Oct 26, 2009

Oct 25, 2009


The Love of Siam

Rak haeng Siam
International Showcase
(Thailand | 2007 | 158 mins | 35mm)
In Thai with English subtitles
Directed By: Chookiat Sakveerakul
Exec. Producers: Somsak Techarantanaprasert
Producers: Prachya Pinkaew, Sukanya Vongsthapat
Writer/Editor: Chookiat Sakveerakul
Cinematographer: Chitti Urnorakankij
Editor: Lee Chatametikool
Sound: Waigoon Laopipatpinyo
Music: Kitti Kuremanee
Cast: Witwisit Hiranyawongkul, Mario Maurer, Chermarn Boonyasak, Sinjai Plengpanich

A groundbreaking teen love story, THE LOVE OF SIAM is a moving gay romance that took Thailand by storm. Mew and Tong are childhood neighbors and become good friends after Tong protects Mew from bullies. Tragedy strikes when Tong's sister disappears, however, and soon Tong's grief-stricken family moves away. Years later, the two boys are reunited in Siam Square, a trendy teenage hangout in Bangkok, where Mew often performs with a now-popular boy band. Rekindling their affections after all these years, the two must decide if their feelings for one another are as friends, or something more. When they discover that Mew's manager looks exactly like Tong's long-lost sister, a different kind of decision is made, one that may create other problems, or a novel solution to Tong's father's grief.

Dealing with both the complexities of family life and teen love, THE LOVE OF SIAM pushes cultural boundaries further by dealing with sexuality in an honest manner rarely seen in Thai commercial film. Despite its controversial subject matter, it managed to win over both audiences and critics at home, winning all major awards and achieving huge box-office success. It also ignited websites, message boards and a slew of online fan fiction that continued the story of Tong and Mew. Chosen to represent Thailand at the 2009 Academy Awards, THE LOVE OF SIAM is a well-crafted, affecting drama that captures the vibrancy of Thai pop culture and its modern capitol.

It goes without saying that these are the young gay people we are all fighting for. We old folks can take care of ourselves. It is the vulnerable ones, the young ones, searching for meaning and self-worth in this difficult world who need all of our support. Resistance to the evil of homophobia within the church is imperative for their future health and wholeness. Jayden

Oct 23, 2009


The folly of the recent move by Pope Benedict to welcome alienated priests from the Anglican communion into the Roman Catholic Church,  a profound act of betrayal of the spirit of ecumenism, should not be a cause of dismay alone, but also one of joy, because the Church is born in suffering. We are clearly being led by Providence into a new 'Dark Ages,' painful as that might be to contemplate, in which many of us are being called together to form Islands of Light in resistance to the coming dark.  Above all, we are being called to 'let go' of the institution and move beyond it,  trusting in the Spirit alone as she carries us over the horizon towards the Unknown.
It was, in fact, due to places like Skellig Michael that Western Civilization was preserved. Scholars proclaim that when Europe was being overrun with barbarians in the depth of the Dark Ages, these isolated monasteries preserved the arts, reading and indeed civilization itself. These include Skellig, Mont Michele, Iona and Meteora Monastery in Greece. Totally isolated, totally benevolent, angelic anchors.

Yet in spite of their stark inaccessibility, Viking invaders attacked Skellig several times, although there was little to attract them in the way of wealth or material treasure. 

Light always attracts the dark. But it cannot exist for long in places of pure benevolence such as Skellig.

(taken from SPIRIT LIBRARY)


"'The Dark Ages' were dark only in the West. Scholarship continued and was also sustained in Eastern Europe by the Byzantines, and in the Middle East by the Arabs.

The revival of the classics in the renaissance was through the valiant work of these monasteries - but in truth, it had as much to do with ancient learning being re-transmitted to the West by the Byzantine and Islamic scholars. "

Terence Weldon

Oct 19, 2009

Bishop Duhart, the Death of Merton and the Vietnam War.

It's rather strange and mysterious how these postings take on a life of their own. Terence Weldon of Queering the Church responded to an earlier post of mine yesterday on the death of Thomas Merton by quoting from The Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church, the autobiography of Rembert Weakland, who was present at the Bangkok conference where Merton died (And William Lindsey of Bilgrimage started the whole discussion by an email remark). This brought me back in time to my very early youth when as a young aspirant for the Catholic priesthood I made my way to Thailand in 1970 to teach in the village schools of Northeastern Thailand. This was only two years after Merton's death in Bangkok and the shock of it was still fresh in the minds of Catholics in the country and churchmen in particular, who felt a particular remorse over the incident (as if personally responsible for the faulty electric fan), though Merton was not regarded fondly by said churchmen both because of his ecumenism and his stance against the Vietnam War.

Bishop Duhart, the first bishop of the diocese of Udon Thani, Thailand, lived in a simple ramshackle, wooden house on a dirt lane in the northern part of the city about a mile from the Cathedral of St. Mary's. This photo of a northern Thai house is far more elegant and sturdy looking that the Bishop's residence, which looked as if it had jumped out of the pages of Charles Dickens. The house literally tilted to one side, staircase and all, and appeared ready to collapse, but the good bishop only laughed when I first visited and, pounding the walls, said cheerily, 'it's all perfectly safe."  Clarence J. Duhart was a good man of deep spirituality, ascetic ways, conservative views, strong opinions and a surprising open mindedness and capacity for change. He lived alone in his residence, no assistant, no hovering attendant priest or monsignor, because he didn't have any. All the priests of his diocese were Redemptorists (as was he) and lived within their own communities.  The Bishop lived alone with a mangy dog and a few adopted cats. His office looked like the  dinghy sitting room of one's dotty old Aunt Martha, the eccentric relative we have all heard about who never throws anything away. Papers and books were stacked to the ceiling in every corner and it was difficult to find any place to sit down. The Bishop had no car or limousine, but puttered about town on an old Vespa, and for the required forays into the villages he used a landrover parked at the Cathedral. For his food, he made a simple breakfast in his 'kitchen' and for other meals ate frequently at the street side foodstalls. He was a model of simplicity, poverty of spirit and holy dedication.

