Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism, a book review:

rise and fall, hubris and nemesis, a frequent pattern in human existence ..
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Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche
by Mary Finnigan & Rob Hogendoorn
Jorvik Press, 199 pp. (2019)

The book benefits enormously from having twin authors — Rob Hogendoorn provides invaluable biographical and analytical material, credited to him as it occurs, while Mary Finnegan’s contributions relate, in her own voice, her experiences. Both authors are Buddhist practitioners, both have researched the sexual abuse claims around Sogyal for years — claims which have since been admitted by Rigpa, Sogyal’s teaching organization.

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Mary Finnigan & Rob Hogendoorn’s book title hits two human keynotes. You’ll find them intertwined for crowd-pleasing reasonsd in Game of Thrones:

It’s a question that’s been asked of Game of Thrones as long as the HBO series has been on the air: Why so much sex and violence?

But Tibet? Perfect Tibet of our wishes? Tibet of the revered Dalai Lama? Tibet of the lamas who create intricate mandalas of colored sands — then brush them away in a gesture of impermanence and carry the dust to rivers which wash them out to sea? Shangri-La — in fact not fiction?

There’s a lot that’s wonderful to Tibetan Buddhism, and the better it looks and actually can be, the easier it is for Westerners to fall for the trap of projection — to believe, in this case, in the impeccability of Sogyal Lakar, sometimes titled Rinpoche, or Precious-One.

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It’s unwise in general to speak ill of the recent dead, and Sogyal died in August 2019. Yet his story must be told, because unhappy though it is, the telling can help us avoid the illusion of a supposedly great lama — second only to the Dalai Lama in popularity in the west — who was in fact assaulting his female students sexually on numerous occasions across decades.

That’s the tale Mary Finnigan, herself a practitioner of Dzogchen — Sogyal’s own form of Tibetan Buddhism — details in collaboration with her co-author Rob Hogendoorn in this book.

The accusations against Sogyal, of “sexual, physical and emotional abuse”, led to the Dalai Lama declaring Sogyal “disgraced”. The Charity Commission for England and Wales disqualified two of the Trustees of Sogyal’s  organisation, the Rigpa Fellowship, in the UK because they covered up “knowledge of instances and allegations of improper acts and sexual and physical abuse against students”..

**

But although sex, violence, and sexual violence are at the heart of the anguish Sogyal inflicted on unwary students, there’s another side to Sogyal’s story that Finnigan and Hogendoorn illuminate — the story of the son of a wealthy family, in contact with a senior Dzogchen lama and taken under his wing, who learned little that might have qualified him to be a teacher of that tradition, yet who managed to wangle his Tibetan nationality into the appearance of a gifted and highly educated lama on his arrival in England.

It’s a fascinating and heart-rending story — heart-rending is the word used by the New York Times in its obit for Sogyal — throwing light on Tibetan Buddhism itself, an astonishing mesh-work of visualizations and compassionate insight; the vicious politics that have long existed within the cloak of lamaism, and which the Dalai Lama has partially uncloaked; an archaic gender differential as power differential; and in general, eastern wisdom meets western credulity.

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Sogyal’s wealthy family connection gives him access to a high lama, Chokyi Lodro, and his presence at Lodro’s side gives him in turn the title of Tulku, which often but not always signifies the reincarnation of some previous high lama, and is always a term of respect.

An authentically scholarly Tibetan meditation master, Dudjom Rinpoche, knows Sogyal has little to no education in the finer points of Tibetan philosophy or meditation, but considers him someone a western student might pick up some hints from — crossing the cultural divide as it were.

Sogyal , moving to the west, is on his way.

**

The years pass, just being a Tibetan guru in the west is sexy in the broad sense in which Lamborghinis and orchids are sexy: scholars of religion call it charisma. And when young and impressionable women become devotees of supposed high lamas — and when there are rumors, not without foundation, of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism including tantra, or spiritual-sexual practices, feelings and expectations can get very confused.

The main thrust of Mary and Rob’s book is to tell the rise and fall of Sogyal Lakar, his rise by that wider “sexy” quality we term charisma, his fall by discovery of the abuses of both spirituality and sex he’s inflicted on so many of his students across the years. I won’t go into the details, it’s their story to tell, and they tell it with the probing integrity of journalists as well as the sincerity of practitioners.

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It has to be said that young Western women stood in line to sleep with Trungpa [“a formidably intelligent iconoclast” meditation master] and were usually eager to oblige with Sogyal. They became known as dharma groupies and sex with a Rinpoche became almost as much of a status symbol as plaster casting Mick Jagger.

Oh, Mary can write!

The problem was the abuse at Sogyal’s “feudal” court.

**

The Heart Sutra of Mahayana Buddhism teaches something often translated:

form is emptiness, emptiness is form

where emptiness is better understood as <em>void, and void as devoid of self-establishing nature — so that these lines might be rendered:

Form is devoid of self-establishing nature,
absence of self-establishing nature is form.

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Sogyal — no great meditation master, it would seem — has another form of emptiness. Whatever he may have thought, he lacked that compassion which is the fruit of deep meditative practice. And so he was able to enact violence on his students.

But we may witness that emptiness in another arena, that of scholarship.

Early on in Sogyal’s time in the west, Dudjom Rinpoche is giving a talk to a hundred eager students, packed into a room intended for an average London family, and Sogyal is translating for him. Mary was there, sitting next to her then boyfriend John Driver, a linguist gifted in Tibetan, and noted that John was frowning. She writes:

During the first lunch break, John steered me into a cafe down the road. He was quite angry.

“Sogyal is not translating correctly,” he said. “Either he’s interpreting Rinpoche’s words into what he thinks is suitable for Westerners or he doesn’t understand what Dudjom is saying.”

**

It was a foreshadowing. Ever since Walter Evans-Wentz published an early English translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead in 1927, the gold-embossed green cloth volume has been a choice text to set beside the Chinese I Ching in pride of place on one’s desk or shelf. Come 1992, and The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying was published, updating the timeless Buddhist classic, personalizing it with some of Sogyal’s own tales, made “accurate” to some degree by the inclusion of questions and answers from distinguished Tibetan masters such as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and the Dalai Lama together with western masters of hospice living and dying such as Elizabeth Kubler-Ross — but, but–

As one student who was around at the time put it:

Could anyone who knew Sogyal imagine him being able to quote the German mystical poet Rainer Maria Rilke? Or the Sufi sage, Jalaluddin Rumi?

No, the “editor” who’d have provided those quotes, and much more of the content and form, indeed the very flowing language of the book, would have been Andrew Harvey, Oxford scholar extraordinaire and author of The Way of Passion: A Celebration of Rumi and other works.

So much for a great book — and it was and is great, and Sogyal deserves some, though by no means all, credit for it.

**

To sum up:

Sex and violence are paired in the book’s title. The problem with the sex is not that it was sex — Sogyal was no more a monk than Trungpa was, and it was often consensual. The problem was in the tirades, the humiliations, the violence, the abuse — delivered under cover of spiritual authority in violation of trust across a power and gender differential.

The scholarship is, well, Andrew Harvey’s, and Padmasambhava’s, and Kubler Ross’.

**

I met Sogyal once. I asked him about the meaning of “skillful means”, and he responded “not entering or leaving a room through the wall, when there’s a door available.” He seemed pleasant enough. Trungpa Rinpoche I befriended at Oxford, and took to visit friends of mine at Prinknash Abbey near Gloucester: later he wrote that the visit had shown him the possibility of living the contemplative life in the west. He opened the first Tibetan monastery in the west shortly thereafter, Samye Ling in Scotland. And Mary is an old friend from hippie days.

As I indicated above, Mary and Rob have a story to tell, and they can tell a story.

Sogyal himself is no longer with us. He has entered, perhaps, the bardo, that liminal space between lives about which The Tibetan Book of the Dead — and to some extent its Sogyal reincarnation, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying — are written.

Go, read.

