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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Christine O'Donnell and the 14th Dalai Lama?

Again, I’m trying a split topic blog like I did last week. Firstly, we have the questionable conflation of Satanists with Wiccans, witches and other pagans of various stripes by GOP candidate Christine O’Donnell. Not that she doesn’t have other controversial claims, but this one is especially relevant with the consideration that the general term “pagan” applies to at least a quarter of a million people in the U.S. alone, according to Selena Fox, head of Circle Sanctuary, which associates with pagans across the world. The demographic numbers for self identifying pagans allegedly ranges from 500,000 to a million in the U.S. alone. I’m reminded of a prediction by a writer of a questionable work on Wicca and its supposed evil beliefs, Steve Wohlberg, that Wicca would be the third largest religion in the world by 2012. If that’s the case, then it’s true what Rev. Fox (yes, that’s the title apparently) says: we need to further educate people about pagans and how the vast majority are not crazies who kill animals and drink blood.

The political implications are not nearly as relevant, since most people would forgive O’Donnell for past teenage mistakes. The problem is how seriously someone would take her claim that she both “dabbled in witchcraft” and “dated a Satanist”, potentially confusing people into equating the two, when they are pretty distinct systems, holding clearly different perspectives on divinity as well as ethics in particular. The whole notion of a Left Hand Path originates in Satanic thought, whereas Pagan thought is commonly an attempt in some way to return to one’s cultural roots. This is especially true for Pagan Reconstructionism, which attempts to derive the ancient religious practices and create structures based around them to bring the pre modern practices into the modern world. I only hope that this article and the issues it has brought up become more widespread knowledge. This is especially so for those attempts of another GOP member, Bob Barr of Georgia, to illegalize Wicca in the military twice, both times failing. It’s a great accomplishment that America recognizes the diverse, but also remarkably aligned pagan tradition, represented on veteran graves by the pentacle symbol, not to be confused with the pentagram, which is a reversed pentacle, associated with Satanists and Wiccans alike, but in reality only used by Satanists commonly. Here’s to the future of paganism in one way or another, since people will always look back to the past for virtually any religious significance, be it the more mainstream religious texts or the archaeological history that is rooted in many pagan faiths. They’re both just as valid, even if sometimes people fill in the gaps with their own ideas. But that’s how religion is, an ever evolving story.

Onto more bright things, there is a manga adaptation by Tetsu Saiwai of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso’s life that I may consider purchasing. It reminds me of the collection of Buddha manga by Osamu Tezuka I’ve had sitting in my bookcase for at least a year now. I want to reread them eventually, to remind myself of what really made me like them. Historical accuracy, the legends that are injected, and the potential misunderstandings about Buddhism that people could draw from it aside, the graphic novels are astounding. I would probably spend nearly an hour sometimes without even realizing it just reading through half of a novel, if not an entire novel in one sitting. The art is presented in such a way that you feel like a kid, but the subject material isn’t exactly something a kid could really appreciate. There’s death, tragedy, a lot of really serious scenes, and literally a lifetime of a single man encompassed in 8 graphic novels, thousands and thousands of pages no doubt. With Tenzin Gyatso as a subject, the adaptation will no doubt be a shorter series. But from what I’ve read, it presents a perspective on the man’s life that will make you want to read more into his thoughts about life, and Tibetan Buddhism’s perspective as related to other Buddhist sects that exist in Asia. The book releases September 28th and I imagine Amazon will be the place to pre order or order it when it arrives in stores and in publication lists. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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