Spritzophrenia

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Archive for the ‘Buddhism’ Category

The Dark Side of the Buddha

Posted by spritzophrenia on January 6, 2010

I’m the illest Buddhist you’ve seen
all the ladies wanna meditate with me
I look so serene when I bust a lotus
but i don’t have an ego so I wouldn’t even notice
 

I think of you before I think of myself
that’s probably why people think I’m so chill
But still I’m hell of intense
my clothes have little bells and they smell like incense

Arj Barker in his hilarious “Sickest Buddhist” video, at right

Edit: Here’s a recent post on Buddhist meditation and anatman. September 2011.

Buddhism has attracted me for a long time. Gautama’s faith is seen by many Westerners as a non-faith that can be followed as a philosophy or practice with little reference to gods. This may in fact not be the case, as we’ll see below. The foundation of Buddhism is that life is suffering; it gets worse because we are reborn beyond death and continue to suffer, so we have to escape rebirth somehow. Compassion for others and non-attachment to this world is promoted. If you need it here’s a Western-style introduction to Buddhism and an overview of core teachings.

The Japan-ified Buddhism of “Zen” was trendy in the West. Mainly ‘cos the word Zen sounds cool. I read a fantastic book years ago about Zen and shooting things. Presumably not living things, although I’m not sure if that was made clear. Arrows were involved but I don’t think it was the classic Zen and the Art of Archery.

I do however have intellectual reservations about Buddhism. I think the logical implications of some of its beliefs actually end up being antihuman; life-denying and unliveable [2]. Bottom line, I have no evidence Buddhism is true. Christians for example can point to Y’shua’s (alleged) rising from the dead. It all passes or fails on that one event according to their chief 1st Century apologist which is at least disprovable, and possibly proveable. Mormons can point to US archaeology – which is a massive fail, sadly. I’ve searched in vain for a Buddhist apologetic that goes beyond “I experience this, so it might be true. You should try it.”

Nevertheless, Buddhism has a good rep in the West as a bunch of nice vegetarians in saffron robes who say profound things and spend a lot of time in the lotus position thinking deeply. I have a cynical enough view of humanity that I shouldn’t have bought into the innocence and perfection of its adherents, but like many, I did.

Recently a buddhist monk left a monastary in China, disgusted at the immorality he found there. The story’s had a lot of attention on Chinese blogs.

Some comments on the blog claim the story of the randy monks is a fake. It could indeed be fake, a fairly explicit story about monks indulging in gay sex is rather pornographic after all. If we find ourselves directed to a pay-per-view site in the next instalment I guess we’ll know. But the story could also be true. I’m not capable of investigative journalism on this; speaking Chinese and living in mainland China are pre-requisites I don’t have. A little IP address research might show something, but I’ll let someone else do that.

Sadly, there are other verified stories of monks into sex, drugs and alcohol and a woman who became the tulku (re-incarnated lama), Kalu Rinpoche’s sex slave. I’ve written about Buddhist teaching on drugs previously.

Searching for commentary I found more than I expected about the dark side of the Buddha (see disclaimer, [3] ). Committed Buddhist Sumangalo Khen writes that “Buddhist hypocrites are the worst kind”. He says “One of the most common issues reflecting [Buddhist hypocrisy] would be the way temple committees hate one another, some even try to rob the devotees of their faith and money.” [My edit.]

Angry Buddha

It’s not just the laity. Phony holy men are not approved of in Buddhism. Few Buddhist holy men are as well-known in the West as Tibet’s Dalai Lama. However The Dalai Lama is accused of religious persecution. One site asks Why is the Dalai Lama suppressing religious freedom?, claiming he is using his political power to destroy a centuries-old religious tradition, causing confusion and pain for thousands of Tibetans. I confess, I’ve found the West’s obsession with someone who believes in gods and demons a little strange. Of all the sects of Buddhism the Tibetan and Nepalese forms seem the furthest from the original Dharma to me. I’d suggest Therevada is the closest, but many Buddhists don’t have the view that Buddhism is a once-for-always revelation based on a fixed set of scriptures. It’s allowed to evolve, so to some it’s quite permissable for modern Buddhism to be quite different from its ancient orgins.

