February 15, 2009

The Theist Lens

Micheal Powell of the New York Times needs to get out his dictionary.

"China seems inclined to tighten its grip and wait out the aging leader, insisting, a bit improbably for a government that is officially atheist, that it has the legal right to designate the Dalai Lama’s next reincarnation." - January 31, 2009.

Reincarnation not tied to theism. Just one of those little things that I find amusing when Western (read: non-Buddhist) commentators try to express opinions about Buddhist traditions. Everything is seen through a theistic lens.

I caught a bit of The King and I on television last night, in which Yule Brenner's King was singing about confusion "Buddha in Heaven show the way!" This strikes me as a very Christian thing to do, to get down on one's knees and pray for divine guidance. Maybe that's what it looked like to Westerners visiting Siam a couple centuries ago.

We never can escape our preconceived notions, huh?

3 comments:

Samantha said...

I like my few preconceived notions I have left. They give me something to working on sending back to the factory as defective. I find them, and send them to the glue factory as my Dad used to say. Something I found funny until I found out what he was talking about. Then I cried for a couple of days thinking about all the beautiful horses that were no more...

I actually believed in re-incarnation long before I found my way back to the path.

greenfrog said...

Not that I am endorsing King and I-style Buddhist caricatures, but there are plenty of people on the planet who have a decidedly theistic religious appearance to their Buddhism.

Monica said...

True. You should read the questions on the Pew Forum US Religious Landscape Survey. I really like the Pew Forum and I'm not sure how many other religions might have had a different take on the questions, but is it really fair to ask a Buddhist (a non-thiestic Buddhist, not a ChrisBu or JewBu) how often they pray, how often then get answers to their prayers, or if they think more than one religion leads to eternal life? It's not a big deal, but still more evidence of why we should have a world religions class in high school. Heck most college age kids don't even know the difference between Sunnis and Shi'ites and we're over there shooting at them.