I was sharing a beer with him late one night in his residence when Bishop Duhart talked of the death of Thomas Merton.  He explained that there were anomalies surrounding the death that had never been adequately explained, including the rumors of voices coming from Merton's room prior to the body being discovered (which has been reduced to 'a shout' in the official version). The Thai police being as they were at the time, incompetent and easily corruptible,  conducted no formal forensic investigation and it seemed expedient at the time that the issue be resolved as quickly and neatly as possible. But doubts had lingered in the air and the good Bishop had heard  disturbing rumors. I should point out that Bishop Duhart's diocese of Udonthani contained the largest US military airbase outside of Vietnam itself and an enormous (and notorious) underground intelligence bunker the length of three football fields, the technology of which could smell out a waterbuffalo from hundreds of miles away (or so said the boast) and relay this information to pilots in the air. "We can shoot anything that moves, anything that sweats." The bishop was in touch with numerous military and intelligence personnel, and something about the death of Merton, of whom he was not fond,  did not sit well with him. 

Just for the record, I have no personal emotional investment in the issue of Merton's death (unlike some deeply felt convictions about JPI). I just find it an interesting sign of the times that we could even consider such thoughts, and the memory of those times brings back to me just how radical Merton was in so many ways. Bishop Duhart felt Merton had made himself a prime target by his criticism of the Vietnam war and "Bangkok is not Yonkers," as he liked to say. The idea of an assassination, rigged to look like an accident,  is not at all that far fetched, even though the natural explanation of a faulty fan is less improbable.

Bishop Duhart himself was conflicted about the war and we used to have many spirited discussions about it. He gave me a book to read, The Cross and the Bow Tree, a Vatican initiated examination of the Church in Vietnam written by Italian priest, Piero Gheddo, which contained so many lurid tales of Communist atrocities in North Vietnam, almost all of which were later discredited. When I expressed my opinion about the shoddy scholarship of the book, and the evident bias, ignoring any and all evidence of slaughter and atrocities by US and South Vietnamese forces, he would shake his head sadly in acknowledgment. Then he would tell me of the incidents of communist infiltration into his own Catholic villages and the deep psychological suffering and conflict this was causing the villagers.  His people were experiencing the realities of communist oppression first hand. And yet the horrendous nature of the US conduct of the war seemed impossible for him to excuse on simple just war principles of proportionate means. At times he would pound the table and say, "These people need to be told!" referring to antiwar protesters. Then he would add with disarming candor, "But I'm not quite sure what to tell them." He was in an anguishing situation for a pastor, ministering to hundreds, if not thousands of young Catholic servicemen from the airbase, some of whom would admit to him the practice of dumping bombs indiscriminately out in the countryside on the way back from a bombing mission. "How the hell can that be ethical?" he would ask in anger and in distress. This is why the outspoken criticisms of Thomas Merton goaded him so, pricking his own conscience, but exasperating him as well, because Merton was not in the thick of it like the good Bishop of Udonthani. A part of him, I suspected, felt Merton got what he deserved for opening his big mouth. But the more fair-minded, decent side of him felt we hadn't done enough to investigate the true cause of death. Instead, Merton was tidied up and flown home on an air force plane in the company of soldiers killed in the war.

Bishop Duhart died in 1998 at the age of 86, having spent 50 years of his religious life as a missionary in Thailand. In the last two years of his life, he went totally blind, a trial from his Divine Master he accepted with equanimity and joy. His successor, Bishop George Phimphisan, tore down the ramshackle old house and, quite sensibly, built a modern new residence adjacent to the Cathedral. Bishop George also bought himself a car. Modernity had arrived to the diocese of Udonthani, as indeed it should have, but a mist of nostalgia wafts its way over the bustling city of the Northeast, a longing for the simpler days of Bishop Clarence J. Duhart.

I'll end this post with a very moving, sane and balanced account of Merton's last days, taken from the website devoted to Merton, Louie, Louie.

On December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Merton made his last journal entry, and said Mass at St. Louis Church in Bangkok. Merton had been invited to the Bangkok conference of Benedictine and Trappist Abbots. He left for Samutprakarn, 29 miles south of Bangkok, for the Sawant Kaniwat (Red Cross) Conference Center, arrived in the afternoon and was housed on the ground floor of Cottage Two.

On the 2nd day of the conference (December 10th), Merton presented his paper, “Marxism and Monastic Perspective”. The paper had been on his mind for many weeks, and he was somewhat nervous by a Dutch television crew that had turned up to film his lecture. (His abbot had ordered him to avoid the press.) Merton’s paper dealt with the role of the monk in a world of revolution …

“to experience the ground of his own being in such a way that he knows the secret of liberation and can somehow or other communicate it to others.”

Finishing the talk, Merton suggested putting off questions until evening, and concluded with the words:

“So I will disappear.”

He suggested everyone have a coke.

