the angry buddha

If you are not familiar with the blog “American Frei” you should check it out. It is BBC World Correspondent Matthew Frei’s blog ( and his latest post about a luncheon he had with a big cheese in Washington is very interesting. He does not do in-depth analysis typically, but small telling snapshots.

Fudo Myoo is the Angry Buddha. He is pictured standing upon a rock holding a flaming sword in one hand (to cut through negative emotions and kill the three poisons – love, hatred and ignorance) and a rope in the other, which he uses to bind men who are ignorant and drag them towards enlightenment. A very peaceful Buddha, this one.

While I do not agree with the oversimplification of love and hatred as part of the poisons of the world, I do understand where that thinking comes from. It is in our blind ignorance of the complexity of the passion that leads to our fall. To not understand what parts of love come from fear; to not get that hatred can have its roots in unconditional love – when either exists as a pure over-riding and unexamined (therefore misunderstood) state of being – then yes, they are harmful.

The sad thing about this angry Buddha is that he does not move. His very name means “stationary object” and while one can interpret it as being “steadfast and ummovable” in his violent aims; one can also interpret it as a kind of rootedness that prevents action. That it would take the poisons and ignorance of a person thrust in this Buddha’s face for him to swing the sword and bind the defeated. He doesn’t seem one much for travel.

There is a metaphor in the various interpretations of Fudo Myoo that relates to our current situation as a country and culture. The Washington cheese predicts, “Uncle Sam will be pushing up daisies within three years” if realistic and austere measures are not put in place. All over the Internet and in print publications there are thousands of people rallying around words about what to do. But neither moves forward with a plan.

We have, I think, lost our ability to be wrong. Any one who suggests a plan (and witness the budget options) has to come across with the surety of knowing it is the right way to go but the thing is, the future is deeply unsure. We can predict, we can guess, but we cannot tell. The few things that we can say for certain effect other things for which we have no certainty – and that is a deeply frightening thing.

So we seek weapons to defend ourselves against unseen and unknown enemies, we seek politicians with voices and promises strident enough to allow us to hide our fear from ourselves, and we seek endless distraction in our own lives to face the nature of living – that of change and uncertainty. The only thing certain about life is verboten to be discussed in polite company – the certainty of death. At some point, we all die. And before we reach that point, at some point we all reach a point where we can no longer pretend to be young. I think it was Chesterton that said that there has been no other age of such artifice as this modern one where we pretend to youth, even the courtesans of the sun king pretended to age with their powdered skin and white wigs – there was reality in that and the culture, economics, politics and liberal arts reflected that.

Now we have people spending hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the Buddhas of Bamiyan (the ones destroyed by the Taliban) rather than do perhaps, what Buddha would have encouraged them to do – to let go of the past and greet the present with a fullness of being. In a country where war has raged for over 15 years and last year counted as the bloodiest, where poverty and starvation is the norm – the past can wait to have its markers rebuilt while the life that is present is fed.

I never thought I would say this, but last night I leapt into the City and wrote and wrote on the next scene because it was easier then the other one, a voice for the damned, that I am trying to begin. That is the one that is tied to Nigel’s painting of John. Damned is hard because…it is do large right now, I have sat with the painting and meditated on it, Nigel and I are in a more regular correspondence and when I told him my take on it – that this is a portrait of a man who has been disappointed time and time again and yet still chooses to look forward with hope and to risk disappointment again, for whom life is full of small wonders of contentment, a man of deep and powerful peace – he told me I was right on the money. On the surface, it looks like it could be a sad painting. I find it interesting in the comments that came in about the post with the painting in it – that the majority of Americans thought he was homeless, sad, and full of despair, mostly because of the age showing on his face, the grizzled skin, the eyes that gaze somewhere else then where he is.

Interesting that. But it plays into our myth of everlasting youth and that age and wear are terrible, horrible things of loss.

Alright, this is my go go go till 11pm day and it is time to get a move on.

Be well.

c.2011 Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.


About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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