An example of Western Buddhist evolution is the idea that Buddhism can be atheist, “devout atheism or godless religion“, as one teacher puts it. Some years ago I read that Gautama wasn’t actually an atheist as such, he simply believed that the Hindu gods of his time were irrelevant to enlightenment. Whether that’s the case, his followers still spend plenty of time on deities, even appearing to deify Gautama himself. BuddhaNet claims there is “no worship of a deity or deification of the Buddha.” I don’t believe this is so. In practice, Buddhist followers spend a significant amount of time on devotion. When they devote themselves to the original Buddha, other buddhas or bodhissatvas it’s not exactly the same as “worship” but I suspect is closer to god-worship than an atheist would like. Hence, in practice, the claim that Buddhism can be an atheistic religion may not be satisfactory for someone who finds any supernaturalism irrational.

There’s an interesting thread on a rationalist site where the originator says “Buddhism (my “religion”) seems to contain the most blatant hypocrites”. Note that many respondents there are not Buddhists. Says one former Buddhist:

Everywhere you get quotes of Einstein and other intellectuals about how scientific, rational, modern Buddhism is, that it is about reality, that karma is just the law of causality, and that rebirth is only the moment to moment transformation, that Buddhism is the religion of the future, or even that it isn’t a religion. 

But then once inside you find out that belief in afterlife (rebirth), karma as a moral retribution law, the omniscience of Buddha, miracles of Buddhas and Bodhisatvas, pure lands, complete obedience to one’s guru, sins (bad karma), gods (“devas”), supernatural powers, etc, are all seen as fundamental beliefs in Buddhism.


Personally I was fooled at first, believing the “advertising”, and once inside, when I saw how things really are, I quit.

Another respondent writes, contra this: “To have a less superstitious take on Buddhism is not to “pretend” that there are no Buddhists with a more superstitious take on Buddhism. There are textual bases and philosophical reasons to disagree with Buddhists who (for one example) think things like rebirth must mean the transmigration of souls. It’s no misrepresentation of Buddhism to have a different view from that. And I’ve seen no pretending that some Buddhists are not superstitious, so I don’t see the insincerity and hypocrisy that you speak of.”

Another quotes supernaturalist texts from Gautama:

This perversion of Buddhism was caused by Alan Watts and others in the Buddhist hippie movement. If you wanted you could also de-mystify Christianity in the same way these hippies perverted Buddhism to fit their agendas.

Most are easily fooled by the way Buddhism is portrayed. I also was fooled until I started reading the actual pali canons (the oldest known Buddhist scriptures) and found it really not much different from other religions with its ghosts, spirits, miracles. There’s ghosts, spirits, demons (Maras), gods (devas), supernormal powers (iddhis), etc…in Buddhism.

Gautama Buddha even said that man who refused to believe in his supernormal powers was a “misguided” man:
“Sariputta, this misguided man Sunakkhatta will never infer of me according to Dhamma: ‘That Blessed One is accomplished, fully enlightened, perfect in true knowledge and conduct, sublime, knower of worlds, incomparable leader of persons to be tamed, teacher of gods and humans, enlightened, blessed.’

“And he will never infer of me according to Dhamma: ‘That Blessed One enjoys the various kinds of supernormal power: having been one, he becomes many; having been many, he becomes one; he appears and vanishes; he goes unhindered through a wall, through an enclosure, through a mountain, as though through space; he dives in and out of the earth as though it were water; he walks on water without sinking as though it were earth; seated cross-legged, he travels in space like a bird; with his hand he touches and strokes the moon and sun so powerful and mighty; he wields bodily mastery even as far as the Brahma-world.’

“And he will never infer of me according to Dhamma: ‘With the divine ear element, which is purified and surpasses the human, that Blessed One hears both kinds of sounds, the heavenly and the human, those that are far as well as near.’

