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Lions Roar : September 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2006 98 AN APPEAL FOR THE PRECIOUS SEEDS OF TIBET Tibetan children, nuns and monks continue to escape persecution by making a perilous journey across the Himalayas to seek freedom in Nepal and India. Many arrive traumatized and destitute. With a sponsorship of $3.50 to $30 a month, you can help save a life and preser ve a culture. To learn more please call or visit our website. www.Tibet Aid.org 877-Tibet-Aid part of your collective, and I don’t have to obey the rules of your collective. I mean, I might obey if it is important to me to be part of your collective. But in the long run, I will die out of your collective and I might be reborn as an Iraqi. I might be reborn as a Russian, if you are going to say that they are my archenemy. I might be reborn as a Chinese, if you are going to say that they are my archenemy. I might be reborn as a Jew if you are going to say that they are my archenemy. I might be reborn Black. “In other words, I am a unique tempo- ral event. I have to look at the causation of my unique event, and I will not be labeled or trapped into any collectivity on the basis that I have some fixed essence that belongs to that collectivity.” Enlightenment, he says, means under- standing the other just as well as we un- derstand ourselves. “We can empathize with another being, right? We do fall in love. We do have children we totally iden- tify with. A buddha perceives every being as a mother would perceive her beloved child.” Whereas, he says, the George-Bush rules, and the religious-fundamentalist rules deny the validity of the other. Thurman says that Christianity would be on the same page as Buddhism—he calls Jesus a buddha and the Sermon on the Mount a buddha’s teaching about the other—if it stuck to its emphasis on meet- ing hatred with love, and got over the ir- rational idea of an omnipotent God who is some kind of transcendent other. We’re sitting in the empty restaurant of a Toron- to hotel as he says this. He leans forward, tightens his shoulders, and lowers his voice in a mock-dramatic whisper: “Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount and he says, ‘Now, you guys better do this. If you don’t do what I’m telling you then you’re like a man with a house on sand, and if you do it, then you’re like a house on a rock.’ “And then Jesus says—and this is where I see Dick Cheney rising out of scripture, and George Bush—‘In the future when I’m at the right hand of God, there will be people coming unto me and saying, “Lord, Lord, we have cast out devils in thy name, and we have done great deeds of power in thy name, now let us in,” and I walk down Broadway and demand lunch from any particular restaurant. And how many blocks will you get before you are in a straightjacket and hauled away and in- jected with things to make you sociable?” But in India, you can have 85 million peo- ple gather on the banks of the Ganges and they are all done up like that. Thurman was fascinated by the book Lame Deer Speaks, written by the Lakota medicine man John (Fire) Lame Deer. “The thing that really struck me from that book is what he says about the Lakota warriors, when they were fighting the U.S. cavalry. He said that the Lakotas would get all geared up to fight; each one would be painted up with their own totem, and each completely individual. The Lakotas would feel so sorry for the pony soldiers, because the Western guys looked like little toys—all exactly the same, sitting on their horses, all blue motion, nothing individu- al about them at all, like little robot pieces. They felt sorry for them. They didn’t com- prehend of what sort of discipline and what sort of whippings the soldiers had had as children to make them conform so exactly to one another, like the machine. That really blew my mind when I read it. “So now, for example, King George tells me, ‘Go and fight in Iraq, because my daddy was insulted by the leader, and we want a lot of oil, and we want some more land.’ Then he says, ‘You have to do it because you are American, and you are a patriot: You have an intrinsic identity as an American. You have to obey me, and that’s your sole duty.’ Or, ‘You are a Chris- tian and this is a Christian war, and that’s your sole duty as a Christian.’ This is your essence and there is no other way. “On the contrary, what I say is, No, I am only temporarily an American, that’s a relational thing. This thing about be- ing a Christian is a temporary, relational thing—it’s part of being in a culture and relational system. I am actually a product of what I do, what I experience, in my re- lationship to beings and the universe. “So my individuality is only temporarily Robert Thurman continued from page 65