Buddhism at Millennium's Edge - Lecture 2

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Copyright 1998 by Peter Matthiessen - Unedited Preview Cassette


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his what one person wrote the names drop lightly from my lips on an soft and steady as the snow with each name there is life whole and complete and beautifully different from the others like the snowflakes each fall in their own place now she
got that is well known as an expression knows no snowflake ever falls and and inappropriate place everything is just as it is everything is perfect and complete just as it is this is a ground of our our teaching
years ago i use that wonderful zen phrase and a memorial tribute to my late wife and here in the snow channing the names i am able to grieve at last for my son and grandson the grief flows out into the grief of the whole earth like the cycle of rain returning by way of cloud and river to the see i feel as seven months burden of lifting for my
heart as my head at last breaks the surface of the long darkness extraordinarily among these barbed wire fences i feel blessed
nor am i the only one all feel it and with great love for one another and all humanity which gradually their paces the strange guilt we have felt here at being willing to laugh and dance and sing and even indulge black humor
it was remarkable i had a little more immediate cause perhaps for this healing than some of the others but everybody thought this
now what was it it wasn't just this is a good group of people a good bunch out on outing or something like that it wasn't just because it was intelligent and tough-minded and people were really looking at something very very hard it wasn't just that we felt that if those people who died the new milliyet there
could have seen this group which should come to pay homage to them to witness to bear witness to what they suffered of course of
no i we we hope would have been elated there was something else there was something very positive in the space so much so that tax again said this is a place of healing this has become a holy place
he really feels that and these auschwitz retreats and now there was one last november that was that the year after hours and there's gonna be another one this year i think they probably will be yearly and i really recommend to you any real any of you no matter what show tradition ah let you go it may be one of the great experiences
the lifetime it was for me