“And he will never infer of me according to Dhamma: ‘That Blessed One encompasses with his own mind the minds of other beings, other persons. He understands a mind affected by lust as affected by lust and a mind unaffected by lust as unaffected by lust; he understands a mind affected by hate as affected by hate and a mind unaffected by hate as unaffected by hate; he understands a mind affected by delusion as affected by delusion and a mind unaffected by delusion as unaffected by delusion; he understands a contracted mind as contracted and a distracted mind as distracted; he understands an exalted mind as exalted and an unexalted mind as unexalted; he understands a surpassed mind as surpassed and an unsurpassed mind as unsurpassed; he understands a concentrated mind as concentrated and an unconcentrated mind as unconcentrated; he understands a liberated mind as liberated and an unliberated mind as unliberated.’ (Maha-sihanada Sutta, 5-8)

The problem of Buddha’s sexism is another example of the evolution of Buddhist thought and practice. In Buddhist Channel Buddhist monk Dr Mettanando Bhikkhu lists some of the restrictive views on women: “Buddhists who are traditionally trained take for granted that [a quotation from the Buddha means] that women are inferior to men”. Some scholars take a nuanced view of sexist attitudes towards women in Buddhism. While acknowledging modern re-interpretations of some texts, Bhikkhu concludes that a traditional reading of Buddha would conclude he was sexist, and that “In Theravada countries, the Buddhist religion has never been in support of human rights and social justice. As long as there is no reformation of the religious education system in Buddhism and the Tripitaka, the religion will remain the biggest obstacle for the development of democracy and social justice in these countries.”

Are some Buddhists racist? Anthony Elmore, a proud black buddhist and Nichiren Shoshu devotee writes “The Buddha Nichiren Daishonin who we consider the ‘True Buddha’ of our modern age writes in the Gosho; “There should be no discrimination between those who propagate ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo’. ” He remains committed but believes his organisation is racist towards African-Americans. He comes up with the surprising statement that “the Ancient Buddhists were Africans and history proves this.”

Finally, although I haven’t read all of the content critically and I’m curious as to their agenda, this site alleges all kinds of horrors by Buddhists, including violence. See also Monks with Guns, a book about buddhist violence.

All is not well in the sangha. Wisdom Quarterly, an American Buddhist journal echoes my own belief that we’re all moral hypocrites. I’ve already blogged about Pagans and hypocrisy. I’ll possibly do one about Christian hypocrisy in future although I suspect most of us are already well aware of that. It may be time to meditate before an ancient angry Buddha statue. As an aside, is there something about old religious stuff that makes it art, not kitsch? If you’re really wanting Buddhist kitsch, try the Buddha phone.

Perhaps I shall remain Avidya [4] but I think I’ll continue my interest in Buddhism. I plan to take a meditation course at some point. But I’ll be doing it with my eyes open, no pun intended.

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Any comments?

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listening to Plus-Tech Squeeze Box | (unknown), Pryda | Remember
tful Fascinating video about the ‘Exponential Times’ we live in.

[1] I’m going to start picking a soundtrack for my posts. The idea is the music compliments the writing and I’m a huge music fan. Today’s soundtrack is Departure/Ride My See-Saw by the Moody Blues. It’s more of an ‘OM’-type New Age hippy thing really, but since we in the West are pretty ignorant it will do just nicely for a Buddhist soundtrack. I first heard this when I was around 17, I love it’s abandoned joy in seeking enlightenment. Plus, its The Moody Blues maaaan.

[2] I suppose I should have blogged about logical inconsistencies before making this statement. Briefly, if the goal of Buddhism is to lose your self and become absorbed into the oneness of Nirvana then ultimately one’s own self is of no value. Hence, why have compassion on others? Other people are also of no value, and will eventually become nothing when they achieve Nirvana. This is only a short summary and is criticised by some Buddhists. I don’t have space for the full discussion here, would you like me to write a longer post about these ideas sometime?

