Friday, June 1, 2012

Are humans on verge of mass extinction?; Wisdom Quarterly
Are humans causing a mass extinction on the magnitude of the one that killed the dinosaurs? The answer is yes, according to a new analysis -- but we still have some time to stop it.
Mass extinctions include events in which 75 percent of the species on Earth disappear within a geologically short time period, usually on the order of a few hundred thousand to a couple million years.
It's happened only five times before in the past 540 million years of multicellular life on Earth. (The last great extinction occurred 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs were wiped out.)
"It's bittersweet, because we're showing that we have this crisis," study co-author Elizabeth Ferrer, a graduate student in biology at the University of California at Berkeley, told LiveScience. "But we still have time to fix this."  More
Can Buddhism save the world?
Prof. David Loy, Bunkyo Univ., Japan (
Nelson Foster's important article "How Shall We Save the World?" raises questions that are crucial to engaged Buddhism: 
Why has institutional Buddhism been so conspicuously ready to accommodate inequalities and tyrannies? How did Buddhism serve [living] beings, much less save them, by withdrawing from society?

...Buddhism not only arose in India, it still flourishes in many South Asian countries. How much did (and does) institutional Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia exemplify the same social and political indifference as East Asian Buddhism?
And what do the differences between [western] and eastern Buddhism reveal about the cultural appropriation of Buddhism?
Both questions should be of special interest to us western Buddhists concerned about the acculturation of Buddhism to a very different type of civilization.
The little I know about South Asian Buddhism suggests a more complex situation than the one Nelson identifies in East Asia. A book by Steven Collins analyzing Buddhist ideology in pre-modern South Asia, Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities, emphasizes a tension in Buddhism's social role.
[Older] Pali texts were sometimes used to rationalize an exploitative status quo by emphasizing karma and rebirth to "naturalize" social hierarchies and elites (including the privileges of the monastic Sangha), [sometimes falsely] drawing parallels between buddhas and rulers (kings as bodhisattvas).
But other readings of Buddhist texts support a very different ethics that challenged the role of rulers and viewed all violence, even state-sponsored punishment, as immoral.
The tension between these two [readings] seems to have been fundamental: Whereas Buddhist texts from all periods defend the authority of kings, others from all periods show that all kings are bad.
"There is no single and simple 'Buddhist' view of society, ideal or actual. Society, one might better say, is a prime site for the work of Buddhist culture, an inexhaustible fund of material on which the antagonistic symbiosis between clerics and kings could draw, to express both sides of the relationship" (496). More

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