In light of recent national
and international events, REED magazine invited alumni, faJJKculty
members, and students to share their thoughts about the future.
In light of recent national and international
magazine invited alumni, faculty members, and students to share
their thoughts about the future.
By Gary Snyder 51
The Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Hsüan Tsang described the gleaming,
painted giant stone Buddhas standing in their cave-niches along the Bamiyan
Valley as he passed through there on foot, on his way to India, in the
7th century AD. Last week they were blown up by the Taliban. Not just
by the Taliban, but by woman-and-nature-denying authoritarian worldviews
that go back much farther than Islam. Dennis Dutton sent this poem around:
under mortar fire
do they flinch;
the Buddhas of Bamiyan
Take Refuge in the dust.
May we keep our minds clear and calm
and in the present moment, and honor
from a man who writes about Buddhism
Well, yes, but, the manifest Dharma is intrasamsaric, and will decay.
Ah yes . . . impermanence. But this is never
a reason to let compassion and focus slide, or to pass off the sufferings
of others because they are merely impermanent beings. The haiku goes,
This dewdrop world
Is but a dewdrop world
And yet . . .
. . . and yet is our perennial practice. And maybe the
root of the Dharma. . . .
A person who should know better wrote, Many credulous and sentimental
Westerners, I suspect, were upset by the destruction of the Afghan Buddha
figures because they believe that so-called Eastern religion is more tender-hearted
and less dogmatic. . . . So is nothing sacred? Only respect for
human life and culture, which requires no divine sanction and no priesthood
to inculcate it. The foolish veneration of holy places and holy texts
remains a principal obstacle to that simple realization.
I wrote back, This is another case of blame the victim.
Buddhism is not on trial here. The Bamiyan statues are part of human life
and culture, they are works of art, being destroyed by idolators of the
text. Is there anything credulous in respecting the art and religious
culture of the past? Counting on the tender-heartedness of (most) Buddhists,
you can feel safe in trashing the Bamiyan figures as though the Taliban
wasnt doing a good enough job. I doubt you would have the nerve
to call for launching a little missile at the Kaaba, there are people
who would put a hit on you and you know it.
The men and women who
Died at the World Trade Center
together with the
Buddhas of Bamiyan,
Take Refuge in the dust.
|Gary Snyder 51 is an influential poet,
community activist, ecological philosopher, and Buddhist dharma warrior.
He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for his book Turtle Island.
Learning the right lessons
By Donald Steinberg 74
Sitting in the assembly hall at the
Tokyo conference on Afghanistans reconstruction in January, I thought
about how far we have come over the past six months. As late as summer
2001, it was difficult to get the worlds leaders to focus on Afghanistans
massive internal displacement, its tragic social decline, its production
of four-fifths of the worlds heroin, its millions of landmines,
and its grotesque violation of human rightsespecially womens
rightsin the name of a perverted interpretation of Islam. Even when
Physicians for Human Rights produced a study showing that one-sixth of
all women in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan had tried to commit suicide,
it failed to penetrate the worlds conscience.
A half year later, leaders from more than 60 nations and international
organizations were there in Tokyo pledging $4.5 billion to rebuild Afghanistan,
stressing the need for a proper role for women and disabled Afghans in
future political, social, and economic systems. Speaker after speaker
promised to work for a democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, making the
explicit link between the international communitys neglect of Afghanistans
poverty, suffering, and civil strife over the past decades and its emergence
as a source of terrorism, drugs, and refugees.
A generation of Americans born into peace and prosperity came to view
our victory in the cold war as making us invulnerable to threats emanating
from beyond our borders; for them, the past year has been a wake-up call.
Our challenge is to learn the right lesson and channel our national resolve
into the right battles. We ignore suffering and instability abroad at
our peril. We will indeed ensure our own homeland security, forcefully
confront terrorist groups and their state sponsors, and combat the spread
of weapons of mass destruction. But equally important, we must dedicate
ourselves and our resources to fight poverty, illiteracy, disease, hunger,
and repressionconditions that give rise to desperation that translates
itself into terrorist acts.
As we look beyond our borders, the fight against terrorism cannot be our
nations only foreign affairs objective. We must use our nations
renewed interest in international affairs to ensure that major power competition
does not re-emerge; that developing countries join the community of market
democracies, becoming beneficiaries and not victims of globalization;
and that our nation is a full partner in finding peaceful solutions to
regional crises, such as the Middle East and Kashmir.
The past several months have reminded us of our mutual dependence on friends
and allies around the world. No American was unmoved by the swift and
heartfelt expressions of sympathy and support from the United Nations,
NATO, and regional bodies in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
Foreign friends tell me that they themselves were surprised at their own
outpouring of affection for their American cousins, and came to realize
the strength of the values and interests that bind us together. We must
not squander the reservoir of resolve abroad ready to work with us in
pursuit of a more secure, more democratic, and more prosperous world.
|Donald Steinberg 74 is the deputy director
of policy planning at the U.S. State Department, where he is helping
direct the reconstruction effort for Afghanistan. He formerly served
as U.S. ambassador to Angola, deputy White House press secretary,
special representative of the president for global humanitarian demining,
and special assistant to President Clinton for African affairs.