[3] Disclaimer: I’m well aware that a non-adherent of a religion usually makes mistakes in emphasis, nuance and understanding when writing about it. My apologies for any factual errors. I feel uncomfortable criticising a spiritual path from the outside so I’m relying on those writing from the inside. I also acknowledge the large number of good, moral buddhists.

[4] Avidya is a Buddhist term for one who is ignorant of spiritual truths.

The Moody Blues | Ride My See-Saw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGEye0b5JXw

Posted in Buddhism, ethics, humour, music, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments »

My Avatar Spiritual Experience

Posted by spritzophrenia on January 3, 2010

Susan suggested I write about personal stuff. She thought you’d like to hear about practical experiences, ways to connect with g0d. Well… there’s movies?

I’m sure a billion other bloggers are writing about Avatar as we speak. There’s good reason for this: It’s a great film. By “great”, I am not so much talking about plot, acting, dialogue, direction – though I don’t think it’s too shabby here either. I say Avatar is great because it’s rejuvenated the movie experience. It’s the first of the next gen cinema experience, imo [1].

Avatar, rated SAO (Spoiler Alert OK: Only contains minor spoilers). I took my 11 year-old son to Avatar, it’s a great age for this movie and I wanted to share the experience with him. It’s been quite some time since I walked into a movie theatre. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing film on the big screen. It’s a function of my recent poverty that has restricted me. It wasn’t unusual for me to see two films in the theatre per week at one point. I still watch around 4 films per week at home. (Thankyou BitTorrent.)

I knew very little about Avatar aside from the basic premise, I wanted to surprise myself. And surprised I was. Tears fell freely down my face at some points. Tears can be a sign of a spiritual experience I think. At this point my fellow agnostics and hardened atheists will be rolling their eyes. Yes I know we can put this down to emotionalism, and psychology. But this raises a very important question:

Just what IS a spiritual experience anyway? How would I know if I had one?

You’ve probably read of the recent studies of brains having religious experiences, specifically under deep meditation or prayer. At the very least, a spiritual experience would be something that activates that part of the brain. If spiritual experiences are merely a particular kind of brain experience akin to an emotion, then atheists can sleep easily at night. But this doesn’t cover all religious experiences. For example, a miraculous healing might affect my body but not activate that part of my brain. This would be because the external ‘spirit’ would be acting on my body, rather than me experiencing the numinous through prayer. I think we’ll have to return to this question in future posts, would you agree?

Why was I feeling this way in the cinema? Some feelings were romantic feelings – I’ve recently broken up with someone I love. She was special to me, and I was a fool. It made me yearn for something I’ve lost, something I hope for. Yeah, I’ll confess I’m hoping the alien sex scene is included in the DVD. Incidentally, having only seen Zoe Saldana as her N’avi character I didn’t realise – she’s hawt! I suspect the loss of something important and profound is a theme in many religions. Certainly this is so in the churchianity I grew up in: The loss of innocence, the breaking of the world, the loss of connection with a creator. More mystical churchians could also point to the divine romance between g0d and ourselves.

I had feelings of hope, of inspiration, feelings of injustice and pleasure at seeing justice restored. Can you “feel” spiritual experiences in a different way to emotions?

Avatar also hints at the possibility that some kind of “god” is real. Any human being with a heart not too bruised by cynicism would surely weep at that? The interesting thing in Avatar is there’s a non-supernatural explanation for the goddess. It evolves out of a kind of natural neural net covering the surface of the planet via tree roots. Once again, a ‘supernatural’ being that atheists could see as a pal. In a way it was kinda like Jung’s theory of the universal unconscious, but with a practical mechanism.

Another test: If it was a true spiritual experience, should it motivate me to social justice? This is indicated in the Christian New Testament

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

and by the Buddhist Monk I quote here

The ‘insights’ claimed by some who [allege spiritual experiences] should be tested against the difference which these experiences make to the forces of greed, aversion and delusion in their hearts and conduct.

I think Avatar reinforced my ideas around justice for minorities and native peoples, although I haven’t had that tested yet. Intriguingly, this is an area where there’s been criticism of Avatar. A New Zealand Maori academic says Avatar repeats “negative stereotypes” about indigenous people:

The head of the School of Maori and Indigenous Studies at the University of Canterbury, Rawiri Taonui, said Avatar addressed the impact of colonisation on indigenous people in an entertaining way, but relied on stereotypes.

“It was a great movie and had some progressive themes, but did it in a way that still repeated some stereotypes,” he said.

Taonui said the “rhythmic body swaying” of the indigenous people during a ceremony only appeared in “B-grade movies” and “just doesn’t happen in any indigenous population”.

There’s more at Stuff

Feminists with Disabilities makes some good points, and links to other criticisms of racism:

This is a movie which is not only racist as all getout, but also centers around a Miracle Cure! Which, of course, means that the disabled character will be played by an actor in crip drag. And, of course, this story automatically assumes that having paraplegia and being a wheelchair user is a tragedy which would make one bitter and furious at the world, and that, of course, everyone would want a cure.

Contra this, in their comments Anna says “I’m a wheelchair user and not only did I not find it offensive, I thought it was a much more accurate, positive portrayal of disability than any other film in recent times.”

I don’t think all spiritual experiences would necessarily drive one directly towards justice; I can conceive of valid experiences that are only internal. If you’re seeking a spiritual experience; perhaps a movie could be a gateway for you? I’ve already blogged a list of movies you can try. Completely off topic, but I can’t resist throwing in the very funny making of Avatar the bootleg. Anyone seen a bad, 2D version with camera shake yet?

It’s not just the liberals hating on Avatar either – Patrick Goldstein in The LA Times asks “Why do conservatives hate the most popular movie in years?”

As a host of critics have noted, the film offers a blatantly pro-environmental message; it portrays U.S. military contractors in a decidedly negative light; and it clearly evokes the can’t-we-all-get along vibe of the 1960s counterculture. These are all messages guaranteed to alienate everyday moviegoers, so say the right-wing pundits — and yet the film has been wholeheartedly embraced by audiences everywhere, from Mississippi to Manhattan.

To say that the film has evoked a storm of ire on the right would be an understatement. Big Hollywood’s John Nolte, one of my favorite outspoken right-wing film essayists, blasted the film, calling it “a sanctimonious thud of a movie so infested with one-dimensional characters and PC cliches that not a single plot turn, large or small, surprises…. Think of ‘Avatar’ as ‘Death Wish’ for leftists, a simplistic, revisionist revenge fantasy where if you freakin’ hate the bad guys (America) you’re able to forgive the by-the-numbers predictability of it all.”

There you go people, have at it. Meanwhile, I’m gonna be over here with the popcorn enjoying the movie, and possibly finding g0d.

Someone else took his 11 year-old son to the movies and came out with a Buddhist perspective on Avatar. “My 11 year old son … watched the movie with me and we both talked and talked about the movie. ‘Little Anthony’ said, “Dad this movie was just like Buddhism”. Not surprising, considering Mr Elmore is Buddhist. Everyone wants a piece of Avatar. (It seems appropriate to plug my article on the dark side of Buddhism here.)

Avatar also raises the question of the consciousness surviving death, and of soul transfer. The same day I saw Avatar I found out a high-school friend is dying of leukaemia. Coincidentally, he’s my own age, a born-again christian and a pastor. I visited him the day after, I hope to report back soon.

What do you think? Criticisms? Has there ever been a movie that spiritually moved you?

Here’s my follow up post.
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listening to The Electric Six | Antisocial Sex Boy Hit Machine, Pitch Black (The New Zealand One!) | Ape to Angel (Blutech remix), Apoptygma Bezerk | Soultaker, Arch Enemy | God Dethroned
tful [2] A fun and funny way to help the planet
reading Appignanesi & Garratt | Introducing Postmodernism

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[1] Yeah yeah, I know we can all point to similar films plot and genre-wise, and earlier 3D efforts. It’s because Avatar has done it so well, that I suggest it’s the first of the new generation cinema experience. The archetype, perhaps.

[2] Today’s Fun Unrelated Link

Posted in agnostic, atheism, Buddhism, Christianity, New Age, personal development | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments »

I Believe In Pain, Cruelty and Infidelity

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 31, 2009

That was a more interesting title than “Why Spritzophrenia?”, wasn’t it? As evidenced by this comment, it’s probably about time I clarified the theme of this blog.

Yes, it’s a bastardisation of schizophrenic. I was going to call it SpiritoPhrenic, but that just sounded like a stupid CCM title. So spritzophrenic kinda evolved from there. After all, if I’m an open agnostic there might not even be any spiritual world to connect with. But I’m sure having fun exploring unreality.

I don’t fit. I don’t like boxes. As you know, I’m an ex-evangelical. I’m probably beyond post-evangelical in that I’m totally uninterested in churchianity at all. At least from the point of view of practicing it; observation, c’est très amusant. I suspect this is a frequent outcome of post-evangelicalism. By way of boast, I bought and read The Post-Evangelical when it came out in 1995 and was relatively unknown outside of the UK. I’m that cool.

Sometimes in my mind I go beyond mere atheism and become a nihilist or a satanist. In my conception, reading and practice, there’s not a lot of difference. That’s where the title quote came from [1]. If I become a nihilist, I’m not a nice guy. At all.

Rarely I’m a fluffy all-is-one new age buddhisto-hindu. It goes really well with many types of trance music, which is fantastic for getting me to a worship-state. But it’s just so damn hippy, and has all the intellectual credibility of a limp paper tissue. Yes, I know about Fritjov Capra and the new physics.

I love ideas, I love intellectualism, I love novelty. I’m probably a rationalist, ‘tho I find most card-carrying rationalists crashing bores. Edit: See Am I A Rationalist?. I read Dawkins and the rest of that pack of miserable gripes. As a philosopher, Dawkins is a great biologist. If you take my meaning. Would he rate a plumber’s book on evolution? – I think not. But I digress.

I have a friend who is multiple personality disorder, or “multiple” as they prefer. She/he/they are sane. Sane by many definitions, anyway. Likewise it depends on who’s “fronting” for me today as to which hat I wear. But they’re all me. I hope to integrate – a dirty word for multiple people – one day. I may be closer than I think.

Oh, I nearly forgot: 21st Century Schizoid Man is a song by progressive rock outfit King Crimson.

I apologise to schizophrenics for perpetuating the “split personality” idea. But hey, we lost that battle a long time ago. Language changes because it’s appropriated by the ignorant masses. eg, “evangelical” used to mean “of the Bible message” when it was used by certain christians to self-define. Now in popular culture it means “ill-educated right-wing fundie bigot”. Or have you noticed how people under 30 now use “gay” to mean “stupid, effeminate, bad taste”, much like the word “homo” was used when I was a teenager? That battle is over too, my dear queer friends.

I have schitzo aquaintances; my cousin is a loony too. I do understand, support, and sympathise with you. I’m thinking of making a paypal donation link from this blog to support mental illness awareness.

By spiritually schizophrenic, I mean that I am really not sure of my final resting ground. But it’s all me. Really me. This is not to say I don’t have opinions or beliefs; with a surety I do. It just means that I’m still exploring. I hate to quote saint Bono, but “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. Or maybe I have, and I’m just taking an extended holiday.