At around 3 PM Father Francois de Grunne, who had a room near Merton’s, heard a cry and what sounded like someone falling. He knocked on Merton’s door, but there was no response. At 4PM, Father de Grunne, worried that something was wrong, looked through the louvers in the upper part of the door and saw Merton lying on the terrazzo floor. A standing fan had fallen on top of him. The door was forced open.

There was the smell of burned flesh. Merton, clearly dead, was lying on his back with the five-foot fan diagonally across his body. The fan was still electrically volatile.

A long, raw third-degree burn about a hand’s width ran along the right side of Merton’s body almost to the groin. There were no marks on his hands. His face was bluish-red, eyes and mouth half open. There had been bleeding from the back of his head. [see footnote]

The priests gave Merton absolution and extreme unction.

Merton’s body was dressed and laid out, and the abbots attending the conference maintained a constant vigil for him.

“In death Father Louis’ face was set in a great and deep peace, and it was obvious that he had found Him Whom he had searched for so diligently.” (Letter from the abbots attending the Bangkok to the Abbot of Gethsemani)

The next day Merton’s body was taken to the United States Air Force Base in Bangkok and from there flown back to the United States in company with dead bodies of Americans killed in Vietnam.


Taking off for four days for some skiing and climbing in the high Tatras Mountains in Northern Slovakia.


Among the Waraw of the Orinoco Delta, a contemplator of tutelary spirits may mystically induce the development of "openings in the palms of his hands." These tutelary spirits are presented by the "itiriti snake."
Among the Mapuche of south-central Chile, where a machi (mystic) may contemplate a filew (helper-spirit), there was a case of a "girl who had a machi calling but who was being punished by her filew because she had not yet been initiated. The girl’s feet bled with open sores, and she went into an altered state of consciousness frequently and uncontrollably for hours on end.



Life has left her footprints on my forehead
but I have become a child again this morning,
The smile, seen through leaves and flowers, is back, to smooth
away the wrinkles
as the rains wipe away footprints on the beach. Again a
cycle of birth and death begins.

I walk on thorns, but firmly, as among flowers.
I keep my head high.
Rimes bloom among sounds of bombs and mortars.
The tears I shed yesterday have become rain,
I feel calm hearing its sound on the thatched roof.
Childhood (o my birthland!) is calling me
and the rain melts my despair.

I am still here alive, able to smile quietly. The sweet fruit
brought forth by the tree of sufferings!
Carrying the dead corpse of my brother, I go across the rice-field
in the darkness.
Earth will keep thee tight within her arms, dear one,
so that tomorrow thou wilt be reincarnated in flowers -
those flowers smiling quietly in this morning field.
This moment you weep no more, dear one - we have gone through
too deep a night!

This morning, yes, this morning, I kneel down on the green grass
when I feel your presence.
O flowers which carry the smile of ineffability!
The message
the message of love and sacrifice
has indeed come to us.

poem by

drawing by

IN MEMORIAM: Vietnam 1961 - 1973



They woke me this morning

to tell me my brother had been killed in battle.

Yet in the garden, uncurling moist petals,

a new rose blooms on the bush.

And I am alive, can still breathe the fragrance of roses and dung,

eat, pray and sleep.

But when can I break my long silence?

When can I speak the unuttered words that are choking me.

poem by
drawing by

IN MEMORIAM: Vietnam 1961 - 1973


In May 1966 Merton had a visit from Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tick-Naught-Han), a Buddhist monk, Zen Master, a poet from Vietnam, and a peace activist. During the Vietnam War, Nhat Hanh worked tirelessly to reconcile the warring factions of his country. He came to the U.S. to present a picture of Vietnam that was not given to us by our news media – that of the innocent people who suffered.

Merton immediately recognized in Nhat Hanh someone very like himself. They had both been in monasteries for many years, both were poets, and both had written a poem to a brother killed in war. As the two monks talked, the different religious systems in which they were formed didn’t seem to matter, “Thich Nhat Hanh is my brother,” Merton said in writing a preface for a book on the Vietnam War by Nhat Hanh (also published as an essay “Nhat Hanh Is My Brother”):

“He is more my brother than many who are nearer to me in race and nationality, because he and I see things exactly the same way.” (Faith and Violence)

When Merton asked Nhat Hanh what the war was doing to Vietnam, the Buddhist said simply, “Everything is destroyed.”

This, Merton said to the monks at his Sunday lecture, was truly a monk’s answer, revealing the essence without wasting a word. Merton described the rigorous formation of Buddhist monks in Vietnam and the fact that instruction in meditation doesn’t begin early. “Before you can learn to meditate,” he said quoting Nhat Hanh, “you have to learn how to shut the door.”

Merton was intrigued with Nhat Hanh’s interpretation of Zen as a “rare and unique sense of responsibility in the modern world”:

“Wherever he goes he will walk in the strength of his spirit and in the solitude of the Zen monk who sees beyond life and death.” (“Nhat Hanh Is My Brother”)

Nhat Hanh was banned from Vietnam in 1966 and has been living in exile at a retreat center in southern France. He continues to teach mindfulness and what he calls “Engaged Buddhism” – the effort to respond to suffering.

Merton envied the danger of Nhat Hanh’s role in the world, “…do for Nhat Hanh whatever you would do for me if I were in his position. In many ways I wish I were.”

