Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Nine Silent Bombs

I consider myself a pretty informed person; I read the news and try to stay current on world events. So why is it that I have heard virtually NOTHING about the bombing at the Mahabodhi Buddhist temple at Bodh Gaya? The attack was, and still is, so surreal that I honestly Googled the event before I began typing this because I have seen no press coverage. The only place I found ANY mention is at an international Hindu website called Hindustantimes.

Before I proceed any further, let me clearly state that I am not one of those Buddhists who think that Buddhism is the be-all end-all of contemplative practice, nor that Buddhist shrines are somehow more sacred than those of Muslims, Christians or Jews. I don't feel the need to take a pilgrimage to India, China, or Korea. (Not that there's anything wrong with these past times; they just don't interest me.) With that said, come on! Nine freaking bombs detonate at the site of the Buddha's enlightenment and no one makes a peep! What the...?

Where is the international dialogue, if not outage, about this? Why isn't Rachel Maddow covering this? Olberman, O'Reilly, anyone?! Seriously, I don't care who reports the event, but there are 350 million Buddhists in the world, you would think that this terror attack was newsworthy. Please correct me if I am wrong, for this is one of those instances where I hope I am.

Now I'm not saying that none of these journalists mentioned the attack, for there's no way I could keep track of all of their shows. That's not my point. What I want to highlight is that there has been little if any mention of the bombing--even among the Western Buddhist community. And I find that particularly disturbing, especially the last part. It's as if Western Buddhists, in their attempt to be so liberally aloof, so "detached," refuse to speak out lest they be accused of being "attached," the most dreaded insult for a Buddhist. Mock interior dialogue with snarky, nasally tone: Since nowhere is more sacred than anywhere else, I won't talk about the bombing. Only "attached" people differentiate between where the Buddha reached enlightenment and anywhere else on Earth.

What pretension! This is called the sickness of emptiness. Buddhism is not about lofty indifference, being perpetually optimistic, or allowing yourself to become a human doormat. It's about being fully human, not some jolly caricature of a statue. That means recognizing the empty nature of horror, but experiencing horror as horror, too. It's about recognizing human suffering, awakening to ours and all being's true nature, and responding to the pain in the world with compassion, wisdom, and intelligence. The last part of which means condemning violence.

I'm sorry if I sound bitter because I'm not. I'm simply confounded by the media's (and perhaps the world's) utter indifference to the attack. Perhaps it has to do with the event's proximity to the incorrigible Buddhist violence in Myanmar? Or because only two monks were injured (two too many, in my opinion) and none killed? Or that we are so numb to religious warfare that this event doesn't warrant coverage in the public's eyes?

I honestly don't know.

But what I do know is that silence can be a very dangerous thing. There is a time to be quiet and listen, and there is also a time to speak. This, I feel, is one of those latter moments. Fill the air with voices, with honest, objective coverage of this tragedy; let the truth be known lest the ensuing silence be filled with more bloodshed and violence.

Feel free to comment below.


  1. I saw mention of it somewhere online. My heart sank, but I really didn't know how to respond. I felt anger, but didn't want to respond in anger. I saw another mention on the North American Shin Buddhist Facebook group. I wrote briefly about responding with compassion.

    And old friend who is a Pure Land priest taught me 'first do no harm'. My friends at ActUp teach that silence = death. As a reforming hot head, I'm trying to develop a middle path between the two.

  2. It is generally rather difficult to explain the difference between indifference and equanimity. A good lot of people will not see it. It is indeed somewhat subtle.
    But one is, like, "F**k off, I don't care what happens" and the other is "I'm truly sorry I cannot do anything about it"...

  3. (copied from a conversation at G+), with thanks to Denis Wallez for informing me.

    Yes, I blogged about it on the day:
    As did two of the other Buddhist bloggers at Patheos (out of 4 total active blogs):
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dannyfisher/2013/07/prayers-and-practice-for-bodh-gaya/ and

    A quick search points to dozens more that you can look at.

    I was able to find nearly immediate coverage from the BBC and NYTimes, though it's not front page (google searches will find the most 'hit' and linked sites, which were, understandably, based in India); so you have to dig a bit. The Wall Street Journal also covered it, along with a follow-up on reactions:

    The UK's Guardian covered, with video, protests around the Buddhist world 3 days after:


    Buddhadharma, a N. American Buddhist magazine, covered it immediately: http://shambhalasun.com/news/?p=48065

    and Tricycle, another major Buddhist magazine, covered it the next day:


    This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, but it is just in hopes of showing that this was indeed a newsworthy event and it was covered by blogs, news outlets, and periodicals in the West. I think most of us are less interested in the Indian politics you mentioned, so until we know more, the best we can do is continue to support those affected and to urge for peaceful responses, everywhere.

  4. The up side of not reporting or discussing it is that it reduces its impact. If a big fuss isn't made about it, the terrorists have absolutely no gain in doing it again.