Thursday, January 10, 2008


" Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. " Dwight D. Eisenhower

In doing some light research on Mahayana Buddhism (the sect of Buddhism with which I fall most in alignment) I found the following summary of the fifth "pledge" a Buddhist takes as translated (or rather, somewhat disambiguated) by Thich Nath Hanh:
[I am] Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practising mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I am committed to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society [sangha]. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practising a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.
I like what he says here about "other items" that contain toxins such as " certain TV programs, magazines, books, films and conversations." I have been a long-time advocate of dismantling the television from my daily life, but I hadn't much considered magazines, books, films and conversations as possible pollutants. Well, maybe the conversations. And maybe the other stuff, too... just maybe not in this way.

I think it's important to recognize that it's not only food that we consume.

Still, I choose not to purchase magazines that capitalize on other peoples "indecency" or privacy; I don't buy books written by people that I am certain to find moral disagreement and I really can't stand mindless pulp cum "box office hit of the summer." I would rather stare at the sky on a cloudy day.

What I really love most about the above translation is this line: "I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations." Just beautiful.

And I sometimes worry that maybe by abstaining I put myself in some sort of false reality, until I realize that reality is just what we make it anyway. I'm aware of social injustices in the world. I'm also aware that I can do better to dismantle it by not supporting those that support injustice. Rather than give these injustices my attention and speech, I choose to support their opposites. Ultimately, activities in talking about it serve no purpose. There's no such thing as bad press, but there is such a thing as having no support.

A proponent for peace will do his best to put his dollar where it really counts: in the hands of people who support his ideals.