Taken From: Louie Louie


Vietnam Buddhist case shows suppression: watchdog

(Zen Buddhist monk leader Thich Nhat Hanh  prays at a requiem for Vietnam War victims near Hanoi)

HANOI — The forced expulsion of more than 300 followers of one of the world's most influential Buddhists highlights Vietnam's suppression of religious freedom, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

"The government views many religious groups, particularly popular ones that it fears it can't control, as a challenge to the Communist Party's authority," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director of the US-based watchdog. It said that late last month more than 100 "thugs and undercover police" armed with sticks and hammers broke down doors at the Bat Nha monastery and forcefully evicted 150 monks who follow Thich Nhat Hanh. Nhat Hanh is a French-based Zen monk and peace activist who was a confidant of slain US civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

A day after the monks were evicted, according to a Human Rights Watch statement, more than 200 nuns were forced out of Bat Nha and joined the monks in a temporary refuge at a nearby pagoda. Earlier this month Nhat Hanh, on a visit to the United States, said authorities had also surrounded the pagoda in Vietnam's Central Highlands. Follower Nguyen Phuoc Loc, reached Monday in the area, told AFP there had been no further incidents "especially since a visit by a mission from the US embassy". The government says local authorities "tried to maintain law and order to avoid clashes" and described the matter as an internal dispute between Nhat Hanh's followers and those of the top monk at Bat Nha, Thich Duc Nghi. Duc Nghi belongs to the official Vietnamese Buddhist Church.

The communist government says followers of the French-based monk organised religious courses without permission and failed to register their temporary residence at the Bat Nha monastery. But Human Rights Watch said the ousting of Nhat Hanh's followers was "clearly linked to his call for religious reforms". Last week the US embassy in Hanoi said expulsion of the monks and nuns from Bat Nha is among recent action which "contradict Vietnam's own commitment to internationally accepted standards of human rights and the rule of law".

Vietnam says it always respects the right to democratic liberties and freedom of belief and religion.
All religious activity is subject to state control and Human Rights Watch said adherents of some religious groups that are not officially recognised are persecuted. It said followers of the Cao Dai faith and adherents of Hoa Hao Buddhism are among hundreds of people imprisoned for their religious or political beliefs, or both.

In the mid-1960s the then-South Vietnamese regime forced Nhat Hanh into exile but he returned to visit his unified homeland in 2005 and 2007. Human Rights Watch said his first homecoming came as Vietnam sought to present "a less repressive" religious stance in hopes of getting removed from a US list of countries violating religious freedom. It was removed in November 2006 and admitted to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) the following year. A foreign diplomat told AFP Vietnam's human rights situation was improving prior to 2007, "before they got what they wanted" -- WTO membership and the hosting in 2006 of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit. Since then, the overall rights situation has worsened, said the diplomat.

Loc, the follower at the scene, said about 250 of Nhat Hanh's adherents remain at their temporary refuge in Phuoc Loc pagoda, while more than 70 others are elsewhere in the region or training in Thailand.

Oct 18, 2009


In light of certain recent private conversations I've been having, I thought I would come clean about my blogger name, "Jayden." This is a nick name given me by my beloved drama students three years ago who were in the habit of calling me certain suggestive hybrids  on stage (not in the classroom) based on my legal name (which I prefer to keep private). So I said, "Come up with an alternative, kiddos," and they came up with 'Jayden.' When I asked why, they coyly replied that 'Jayden' was the number one choice for male babies of all black and Hispanic families in the US. I thought, "Oh,  OK, I  like that." So Jayden I became and sometimes Meister Jayden, when the students felt that excessive sarcasm was called for. Then about 3 months later, those naughty little shits came clean themselves and explained that the reason for the popularity of the name among Black and Hispanic families was because it was the first name of Britney Spear's baby, Jayden James Federline! I just about choked on my beer. Talk about being given a name that undermines all credibility as a 'deep thinker' (not that I ever had such credibility)! No wonder all those teachers in the hallways kept smiling as they passed me by, saying, "Good Morning, Jayden." I was the last to be let in on the joke. By then, however, I had become attached to the exotic sounding appendage. When it came time to set up this blog, there were certain personal considerations which made a nome de plume seem prudent and appropriate. So Jayden I became and Jayden I shall remain. Thank you, Britney.

The Culprits

Oct 17, 2009


Today (or yesterday, depending) is the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr, successor to St. Peter as bishop of the See of Antioch, and who suffered martyrdom by being devoured by beasts in the Flavian Amphitheatre (Roman Colosseum).  I can't imagine a more terrifying death, except perhaps being buried alive. The courage of the early martyrs, many of whom  walked singing to their deaths we are told, filled with a supernatural light and joy, is a testimony to the extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit which accompanied the birth of this Near Eastern religion, a faith which was soon to conquer the Colosseum itself. For some unexplainable reason, this led me to reflect on the death of St. Stanislaw of Krakow, also bishop and martyr and patron saint of Poland, together with St. Aldabert of Prague, whose church is right next door to my apartment. Aldabert was invited by the Duke of Poland to evangelize the Prussians of Pomerania. He, too, suffered a martyr's death and his remains were first buried in Gniezno, Poland, before being transported to Prague in 1039. St. Stanislow's death remains something of a mystery, even though Pope John Paul II, when Bishop of Krakow, ordered the remains of the saint to be exhumed in order to ascertain his exact cause of death. Some say King Boleslaw, with whom he was in dispute, strangled him with his own hands, because the king's own soldiers were too afraid to touch the holy bishop.

Pious legend maintains, however, that the good bishop's body was hacked to pieces by the king's men, but that his members miraculously reunited themselves in an act of 'spontaneous reintegration.' No wonder Cardinal Wojtyla wanted the  holy bishop's remains to be exhumed. What was the final result? No one seems to know, since the final results were never published, or so I'm told by Polish friends here in Prague.

From the dismembered remains of Saint Stanislaw, my mind then wandered to the skull of Pope Celestine V. Why you may ask? Was it the lateness of the hour or that last glass of Merlot? Au Contraire, mon amie (or ami, as the case may be), I thrive in the night hours and the Merlot was pleasantly comforting and warmed the soul. No, I made the leap from the exhumation of St. Stanislaw's miraculously reintegrated remains to the skull of Pope Celestine V, because in 1988, as we now know, Pope John Paul II ordered a high tech CT scan to be made of Celestine's coffin, with the express purpose of ascertaining the cause of death, an examination that revealed a suspicious hole in the cranium of the  13th century pope that 'more or 'less' confirms the rumors that Pope Celestine was murdered. The likely culprit = you guessed it (didn't you?). His successor (since Celestine resigned), Pope Boniface VIII.

"How ghastly, gory and ghoulish, " I can hear you exclaim. "What kind of people are these rulers in rudabaker red and pompous purple?" Well, rumor has it that Boniface, one of whose first acts as pontiff was to imprison his predecessor in the Castle of Fumone in Ferentino, was enraged by Celestine's austerity and humility, a witness of holiness that roared up and down Europe in silent condemnation of Boniface's own lust for temporal power. To echo Cromwell in A Man For All Seasons, this was a silence that betokened, a silence with no need of an interpreter. Celestine's "abdication of such immense power, wealth, and material comfort, in pursuit of austere, humble surroundings, was a most pious and admirable sacrifice demonstrating Celestine V's profound and rare degree of spiritual fortitude and virtue." (Wikipedia). Such a contrary witness could not be allowed to live and so he was dispatched with a spike through the brain. Or so the rumor goes. Dante  in his Divina Commedia placed Celestine just outside the gates of hell because his abdication paved the way for the rule of  Boniface, whom Dante placed squarely within the tormenting flames.

And here is a photo of Pope Benedict and George, at it again, praying before the remains of Pope Celestine V. Do they know something we don't? Or is Benedict, who thinks in milennia  and centuries rather than in decades, looking towards the time when the memory of one murdered Pope can make more palatable and acceptable the recognition and acknowledgment of the murder of a second? And is this what primarily motivated Pope John Paul II to order the examination of Pope Celestine in 1988, at the same time as John Cornwell's Vatican authorized investigation of the death of John Paul I was underway, the  "results" of which were published in the book,  A Thief in the Night, in 1989? (They can hardly be called 'results' when contrary to initial promises made by the Vatican, Cornwell was denied all access to Luciani's medical records.)

And so from the exhumation of the remains of Saint Stanislaw to the CT scan of the cranium of Pope Celestine, we now come to the remains of Pope John Paul I. No official autopsy was performed - that we know of - and Pope John Paul II did not order his remains to be exhumed or his coffin to be scanned, which would seem to be the obvious complement to Cornwell's Vatican authorized investigation. There are any number of possible reasons for this, none of which I wish to pursue, except to mention the persistent rumors that a secret autopsy was in fact carried out with results that no recent Pope wishes to make public. I simply let that thought linger in the mid-night air.

It has always been my express intention in this reflection blog not to get bogged down in conspiracy theories about the death of Papa Luciani, since they create a swirling vortex of contradictory accusations and contorted suspicions that pull one down into a bottomless black hole. Moreover, I have no expertise in this matter, which is so enormously complicated. However, there are some heroic individuals who seem called by vocation to pursue justice in this matter, among them Spanish priest, Father Jesús López Sáez, and I'm grateful to them for their courage and dedication. However, from time to time, I do feel called through circumstance or inspiration to witness in my own quiet way to a gentle living flame within my inner being, the persistent, deep interior conviction that Father Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul I, died a martyr for reform of the Church.


We were on a jungle walk at Lata Berkoh in the Pahang National Park, Malaysia (in the 1980's), and came to a nearly dry river bed, narrowed down to a channel of powerful rushing water just too wide for anyone of us to jump across. So I told those students who could swim to push a fallen tree trunk across it so that we could walk across on it.

Once in the water, the trunk was immediately dragged by the currents into the deep pool downriver, along with all the four boys! Three of them swam back to safety, but the fourth was seen clinging to the trunk. The trunk rolled over a couple of times, and the boy disappeared into the water, both slowly moving farther away. Standing on the bank, I could only helplessly watch and invoke Guanyin while the other boys jumped in again to save him.

After the boy was brought to safety, I spoke to him, telling him how I had feared for his life. Then he told me a remarkable thing: he said that he actually felt very peaceful under the water, and did not feel like coming up again! He felt just like letting go of everything. Then a radiant lady in white appeared above him (in the water) with outstretched hands. And he found himself on the water surface again!
Taken From:Who Really is Guan Yin? (I can't succeed in linking to this article. If interested, do a google search and look for a pdf file of that name.)

Images of Avalokitesvara, then Kuan Yin, are often shown holding a rosary. It is taught that the beads represent all living beings and the turning of the beads symbolizes that Avalokitesvara (Kuan Yin) is leading them out of their state of misery and repeated rounds of rebirth into Nirvana.

Today Kuan Yin is worshipped by Taoists as well as Mahayana Buddhists--especially in Taiwan, Japan, Korea and once again in her homeland of China, where the practice of Buddhism had been suppressed by the Communists during the Cultural Revolution (1966-69). She is the protectress of women, sailors, merchants, craftsmen, and those under criminal prosecution, and is invoked particularly by those desiring progeny. Beloved as a mother figure and divine mediatrix who is very close to the daily affairs of her devotees, Kuan Yin's role as Buddhist Madonna has been compared to that of Mary, the mother of Jesus in the West.

