.C.E.). He is probably best known for the view that “human nature is good”, a view of human nature on the basis of which he defended the Confucian ideal and developed an account of the self-cultivation process. His view was subsequently challenged by Xunzi (third century B.C.E.), another major Confucian thinker, who defended the alternative view that “human nature is evil”.

Confucian thinkers of the Han (206 B.C – 220 C.E.) were influenced by the teachings of both, but by the late Tang (618–907), influential intellectuals such as Han Yu (768–824) came to regard Mencius as the true transmitter of Confucius’ teachings. This view was shared by Confucian thinkers of the early Song (960–1279), and Zhu Xi (1130–1200) included the Mengzi (Mencius) as one of the Four Books, which became canonical texts of the Confucian tradition. Mencius came to be regarded as the greatest Confucian thinker after Confucius himself, and his teachings have been very influential on the development of Confucian thought in the Song, Ming (1368–1644), Qing (1644–1912), and up to modern times.

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.

Mencius on the Debt Ceiling Crisis

Mencius had an audience with King Hui of Liang.
The king said, “Sir, you did not consider a thousand li too far to come. You must have some ideas about how to benefit my state.”

Mencius replied, “Why must Your Majesty use the word ‘benefit’? All I am concerned with are the benevolent and the right.

“If Your Majesty says, ‘How can I benefit my state?’
your officials will say, ‘How can I benefit my family,’ and officers and common people will say, ‘How can I benefit myself.’

“Once superiors and inferiors are competing for benefit, the state will be in danger.

“When the head of a state of ten thousand chariots is murdered, the assassin is invariably a noble with a fief of a thousand chariots, When the head of a fief of a thousand chariots is murdered, the assassin is invariably head of a subfief of a hundred chariots. Those with a thousand out of ten thousand, or a hundred out of a thousand, had quite a bit. But when benefit is put before what is right, they are not satisfied without wanting it all.

“By contrast there has never been a benevolent person who neglected his parents or a righteous person who put his lord last.

“Your Majesty perhaps will now also say, ‘All I am concerned with are the benevolent and the right.’ Why mention ‘benefit?’ ”

From: Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 2d ed. (New York: Free Press, 1993), pp. 22-23. (online here: http://www.chinapage.com/mencius2n.html)

Hindu Intimidation Campaign Stops Film Showing In New York City

The Forum for Hindu Awakening has taken credit for an intimidation campaign that succeeded in preventing a public showing of the film “Sita Sings the Blues.”

The group claims that “Hindus have found this animation film to be an extremely denigrating twist on their sacred epic ‘Ramayan’.” (link)

The Forum for Hindu Awakening had warned Starlight Pavilion, the venue where the movie was scheduled, “to cancel the booking for this event as a show of goodwill to the Hindu community …. otherwise we would be forced to intensify our protests.”

To get an idea of what the Forum for Hindu Awakening was implying when they talk about “intensifying our protests”, we need only look at two recent stories on their website praising incidents of mob violence against Christians in India.

In one story at their website (link), dated April 3, praises a group of “devout Hindus” who broke up a private gathering in the home of a recent convert to Christianity. The mob beat up the Christian preacher who had been invited to the home and also vandalized his car for good measure. The same article also praises another Hindu mob who seized a Christian missionary and “dragged” him to the local police, who immediately released the man (religious freedom is, after all, guaranteed under the Indian Constitution). Both incidents took place in Jalgaon, Maharashtra.

In another article (link), dated July 23, a mob of “alert Hindus” in Nashik, Maharashtra, is congratulated for having “foiled” a “ploy of conversion.” If one reads the body of the article, though, one finds that the “ploy” consisted of a group of 8-10 Christians who were peacefully distributing literature. These Christians were physically attacked by a mob who seized them, their literature, and the car they were using. The mob then proceeded to stage a public book burning of the literature they had forcibly taken from the Christians (consisting of over one thousand books). The missionaries themselves were “handed over” to the police, who released them since they had committed no crime.

The sad story of the film cancellation has been covered by a number of journalists who have written prominent stories about it, including Sumathi Reddy writing for the Wall Street Journal, Saumya Arya Haas writing for the Huffington Post, and Salil Tripathi for the Daily Beast, and has also been blogged about by Kurt Semple at the New York Times, and Katherine Boyle at the Washington Post.

And, if somehow you have never heard of Nina Paley or her film “Sita Sings the Blues” then get thee to Nina’s blog and check her out! The film itself also has its very own website, where you can watch the whole thing for free online!

Also, here is a peak at just how awesome Nina Paley is: