July 24th, 2004
|mindfulness||01:19 pm - Thich Nhat Hanh : "God is a lesbian..."|
Excerpt from Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh on July 20, 1998 in Plum Village, France.
Question : "Dear Thay, I feel very well and safe here in Plum Village, but there were times in my life when I experienced discrimination, so there is one question which really interests me. What does Buddhism say about homosexuality?"
Reply: "Discrimination is something that many of us know, and there were times when we wanted to cry out for justice. You might be tempted by violent means in order for injustice to be removed. There are very many of us who are seeking non-violent means in order to remove injustice and discrimination imposed on us. Sometimes those discriminating against us act in the name of God, of the truth. We may belong to the third world, or we may belong to a particular race, we may be people of color, we may be gay or lesbian, and we have been discriminated against for thousands of years. So how to work on it, how to liberate ourselves from the suffering of being a victim of discrimination and oppression? In Christianity it is said that God created everything, including man, and there is a distinction made between the creator and the creature. The creature is something created by God. When I look at a rose, a tulip, or a chrysanthemum, I know, I see, I think, that this flower is a creation of God. Because I have been practicing as a Buddhist, I know that between the creator and the created there must be some kind of link, otherwise creation would not be possible. So the chrysanthemum can say that God is a flower, and I agree, because there must be the element "flower" in God so that the flower could become a reality. So the flower has the right to say that God is a flower.
"The white person has the right to say that God is white, and the black person also has the right to say that God is black. In fact, if you go to Africa, you’ll see that the Virgin Mary is black. If you don’t make the statue of the Virgin Mary black, it does not inspire people. Because to us the black people, "black is beautiful," so a black person has the right to say that God is black, and in fact I also believe that God is black, but God is not only black, God is also white, God is also a flower. So when a lesbian thinks of her relationship with God, if she practices deeply, she can find out that God is also a lesbian. Otherwise how could you be there? God is a lesbian, that is what I think, and God is gay also. God is no less. God is a lesbian, but also a gay, a black a white, a chrysanthemum. It is because you don’t understand that, that you discriminate.
"When you discriminate against the black or the white, or the flower, or the lesbian, you discriminate against God, which is the basic goodness in you. You create suffering all around you, and you create suffering within yourself, and it is delusion, ignorance, that is the basis of your action, your attitude of discrimination. If the people who are victims of discrimination practice looking deeply, they will say that I share the same wonderful relationship with God, I have no complex. Those who discriminate against me, do so because of their ignorance. "God, please forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing." If you reach that kind of insight, you will no longer get angry at that person who discriminates against you, and you might have compassion toward him or her. You will say: "He does not know what he is doing. He is creating a lot of suffering around him and within him. I will try to help him." So your heart opens like a flower and suffering is no longer there, you have no complex at all, and you turn to be a bodhisattva in helping the people who have been discriminating against you. That is the way I see it, out of my practice of looking deeply, so one day I made the statement that God is a lesbian, and this is my insight."
(Oh, and dip me in vinegar and call me fickle, or whatever you like.)
Current Mood: Troubled
thank you for posting this SO MUCH.
My pleasure. You're enjoying it makes it so worthwhile. :-)
My pleasure. I'm very glad you love it. :-)
I have no words to express how appropriate and wonderful these words are to me right now. I appreciate that you posted them so much. This really answers my prior post. Again...thank you.
Many thanks back to you. And I'm short on words myself at the moment but I really appreciate your response. :-)
Wow, thank you. Those are beautiful words. Definitely something worth reading over and over.
Thankyou. I am glad I could share these words. Thich Nhat Hanh is a beautiful communicator. And this dharma talk of his is worth sharing widely too, I think. :-)
Thanks to you. They are not my words, so you don't need to ask my permission, but knowing they are ever more widely read would make me happy. I like to imagine Thich Nhat Hanh would be glad too. He appears such a generous soul. :-)
He is very inspiring to me too. I have some of his books, all unfinished however. The one meaning the most to me is, "Anger, Buddhist wisdom for cooling the flames." Best wishes. :-)
|Date:||July 23rd, 2004 09:51 pm (UTC)|| |
thich nhat hanh's "being peace" is incredibly wonderful, check it out sometime :)
Thanks for the suggestion. I've been sort of wondering where to go next. =)
Ooo, I'll look for that too. Thanks. :-)
|Date:||July 24th, 2004 01:34 am (UTC)|| |
Fellow Pagan Here
I remember having a similar reaction to Starhawk's Spiral Dance when I first read it back in the early nineties. It was like a world with people who thought like me opened up in front of me. It was beautiful.