There is an implicit trust in Kuan Yin's saving grace and healing powers. Many believe that even the simple recitation of her name will bring her instantly to the scene. One of the most famous texts associated with the bodhisattva, the ancient Lotus Sutra whose twenty-fifth chapter, dedicated to Kuan Yin, is known as the "Kuan Yin sutra," describes thirteen cases of impending disaster--from shipwreck to fire, imprisonment, robbers, demons, fatal poisons and karmic woes--in which the devotee will be rescued if his thoughts dwell on the power of Kuan Yin. The text is recited many times daily by those who wish to receive the benefits it promises.

Devotees also invoke the bodhisattva's power and merciful intercession with the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM-- "Hail to the jewel in the lotus!" or, as it has also been interpreted, "Hail to Avalokitesvara, who is the jewel in the heart of the lotus of the devotee's heart!" Throughout Tibet and Ladakh, Buddhists have inscribed OM MANI PADME HUM on flat prayer stones called "mani-stones" as votive offerings in praise of Avalokitesvara. Thousands of these stones have been used to build mani-walls that line the roads entering villages and monasteries.
It is believed that Kuan Yin frequently appears in the sky or on the waves to save those who call upon her when in danger. Personal stories can be heard in Taiwan, for instance, from those who report that during World War II when the United States bombed the Japanese-occupied Taiwan, she appeared in the sky as a young maiden, catching the bombs and covering them with her white garments so they would not explode.

Oct 16, 2009


 by James Ure of The Buddhist Blog

The candidate that I would have chosen would be the 82 year old Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh who was nominated in 1967. He was nominated by his friend the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for his work to peacefully end the Vietnam war. At the time King, Jr. made the comment, "I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk from Vietnam...I know Thich Nhat Hanh." Nhat Hanh is using the peaceful message of Buddhism to effect harmony in the world.

In his native Vietnam a fledgling order of monks was established by him a few years ago, which is now being broke up by the religious police of the Communist dictatorship there (
Bat Nha Monastery).  They have used violence to remove the peaceful monastics from the temple monastery yet because of Nhat Hanh's peaceful example these monastics were able to remain calm, peaceful and loving despite being treated so poorly. So, I thought I'd ask my readers, "Which Buddhist would you nominate for the Nobel Peace Prize?" You can chose a non-Buddhist but I was hoping to limit it to Buddhists since this is a Buddhist Blog (smiles). The other one I'd chose since The Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi have already received it would be one of the monks who led the peaceful protests in Burma recently. Feel free to vote for one I mentioned or one you thought of.


In 50 years of exile from Tibet, this self-professed “simple monk” has been the driving force behind the growing prominence of women in Tibetan exile society. He has even suggested that his next reincarnation could and should be a girl. “Woman is more compassionate and has more power to understand and feel the needs of others as compared to man,” he said at a press conference last November in Dharamsala, his exile home in northern India. That the Dalai Lama—believed by Tibetan Buddhists to be the 14th reincarnation of the Buddha of compassion—should return to the world as a woman is a radical notion that perturbs even open-minded Tibetans, men and women alike. And despite his wishes, the 15th reincarnation will very likely be a boy, just like all the prior ones.
In the film he also spoke admiringly about a milestone in Tibetan history known as Tibetan Women’s Uprising Day. On March 12, 1959—just days before he fled his homeland -- about 15,000 women spontaneously gathered in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa in an unprecedented display of peaceful protest against China’s invasion of Tibet.
Those women were “heroines,” says the Dalai Lama in A Quiet Revolution. It was “as if they already knew the feminist movement!” He laughs gleefully as though he has told a hilarious joke. At the time, Tibet was closed to the outside world. To a Tibetan, Simone De Beauvoir and Betty Friedan might as well have been Martians.
James: I find it odd in a way that some Tibetan Buddhists who revere The Dalai Lama not only as their spiritual leader but also for being the very incarnation of the compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokitshevara (or Guan Yin) would disagree with him on this issue. How can he be wrong if you believe his very essence is to convey, show, teach and bring about compassion? He basically has a Phd in Compassion. I think he knows the subject better than most of us. Also, If we are all one then by not allowing women to potentially be a Dalai Lama is to deny a part of all of us.Besides, I have read several accounts where Avalokiteshvara is somewhat androgynous and has at least, a strong feminine side to him. In some cultures Avalokiteshvara is actually a woman in the form of Guan Yin. I don't see why it would be so controversial for the Dalai Lama to reincarnate as a woman if Avalokiteshvara is equal parts male and equal parts female. The Dalai Lama recognizes the deep compassion and nurturing instinct that many women have is essential in a world that grows more and more cold, harsh, mean and uncaring. And I can't think of a better way for the Dalai Lama to teach everyone about the equality of all people than by being reincarnated as a woman.

taken from: The Buddhist Blog

Chagall's Yellow Crucifixion

In "The Yellow Crucifixion," Jesus wears the phylacteries or tefillin donned by Orthdox Jews for their morning prayers. The off-center figure of the crucified Jesus shares the central space of the picture with a large depiction of a Torah scroll. In the lower part of the picture, burning buildings and figures in postures of agony represent the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Chagall's native eastern Europe.
Chagall's crucifixion paintings probably inspired the plot of Chaim Potok's popular novel, My Name is Asher Lev (1972), in which the principal character is a young Jewish artist grappling with the fact that the western artistic tradition is so heavily influenced by Christian imagery and that the crucifixion image is a uniquely powerful way of expressing human suffering.