i got home
i was still kind of racking my brain how did that happen and what was that and i had a
i had a a card i had about six letters from friends and europe that i made on this retreat and one car this one is typical my voice is still vibrating with the names my heart as echoing with love
and i still couldn't figure it out and i couldn't write about it and i haven't i haven't yet fifteen months later my editor my publishers they want meteorite and so far i can do it the new yorker i'm sorry to say asked me to do a talk of the town piece on
here is what i tentatively
i'm coming to this to account for the strange exhilaration all those things as causes i mentioned nurture they're all valid but they don't amount to enough
i know from my own experience with death of my wife
and that there was a kind of a
i've talked to other people about and they all feel guilty about it but i don't now well i did because ice i think some way it taps into this exhilaration i'm talking about some of you who lost somebody very close to there's a kind of a a week or ten days after the funeral was an extraordinary exhilaration i'm excited
draw ordinary clarity where you move you know exactly what to do want to take care of you haven't really improved your on a kind of a high because it's so much to take care of but whatever it is as an opening out of clarity the fact is there the fact is on ice skate inescapable and some sort of liberation that takes place
ace and i started putting these things together as soon as after i got home i wanted to see one of my students and she's a lady who in the very middle of her life almost within three months she lost her husband and then she lost her ability to walk she was struck down with them a ship paraplegic
what's more that she doesn't matter if she's in a wheelchair she cannot take care of yourself
and before i left she said i'm just terrified because my last dignity is what i think i'm going to lose i will be able to take myself to the bathroom some he's gonna have to help me do that and she really dreaded this i said you mustn't dread that why you do you dread that you're gonna have somebody living with you
house who knows how to take care that is no no less her you know don't this it's it's fine and i also told her i said you you'd be amazed when it happens it'll be all right you'll see
well when i came home from auschwitz timing was perfect i came in and immediately i felt this house was lighter and i said it happened under and she was great and she said dead has so afraid and now it's there is no getting away from it and i'm free
remember maurice hedgehog who climbed annapurna and he get any he lost his legs and an accident he had to be carried out he very nearly lost his life and through that acts of losing both legs a man whose whole life was a mountain climbing and action he was set free as for the most moving accounts
that liberation into death than life if you ever read that boko if you're interested mountaineering books is called and a or east headstock it's an incredible freedom i knew an indian friend of mine bob roby do he was one of the people invited with leonard peltier their famous shoot out and my and wounded ridge and nineteen i will
did need nineteen seventy five and pine ridge and he told me that the day of the shootout when to agents were killed in a young indian guy were killed that they were absolute surround helicopters state police national guard every road buzzing with armed men who wanted to should really white mat and he said we knew
ifs ands or buts there was no way out of this predicament and the minute we really do this he said i went about what i had to do get the children out of there gets things packed up write a note
with ah xi he said really quite a light heart he said death you know it's coming
it's incontrovertible your set free boys dreaded this thing and here it is you know this is what henry james said on his deathbed his last words were oh here it is that
distinguish thing effect
here it is a kind of no surprise
so all of these things began to tell me what what could it be that what was exhilarating us was the truth
and the truth is this
and i think in this lies hope you know we talk about becoming more and more civilized you know and then we have auschwitz and then we have bosnia and then we have one that one horrify genocide after mother not to speak of what we do in there our streets
and stuff here at home
how can we pretend that we're making progress how can we pretend that our species is perfectible i had an expedition among new guinea people stone age people presumably their culture was very much as it was forty thousand years ago and homo sapiens is supposed to have yvonne
the children in that culture stone age literally stone a stone tools no metal
the and they are not only that but they were cut off all the various things you would say what this has got stung these people they would cut off from all other they can only go about a three mile diameter because they went over that why they be killed by the next tribal where they went to war once a week more civilized world an ours one one death was enough
that was a victory they went home they didn't go into this mass bio mass slaughter we do but and they also extremely nice to their little kids old people and they better we are much nicer many with these were stone a shoot with these kids were so humorous and so bright and
so quick and they picked up on things like that they we all had the feeling we could take the stone age kids back to our school system and they'd make it up in three weeks i'd be okay they were just amazing
and i told that when you think of that at one end forty thousand years ago primitive man so-called and then you think of auschwitz at this end what does that tell us
that tells me is that the species is the species this is who we are we are capable of this extraordinary kindness and compassion this extraordinary beauty and insight cathedrals great music great mathematical is matt
but underneath that we are still the same old big dangerous mama
we haven't changed a bit and i think is this notion because we have all of this progress all the so-called progress you know we're doing the same thing the stone age people did probably the first thing modern man did was commit genocide against the neanderthals that was probably the first big one you know they really useful there and all wiped about and they've been
doing it ever since and they're still doing it they're doing it today tonight people are being spotted and they'll do it tomorrow and they'll do it for the rest of our lives because that is who we are and i think that auschwitz even though it's a very dark and painful truth it slams you up against that truths
and slams ya there's no escaping it there it is if we are not the murderers ourselves we turn our heads away episodic dangerous or economically unsound to interfere
i will do it by the thousands and of course there are those exceptions but they prove the rule the are exceptional human beings really through some sort of discipline but most of us if you press the right buttons that's what we will do were afraid
whatever you remember me lie and speaking of that as why sort of appreciated those germans i would hate to have to go to a thing like this me lie or maybe hiroshima eyes on and be very painful hard to hard handle but
and he rail myself my most important point
what could it have been where was i going before i got off on mila fact oh yeah me lie
when you think about that guy there was one guy prosecuted despite the fact that all his own superior office were all corrupt stupid untrained whatever all the way up from colonel captain medina to general westmoreland a bunch of dimwits and the guy who took the heat and the rap and the fall was rusty
he member william rusty cali cali is the guy that led the slaughter use a lieutenant rusty cali as far as we know before this happened had been not very bright not very ambitious young kid working the gas pumps in miami he didn't have a criminal record or while record anything he was a
kid who was badly train and got scared and cheerfully slaughter women and children
cheerfully i'm not sure if the i mean you know whatever but he didn't hesitate at nor did the men new squad when she cracked up
suddenly all these good american boys turn into women and children slaughter errors and how fast that can happen with fear and who can we say go to the great german poet he said i know of no crime or violence so evil that i'm incapable of committing yeah that is the truth
that's that is who we are so
this may not seem like good news to but it's good news to me and i think it's and i reheated
because of know because i speak a lot about the environment i'm always representing the environment i always will and i'll always a
you know i'm always representing indian people or chicano people i work for years as cesar chavez and you know that's what i do you know catholic but people somebody always the end of one of my talks we have a q and a and i always say well
you have any hope why do you last so much if if things are as you say well you know if we go on like this and we keep electing third rate people to meet us and not just in this country but everywhere in the world the politicians in this scum that come to the top you have to be due to to why even lot that
job know why i'm sure this this good ones you have regular in the state who retired unfortunate don edwards he was fantastic but even that is not a here to there as long as we know we we whine moan about clinton or reagan or whoever it may be okay were the ones who put him there were the ones who said
settle for these people
and as long as our leadership is like that we're not gonna change the situation where always going to have genocide we are shipping guns a k forty sevens by the millions out to all the third world every time you see the tv you your thirteen year old with with these very dangerous weapons to make money we do it look good on tobacco companies that the willing cheerfully to
kill us chemical companies the same where are the ethics so we aren't other words i'm just saying i don't want to hammer and a corporations and stuff although i'd cheerfully do that for about ten hours
i don't want to do that i just want to point art suggests that we are not making much progress and the only way we can make progress is to understand and accept and even embrace who we really are to remind ourselves that we are
animals we are beautiful animals capable again of extraordinary spiritual beauty and cultural beauty and so forth but we are these creatures
and if we accept that then we can start placing safeguards as we do against dangerous criminal law potentially dangerous corrals i guess i'm really saying as the good news
you see primeau levy said something that i am very much aware i'm i'm walking a very dangerous line here i don't want to say that we are on waiting all of us with the nazis who perpetrated this thing at auschwitz
you know hannah arendt that book about eichmann in jerusalem and many people are made this point commander horse of the mark of the commandant at the auschwitz a normal man by every think is his journals when she wrote he's the first guy to bear witness to auschwitz really extremely sensible i will added stuff
ordinary bureaucrat talking their item eichmann was psychoanalyzed in jerusalem before he was ah tried the psychiatrists that i've never met a man so normal this was a errands point the banality of evil she said the real evil comes from people who don't think
who don't have to think they'll go along with anything
that's scary the pmo levy said he was so i do not know and it does not much interests me to know whether in my deaths that lurks a murderer i know that the murderers existed and not only in germany and they still exist and that to confuse them with their victims is a moral disease
these on aesthetic affectation i very much do not want to confuse average person with the nazi murderers i just want to submit we have this potential along with potential for the this great beauty
i'm gonna read you a quote an arm and you can believe it i'm going to stop

this comes from alexander solzhenitsyn not known as red shirt for format
but he did write me a lot of experience for those camps and stuff that set the soviet camps and by the way hitler and stalin are both very ordinary men you know they weren't evil geniuses somebody pointed out they made a very good point evil is never profound it is only extreme goodness can be profound
evil is never profound just extreme and that's why it virtually always is perpetrated not by the mad genius as we see on t v or some is perpetrated by ordinary bureaucratic minds very ordinary unimagined they are the very often
one hitter and stallion from from all we can tell we're extremely ordinary men without much imagination is exogenous and said
if only it were so simple if only there are evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroyer the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being
and who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart
thank you very much

he'll be back with another fun evening next year
a few sure down


why they're going to show it somewhere i've seen the film to and i was very pleased by and relieve in the beginning i thought maybe wasn't such a great idea
and i i didn't back i told him that i didn't really want to be interviewed for it because i thought i was rather p c about that i guess
but actually the result once who was edited and cut down as reagan was great so don't don't turn against them i've forgotten the title be the title
raising the ashes
whatever either
my decision while was just
yeah lol
sauce lot
than words
of the prisoners is bought by the gods
worse than some of the other minds off
bernard sorts
ah this this is a very good point victor franco's
highest i shall power by the banks
this is a question is that the was viktor frankl wrote a book called the something meaning the
man search for meaning and he'd been in auschwitz and he made the point that there were people in there in charge of the barracks and so forth who were even more brutal and cruel than the regular guards the reason for that was the day when hos was setting up this cat he sent a man named dumb
gerhard college
he was one of his ss people who had an absolute angelic face as faces and is because of absi young angelic face this guy had a taste for killing which is almost unparalleled he just want to do it all himself he couldn't get enough of it and how sent him to sachsenhausen and he picked out thirty
the brutal criminals
i brought them to auschwitz to do it the prisoners in july those guys of course i did very well indeed in the business that's why they were they are chosen for that isn't yeah
now the question
karma genocide know
ha i don't mean there's not a relation i just simply mean that dumb and then probably is i'd like to think about it i don't mean to be flippant but that's a big question and i'm a little punchy so i'm not going to get a hot yeah
i don't want to speak superficially about a duck


was now
i'm not i'm
yeah i'm not sure because i'm being senile
i'm i'm loaded hard of hearing about
are you know more or less i ask you just to just to abbreviate that a little bit
that nice moment we have a choice to mean to
move according to

right yeah
i think that's true and some people you know made extraordinary decisions extraordinarily courageous wonder so they are so moving that they could do that and i think it's true moment by moment we each make our own decision for better or for worse that's part of our zen practice to each moment dispatch
each moment as beginner's mind
and i guess there are those among us because we don't know until it happens you just like you know you read about these accounts of the battlefield and the people cost me surprised about who has who finds corrosion who doesn't sometimes the least likely person has that courage months needed and the person you think it's going to be brave
they've come folds up i know i'm not doing your crush justice i didn't quite hear it is as somebody who can paraphrase it in the first row who heard it better than i did they didn't did you anywhere you can give me up
all right sigh
and need anything else

are you wearing it
i'm gonna have to ask you to bush we had a microphone because

this question is based on the island of this lady did not feel that she didn't live no residents in my suggestion that possibly this recognition that we have not advanced very much in our
ah how you say civilized impulses from the forty thousand years ago that we are like other animals we are more or less as we are animals really don't change much you know as soon as an animal eagle owls as another animal
and we have been a very successful animal like sharks and mosquitoes rats
a few other highly success successful species so we have not had to change very much because we've been so flexible and so efficient and so right so you know
but i think it i think we that we're not attracted by the idea that we've made no progress and furthermore may not be perfectible but we are simply going up against a kind of a darwinian
lol were kind of in that sense we're technologically getting smarter and smarter but we are fixed in place and are our mores and our ethics in our heart of not grown with our technical progress
and and and i think i suggested in my talk that
facing up to that auschwitz kind of makes you face up to that why auschwitz is more horrible to me that bosnia or rwanda at least in bosnia rwanda you had a long simmering feud you had people who take each other's lands
tribal wars whatever you had people who hated each other for eight hundred years actually and and bosnia in that part of the world and those people are constantly scared at the other side gets the upper hand they're going to come in to slaughter them so we'd better get them first now to them go out and rape and slit people's throats on that
scale is horrifying but at least we can recognize that as human behavior there is some impulse and especially when as we were told mostly young soldiers were given all i could drink and the of very strong plum brandy before they went out on these benches of slaughter
that is horrible but it's human
i think we all agree with that but is it really the same as a bureaucratic cold blooded decision
two towards the final solution to simply systematically
chip people and marina on that scale made by a court sensible civilized christian people and some office in berlin

no i think that is was so scary about this this
thing and that is what you see there and you see the blind efficiency of it you see the technological progress with man gone awry gone all wrong used in this horrifying you no purpose the this direction and that's what i'd felt we were slammed up against their you you have
due to see it appear that there was no there was there was no getting away from it there is no way you could talk your way around it you couldn't say well we gotta get the churches busy here or do gooder groups or even ours and practice are always together they're all wonderful but they're not doing the job
we can furthermore even if and perhaps it was a time when the churches together and all the groups could do it but they can't do it now because is too many others it's just too unwieldy and it's not happening yeah

