London Letter: Racism or Buddhism ?
By Ishara de Silva
The Buddhist theory of knowledge is wide. Some have labelled, quite vociferously, and viciously, that Buddhists, like in Sri Lanka, are chauvinist with a tinge of overt racist jibber. Leaving aside the Buddhist-Muslim clashes of late on the island, this article, reveals that the faculty of knowing in Buddhism is of many as well as certain, specific kinds, types which, traditionally, lie at the heart of non-racism, or, more importantly, “no racism”, if we want to be succinct, in the religion - when held tightly.
There are different notions of truth we have of others, especially, so objective, in the outside world, ranging from medical to historical, and each has its part, earnestly, to play. So, let us not grumble, many people haven’t even had schooling, like in remote parts of the developing world, well not political, only economically, speaking, now, and so far. You-Valuism – the politics of Selflessness – based on Buddhism, was taught by me in revelations in South Asia’s press - strong - and with Buddhist clarity deliberated in its tone – so is popularly known.
Still, the truth is, formal knowledge, in libraries, and other spots, are not based on “arisen thought”, it seems, like in Buddha-tongue, or can it be? Let’s explain.
Bar the idea that one can know, arisenly, a leader’s mind in an undirect fashion was what Hegel defined as the Universal Spirit, as such, or in potential, I, as a former political editor, think, but it could be deeper, in reality, and wider, investigatively, we shall follow, even if a universal spirit would make the idea of knowing other’s history, mentally, tenable for some:
Sometimes you know with arising truthfulness what is going to harm you in daily life as it comes, like people, animals, and as well, dogs. In this way it is good. You can make a sharp exit once known, something I will repeat, perhaps, later. But living like this is not always akin to the Buddha’s teaching concerning the civilization of experience. What we feel, is what we should be aiming for, if it is splendid, among and with each other, so let’s do it - prime.
But it is not always to be. I could have wisdom and peacefulness in my heart, but people can witness it, and still attack, if it arises in them of me, especially, if racistly-inclined. I am brown in a western country!
The start of the day is not your first encounter. But, when people arise in it, they cease, if you are, in some schools, Buddhist, well I am in part, not fully. For others, it doesn’t cease. Someone arising, say in a shop, may cause bickering, anger and discontent. It stinks. This is why Buddhism accounts for simplicity, arguing that what, again, pops up, should in fact end. Then there is peace. And space.
Intellectually, Buddhism teaches us, or tries, that when certain conditions are together, things exist, and then, after, when the symptoms are no longer present, the thing fails to exist. That’s one thing. But, in real life, it’s different.
Take poor race-relations, for example. If you see a man of the opposite skin colour come into your flat, you may wrongly think what arises is dark, bad and horrid, so you react differently. Even worse. You may, if race-tinged, even strike out. But, if, in real-terms, now, again, you apply the underlying Buddhist teachings, you will allow his/her presence to stop, naturally, and kindly as well as non-abruptly, after the chat. Kindness, in a nutshell!
This is the real essence of the teaching in this regard.
People with psychic power, how frequent is uncertain, people who can read others’ minds, and thought-history, and so know what they’ve done recently then, I’ve seen it a lot, often wait to see what’s arisen in others, whether at the doctor’s surgery or in the local sweetshop. But how powerful is it? Not, if we attack others because we know about them prior.
We have to be patient, and let things be.
Or, we can be angry, arising first, go past them, from an earlier angrier episode about them, let’s say, then attack when we see others first off. But if we just swift past, on that occasion, then we have allowed our self to, again, cease, just stroll past, and that is wonderful.
Others have done the first to me in London - personally. I wonder if Sri Lanka has the same incidence of this phenomena, or do they leave it to the Buddhist monks to wallow about? We’ll see. Ajahn Sumedho, the western Buddhist monk, knows the score. Quite, not very, recently, Sumedho, made the teaching available to everyone: ‘What arises, ceases’ was the theme, and that went for planetary existence also, he thought. Well, it’s anyone’s guess. But enough of my pompous twatter, let’s move on to something sharper.