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Respond

? What do you think?

tful [2] Hahaha, Ricky Gervais sings a lullaby to Elmo
reading Appignanesi & Garratt | Introducing Postmodernism

Front Line Assembly | Bio-Mechanic

[2] Today’s Fun Unrelated Link

Posted in agnostic, atheism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, humor, humour, meta, music, New Age, personal development | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

10 Must-See Spiritual Movies

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 25, 2009

Given the holiday season, you’ll probably want something to do. Given I’m a movie buff I’m going to see Avatar [see my Avatar experience], and will probably watch a few others on my laptop when I can. If you’re hiring a DVD, here are my ten must-see movies to kick-start your spiritual journey [1], or provide sustenance along the way. Regardless of their spiritual subject matter (or not) these are good films in their own right. Note that some contain violence or sex; these aren’t the kind of films Pastor Bob shows to the youth group – no tacky evangelistic flicks here. Some films will inspire you, some will revolt you. All of them will make you think, and perhaps grow. In no particular order:

1. The Exorcist (1973, re-released 2000)
Evil. Some perspectives – Buddhist, atheist, Hindu – have no concept of it. Usually Hollywood portrays evil as somehow “cool”. Hell is a place where the fun people get to party for all eternity. Heaven is a boring place for wimps. Devils even have a sense of humour, a trait that C.S. Lewis rightly pointed out a devil could not have – humour is a good, not an evil. The Exorcist portrays hard, uncompromising, callous, hate-filled evil. Think of Sauron in the Lord of the Rings.

What’s truly scary about The Exorcist is the possibility that there could be malevolent entities as well as benign. I first encountered what may have been a demon when I was 16. Pentecostal christians like to talk a lot about demons, but this was the only encounter in 20 years I had where I truly believed it could be real. Comment if you’d like me to talk about this some time.

The New Age tends to ignore the dark side of spirituality. It’s perfectly possible if there are spirits that some could be the equivalent of the shark; hidden, unfeeling predators who will take opportunities to attack humans if given the chance. If this is so, it would pay us to find allies among the good spirits.

2. Breaking the Waves (1996)
This film blew me away. A ‘simple’ young woman from a strict christian group marries an oil rig worker who then suffers an accident. She believes g0d tells her to prostitute herself in order to heal her husband. Is she insane? Is God cruel? Why don’t her conservative church help her? Filmed by Lars von Trier, this is not an easy watch by any means, but is deeply thought-provoking and for me, ultimately rewarding.

Breaking The Waves is a movie about the protestant christian concept of grace – un-earned kindness. It’s about trust in g0d against impossible odds. Make sure you watch the final minute of the movie. It changes everything.

3. The Mission (1986)
Set in 18th Century South America, a warrior priest and a pacifist both try to save the people they love and care for. Who will succeed – just war priest, or tree-hugger priest? Another major plot concerns the conversion of a hard-living slaver to a devout Catholic. But can he truly give up his past? A provocative and powerful film.

4. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring (2003)

The dramatic portrayal of Buddhist lifestyles and spiritual truths is perhaps more difficult to accomplish in an exciting way than depictions of Western religious practices and stories, because the Dharma is geared to inner transformation. And while enlightenment may be one of the most profound experiences a human being can undergo, it doesn’t exactly translate easily into compelling cinema.

From greencin

While that may be true, this Korean film is a moving and powerful portrayal of a Buddhist “redepmtion”. The movie is slow and lyrical – meditative, which is surely intentional on the director’s part. An old monk educates a young man, who subsequently leaves the monastery and commits atrocious crimes. The subsequent story is well worth an evening’s viewing.

5. Koyaanisqatsi (1982)
Koyaanisqatsi is not an explicitly religious movie and in that respect one could call it an atheist meditation on life, technology and our interactions with them. Perhaps one could call this a humanist movie, the first of a trilogy. It’s more a documentary or a work of art yet has no spoken narrative, only a mesmerising soundtrack by Phillip Glass. For me, the film portrays a deep sense of the wonder and tragedy of human acheivement. Watching it is a meditation in itself.

6. Jesus of Montreal (1989)
This Canadian production is probably the best modern re-imaging of what Christians call the ‘gospels’ – the biographies of Jesus. Yet it’s a totally atheistic Jesus, one that could be believed without reference to a g0d. As one would expect from a movie that captures the ‘feel’ of Jesus, it’s brilliant and compassionate.