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Saint Greta, Virgin and Guevara

A pair of DoubleQuotes and a whole bunch of the questions the two of them raise – also posted at Zenpundit
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DoubleQuote I: St Greta, Virgin and Guevara:

Questions:

  • Is either meme valid?
  • including its implications?
  • Are those implications obscure to you?
  • Can both sets of implications be valid at once?
  • Could both memes be irrelevant?
  • misleading?
  • Are they in conflict?
  • counterpoint?
  • harmony?
  • Do you have a preference for one meme over the other?
  • What’s your opinion of the other meme?
  • .
    **
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    DoubleQuote II: St Greta and St Malala:

    Each of these young women is addressing the United Nations, Malala asking for universal education, Greta for immediate action on climate change.

    Questions::

  • Is there urgent need for universal education?
  • Is there universal need for action on climate change?
  • is Malala Yousafzai a sort of saint?
  • Is Greta Thunberg a sort of saint?
  • Does either one set your teeth on edge?
  • Why do I even have to ask that question?
  • .

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    JustKnecht’s Loom of Form & Meaning

    Brilliant, IMO — and hopefully of use to Ali Minai and others in the field of artificial intelligence — here the Loom is, as JustKnecht presents it on Medium:

    **


    9 categories can be used to classify how forms, meanings and the connections between them change, develop and evolve in relation to each other. Put anything at the top left of this table, then:

  • re-express the idea of it in a different form (horizontal movement towards the right of the loom, e.g. from Mercury the Roman god to Greek Hermes and Egyptian Thoth), or else

  • reinterpret that particular form with a different idea (vertical movement towards the bottom of the loom, e.g. from Mercury as god to the metal or planet of exactly the same name), or

  • vary both the form and the meaning (with ideas and forms both contrasting towards the bottom right of the loom, e.g. follow Mercury into the domain of trees, according to standard tables of correspondence in European culture, to the fast-growing hazel — hazel groves often being associated with gateways to the underworld, and Mercury himself being a guide to the underworld).
  • **

    Further readings:

    The Loom of Form and Meaning
    The Loom of Verbal Reasoning
    Rattlesnake Games – Introduction and Example
    Connecting forms to contexts in Rattlesnake Games

    **

    My own HipBone Games, like JustKnecht’s Rattlesnake Games, are inspired by Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game as described in his novel of that name — and there’s enough kinship between them that Derek Robinson’s comments on my own games and Ai may be of use, mutatis mutandis, in setting a context for Rattlesnake Games, too:

    Derek Robinson, HipBone Games, AI and the rest

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    Few things in life are as delightful as finding kinships of mind and heart.

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    Pebbles dropped in the Brownpundits pond

    a bumpy ride from the void, geographically and legally envisioned, via strategy to complexity and fiction, winding up in Rushdie territory with his Quichotte

    Just a few odds and ends that spark, I suppose, evens and beginnings.

    **

    The Mandarin, The rocky road to reconciliation in Australia

    the British declare Australia terra nullius, a place belonging to no one. The land is most definitely not a ‘null’, but the doctrine of terra nullius is a convenient legal cover for theft on a colossal scale.

    Terra nullius — is that the legal equivalent of a cartographer’s here there be dragons?

    **

    Also a nullius matter?

    Moot for real or mootness as gamesmanship?” the legendary Supreme Court correspondent Linda Greenhouse asked in The New York Times.

    That’s from Garrett Epps, ‘The Supreme Court Is Not Well. And the People Know It.’ in the Atlantic.

    A moot law is a null law, surely. But though both are fascinating, neither one addresses the viod plenum which so interests me. Still..

    **

    Continuing my meander through one level of abstraction above regular reality..

    WOTR, THE GREAT DUALITY AND THE FUTURE OF THE ARMY: DOES TECHNOLOGY FAVOR THE OFFENSIVE OR DEFENSIVE?

    In war, firepower favors the defensive and maneuver favors the offensive.

    Hm. Assuming this is common knowledge, having two doctrines is one thing — but how many generals have two mindsets, and can switch between them as appropriate. I’m hoping some of our strategy buffs will weigh in here. This is abstract enough to catch my eye, but war is gritty enough that even strategic thinking comes with trench mud and blood attached.

