A few days ago a guy named Tharinda Lasitha posted a tweet on my Twitter account that said “Dear Brad, this is for you” and had a link. When I clicked on the link I found the essay I have reproduced below.
I was just told that I “always post things that people send (me) and then make fun of them.” I swear to Buddha as far as I’m concerned I have never done that and never would. I feel bad that it’s perceived that way. So before we begin, please note I am not trying to make fun of this guy.
He posted this to my Twitter feed because, I have to assume, he wanted all of my Twitter followers to see it. Therefore I feel it’s safe to assume it would please him to get an even wider audience. I will make some comments about the contents of his statement afterwards. But I’m doing so because it’s interesting, not because I want to make fun of the guy.
Let’s begin. Here is his message:
I have seen your tweet at https://news.vice.com/article/your-buddha-tattoo-is-hurting-sri-lankas-feelings-and-will-get-you-deported (about a British woman deported from Sri Lanka for having a tattoo of the Buddha)
Thank you for your comment. But I have to clarify few things as a Sri Lankan and a Buddhist.
1. Sri Lankans have no hyper sensitivity related issues. Most of us are Buddhists. We do not have such issues.
2. We do not have a religion. We have a philosophy. Lord Buddha is the greatest among them and we know that a statue itself does not hold anything. But insulting with sense is beyond the level of freedom of anyone. Anyway we do not accuse people as they will take what they do. I have a question. People say that there is nothing to do with a statue and Buddhism. Then why is this person tattooed it? Quoting: ‘I like the artwork in tattoos obviously and, due to my belief in Buddhist philosophy which I have followed for many years‘. Now my question is for the hypocrites is that where is the PHILOSOPHY in that comment? Has any philosopher ever told someone to tattoo his or her face? People should thing before speak. And also, lord Buddha have already spoken about wearing those tattoos and other adornments.
3. We as Buddhists, do what we tell and tell what we do. We do not disrespect anyone but, we want others to do the same. Work with a sense. People have just defended what they follow and there are no offence shown as we do not want to be aggressive.
4. All these hypocrites have invaded nations, corrupted their values, habitat and many other things, engaged in wars, mass murders and many sins. Yet point ï¬ngers at us. The sins people have committed will come back eventually. Therefore, we have a pity on them. No hatred. I’d like to point out a saying. Jesus, another philosopher (most of the people got it wrong) once said, to throw a stone you have to earn the right. Eventually similar gang of hypocrites killed him in cold blood. This is what we do not want to happen. Now I am asking where the rights these people have earned? We have just defended our people recently and stopped a civil issue and during the combat a Nazi type leader got killed. And everyone is trying to act god and point ï¬ngers to us. We have just defended our people including Tamil citizens. To let anyone kill humans or insult any religion is not Buddhism. I don’t know where you have learnt it from. Where and how did these people including pirates (the people who used to invade countries and also remember that Brits are the only ones that we could not defend from because they had used guns and weapons of mass destruction with respect to that period and we Buddhists did not want to create those and we still don’t) earn the rights to point finger at us?
5. We do not carry past issues onward and stay dark. We are open to friendship and humanity, and we Buddhists know, follow and practice these things for thousands of years. Therefore, we request anyone who overuses the freedom of humans and who insults any religion, not to enter this nation (Sri Lanka). We will ban the person immediately from the country to uplift the humanity, freedom (not the freedom to do what ever you want, that is not a freedom, its called abuse) and religions harmony. Not because of hatred, not because it hurts us, because it cracks people’s religious harmony around the globe. This is the reason and we are not hypersensitive to foreigners. The person will learn a lesson of his or her lifetime. And even during afterlife if she or he committed such actions with a sense (intention).
And a word of advise. You are a Zen teacher as I heard. I do not know if you are a Buddhist or teaching Buddhism. I have seen the charges set by membership sites. You probably earn by spreading word.
