Okay, “Enlightenment or bust” might be a bit dramatic, but…

"Dang Zang" is an empty name. The blog has to do with the dharma; material related to Buddhist teachings (Tibetan style in particular, Kagyu in even more particular), meditation, gurus and lamas be they genuine or flaky, books and events. I do have a more personal blog, Pica Pica, and a site for my work.

Oh yes, it's by Alex Wilding

Archive

  • A Brexit puzzle 03/07/2017
    No, not the one about “why did we ever…?” This: Let’s think of an election, perhaps a general election. A vital part of our democratic process, of course. Usually it’s a two-horse race with a few also-rans, so let’s just concentrate on the two main parties, and call them left and right. One side wins, […]
  • Kathmandu trip 30/06/2017
    For the last few weeks I’ve been writing up “what I did on my holidays” in Kathmandu this April. It’s on this site, but not on this blog. You’ll find it at http://alex-wilding.com/the-kathmandu-report/  
  • Untitled 27/02/2017
    https://www.theguardian.com/…/grandmother-deported-from-uk-… How is this fair? How is this not vindictive? How is this not a failure to use discretion? How is this not a failure of compassion? How is this not a failure of common sense? How is this not narrow-minded? How is this not mean-spirited? How is this not pig-headed? Sorry, pigs, it’s just […]
  • Donny, Theresa and the Brexit effect 29/01/2017
    In her attempt to pretend that there is enough other “free trade” out there in the world to compensate for the financial hit to the UK (lower wages and higher prices, to you and me) that Wrexit will cause, we have seen Theresa May cosying up to a variety of questionable characters, most notably the […]
Saturday August 1st, 2009. Posted by Alex W:

I think that’s it for me and E-Sangha

I thought I had finished complaining about E-Sangha, but the latest thing to happen to me is getting near the last straw.

A regular poster by the name of Sunsimao had submitted a post, primarily consisting of a letter said to have been written by Thubten Jamyang Gendun of Ba Sengtri Monastery. In it, he reports that:

… the Khenpos and Tulkus here at the Sengtri monastery have requested that the faithful people of the Domed area perform the following virtuous actions for a period of ten years:
870,000,000,000,000 recitations of the Mani mantra;
1,500,000,000,000 recitations of the Siddhi mantra;
35,000,000,000 recitations of the Tara mantra;
200,000,000,000 recitations of the Vajrasattva mantra;
160,000,000,000 recitations of the Amitabha mantra;
13,000,000,000 recitations of the Refuge;
1,230,000,000,000 recitations of Arapacana;
300,000,000 recitations of the Bhadracarya Pranidhana;

… and to perform other actions including, for instance “lighting 130,000,000,000 butter lamps and more”.

Now I am not sure what the “Domed” area is, and don’t know whether it as small as a village or extends throughout the world, but even in the latter case the numbers make no sense at all. Perhaps they were misunderstood, perhaps they were properly understood but simply mistyped.

This was so glaringly obvious to me that, although there were a couple of pious comments saying how wonderful and inspiring this was, I added one saying that on the face of it the numbers are bizarre. I looked at just the first one, starting with the wild assumption that a full million people would take part. I assumed that they could recite one “round” of the mala, which is 108 recitations, every minute. This is fast, but not unreasonable when this short mantra is recited as an ongoing buzz. I then assumed that these people would recite for 10 hours a day and take no holidays. A quick calculation will show that this would take 40 years. On the more reasonable assumption that only 1000 people take part, they would of course be going for 40,000 years each before moving on to the second mantra.

Having pointed that out, I asked what it was that I was missing. I might, after all, have in some way misread or misunderstood the letter, or that there might be a reply like “oh, sorry, I have put in too many noughts”. There were one or two brief replies like “perseverance” and “a long life” – actually I can’t quite remember.