    **

    A Brexit madman or master bluffer? What’s behind Boris Johnson’s suspension of UK Parliament

    Game theory – the study of strategy and decision making – offers some clues. In the language of game theory, Johnson faces a serious “credibility” problem. He needs to convince the various players in the Brexit game – including the EU as a whole, Ireland, MPs in the House of Commons, the public and businesses – that he will indeed have the UK leave the EU, if need be, without a deal in place, on the October deadline.

    Currently, many of these players do not truly believe that he would – perhaps informed by the inaction of the government of Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, or the high stakes involved of leaving without a deal.

    Hm, a governmental void as strategy.

    That excerpt offers a neat illustration of why human decision-making is so complex and, by extension, fallible

    It also illustrates the utility of a HipBone-variant game board for carrying the voices of multiple stakeholders in mind at once — a polyphony (multiple voices) in counterpoint (point counter point) —

    Time, clipping the wings of possibility, increases tension at a decision fork where, as another Channel News Asia article also notes, Britain is in its “deepest crisis in living memory”.

    Okay:

    Complexity? the national and international interests, personal interests, thoughts, and feelings of all participants, as above. How good is Boris Johnson at evaluating all those influences?

    After a long period of digestion, I’m willing to believe a novelist or TV showrunner might be able to capture the web of influences involved. But that’s after the fact, after the fork — after fatal decisions have been made. And we call them fatal both because they produce fatalities, and because the Fates, the Moirae spin them.

    **

    For instance:

    To face a people and catch its characteristics as if being confronted by just one person is practically impossible especially when the intention is to give an admonition… or suggest a way to govern it. It is much safer to rely on literature, on the way writers have represented her life, her way of being, the constant mobility of her reality and the variety present in the characters described.

    That’s from an account of Sicily and its Mafia connections, but the novel offering access to the understanding of a people by means of the interplay of characters..?

    **

    Meanwhile right here at Brownpundits..

    Dr Hamid Hussain, An Extension for General Bajwa

    :Bless the British who instilled a sense of professionalism in officer corps that has taken a big hit in successor Indian and Pakistani armies. The most scathing criticism came from Lieutenant General Nathu Singh of Indian army who said, “I have not known a British officer who placed his own interests before his country’s, and I have hardly known any Indian officer who did not”

    That’s quite a tribute —

    the master gamekeeper at the national park

    Just for the phrasing..

    **

    & finally:

    somewhere between a pinball machine and a three-dimensional game of snakes and ladders

    That’s not a description of goepolitical life in the Presidency of Trump, it’s praise for Salman Rushdie‘s upcoming novel
    , upcoming my way at least, I hope, Quichotte

    Enough!

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    DoubleQuoting Myanmar and Assam..

    It’s the first quote that carries the implication of genocide, but what of the rest?

    **

    It’s not a joke, is it? Myanmar..

    The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention warns of certain indicators that “provide an environment conducive to the commission of atrocity crimes,” including “increased politicization of identity” and discriminatory “measures or legislation” targeting protected groups. In addition to certain prohibited acts, such as killing members of a group, genocidal States often use legal and administrative tools to facilitate the destruction of a targeted group “in whole or in part.”

    In Myanmar, successive governments have implemented measures and legislation to erase Rohingya Muslims’ identity and rights, creating an enabling environment for genocide.

    **

    It’s not a joke, is it? Assam..

    UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi today expressed his concern over the publication of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) that may put large numbers of people in India’s north-eastern state of Assam at risk of becoming stateless.

    It is too early to say what the nationality status of those left off the National Register, some 1.9 million according to the authorities, may ultimately be. UNHCR is concerned, however, that many are at risk of statelessness if they do not possess another nationality.

    **

    That’s a DoubleQuote — but it’s also pattern recognition, and the start of a possible concatenation of such quotes — a mala of urgencies.

    BTW, it’s more than possible, as Myanmar >> Bangladesh migration illustrates, that mass migration across national borders may be a pragmatic alternative to genocide — but that threatens national sovereignty, doesn’t it?

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    Metaphors for full, empty, void, overflowing — Indian trains

    You already know the way things are —

    so this DoubleQuote will show you the familiar, hopefully with a new slant —

    — the abstract intuition that sees these two images taken together as a binary, a pairing of extremes — something the brain finds very reassuring —

    — and a metaphor for duality and as such, non-dual.