are you know
of course
well actually i'm implying something quite the opposite i'm afraid i sort of agree with hannah arendt this evil the intention or inflicting pain as we remember we generally mean movies you say you've ah yes
but this was
it's that
ordinariness of it that factors there all the time that it's not something that some evil person thought up it is i mean that decision in berlin and certainty that but what we're up against here is the you know we're up against may be say one hundred thousand as as member also of against one hundred million
people who let it happen
and they never really wrong they didn't commit murder themselves but they permitted to happen because was too uncomfortable or too dangerous or to cost me to protest
and that's all of us at all of us i think and is that a little evil we didn't do anything
it's a big evil but his generals will have you call evil as a general condition is a human condition yeah right
yeah but we were quarreling over words you know that is true and i was as if it's it's part i'm suggesting are submitting it's part of our makeup and as part of my make up for very very good evolutionary reasons if you have a male longer and it goes into a tribe or a band of other loungers and it's the strongest one
and it wants this female over here it will go to that female and i'll kill every single one of her offspring and to the degree can control other females it will control it will kill all of their offspring because it wants its it doesn't want its instinctively promoting his own genes because it's the strongest
one that is good for longer health
but we are not animals anymore we think we're not you know we have to do something extraordinary you know we have to do we always read about the natural way we should go at to obey our own nature so we have to go against nature now we have to go against tooth and claw but as tooth and claw the actually
advances in among nations among people whatever you're going to pure survival of the strong which is good for the species but we cannot do that anymore this is what we're still doing this is our corporations are doing with our nations are doing
and this is what we have to turn around

it's a transcendence because it because you see the truth and that's clear and that you can go on from there and then you can go on and until you accept the truth you know until you can accept the fact that you're going to die you can't really transcend your own debt you know we all say oh yes we're going to die
ty we know that
a part of us don't really know that we haven't really chance to that we're not quite three of it was too afraid of it we haven't really made it part of ourselves and so that facing a cloudy no matter how terrible i favorite novel is just as gives the idiot which i think is most heartbreaking novel i have ever read
absolutely extraordinary and it is a base your heart all the way through but at the end i was absolutely exhilarated and i was exhilarated by the truth it just because this is true
the free is liberate
at auschwitz is a terrible terrible truth as implacable and you can't dodge around it and i think i think this has something to is i'm talking about when had an errand was writing about eichmann in jerusalem she was got she was corresponding with mary mccarthy
and she said you're the first person to understand
the exaltation i have in this material and fire will cause she thought she was really onto the banality of evil that it was ordinary people like us to do the evil and she thought this was absolutely brilliant and her own contribution and she had this exhortation i feel that's right
good to the exhilaration i'm talking about my students discovery that it was okay for somebody had to take it to the bathroom it was okay that's the truth and once it's there you can deal with it once it's of a fuzzy thing being covered up by do good or islam and all kinds of things then we can't do it
thing about it and will limp on year after year will do exactly the same things to have the same genocides what progress have we made i mean really added i ask you not if anything if somebody says gotten worse
so this this seemed to me hey if we can grasp this and embraces and braced ourselves say this for better for worse is who we are and we also are beautiful
we are great animals and the are terrible animals
we don't like to think of ourselves that way but if we can embrace it then we can move forward and that i think is the seed of the exhilaration i don't know that's my instinct him
hey salon recovery everybody and
there are tapes of of tonight's presentation out in the lobby and other tapes and books
see you next weekend for jon kabat-zinn but

you set off a lot last night too much
i'm still digesting it
what i heard as he spoke about facing sad
that we're all capable in our other way of doing
such violence the violence that went into healing amount of in hospitals
i'm really strikes me that at the cora
the salvation of our spaces to look at our staff
i think so
i think so i don't i don't tell people say oh well i know those evil and us i'm not talking about the i wasn't last i'm talking about evil i'm talking about potential of this animal a behavioral trait of this animal we don't want to regard ourselves as animals but we are and and in every chemical way we've gone so far ahead but we
we're still capable of this extraordinary violence very quickly people can turn around but it's not evil is just something we have to take care of