But since then it has rarely happened, if ever. I pick up these unassuming little books with damma talks from my local sangha and am completely bowled over by the wisdom and depth of thought. Then I go to Watkins and look through the Pagan section and am astounded by how there is nothing like it, nothing at all. It's very disappointing.
Re: Fellow Pagan Here
I've come from a pagan background myself. One of no tradition - and I'd often just call it spiritualism, animism or geomancy. (I may have used the last word incorrectly, but I'm feeling awfully lazy.)
I still hold my pagan beliefs, but I did find in Buddhism a greater emphasis on, well something the Dalai Lama seems appropiate;
"One thing can't be doubted, the "possibility of a quality" is within us. It is called jrajna. We can deny everything, except that we have the possibility of being better. Simply reflect on that."
Sometimes I think that's the only thing we have within us.
Now paganism is extraordinarily diverse, and practised even more diversely, but I did find often an almost passive feeling of just enjoying the world or even the approach of (to borrow Aleister Crowley's words) 'do what thou wilt'. I think rather it's essential to improve ourselves (and the Buddhist path has give me the tools and goals), and make the world a better place ie engaged Buddhism. Of course many pagans hold these views too, bless them.
Life is always growing until it dies, always struggling against and at the same time working in harmony with the odds of environment and competitors. I feel the need to learn from life and act as um 'lively' as possible, growing, struggling and harmonising. Anything else I find is deathlike. So I find Buddhism has enriched my pagan beliefs immeasurably and the two continue to rattle away in my head.
Thanks for reading this and blessed be. :-)
Re: Fellow Pagan Here
"...but I did find often an almost passive feeling of just enjoying the world or even the approach of (to borrow Aleister Crowley's words) 'do what thou wilt'."
That's pretty much how I ended up looking into the Eastern philosphies. When I started getting a little further into the spiritual side of paganism, I found it pretty lacking as far as 'morality' and the best approach to life.
Re: Fellow Pagan Here
(Directed here via a post in mactavish
I must interject and point out that Crowley's "Do what thou Wilt" was a commandment to improve oneself. You had to dig a bit to find out that Crowley was referring to a concept he referred to as True Will, not doing whatever one feels like. True Will can be enumerated as a person's motivation for existence, often with overtones of having been preordained by the universe.
Re: Fellow Pagan Here
Jeesh...that's the third time Spiral Dance has been mentioned in the past few days...plus, I saw it while checking out a metaphysical bookshop I just found near me.
I guess I should pick it up.
My Thich Nhat Hanh reccomendation: "No Death, No Fear."
Thank you for sharing. So beautiful.
Thankyou for that. Thich Nhat Hanh rocks and his compassion is beautifully expressed. I have so much to read now! Woohoot. :-)
This is terrific.
My pleasure and thanks for your response. Thich Nhat Hanh is terrific. :-)
I can never get enough of his words.
|Date:||July 24th, 2004 01:41 am (UTC)|| |
Wow! Thanks for posting this.
Thankyou. And thanks again for your reply in the other community. (That issue is improving noticebly too. Yippeee!) :-)
Thankyou. The words are so valuable they deserve to spread about. Glad you enjoyed them. Thich Nhat Hanh enriches us. :-)
Gosh. I profess deep ignorance about Zen, but thanks so much. :-)
I'll offer the dissenting voice.
The experiences of the person asking the question are not the same as the experiences on which Thich Nhat Hanh begins to touch in his reply. There is a real difference between "discrimination" and oppression (the type of "injustice" which I think he means that people are tempted to resist by violent means).
Discrimination, in the sense the questioner seems to have meant, manifests itself in attitudes, in language, in condescension. Seeing someone as "different" and therefore "lesser" is reprehensible, and certainly leads to suffering in its own right. It might be said that this is abuse of an emotional or psychological nature.
But oppression, in the sense that tends to be resisted in the way to which Hanh refers, whether operating through discrimination or through conspiracy or through basic class structure deliberately seeks to do direct harm to its victims - for instance, through exile, massacre, subordination, genocide, imprisonment, restriction of movement. It might be said that this is abuse of a physical nature.
The point isn't to draw a solid distinction between the emotional and psychological realms on the one hand, and the physical realm on the other. The point is to examine whether these two types of abuses might require different thought and action in order to address them, and to end the suffering they cause.