7. The Apostle (1997)
Robert Duvall portrays a Pentecostal preacher going through hard times. Exploring hypocrisy, belief and wrenching humanity this is one of the more challenging looks at the underbelly of US christianity.

8. The Rapture (1991)
Rapture (rap’chur) 1. ecstatic joy or delight. 2. a state of extreme sexual ecstasy. 3. the feeling of being transported to another sphere of existence. 4. the experience of being spirited away to Heaven just before the Apocalypse. You’ve possibly heard the fundies talking about being ‘raptured’ As far as I know the writer and director are not Christians, but chose to explore what it might be like if this really is true. A telephone operator living an empty, amoral life finds God and loses him again. What would it be like for a non-religious person addicted to sex to be ‘born again’?

9. The Message (1976)
I hesitated to include this in my list, but I think all non-Muslim Westerners would do well to acquaint themselves with the story of Muhummad. The film itself is well produced and acted, it won several awards. Bonus: It was announced just a couple of months ago that Oscar-winning producer Barrie M. Osborne, of ‘Matrix’ And ‘Lord of the Rings’ fame will make a movie about the founder of Islam. I will watch with great interest. Neo and Gandalf meet the last prophet?

10. Natural Born Killers (1994)
You’re probably wondering why I include this as a ‘religious’ movie. You’re right, it’s not – and that’s the whole point. To me it’s a movie about nihilism, one extreme form of atheism: Nothing means anything, there’s no right or wrong, only pleasure. If we want to kill, who cares? Other people have no value except as we choose to use them. Yet the love the two main characters share perhaps belies this point of view. Is this a redeeming factor? Or does it show that nihilism can’t be lived?

So there we are. It was hard culling down a large list to just ten. Perhaps we’ll have to do this again sometime. I hope you gain insight and connection through watching them. I’ve written part two of my pagan experience, I aim to get that online soon. In the meantime, have you seen any of the above films? What other movies did you find spiritually – or atheistically – enlightening?

Happy holidays

listening to Terra Nine and Aviatrix | Wonder, T9 + Aviatrix | Whisper (Pete Ardon and Helix drum n bass remix)
tful[2] Karen jokes about Santa Claus

[1] Again, I am including atheism as a spiritual journey for want of a better description. I mean no offence by this.
[2] Today’s Fun Unrelated Link

Posted in agnostic, atheism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, New Age, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Buddha and Drugs

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 22, 2009

The Fifth Precept: ‘I undertake the rule of training to refrain from distillled and fermented intoxicants producing heedlessness’. (1)

… All the [first] four precepts depend for their purity, upon constant vigilance and if the mind is overcome by intoxicants, then what harm may not result?

(footnote 1) It is significant that all substances producing a distortion of normal human experience find a place under the Fifth Precept. In India, both ancient and modern, the use of drugs to stimulate ‘religious’ experiences including visual and auditory hallucinations, has been and is very well known and quite widely practised. The ‘insights’ claimed by some who in the present day take mescalin, etc, should be tested against the difference which these experiences make to the forces of greed, aversion and delusion in their hearts and conduct. Particulartly if it is claimed that these drugs offer a kind of shortcut to Enlightenment, whether called vipassana or satori, then it must be stressed that no real shortcut of this sort is possible and such experience cannot replace effort spread over years or even over lives.

From Buddhism Explained by Bhikkhu Khantipalo (Buddha Educational Foundation, Singapore, circa 1973) Old technology, a book that I cannot link to on the net! I must borrow this back from my friend David sometime.

In this post I return to the subject of spirituality and drugs. Also see my proposed list of topics for 2010. [Edit: Now woefully out of date]

What do you think? Do psychoactive drugs help bring us closer to g0d/enlightenment? According to this monk, Buddha says no, mmkay? Just say no.


listening to
Kate Bush | The man with the child in his eyes

Posted in Buddhism, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »