Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Beautiful—but not desirable; ugly—but not repulsive; false—but not rejected"

--- The perception of things in Buddhist wisdom, supposedly according R H Blyth, quoted by Ken Jones in "Buddhism and Social Action: An Exploration" (no reference given)

In context:
In this Wisdom, in the words of R.H. Blyth, things are beautiful — but not desirable; ugly — but not repulsive; false — but not rejected. What is inevitable, like death, is accepted without rage; what may not be, like war, is the subject of action skillful and the more effective because, again, it is not powered and blinded by rage and hate. We may recognize an oppressor and resolutely act to remove the oppression, but we do not hate him. Absence of hatred, disgust, intolerance or righteous indignation within us is itself a part of our growth towards enlightenment (bodhi).
 In an interesting example of the question of the suitability of righteous indignation, the New York Times reported the following in "Promoting Peace, Nobel Laureates Square Off, Politely" just yesterday:
On a stage during the opening session of the Newark Peace Education Summit, the Dalai Lama and Jody Williams, a world-famous anti-land-mine activist, disagreed — sometimes obliquely, always politely — about the importance of inner tranquillity, the role of anger and the moral character of the United States.


In the main panel on Friday morning, the Dalai Lama, wearing a deep red robe that hung to his ankles, and others said that people must attain inner peace in order to learn, and promote peace in the world. “Too much emotion, attachment, anger or fear, that kind of mental state, you can’t investigate objectively,” he said.

That did not sit well with Ms. Williams, an American, who is, as the Dalai Lama put it, “quite blunt.”

“I thought it was strange to be asked to be on this panel on inner peace, because I don’t have much,” she said. “It’s anger at injustice which fires many of us.” 

Update 13 July, 2011: I found the original Blyth quote on p. 278 of "Zen in English Literature & Oriental Classics" (The Hokuseido Press, 1942), following just after a retelling the story of the monk carrying the young woman over the ford:

Things are beautiful but not desirable ; ugly but not repulsive ; false, but not rejected ; dirty, but ourselves no cleaner.

[punctuation as in the original]