What are the differences between humans and apes? Not many.

When I watch documentaries like these, I see beings who have cultures, languages, families, communities with both internal and external social structures and conflicts, technologies/tools, educational techniques, personal desires and attachments, who mourn their losses, and who have substantively the same body configurations as we do. There are a few key things they haven’t developed yet (e.g., preserving knowledge using artifacts, and using cooking to increase their calorie intake (hence brain neuron density) and to give them more free time), but those developments seem quite minor, and probably just a matter of time and opportunity, to me.


(videos)

Sick with ignorance and craving

“…since Freud, the most extravagant fancies in the realm of love are considered to be perfectly normal (a person without them is regarded as a case for treatment), in the realm of death (the other great pole of human life) any strange fancies are still classed as ‘morbid’. The Suttas reverse the situation: sensual thoughts are the thoughts of a sick man (sick with ignorance and craving), and the way to health is through thoughts of foulness and the diseases of the body, and of its death and decomposition” (Ñāṇavīra Thera, “Clearing the Path”).

The (not so) innocence of babes

Unlike in one-life-only creationist religions (e.g., the Abrahamic religions), in religions that have concepts of rebirth or reincarnation (e.g., the Dharmic religions), babies often are not seen as completely innocent or heavenly, but as a possibly millions of years old mindstream or soul, with all of the baggage that implies, taking a new body. As the new body develops, more and more of the complexity of its mind/heart/soul is able to manifest.

Poverty & ignorance

“First you make the mistake, then you cry about it” (Siddharth), said by a policewoman to a poor man who had sent his child alone to a distant relative’s factory for weeks or months at a time to work, and who was then surprised when the child went missing or was abducted.

Questioning STEM funding priorities

How does finding distant solar system objects or subtle gravity waves, studying distant supernovae, determining the geologic compositions and distant pasts of uninhabitable planets in our solar system, theorizing about the ultimate fate of the universe trillions of years from now, creating super-intelligent AI that could replace or kill us all, etc. solve humanity’s most pressing problems (i.e., old age, disease, death, poverty, ignorance, over-population / resource shortages / environmental destruction, natural disasters, etc.)?

Why isn’t the above research money being spent on healthcare research, poverty elimination programs, giant solar and wind farms in the Earth’s deserts, giant solar panels or shades in space, giant CO2 scrubbers for Earth’s atmosphere, propulsion systems and ships capable of taking many humans to other habitable worlds (or at least large-scale space stations and Mars colonies, so that not all of humanity is on one fragile planet), etc.?

Another day, another jihadist attack

(In Nice)

In recent years, the West has finally taken notice of jihadism, and started wrestling with the issue, but this kind of thing has been happening around Asia and northern Africa since the mid-600s CE. As one of my Hindu friends from Mumbai said to me after the 26/11 attacks on that city in 2008, “we’ve been putting up with this bull**** for hundreds of years.”

Buddhist-majority lands have been conquered or invaded by Muslims many times throughout history, including to the present day. For example: the destruction of Bactria and Gandhara (in present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan; the word ‘Kandahar’ may be a modification of ‘Gandhara’), large-scale conquests in northern India, the Uighurs in northwestern China, a failed attack against Tibet, recent destruction of Buddhist artifacts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, recent attacks by Bangladeshi Muslims, recent attacks in southern Thailand, and the way that Buddhist and Hindu artifacts are hidden away from public view in Malaysia. India today averages about 14% Muslim, and Hindu-Muslim or India-Pakistan conflicts still are a common theme in Indian mass media.

However, to my knowledge, other than perhaps by Genghis Khan (who was a tengrist who was tolerant of many religions), there has never been a large-scale violent invasion/conversion by Buddhists of any land, including Muslim-majority lands. I am aware of a few domestic, nationalistic, radical movements within Buddhist countries (e.g., BBS in Sri Lanka and the 969 Movement in Myanmar), but not of any radical Buddhist groups that leave their home country to carry out attacks. Globally, Buddhism is relatively small, split into many traditions, and geographically marginalized (e.g., around the edges of mostly Hindu or Islamic India and communist China, or between China and Islamic countries like Malaysia and Indonesia), compared to Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, so Buddhists often seem to feel self-defensive.

I know that there are peaceful Muslims. I have several Muslim friends in/from West, Central, and South Asia who are very nice people. As Buddhists wish for all beings, I too wish all Muslims wellness, happiness, and peace. However, there certainly is a long history of some Muslims being violent towards Buddhists and Hindus on both small and large scales.