End result? The next day my comment and its replies were deleted and the thread was locked down. No comment, no explanation, no request for clarification. Now if that is not petty and narrowminded, I really don’t know what is. What are they afraid of? Is it that amongst the many possible explanations, one is that the good Thubten Jamyang Gendun is not very good with numbers? Or that he has inflated the numbers just so that they are bigger than those from the next Rinpoche? Or has the translator of the letter (I don’t know who that was) got muddled over the Tibetan numbers? Is he or she someone who shall not be accused of making a mistake? Are they worried about contributors who will say BOO when something is patently silly? Whatever – it is astonishingly childish.

Of course, I asked the moderator of that thread, who goes under the name of Dechen Norbu (a lot of people use pseudonyms there), what the reason might be for deleting the question and locking the thread down. I asked:
Are you able to tell my why it is unacceptable to the E-sangha moderators to point out that 870,000,000,000,000 recitations of the mani (I think that’s 870 trillion) is not a realistic number?
Or were the posts deleted and the thread closed for some other reason?

The answer was as follows:

Perhaps there were too many zeros in the number, perhaps there were thousands of people doing the accumulations. Who knows?
Why is it so important? A million or a billion or a trillion? What matters is the intention behind these accumulations and the discipline for doing them.
Why making a good thing a source of polemics? Don’t you have something better to do with your time?

So

  • not only does “Dechen Norbu” think that having some awareness of what these numbers really mean is unimportant (an opinion you may share – it’s not a problem)
  • and not only does he see fit, without comment, explanation or question, to impose his opinion by deleting the question and prevent futher discussion (which to my mind is the act of a petty control-freak)
  • and, incidentally, not only does he also fail to see that even if many thousands of people are taking part, 870 trillion is still not remotely do-able
  • but he sees fit to berate me for “polemics” (though he does not explain why) and for not having anything better to do.

Now if my lama tells me to recite, say, the Dorje Sempa mantra one hundred thousand times over the coming months, I neither set out to do it a hundred million times (which I would never finish), nor do I think that just a single hundred would do rather than a thousand of them. And I rather imagine that most of us, “Jamyang Norbu” included, would notice if our pay packet was a hundred, a thousand or a million times larger or smaller than what we reasonably expected. There is, I submit, nothing polemical or negative about looking at what is actually being suggested.

But that’s probably obvious. It’s the attitudes of the E-Sangha moderators that are just beyond the pale. I shall be reluctant to return.

Friday July 10th, 2009. Posted by Alex W:

More on Benchen

The comment from Tashi to my last post includes this link to pictures of a trip to Benchen in 2005 that I enjoyed so much I thought I’d “elevate” it to mention in a front-page post. (Correction: the link doesn’t seem to work, but if you go to http://www.benchen.org.pl/ and look through the gallery, you’ll find them easily enough.)

Interestingly, the Polish site includes pictures of the Chime Rinpoche of Benchen. I include below a picture including a stupa containing relics of his previous incarnation. I should make it clear that when I referred in the previous post to “Chime Rinpoche”, I was actually thinking of my first teacher, known in the West by his personal name of Chime, but more properly called the Radha Lama or Chime Radha Rinpoche. He is also from Benchen, but the commonality of name is a coincidence. Getting confused about this has been known to upset a few people in the past, and some odd stories (that I need not repeat) went round. But in fact both lamas are entirely genuine, both are connected to Benchen – they are just two different people.

Tashi’s friend’s pictures are far better than anything I ever took, and it looks like they had a great trip. For contrast, here are a few from 1992:

Chime (Radha) Rinpoche on the verandah at Benchen

Chime (Radha) Rinpoche on the verandah at Benchen

 

Me at the stupas - the one on the right is the "other" Chime's stupa

Me at the stupas - the one on the right is the "other" Chime's stupa

 

The plains of Amdo are wide open!

The plains of Amdo are wide open!

Sunday June 28th, 2009. Posted by Alex W:

Yet more links – part II

The panel on the right was too cramped for what I want to do, so I’ve moved the links to a Links Page – it will be easier to expand and comment there, and to arrange them more clearly into groups as time goes on.

I have now done a bit of weeding, and added a few brief remarks for each link.