[Buddha-l] Reconversion?

John Whalen-Bridge ellwbj at nus.edu.sg
Tue Apr 18 18:59:42 MDT 2006

I was once warned that if you have too many dharma names, you'll be
confused as hell in the bardo when all these yidams and dakinis are
calling your name(s) and you don't know who to follow in order have a
beneficial rebirth. It's a sure bet you won't have your PDA either--and
one wonders whether it is scary to lose your phone in this world, with
all your contacts and calendar dates, precisely because it reminds you
of the last two-three times you were in the bardo.  Can't prove this in
a scholarly way and there are no references to portable telephones or
companies like Nokia or Motorola in any of the sutras. But I have a
strong hunch. 

A more answerable question might be, are we so sure about Buddhism's
liberal attitude toward affiliatory flip-flop?  Western Buddhist likes
to proclaim that the nature of one's affiliation is less worried than it
is in Abrahamic faiths, in which, given one's historical context, one
might be killed for filling out the "What I Believe" form incorrectly.
(The Christian man in Afghanistan (or was it Iraq) who was recently
spared could be considered the Bush Administration's one foreign policy
success, but so far they haven't claimed it as a rationale for Gulf War
Redux.) I read once of a Japanese monk who dressed in local attire to
sneak into Llasa and was beheaded upon discovery.  And some Tibetan vow
ceremonies, if memory serves, require one to say that one will stick
with the team even if life is threatened.  So is this very liberal
approach a side-effect of Buddhism in the west, a situation in which
Buddhism is anything but hegemonic?  One can separate my question into
two parts: 1) Did you get in trouble in ancient Buddhist kingdoms for
heresy? And 2) what happens if you switch teams in modern Sri Lanka,
Thailand, or Mongolia? 

I know someone who did his dissertation on Tibetan Catholics.  I guess
it's nice to be able to say "We can be reasonably sure that half Tibetan
Catholics are against the Pill, since I interviewed both of them."


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