Britain has seen its fair share of racism, unarmed, with no war yet on this issue. More pertinent, is ideological antagonism, well maybe not more, but just as fierce, with socialists and capitalists spearheading opposing camps of the political game. Race-issue-conflict and political ones based on The Idea, are equally abhorrent, if what we need is a peaceful arising each morning. And it can go that way, eventually.
We need trade wars and product wars, if any, to stop, and for people to leave each other alone, especially if they are racist. What is arising all around us are people, human, human beings, seeking good health, is the strategy of religion and the mental institutions formally. Well, by and large. Really, all good qualities of mind like compassion, generosity and being patient are virtues, so leave it that way. I beg.
The race/ideological battle ground needs to swap, partly, swap in for direct action and knowledge, not just bargaining for better, but seeing what really is there, which can be good, for everyone. We need to try. Try hard. Because in the end, we only have each other. And that’s what counts.
Sumedho also speaks of “Direct-Knowing”, which is I think seeing what’s there in that sense of “directly knowing truth”, what’s up front, what hits the senses, knowing because of what it is revealing – Dhamma, not an aspect of it – just what lashes out presumably. So, let’s get there as well, it’s not a hard shift to stretch beyond race-talk, and arisen-talk, rather than stay stuck, harshly, in our ways, and see good in others, instead, perceiving direct, again, where we can, without compromising truthfulness. Let’s be flexible and speak honestly when we can, then.
Allow things, people and situations to end by themselves! Rather than hold a grudge, take revenge, or mislead others later. Hold the past dearly. Then all will be at peace. No one needs to arise and cease in the end. We can just be. Peaceful, happy and joyful, for the work we’ve done to benefit others, ourselves and between us. Then there will be no wars.
If this is the wrong interpretation of real-life Buddhism, that we arise and cease according to “negative” things for us and with other people, often, then so be it. It still encapsulates a useful point: Namely, that whatever arises and, to repeat, ceases, in any case, needs to be assessed, whether we are conscious of it or not, even if done alone. Because, that’s the end of racism: When it doesn’t matter who comes in or leaves at all, since everyone will be, if in, on mutually compatible terms until no one is bothered about anyone’s skin colour any more – A teaching of Buddhism in any case – that of Universal Compassion! 
So, that explains it. We can usefully see what arises if everyone leans towards goodness, but not otherwise. That explained, other types of knowledge like in the text books, however challenging they are in themselves, are equally required, though, importantly, are more rationally produced without bad temper, so still suffice. Buddhism itself, however, sprang from intuitive knowledge, and that’s what others say, it teaches, more feminine. Each has a part to play, especially if we are going to overcome race-hate. And it can happen. Buddhism should light the way, in this regard, and regain its reputation as the kindest and most tolerant religion in the world. Then race-problems will thankfully disappear with their help!
But, if we stick to arising-thought, that may be more suspect for us, if done maliciously and insincerely. As we have seen, it only works if we are good. If we are selfish, greedy, violent and harsh, then we are at risk of being known for this more than our rivals. So, stick to it, if it works, for betteronin!
Remember, if we are arise-cease theorists and people, be happy with it. If we are like this, we can practise it without harming others, right?
But also bear in mind, other knowledge-techniques are worth keeping in, also! As capacity, though, not as permanent with it always in deployment.
Then we are safe!
The real reason for arising-ceasing theory in Buddhism, may, after all, be to see danger ahead – enlightenment itself, and nothing more. Then we can avoid it skilfully, to ours and others safety.
The only worry, though, is that if others know you for what is arisen, near you, they might try to frighten you, if they are racist, by doubling on fear in what they think, do and speak, with you around if you know what they are thinking in advance. Hate.
So avoid this.
Otherwise, the thesis can make perfect sense.
One pitfall: If people work against you, and it is seen, then other antagonists may get more confident to attack you if they know what all of you now are thinking.
So be good!, and all will wash in breezefully.
We can be happy either way. So stop worrying and be alert and awake.
So we can end suffering.
That’s what counts.
You will win.
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