However, note that Buddhists do not charge for their teachings. So as Zen teachers if you want to be enlighten practice to give up rather than earn money from it. As an example Austin Zen center has several membership levels and you my friend is one of the speakers. Learn to follow and practice ï¬rst. You cannot have 2 lives if you are a true follower. As an example, you cannot go mad with wild rock tunes while practice Buddhism. You cannot deï¬nitely earn money from teaching Buddhism. If you do, you are not qualified as a Buddhist. It is all about giving up this dillusion and nonsense. Slowly but in a stable manner. Try to share and feel the freedom. That is what we do. If you are already on the right track, I wish you success!
May triple gem bless you!
The first thing I should point out is that Mr. Lasitha is reacting to an article that I did not, in fact, write. The Vice.com article he links to is credited to Alice Speri. But at the end it includes a reproduction of a tweet by me that says, “If you’re offended by a tattoo of Buddha, you clearly do not get anything the Buddha ever said.” I later wrote a blog about one of the responses that tweet got, but nothing in the essay above indicates to me that Mr. Lasitha ever read that blog.
I find his statement that, “you cannot go mad with wild rock tunes while practice Buddhism,” intriguing. I understand the sentiment. I, myself, have often wondered whether it’s true. I would say that this is an area in which Western Buddhism differs quite markedly from much of Asian Buddhism.
I say “much of” Asian Buddhism because in Japan it would not be considered any more bizarre for a Buddhist to “go mad with wild rock tunes” than it would in the US. Just like in America, such a thing might seem a bit eccentric but wouldn’t look like a complete violation of Buddhist ethics. This would probably be the case in Korea and China as well.
Yet in much of the rest of Asia, it seems like Buddhists are expected to be sort of like the Amish or Mennonites in America. There’s nothing requiring them to avoid technology the way the Amish and some Mennonites do. But they are expected to live a life free from the noise and distraction modern forms of entertainment and spectacle offer. The Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Naht Hanh advises his followers to avoid what he calls “poisonous” forms of entertainment.
On the other hand, most Western Buddhists who I know in the Zen and other traditions go see movies and rock concerts and maybe even play in bands where they might occasionally “go mad with wild rock tunes.” The emerging consensus appears to be that it is not these forms of entertainment in and of themselves that is the problem. It’s how we respond to them.
I tend to agree that there is value in avoiding some of the more lurid forms of distraction available these days. I’ve spent extended time away from such things and found the experience extremely useful. But I side with practicality here. If we tell people they have to give up this stuff completely in order to be Buddhists, not many people are going to be willing to do that. So a more tempered approach is the better one to take, I think.
And may triple gem bless you!
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Unlike monks in Sri Laka’s Theravada tradition, I do handle money. Unfortunately not very much! So your donations help out a lot. Thank you!
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Here’s my upcoming events schedule:
Oct. 1 Turku Panimoravintola Koulu, Finland– Movie screening
Oct. 2 Helsinki, Finland — Lecture Event
Oct. 3-5 Helsinki, Finland Zen retreat at Helsinki Zen Center
Oct. 6 Movie Screening in Espoo, Finland
Oct. 8 Lecture in Munich, Germany
Oct. 10-11 Retreat in Munich, Germany
Oct. 12-17 Retreat at Benediktushof near WÃ¼rzburg, Germany
Oct 18-19 Retreat in Bonn, Germany
Oct 20 Hamburg, Germany
Oct 24: Lecture in Groningen, Netherlands
Oct 25: Day-long zazen in Groningen, Netherlands
Oct 26: Movie screening in Eindhoven, Netherlands at Natlab
Oct 27: Evening zazen in Eindhoven, Netherlands
Oct 28: Evening zazen in Nijmegen, Netherlands
Oct 29: Lecture in Amsterdam, Netherlands at “De Roos” bookstore from 19.00-21.00 (P Cornelisz Hooftstr 183)
Oct 30: Lecture in Utrecht, Netherlands at “De wijze kater” bookstore from 19.00-21.00 ( Mariaplaats 1, Utrecht)
Nov 1-2: Retreat in Utrecht, Netherlands
Nov. 2: Movie screening in Utrecht, Netherlands at ACU
Nov 6-8: Retreat in Hebden Bridge, UK
Nov 9: Noon — 5pm Manchester, UK