It might be that forgiving the bigoted for their misguided thoughts, and feeling pity for their harmful thoughts, can ease suffering. But it certainly isn't true of forgiving and pitying those who seek deliberately to oppress. Choosing not to stand in their way only allows their progress in creating yet more suffering.
Thanks for your response. It's a good point.
I am not best at analysing human discourse so I don't know if I can give you a fair response, but what I feel you are getting at is the need in certain circumstances to engage the opressor and debate or even attempt to affect a change in their views or actions. I used the word enage, because from what I know TNH he has talked a lot about something he has termed 'engaged Buddhism'. (This may not be new to you.) His words might help however;
"Buddhism means to be awake - mindful of what is happening in one's mind, feelings, body, the world...if you are awake you can not do otherwise than act compassionately to help relieve suffering you see around you. So buddhism must be engaged in the world. If it is not engaged, it is not Buddhism." Thich Nhat Hanh.
Now that didn't take the idea of engaged Buddhism to the level of social interaction that I understand it to imply. The concept has been used to describe the philopsophical approach behind those Buddhists who are activists, or involve themselves in urging politcal or social change. It's a view I subcribe to. My approach is I may not try to force change in someone's behaviour, or most extremely, stop them from saying something, but I will do my best to present to them facts and arguements that they may not be aware of or be willing to face. I hope if people are truly awake to issues, not just say a surface appreciation of the suffering of others, but true understanding, then change will be inevitable.
A recent example in my city; a 'families' expo happened at the local university. Many were told there was no room for families of colour or different sexualities. A peaceful protest was organised with stalls, banners and two men during the opening ceremony kissed in front of out head of state and unfurled a banner to the gasps of some of the audience. It was said in the media later that the organisers didn't know why these men had to be 'political', ignoring the fact the exclusionary behaviour of their 'expo' was stridently political echoed and reinforced by the endless voices of homophobes in our culture. The actions of the two men were simply in my view to make the expo visitors more awake. The change would come, if it is to, from within.
Not every Buddhist agrees with the idea of engaged Buddhism. Members of this LJ community have said they don't, but I think the ideas that I think are behind it, the need to be awake, and well for all of us to take the Bodhisattva vow approach, and make the world a better place. are vital to Buddhism.
Thanks again. I hope my words conveyed what I wish to say. You use this language well and I know I now want to read up on this idea of Buddhism and social interaction with oppressors. And I might even suggest you make a post to the main community to discuss this. With some cogent arguements I think it could have a good effect. It may have been discussed before, but with no moderator or memories, there is a need to refresh things constantly, much like life. :-)
you're right on that it is important to explore the different thought processes and conduct that result from either discrimination or oppression, as you so clearly stated.
i think that Thich Nhat Hanh did not say that the only way to resolve the problem of bigotry, or discrimination as he so generally termed it, is to simply have pity for them. in the first paragraph, he did mention finding non-violent means to counter discrimination. and such a method, along with compassion, i think, is encouraged even for applying it to those who seek to deliberately oppress and cause harm.
Buddhism is such a wonderful religion... at least everything I've learned about it has led me to believe that to be true. Thank you so much for this post. (I'm sitting here wondering how difficult it would be to switch from Christianity to Buddhism.)
i would recommend Thich Nhat Hanh's living buddha, living christ if you're searching for common ground.
I just checked the local library & they have 28 selections from Thich Nhat Hanh. Thanks again.
Thanks for the response. I can't help from personal experience as I was raised an aethiest and have never been a Christian. I have heard of people who are Christian and Buddhist, Jewish and Buddhist, and myself, Pagan and Buddhist, at the same time. Best wishes. :-)
it's been said but,
Re: it's been said but,
and thank you karl for linking this passage. It was worth my time.
Let's go to the Roo soon.
Re: it's been said but,
hmm, i just realized my subject title could sound like i was demeaning the entry. Just to clear up, what has been said is how great the article is, and i was just repeating this. There. Now i feel better. ;-)
Re: it's been said but,
I replied to this... then it was lossed in the ether somehow... gee.
It's all good, sorry for the delays regarding your other comment. I said something in the lost reply of Derrida being and slippery fish and I was too. Will write soon.
This is one of the most inspiring things I have read in a very long time. Thank you.
It had a great impact on me too. And it's my pleasure. Thankyou. :-)
|Date:||July 25th, 2004 07:18 pm (UTC)|| |
I'm glad you posted that.