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Lions Roar : September 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2008 15 Letters to the Editor WHO’S IN AUTHORITY? Gaylon Ferguson, in his book review in the last is- sue (“Evaluating Eckhart”), quite validly questions the emphasis in Mingyur Rinpoche’s Joy of Living on biology as an exclusive influence on human behavior. But his own reasoning seems to fall into the mirror- ing error of looking at culture as an exclusive force. Social scientists who dissect the hegemony of sci- ence in our own time have made a contribution by pointing out the unconscious attribution of ultimate authority to science. But this point is regularly taken too far. Doesn’t science remain one valid way of un- derstanding our world? Ironically, then, Ferguson looks at Eckhart Tolle’s concept of the “pain body” and suggests “a teaching lineage might be helpful in clarifying the accuracy of this concept,” then advises “testing it against other authoritative pronouncements.” How fascinating that Ferguson proposes the same kind of external validation for Tolle for which he earlier criticized Mingyur. Is it possible he’s attributing the same kind of authority to Buddhism that he abjures in “scien- tific materialism”? This fascinating article illustrates how we tend to consider valid those ideas that pass muster with our own particular tests, and how difficult it is not to place authority in a way of thinking. Josh Medley Boulder, Colorado IN DEFENSE OF LOVING-KINDNESS A couple of months ago I wrote from my prison cell and I asked if it might be possible to receive a “com- passion subscription” to the Shambhala Sun. I had forgotten I wrote you until my name was called at mail call and I was handed my first issue (July 2008). In a place where compassion is something normally found only in a dictionary, your act of compassion was deeply appreciated. As I began to read July’s issue, one particular letter to the editor caught my attention. It was titled “Heard It All Before,” and what really caught my attention was where the author said sarcastically of Buddhism that “Loving-kindness is the all-purpose antidote to so-called hindrances like fear and anger.” I know firsthand that loving-kindness is the antidote. One experience I had was when a cellmate decided to physically assault me. With loving-kindness I talked the situation down, even though I could have easily reacted in the same manner as he. The following day I noticed that he had run out of coffee, so I offered him some. The confusion on his face was apparent. He began to apolo- gize to me and I told him it was over, no big deal. I saw him a few months after he moved out of the cell and he went out of his way to see if I was doing OK. Suffice it to say, this hasn’t been the only tough time I’ve had here in prison. But I approach everyone and everything with loving-kindness. My reputation precedes me now. People know I am a Buddhist and act accordingly. Anger, fear, bitterness, and hate—these hindrances are the fundamental basis for the teachings of Buddha, and Jesus. All the “tired” teachings are as profound as you can get! What more can be added to these? Noth- ing! What has to be understood is that we are all dif- ferent and have different capacities for learning. That is why there are so many teachers. What I may get, another person may not. Because of loving-kindness, I don’t suffer from these hindrances. It makes it possible to look at my situation realistically, calmly, without delusion. Like many in prison, I, too, claim my innocence. In a situ- ation where I might have license to be angry and bit- ter, loving-kindness has cleared the veil of illusion. By Eckhart Tolle with Oprah Winfrey SEPT 1-17.indd 15 SEPT 1-17.indd 15 7/3/08 1:25:44 PM 7/3/08 1:25:44 PM