Monday, September 9, 2013

The Buddha and the Terrorist

Once the US senate unleashes the verdict, Syria will burn with missiles and bullets. The world is about to witness one more grand show of justice. The face of this show is yet another binary opposite—innocence and arrogance. It is easy to confound the world by the mention of these two words, especially if one tries to find two respective faces to fit in with each of the description. Easier would be to identify this binary: good and evil. There is no question, America and other free world nations stand by innocence and good. The totalitarian regime in Syria is the evil, arrogance.

In this innocence Vs arrogance show of the Post-9/11 world Colosseum, the parties that are the innocence group would use the same types of weapons and methods to contend the arrogance side. The motto of innocence would be ‘annihilation’. Anyone who has eyes to see can see a fundamental reversal of motives at this point. This is the central theme of The Buddha and the Terrorist: The Story of Angulimala by Satish Kumar.
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The Prologue says, “If one person uses violence, and another calls it evil and then uses violence to stop the first, the second person also becomes evil because they are using the same means” (15). ’Talking to Terrorists’ is the title given to the prologue. It gives the idea that there is another route to approach the issue of terrorism and similar evil in the world—that is talks, or one-on-one communication. However, the question stands; can anyone talk with a terrorist, fierce in his demeanor and unflinching in his temperament? In our practical world, lead by television sets, and the internet, pundits say peace like war should be sponsored. Sometimes, they say, in order to achieve the desired order in the society, the use of a certain amount of power is necessary.

Through the story of the Buddha and Angulimala, Satish Kumar, a well-known Buddhist scholar, editor of Resurgence magazine and the author of two previous books, No Destination: An Autobiography and You Are, Therefore I Am: A Declaration of Dependence, slices through this argument of peace and war and replaces the blindness of violence with the light of Buddhist wisdom.

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The Buddha and the Terrorist is full of those typical scenes and contexts that invoke an ancient Buddhist village and follows the traditional way of storytelling. Pearls of wisdom whine through the words in each page and the reader is satisfied in mind and heart. Wisdom Tree published The Buddha and the Terrorist in 2012 in India. The volume contains a Foreword by Allan Hunt Badiner, the author of Zig Zag Zen and Mindfulness in the Marketplace. This volume also features illustrations by Clifford Harper.

The story takes place in the Gangetic planes in North India, in the kingdom of Savatthi, ruled by King Pasenadi. Anguli in Sanskrit means human finger. Mala is a garland. Angulimala is someone who wears a garland of human fingers around his neck. He is a psychopathic serial murderer and a terrorist, by all modern standards. He is merciless and steadfast with his cause. Much like the post-9/11 terrorists, Angulimala has a mission, a typical “holy war”, to perform. He claims that his war is with casteism, the fragmentation in the society based on caste. Angulimala continues to murder innocent people, until one day when the Buddha, the enlightened one come across. The Buddha transforms the murderer into Ahimsaka, the non-violent one, a name Angulimala takes up after receiving the transformative encounter with the Buddha.   
The Buddha and the Terrorist has less than one hundred pages. In its economic narration and powerful message, it’s a unique example of the high quality writings that originate in India. Sadly, such works do not come out quite often. In a scenario dominated by zombified, half-baked, and hollow love tales, The Buddha and the Terrorist stands as a watchtower to guide the paths of the lost. I am very thankful to that friend of mine, who gifted me this wonderful book.

Ahimsaka takes up the mission to salvage the world with the message of the Buddha. His words to a helpless woman are a startling revelation to one of the most complicated puzzles of human life. These words mark the depth of Angulimala’s transformation into Ahimsaka. He says, “A dead body and a dead heart know nothing of pain and sorrow. The existence of pain is a fundamental truth of life.” (86) 

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