    **

    The lower of the two photographs, with the ladies walking along the railway tracks with no train in sight, is taken from an article on the oncoming monsoon that might interest you:

    Waiting for the Monsoon, Discovering a Brain Tumor Instead

    A brain tumor — what kind of strong weather in mind and heart is that? We live in an alien, often beautiful, sometimes unbearably human world.

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    A couple of instances of Christianity in the world around us

    I saw Omar Ali yesterday — terrific conversation — and when I asked what topics I should discuss here, he suggested I post whatever interests me — so here’s the anointing of Brazilian strong-man Bolsonaro, and hymn singing in Hong Kong.

    Religious behavior in general fascinates me — but when it affects politics, people often don’t realize what powerful motivation it can provide.

    **

    Religion can be coercive, as in the anointing of Bolsonaro

    see video

    — Remember the laying on of hands over Donald Trump? The overarching authority of religion has Trump bow his head, but sets Bolsonaro on his knees! —

    — and religion can be liberating —

    see video

    — That’s a crowd of protesters in Hong Kong singing “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord”.

    Remarkable.

    **

    From Reuters in June:

    Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ an unlikely anthem of Hong Kong protests

    For the past week, the hymn has been heard almost non-stop at the main protest site, in front of the city’s Legislative Council, and at marches and even at tense stand-offs with the police.

    It started with a group of Christian students who sang several religious songs at the main protest site, with “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” catching on among the crowd, even though only about 10 percent of Hong Kong people are Christian.

    “This was the one people picked up, as it is easy for people to follow, with a simple message and easy melody,” said Edwin Chow, 19, acting president of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students.

    The hymn is simple, optimistic yet adds a touch of solemnity and calm to the proceedings, and also affords some legal protection to the protesters —

    The students sang the songs in the hope of providing a cover of legitimacy for the protest. Religious gatherings can be held without a permit in the financial hub.

    “As religious assemblies were exempt, it could protect the protesters. It also shows that it is a peaceful protest,” Chow said.

    The hymn was composed in 1974 by Linda Stassen-Benjamin in the United States for Easter. Its five words are repeated over four stanzas in a minor key, which gives it an air of meditative solemnity.

    **

    Between the anointing of a dictator and the hymn singing of a crowd of protesters demanding democratic freedoms from the Chinese state, we have quite an instructive confluence of ways in which religion can enter the public square.

    No doubt there are others. In Nepal, there’s the tantric cultus of the goddess Kubjikaa. What’s religion up to in your neck of the woods?

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    Invisibility, Jeff Sharlet’s The Family, and the goddess Kubjikaa

    It’s like a waterfall: you stumble on an idea that comes from the mouth of Doug Coe, describing the principle behind the influence of The Family, of which he was the long-time leader —

    — and it turns out the same principle is referenced in an article on surveillance in Defense One

    — only to re-emerge in Dr Mark SG Dyczkowski‘s work on the tradition, philosophy and practice of the goddess Kubjikaa.

    **

    There’s clearly a principle at work here that could find application in many fields, contexts, silos — and the concatenation of such instances is itself a demonstration of the value of silo-breaking thinking.

    FWIW, I wouldn’t have so much as heard of the Goddess Kubjikaa were it not for my half-century friendship with Mark Dyczkowski, to whom I owe so much, and into the waters of whose scholarship so deep I have dipped no more than a toe.

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    Climate change: impact on the Hajj


    The Hajj, Mecca

    **

    Since I posted my poem Mourning the lost Kaaba in late November 2017 — though not, I imagine, because of my poem — a report on the likely impact of climate change on the annual Hajj pilgrimage has come out from scientists at MIT and Loyola Marymount:

    Kang, Pal, & Eltahir, Future Heat Stress During Muslim Pilgrimage (Hajj) Projected to Exceed “Extreme Danger” Levels

    Here’s the abstract:

    The Muslim pilgrimage or Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Muslim faith, takes place outdoors in and surrounding Mecca in the Saudi Arabian desert. The U.S. National Weather Service defines an extreme danger heat stress threshold which is approximately equivalent to a wet?bulb temperature of about 29.1 °C—a combined measure of temperature and humidity. Here, based on results of simulations using an ensemble of coupled atmosphere/ocean global climate models, we project that future climate change with and without mitigation will elevate heat stress to levels that exceed this extreme danger threshold through 2020 and during the periods of 2047 to 2052 and 2079 to 2086, with increasing frequency and intensity as the century progresses. If climate change proceeds on the current trajectory or even on a trajectory with considerable mitigation, aggressive adaptation measures will be required during years of high heat stress risk.

    **

    That’s the science — and while Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the G20 in June that the Saudis are committed to “reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the negative effects of climate change,” beliefs concerning the Prophet’s institution of the Hajj in 632 CE following on earlier Abrahamic practice may well clash with scientific claims that the Hajj may become impossible for future devout Muslims to observe.

    What happens, then, when this divine command intersects with increasing temperatures that eventually render Mecca uninhabitable? How do the climate change scientists fare when they sit across the table from the ulema, the scholar-clergy of Islam?

    From a Muslim point of view, we’d better climate-correct, and do so fast:

    Shahin Ashraf, We must stop climate change before it makes Hajj impossible

    **

    The issue I’ve raised above is tightly focused on one sanctuary, one religion, one pilgrimage. Below are some other major pilgrimage sites to consider in light of climate change:

    I would be interested in the cross-disciplinary exploration of the impact of climate change as understood by the scientific consensus, global migration patterns now and as expected in the coming years, and the devotional rituals and ceremonials of the various religions involved.

    Large pilgrimages and religious ceremonials

    This list draws text from Wikipedia and other online information sites.

    Kumbh Mela:

    Allahabad, India, 120 million devotees, every 12 years. The Prayag Kumbh Mela is a mela held every 12 years at Allahabad, India. The fair involves ritual bathing at Triveni Sangam, the meeting points of three rivers: the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati. The Kumbh Mela in 2013 became the largest religious gathering in the world with almost 120 million visitors.

    Arba’een:

    Karbala, Iraq, 30 million pilgrims annually. The Arba’een Pilgrimage is the world’s largest annual public gathering, held every year in Karbala, Iraq at the end of the 40-day mourning period following Ashura, the religious ritual for the commemoration of martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Mohammad and the third Shia Imam, Husayn ibn Ali’s in 680. Anticipating Arba’een, or the fortieth day of the martyrdom, the pilgrims make their journey to Karbala on foot,where Husayn and his companions were martyred and beheaded by the army of Yazid I in the Battle of Karbala. The number of participants in the annual pilgrimage reached 30 million or more by 2016.

    Papal Mass

    Philippines, 7 million adherents, occasional. Pope Francis’ apostolic and state visit to the Philippines garnered a record breaking crowd of 7 million people. The mass conducted by the pope was the largest gathering in papal history.

    Makara Jyothi

    India, 5 million pilgrims annually. This pilgrim center and temple is located amidst a dense forest in the southern region of India. It was visited by over 5 million pilgrims in 2007 for a festival known as ‘Makara Jyothi,’ occurring annually on the 14 of January. Although the Sabarimala Temple, site of the Makara Jyothi celebration) draws a crowd of 50 million visitors annually, the specific day of the miraculous celestial lighting observation gathered 5 million pilgrims in 2007.

    Bishwa Ijtema:

    Near Dhaka, Bangladesh, 5 million pilgrims annually. The Bishwa Ijtema, meaning Global Congregation, is an annual gathering of Muslims in Tongi, by the banks of the River Turag, in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is one of the largest peaceful gatherings in the world. The Ijtema is a prayer meeting spread over three days, during which attending devotees perform daily prayers while listening to scholars reciting and explaining verses from the Quran. It culminates in the Akheri Munajat, or the Final Prayer, in which millions of devotees raise their hands in front of Allah (God) and pray for world peace.The Ijtema is non-political and therefore it draws people of all persuasion. It is attended by devotees from 150 countries. Bishwa Ijtema is now the second largest Islamic gatherings with 5 million adherents

    [ this is where the Hajj, with 2.3 million pilgrims annually, fits in ]

    Umrah:

    Mecca, size unknown, year round. The ?Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Hijaz, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the ?ajj which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar. It is sometimes called the ‘minor pilgrimage’ or ‘lesser pilgrimage’, the Hajj being the ‘major’ pilgrimage which is compulsory for every Muslim who can afford it. The Umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended.