Oct 14, 2009


Angels figure very prominently in the Marian apparitions of Garabandal, Spain, mainly distributing 'Holy Communion' to the four young visionaries. The essential message of Garabandal, apart from the now familiar call to penance and conversion, is respect for the Eucharist, reverence for priests and the necessity of 'obedience to the Church,' making this Marian visitation more than palatable to the Vatican leadership of the Church. This is in stark contrast to the ecumenical message of Medjugorje, which originated in Communist Yugoslavia in the 80's and witnessed to the necessity for respect and tolerance between religions, particularly Islam and Christianity, some years before the outbreak of the horrific religious/ethnic wars of the 90's. This brings up a very insightful comment made by William Lindsey in response to an earlier post here (September 10):

This makes me wonder about everyone's certainty that the Lady/Gospa is the Virgin Mary. I understand the identification of the person the visionaries saw/see with Mary.

But implicit in that identification is a whole set of assumptions about the "kind of" Virgin Mary that people see when they encounter Mary, which may not be true to the original experience at all. As an example: was the lady with roses whom Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary of European iconography, or someone completely different, an Aztec maiden with a different form and message?

I think this comment is spot on. The religious right so quickly assumes that these visitations  (and the Lady behind them) are a vindication of their own positions on so many issues within the Church, but significantly a large number of 'rightists' are outraged by Medjugorje's ecumenical tolerance (I've decided not to link to the comments, because they are quite toxic). On the other hand, Garabandal (among the minority who are aware of it) is universally taken to be an endorsement and confirmation of conservatives' outrage at many of the reforms of Vatican II and what they take to be a resulting neglect of the sacred gift of the Eucharist. Comments tend to focus on the diminished  reverence for the Sacrament, the use of inappropriate vessels, the relegating of the Eucharist to a side altar, etc. However, in fairness to the conservative view, I have to say there is a point to this, an inevitable loss of 'attunement' to the charismatic dimension of the Eucharist, but a loss which is perfectly understandable during a time of reform and re-balancing of emphases within the Church. It is a question of finding the right balance and not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Personally, I have a great devotion to the practice of "Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament" and was quite overwhelmed by the Eucharistic vigil at the Church of the Assumption at Stara Boleslav on the eve of Pope Benedict's visit and mass the next day (an experience I keep trying to get back to and reflect on).  This is very much a 'conservative' devotion and very much in vogue here in the Czech Republic. However, this radical gay fairie has a very heterodox relationship to the Eucharist, which I touched on (only very briefly) in a previous post, Emmaus Walk, yet I felt an instant and very powerful connection to the apparitions at Garabandal when they first hit the news in the 1960's without fully understanding the connection. I visited the village in Northern Spain twice, once during the same summer as the election and death of John Paul I and once some fifteen years later, after having passed through a very powerful, transformative experience regarding the Eucharist, which placed me very far outside 'orthodox' conceptions of the sacrament. It was only on this second visit that I clearly understood why the sense of connection was so powerful. Garabandal is the Marian apparition of the Eucharist par excellence and this very heterdox gay fairie was being assured by the 'Lady of the Pines' that the particular charism of the Eucharist that characterizes an essential part of my vocation was more than included in her embrace and blessing at Garabandal (according to  my own fallible, subjective experience, of course). In other words, Our Lady of Garabandal is much larger  and all-inclusive than the "Virgin Mary" of traditional Catholic piety. Which is why Bill's comment resonated with me so powerfully: implicit in that identification is a whole set of assumptions about the "kind of" Virgin Mary that people see when they encounter Mary, which may not be true to the original experience at all.

Without getting into details, (which I hope to elaborate on at a later date), I believe we are at a momentous turning point where the Sacraments of  Eucharist and Ordination are concerned. Somehow, the Eucharist needs to be freed from its present very rigid ecclesiastical control and its absolute dependence on a restricted rite of sacramental ordination. This is such an enormous issue theologically, and one does not tamper lightly with this most sacred element of the Roman Catholic tradition, nor fly in the face of this tradition's profound sense of sacerdotal mystery and the concomitant need for a minister who is specially blessed to officiate and represent the community at its own Eucharist sacrificial celebration. Nonetheless, we are at a radical turning point in the evolution of this sacrament. It began with the Jewish tradition of consuming the sacred temple bread only once a year and only by the high priest alone, with the sacred bread only reserved in the great temple in Jerusalem. It evolved through Christian creative adaptation into daily celebration and consumption of the sacred bread and wine, and its reservation in  Churches worldwide (and I'm not implying any sense of Christian supersessionism over Judaism here). It is my deeply held conviction that we are slowly (and clumsily) moving into the next stage of spiritual evolution of this Sacrament, where the Eucharist will move out of exclusive residence in Churches and  will be increasingly celebrated within intimate Christian communities and families, with parents celebrating the Eucharist with their children much like the Jewish seder and with the Eucharist reserved in Christian homes. It may take a century or more for this development to occur, but I believe we are riding the wings of the Spirit and this profound liberation is at hand.


Every time I see this Vatican couple, I can't help but believe this is the classic example of a closeted, deeply repressed gay man and his secret paramour - in a relationship that is undoubtedly chaste. And I'm not trying to be funny, quite the contrary, it is all very sad in so many ways. The quote below is very interesting in light of recent developments.

