January 8, 2001
Kenpo Tsultrim Gyantso's commentary on Arya Maitreya's Mahayana
Uttaratantra Shastra is, simply by being, an extremely rare as well as
much overdue offering. Overdue because we in the West have so very little
of anything related to Maitreya, the coming Buddha. Overdue because he may
already be among us. And yet the commentary is both as clear as light
itself while being totally opaque.
In an interview published in Snow Lion Newsletter, Rinpoche* refers somewhat obliquely to the Chinese efforts to destroy Buddhism in Tibet suggesting it is perhaps just as well that they are destroying monasteries because it gives new generations their chance to rebuild as they will. -- without necessarily being burdened by the past.
Lama Anagarika Govinda, my first and still major teacher, climaxed his long years with a small book, A Living Buddhism for the West (Shambala 1990). His central thesis is that we of the West need to evolve our own perspectives on the teachings of Gautama or Shakyamuni Buddha as we will and, having done so, to prepare ourselves for the transitions related to the coming of Maitreya whose central concern is love as Gautama's central concern was knowing or knowledge.
Richard Tarnas, in his The Passion of Western Mind, tries his best to evolve the western traditions to fit today. John Lukacs writes of the end of modernity and outgrowing democracy suggesting we have arrived at the cusp of a new age of barbarity.
Recently Swans.com looked at what Hiroshima may have represented in terms of issues such as barbarity. Lifton and others have thoroughly examined the wide range of perspectives around the two uses of nascent atomic energy towards the end of what at the time had emerged as the most barbaric and widespread of humanity's enormous capacities for inhumanity not only to itself but to all sentience.
Whether in microcosm or macrocosm, the last years of the 20th century revealed, among other things, that there is no excess which cannot be exceeded whether in terms of barbarity or the drug of consumption. Also that there is no shortage of people eager to exceed.
Part of Tarnas's Epilogue discusses the work of Stan Grof whose experiments and experiences may lend some understanding of the fonts of humanity's great capacities for barbarity (as well as consumption) in the relatively short period in each life involved with transition from womb to independent existence -- the birth trauma.
Wilhelm Reich condensed similar quandaries into a dichotomy: love and not love. The love to which Reich referred was nearly identical in construct with that which Arya Maitreya represents and which is central to the Uttartatantra Shastra -- neither of which have to do with heaving breasts and tumescent penises.
What goes around comes around. A very recent novel, The Advocate,* takes an incident of WWII around which to weave a web obliquely looking at barbarity and counter-barbarity escalating within the European phases of that conflict.
Other than Picasso's mural size painting of Guernica, who remembers that a 1936 German air raid during the Spanish Civil War of the mid-1930s on a Basque town then of maybe 7,000 souls was aimed not at any military targets but at the civilian population -- about a third of whom were killed at that time?
John Lukacs in his many examinations of Germany, Hitler and WWII notes the German decision to target civilian populations in England during the Blitz, and later during the V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks, failed to break British civilian morale while misdirecting military resources away from military results. (Which statement does not overlook the successes achieved by bombing Rotterdam, etc. during the blitzkrieg phase of the lightning war of 1939-40.)
It is possible to review the history of WWII as the sequencing and escalation of targeting civilians as much or more than military objectives under the assumptions that terror would break the enemy's will to fight.
The first purely and truly massive civilian targeting by Allied forces devastated Hamburg in Germany in a succession of night bombings by combined US and British bombers. In those raids, post-raid estimates show that maybe 80% of housing was destroyed along with upwards of 50,000 to 80,000 lives and untold injuries.
These raids in 1942 also revealed the first widely studied firestorm conditions within which winds combined the inferno into hurricanes of fire sweeping the city and producing temperatures estimated at 1,000 F. or higher which acted like incinerators and totally sucked breath and life and physical being into new dimensions of oblivion. In a few nights of one bombing campaign relatively early in the war, more death and destruction was reaped on one German city, Hamburg, than during the entirety of the Nazi devastations on all of Great Britain throughout the war.
In Europe, as Lukacs and others have documented, the massive targeting of civilians carried out by Allied forces failed to break the German civilian will or to collapse morale in any meaningful way. The culmination, in Europe, of firebombing cities was Dresden rather late in the war. Those raids, on a city previously spared, showed that conventional (what a term!) weaponry of that time was capable of levels of destruction only barely exceeded by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki efforts shortly to follow.
The firestorm techniques were perfected and expanded over Japan as major cities especially Tokyo were allowed to experience those effects.
In terms of barbarity, it is clear in retrospect that Allied forces in pursuit of their aims, our aims, took the lessons of Guernica and learned nothing except how to be more barbaric, if possible. And over the succeeding years, technology has expanded the capacities and capabilities of ever-renewing militaries to be ever more barbarous, however clinically, in pursuit of whatever objectives may have been or are involved in whatever conflicts were or are of the moment. The successions from Molotov cocktails through napalm to the near nuclear destructiveness of fuel bombs is linear and exponential.
Or perhaps the grand plan is simply to give succeeding generations opportunities to rebuild as they will.
Rinpoche notes: "We are living on a planet with no top and no bottom, in space which has no beginning or end. So isn't it easy to see it all as a dream?"
* Rinpoche: A Holy Master of the Buddhist tradition of Tibet. Clark refers with deep respect to Kenpo Tsultrim Gyantso.
* The Advocate
A Novel Of World War II
by Bill Mesce Jr. and Steven G. Szilagyi
Hardcover - 320 pages - Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub (Trd); ISBN: 055380118X
NEXT: Addendum to ...Dream
Milo Clark, a founding member of Swans, had it all: Harvard MBA, big house, three-car garage, top management... Yet, once he had seemingly achieved the famed American dream he felt something was missing somewhere. As any good executive he decided to investigate. Since then, he has become a curmudgeon and, after living in Berkeley, California, where he was growing bamboos, making water gardens, listening to muses, writing, cogitating and pondering, he has moved on to the Big Island in Hawaii where he creates thought forms about sunshine. Milo can be reached at Swans
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted. All rights reserved.
Addendum to ...Dream - by Milo Clark
War Against Women and Other Civilians in Yugoslavia: Terror Keyed Triumph of the New Colonialism - by Geoff Berne
Freedom to Kill, Right to Live - by Jan Baughman
Depleted Uranium: The Balkans Syndrome - by Gilles d'Aymery
Short Excerpts of I Had Seen Castles - A Novel by Cynthia Rylant
Barbarians of Our Own Dark Ages? Debunking the Myth Behind the Nuclear Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - by Michael W. Stowell
Two Bombs And Two Perspectives: Introduction to Michael W. Stowell's Short Essay - by Rick Rozoff
Resources on the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath
Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath