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Lions Roar : July 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2006 13 brain science, and physics, as well as in general spirituality. Second, in an address at MIT over twenty years ago, the Dalai Lama em- phasized the importance of transmitting Buddhist ideas rather than making con- verts. His Holiness Karmapa has recently joined several Buddhist leaders in encour- aging practitioners to appreciate their cul- tures of origin. This does not seem like the systematic propagation of intolerance and irrationality that Harris decries as intrin- sic to religiosity. Most troubling to me is Harris’ con- demnation of “incredible” ideas within buddhadharma. I realized, as I read his surprise that “Among Western Bud- dhists, there are college-educated men and women who apparently believe that Guru Rinpoche was actually born from a lotus,” that Harris sees respect for tran- scendental, trans-material possibilities as inherently divisive. Yet he simultane- ously advocates a contemplative science, which he defines as “a modern approach to psychological well-being.” It is difficult to understand how such a science could reject Buddhism’s systematic introspec- tion—which leads to the realization of just such a potential. Dirk Hoekstra San Francisco, California Sam Harris supports the notion that reli- gion, even Buddhism, is divisive at its core and leads to violence. While religious dif- ferences play a part in many conflicts, the instigating factors of interreligious vio- lence often have more to do with politics and access to resources. I live in a richly diverse city, and there is no interreligious warfare here. We have a stable govern- ment, can draw water from a tap, and buy our gas at the corner filling station. People have been musing over a “uni- versal world religion” in universities and coffee shops for ages, to no avail. I’m sure Harris’ dream of a faithless Buddhic phi- losophy that can “compete” with the major religions comes from a bodhisattva im- pulse. But his article seethes with righteous anger and blame. If his brand of Buddhism can’t save him from the three fires, how can he expect it to save the world? Lisa Mann Portland, Oregon I am a Buddhist married to an atheist, and we live in America’s Bible belt, where we have experienced firsthand the closed- mindedness and religious intolerance exhibited by many Christians. Because of that, I buy books by atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, and whole- heartedly support their work. But when Sam Harris is wrong, he’s as wrong as any evangelical. He writes, “Merely being a self-de- scribed ‘Buddhist’ is to be complicit in the world’s violence and ignorance to an unacceptable degree.” Is this true? Does Harris hold himself complicit to the same “unacceptable degree” in the gulags and killing fields and human rights abuses of atheistic communist regimes? Somehow I don’t think he does. He writes, “Certainty without evidence is necessarily divisive and dehumanizing.” I agree. Too bad only a few paragraphs later he makes a wholly unprovable statement about what “most” Buddhists believe. And where is the evidence for his certainty? I would not for all the world see Sam Harris silenced, in these pages or any oth- er. But nor would I let my sympathies to his work silence me when he’s wrong. Arlynda Lee Boyer Staunton, Virginia Sam Harris asks, “Why is religion such a potent source of violence?” His question reveals the same fatal error in judgment that was made by the framers of com- munism. Simply put, religion is not the source of violence. The source of violence is greed, hatred, and delusion. To eradicate religion would not eradicate the source of violence but only transfer it onto another - ism. As the Buddha taught, the only way to eradicate hate is through love. Jacqueline Kramer Sonoma, California PASS ON THE MEAT Noa Jones’ article “ The Accidental Veg- etarian” (May 2006) was interesting in several ways. The characterization of those committed to vegetarianism as a moral path as fanatics, and the lauding of Buddhism as a rejection of absolutist mo- rality, is, I suppose, a sign of a certain mal- ady of the times. As “liberal” is a term of denigration in the U.S., so apparently is “moral” to certain Buddhists. Talk of the mean or middle way between extremes is all too easy to proffer in such a context. The hard moralist is an extremist; the soft moralist is balanced, walking the middle path. This is, however, a dicey game to play. After all, one person’s middle way is an- other person’s extremity. Isn’t consistent ILLUSTRATIONBYSUECOE