The Web portal of Radio Vatican reports in a text of July 21, 2007, that Pope Benedict XVI, in Lorenzago di Cadore where he is staying until July 27, spent one hour in prayer in front of an image of Our Lady of Medjugorje. 

Radio Vatican is saying that it was a very poignant moment. 

"The Pope went to the small chapel in the forest and prayed in front of the image of Our Lady of Medjugorje. An interesting story is connected with this image: it was brought in the 80’s and was stolen. After some time, the thief brought it back to the small chapel. The Pope prayed the Rosary and spent there about one hour”, says the journalist of Radio Vatican.

Oct 12, 2009


Some very fierce battles are being waged at the moment at the great blogs,  Bilgrimage, Enlightened Catholicism, Queering the Church, Wild Reed, over the major justice issues of the day in the Church, in particular, abortion and the rights of homosexuals in the church and in civil society. I really feel these bloggers are fighting our battles for us, and doing so quite brilliantly with a relentless pursuit of justice, focusing a laser like beam on all aspects of the frightening pathologies that are afflicting the church and society at the moment. However, this requires these writers to immerse themselves on a daily basis in all of the sordid details of corruption and deceit that characterize so much of the pathological sickness at the heart of the Christian community today. As one who feels enormously grateful for this courageous work that is being done, I also feel some concern about the debilitating effect on the human spirit when one is constantly immersed in these stories of injustice and corruption every day.  It reminded me of the wise words of the psychologist, Roberto Assaglioli, spoken some years ago to a group of social activists. He cautioned them about exposing themselves on a daily basis to stories of human injustice, corruption and greed, because such stories acted as 'psychic poisons' which entered the spirit of the activist and sapped her or his will to resist. What was needed was some measure of distance, so as to protect the inner reserves of hope and resilience, qualities so necessary for an activist in order to avoid psychic burnout and depression. I was very struck by these words at the time, and so I offer some further advice from this great psychologist here, while keeping in mind that it is easy for a person such as myself, who is not in the thick of the battle and not suffering quite the same onslaught, to offer 'easy' advice.  But it is given with gratitude and concern.

(Since I couldn't find the original talk, here are some comments from Assaglioli's famous lecture, The Act of Will. )

A general recognition of the powerful psychological influence of our environment, to which we are all subject, is still lacking, even though the major problems of today, such as war, the increasingly harmful competitive attitude, and the widely prevalent conditions of fear and depression, either belong to or have their causes in, the psychological domain.

Yet at least a beginning in this direction is being made, and a small but rapidly growing minority of people are developing what might be called a psycho-ecological conscience.

It seems very timely, therefore, to indicate some of the more common harmful factors which pollute our psychological environment, and to suggest skillful-will methods by which we can most effectively deal with them. The principal negative factors are aggressiveness and violence, fear; depression and despondency; greed and all forms of selfish desire. They are true psychological poisons which permeate the psychic atmosphere, and careful examination will find them at the root of a very large number of difficulties, both within the individual and within society.

We need therefore to eliminate them also within ourselves, or reduce them to a minimum. This is a specific task of individual psychosynthesis, and it call for different techniques from those suitable for gaining protection from external poison.

On the other hand, external poisons tend to feed and intensify the corresponding ones on us. Thus a vicious circle comes into being: the poisons within us open the door to the influence of external ones, while the latter intensify the former. A most effective way to break the vicious circle is to withdraw attention deliberately from these psychic poisons. This will liberate the energy of the attention and allow it to be focused elsewhere, in a direction where it will do the most good. The act of this withdrawal of attention is a definite act of the skillful will and in turn contributes to strengthening the will itself.

Aggression and Violence
The first remedial step is to stop intensifying them by unnecessarily focusing attention and interest on them.

It is only as we free ourselves from the overwhelming sweep of collective panic about all of these vital issues that we are truly able to do something about then. So, paradoxically, a person who is sincerely and deeply concerned with bettering economic conditions, ending war, or the like, will be most effective if he does not open himself completely, even in the name of compassion, to all these influences, but rather is able to maintain a centered and calm focus on specific issues so he can clearly see what needs to be done.

Depression and Despondency
These are reactions to much that is negative, "dark," unjust, and unsatisfying within collective human life. While these conditions have always existed, the present period is witnessing their significant increase, to which the mass-communications media are giving an exaggerated and one-sided emphasis.

Greed is an expression of selfish desire which, according to Buddha's teaching, is at the root of all suffering and unhappiness. Such suffering occurs not only because many desires are unrealistic, and thus can never be gratified, but even more because of the very nature of greed, which is such that no satisfaction lasts for long; it always demands something more.

There are many kinds of desire. ... self-assertion, ... excessive sensuality,
What methods are to be used but the skillful will to achieve psychological hygiene? The fundamental one consists in withholding attention and interest. .. An even more powerful approach method of substitution: the cultivation of other, better interests, the systematic focusing of the attention on constructive things. This tends to give immunity to the negative, harmful, or poisonous influences. A most effective method, explained by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras, is neutralization, which entails the active cultivation of qualities that are the antithesis of the harmful ones" harmlessness and nonviolence in the face of violence; courage in place of fear; joy in healthy pleasures instead of depression and despondency; moderation as a substitute for greed. As for overemphasis on sexuality, the most effective antidote is true love. It is not thus a question of not loving, or loving less, but of loving better.

The Technique of Evocative Words
 That certain words, such as serenity, courage, joy, compassion, have their effects on our moods and ideas does not require demonstration.

Taken from The Act of Will by Roberto Assaglioli