    Kalachakra,:

    Various locations, 500,000 participants, variously. The Kalachakra is a term used in Vajrayana Buddhism that means “wheel(s) of time”. “K?lacakra” is one of many tantric teachings and esoteric practices in Tibetan Buddhism. It is an active Vajrayana tradition, and has been offered to large public audiences. The tradition combines myth and history, whereby actual historical events become an allegory for the spiritual drama within a person, drawing symbolic or allegorical lessons for inner transformation towards realizing buddha-nature. The Dalai Lama’s 33rd Kalachakra ceremony was held in Leh, Jammu and Kashmir, India from July 3 to July 12, 2014. About 150,000 devotees and 350,000 tourists were expected to participate in the festival. The Kalachakra has also been performed, eg, by Grand Master Lu Sheng-yen of the True Buddhs School, a Chinese Vajrayana group.

    **

    The impacts of climate change will need to be studied as they apply not only to these sites of pilgrimage, but also to holy sites in general, notably including Jerusalem, Rome, Varanasi, and Kyoto.

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    An observation for David Ronfeldt

    [ cross-posted at Zenpundit — suggesting that the “how do we know when a radicalized thinker shifts into violent action mode?” question is frankly a koan ]
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    stern task-master image borrowed from The Zen Priest’s Koan

    **

    We’d been discussing on FB The Right Way to Understand White Nationalist Terrorism, and in particular this observation:

    This movement is often called white nationalist, but too many people misunderstand that moniker as simply overzealous patriotism, or as promoting whiteness within the nation. But the nation at the heart of white nationalism is not the United States. It is the Aryan nation, imagined as a transnational white polity with interests fundamentally opposed to the United States and, for many activists, bent on the overthrow of the federal government.

    and an idea occurred to me that seemed interesting enough for me to re-post it here on Zenpundit and Brownpundits:

    We’re seeing a lot of discussion of how to foresee the switch from a terror-propensity thought into a terrorist act. Even in retrospect this is very difficult to manage, although lots of people elide the difference or feel constrained to separate the two, and managing an effective strategy to accomplish forewarning seems close to impossible.

    I’d like to observe that the great leap between thought and act is in fact a leap across the mind > brain distinction, ie the “hard problem in consciousness”. > It’ds called the “hard problem” because it’s a question so basic that our best reaches of thought can’t stretch across the inherent paradox, a koan in effect.

    Perhaps if we started with that koan, we could at least understand the “size” of the problem that predicting terrorist violence poses.

    **

    I think that’s, technically, an audacious idea.

    What the hell do I mean by that? It doesn’t threaten my physical well-being, nor, I’d suspect, national security. It’s “just a thought” — so what’s the big deal?

    Well, it concerns a matter of immediate strategic and tactical concern, for one thing. And for another, it takes that strategic and tactical issue way past its present discursive parameters, and analyzes it to a level of fundamental abstraction — so much so that it invokes one of the few most basic unresolved issues in scientific thought, a veritable western koan.

    That’s quite a reach, but I believe it’s a reach that illuminates the difficulty of the “strategic and tactical issue” from a fresh point of view that’s frustratingly so deep as to be virtually impenetrable.

    **

    In Chalmers‘ words, the “hard” problem is:

    how physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experience … the way things feel for the subject. When we see for example, we experience visual sensations, such as that of vivid blue. Or think of the ineffable sound of a distant oboe, the agony of an intense pain, the sparkle of happiness or the meditative quality of a moment lost in thought

    You remember the kids’ mathematical saying, “three into two won’t go”? Well here’s a case of “mind into brain won’t go” in the sense of Chalmers‘ hard problem.

    **


    Leonard koan, yes, yes — from Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

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