Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


Leave a comment

The Banyan Deer — a parable of courage and compassion (Book Review)

It’s remotely possible that even those folks who consider themselves “serious” Buddhists may not have gotten around to reading the Nigrodhamiga-jataka (part of the Pali Jataka, a collection of 500 stories about the Buddha’s earlier lifetimes).  Somehow, I find myself able to forgive such lapses.  However, in addition to being a renowned writer of, among other things, childrens’ books, Rafe Martin has apparently delved into it — at least the first few stories.

Martin’s latest book, a slim volume entitled The Banyan Deer, is a not-too-modernized retelling of one of the Jataka tales (number 12).  The writer has stayed with the common construction of Buddhist parables and allegories, building on the central theme, step by step, until the lesson is completely delivered.  This repetitive form is common in oral storytelling. The repetitive and progressive structure helps listeners learn the stories themselves so that they can pass them along in their turn.

The Banyan Deer
has an archetypical theme that speaks to all compassionate hearts, especially those of children.  Martin tells the story of the deer king Banyan who, through his compassion for the members of his flock, turns the heart of the human king who has been hunting them and convinces him to spare them and their descendants from further hunting.  This teaching and conversion theme is another that is common in Buddhist folklore, and it carries a message that is critical to Dharma in the present day.

Too long have I lived with danger
to let it fall so heavily on others.
How can I abandon them and be
at peace myself, knowing that my
freedom was bought at such a price?

…”Imagine that,” said the young deer.
“Yes, imagine it.”

Rafe Martin has told a story that is especially suited for reading to children.  It has the feel of one of those tales from my childhood that I constantly nagged the adults to read to me again, pleeeeease?  Don’t get the idea that it’s just for kids, though.  Its lesson addresses the major problem in the world today, and its concepts of interbeing and compassion could well be our salvation in a physical sense — no metaphysics required (nor desired).

The Banyan Deer
, by Rafe Martin
Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2010
ISBN 978-0-86171-625-8
Order it from Amazon

Clarification: The publisher provided the writer with a complimentary
copy of the book in return for this review.


Leave a comment

Compassion: The New Wonder Drug | Miller-McCune Online

Compassion: The New Wonder Drug | Miller-McCune Online.

Compassion for others is a pathway to health and happiness. While that basic tenet of Buddhism may seem paradoxical to self-involved Westerners, newly published research suggests it has an actual physiological basis.


Leave a comment

A Conversation With Tariq Ramadan

A Conversation With Tariq Ramadan: Islam, the West and the Challenges of Modernity – Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Ramadan is a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Oxford’s St Antony’s College. He is also the president of a Brussels-based think tank, European Muslim Network, and the author of more than 20 books, including What I Believe, published in November 2009. Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2009.

Powered by ScribeFire.


Leave a comment

Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa

A new 19-country survey by the Pew Forum reveals that the vast majority of people in many sub-Saharan African nations are deeply committed to Christianity or Islam, and yet many continue to practice elements of traditional African religions. And while many Muslims and Christians describe members of the other faith as tolerant and honest, there are clear signs of tensions and divisions between the faiths. Additionally, an interactive online database allows users to explore public opinion in 19 sub-Saharan African nations on topics ranging from religious beliefs and practices to views on religious extremism and morality.

Pew Forum: Executive Summary

Powered by ScribeFire.


Leave a comment

I’ve Been Waiting A Long Time To Feel This Way

I’m truly proud to be an American these last few days.  It’s heartening to see my country finally stepping up and leading in an endeavor from which it can expect to gain nothing but the knowledge that it did the right thing — and the approval, at last, of the rest of the world.  It’s been far too long.

For nearly two centuries we have been the tough kid on the block. We were blessed by having managed to steal a land, rich in resources, from the previous tenants. We made rapid use of those resources and our relative isolation from the powers in Europe and Asia to build a worldwide economic power alongside which the 1st Century power of Rome pales in comparison. We have pretty much told the rest of the world how things were going to be, and made it stick through the power of our money and, too often, by force of arms.  Yes, yes, on a couple of occasions that was warranted by circumstances beyond our control, but even those wars were as much about economics as principle.

As Americans, we tend to forget that we are members of a global community, and that all we are depends on so many who preceded us.  We owe who and what we are to other cultures, those that went before and those that attempt to coexist with us today. The currently much-maligned Arabs invented the zero, without which modern mathematics would not exist. Africa gave us the rhythms that melded with European influences and became jazz. The Far East gave us philosophical insights; the Native Americans — the true owners of this land — an understanding of how we fit into the big picture along with all God’s other creations.

And so it goes. Every culture, every religion, every idea is built on those that have gone before. We Americans are the sum of all those parts: the Arabs, the Yoruba — stolen from their homes and forced to find another way to be themselves — the Hindu mystic, the Ojibway shaman, the Druid in his grove.

We need to think about this carefully. We need to understand that we are not isolated here in the US; that we are very much a part of the world, and it of us, and that we have the ability to decide the course of history. That course will be predicated, in turn, on our ability to discern our true place in the scheme of things: not whether we can kick the asses of those who disagree with our policies, but whether we can influence them to not want to kick ours.  The days of gunboat diplomacy are over.  They ended with the development of that most guided of missiles, the suicide bomber.

It is time to take our place as leaders in the quest for peace, not in the art and appliances of war.  When I see our powers diverted from that end to wage peace and compassion, as we are this week in Haiti, I have hope again.

If only we can remember that everyone hates a bully.


Leave a comment

Drones and Dishonor in Central New York

photo
Drone aircraft are being stationed to patrol the US borders with Mexico and Canada. (Photo: Tom Tschida | wikimedia.com)

If war becomes unreal to the citizens of modern democracies, will they care enough to restrain and control the violence exercised in their name? Will they do so, if they and their sons and daughters are spared the hazards of combat?
– Michael Ignatieff, Virtual War (2000)

Drones and Dishonor in Central New York