Wednesday August 15, 2018
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Buddhism grows beyond religion in America

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Akash Shukla

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path… and so began the spiritual entourage of Florida native Michael Paul Schlosser. The blue-eyed and fair-skinned native was ordained as one-of-the-first Anglo American Buddhist monks in the country.

“26 million Americans are influenced by Buddhism in their daily lives. I went to Houston and I was pleased to see that a lot of people in temples were happy to witness an American monk,” Schlosser revealed. One of the most fascinating beliefs about Buddhism is that there is no Creator or God.

The founder of Buddhism was a young prince of Nepal, Gautam Buddha. After gauging that wealth and luxury do not guarantee inner peace, he set out to find inner peace. Even after devoting his 16 years to the grind in public relations, Schlosser failed to plug the void within. ‘Unfulfilled’ as he felt and rattled by the rat race around, he said, “The transition didn’t happen overnight. He began to read and notice the difference between Eastern and Western philosophies. Encounter with Buddhism made me feel that I have reached the spot,” he revealed in spiritual satiety.

At SGI-USA, another strong Buddhist practitioner Michelle Riofrio recollected that she felt tangled between her two noxious emotions: one, being robbed at gunpoint and the second having fear of expressing the same to her conservative catholic parents. After seeing no way out of this quagmire, she resorted to win it all with Buddhist practice and she claimed that ‘it summoned her to put forth her courage’.

Michael Paul Schlosser, who has served as a resident monk at Buu Mon Buddhist temple since November of 2006 as Bhante M Kassapa, and Michelle Riofrio are not the only Americans who have chosen the Buddhist trail of spirituality in America: As per the statistics and an ABC 13 bulletin, Buddhism currently ranks as the fourth largest religion in the world.

Buddhism, which is 350 million strong, continues to grow as we speak the faith and read the depths of non-theistic religion. Emmett Till Justice Campaign  Civil rights activist Alvin Sykes sought out Mamie Till-Mobley to talk to her about her son. Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago, had been brutally beaten and murdered. His offense: allegedly whistling at a white woman. While Till’s killing turned one of the events that energized the booming American Civil Rights Movement, his killers were acquitted of the crime. Although they later admitted their guilt, they remained free.

In January 2003, Sykes and Till-Mobley kicked off the Emmett Till Justice Campaign. Till-Mobley succumbed two days later.  Sykes helped craft the legislation, which creates two positions– one in the FBI and the other in the U.S. Justice Department– to investigate these unsolved cases. The bill also sets aside up to $135 million over 10 years for investigations.

The activist’s life changed at the age of 18 when he encountered Nichiren Buddhism at a Herbie Hancock concert. The life-changing philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism includes chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. His practice and analysis of Buddhism fortified his determination to fight for justice and enhanced his faith in the might of dialogue to bulldoze walls and achieve results that otherwise seemed impossible.

While Buddhism continues to shape lives of countless Americans in more ways than one, SGI-USA perennially puts forth unique experiences of neo-Buddhists in US who relentlessly lend voice to the unsung. In an earlier incident, Tibet’s exiled Buddhist Dalai Lama was discharged from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Evidencing the popularity boom of Buddhism in US, many local newspapers reported that dozens of Tibetans draped in ethnic clothes greeted the Dalai Lama at the Mayo Civic Centre.

en.wikipedia.org
en.wikipedia.org

“His life means the world to us,” said a US national of Buddhist told the newspapers and added, “We follow his footsteps. He touched our faces. It was a blessing.” Amid all the furore over Tibet and against China’s warning to stop interference, US President Barack Obama met Dalai Lama at the White House and reiterated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet’s rights.  Situation as is playing out for US is more of a fence-sitting sort…  “US supports Dalai Lama’s middle-way approach of neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans in China,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council.

However, Buddhism and its peace-loving agenda continue to prevail over this political turmoil. Despite the upsurge in hate and race crimes in US, Buddhism among natives is gaining momentum.

(With inputs from SGI-USA)

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The Japanese Bombings And American Falsification

In a war, there are no true victors, as the axiom goes, but as far as the story of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are in focus, it is safe to quote the Gnostic author Elaine Pagels. She had famously said “It is the victors who write history. Their way”.

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hiroshima-nagasaki
It is time to address the myths one by one.
Ms Tania Bhattacharya
Ms Tania Bhattacharya

By Tania Bhattacharya

On the 6th and 9th of August 2018, the Allied bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki completed seventy three years. It is urban legend that humanity’s most famous atomic attacks, were a necessity, which had subsequently brought an intransigent, warmongering Japan to its knees, leading to its surrender and the cessation of the Second World War.

While Japan’s aggression along with its Axis co-conspirators is in no doubt, the American justification for its action of bombing Japan, and indeed the collective Allied decision to carpet-bomb the German municipality of Dresden, implementing Operation Meetinghouse on Tokyo, along with the ethnic cleansing of the Sudeten Germans in the former Czechoslovakia, and the mysterious ‘suicide’ of Nazi prisoner-of-war Rudolf Hess in 1994, are receiving the attention of whistle-blowers and conscientious historians, alike.

This piece focuses on exposing the convenient narrative over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as it has been fed to people within and without the United States for more than seventy years.

If the American account of the events is to be believed, Japan was unwilling to surrender even after six years of internecine conflict that had subsumed most of the globe. The bombs were dropped over two Japanese cities as a last, desperate action to stunt the country’s advance and force it to stop. The United States had never comprehended that it would have to resort to a measure as tragic as what happened. The whole thing had been a ‘necessary evil’, that had the full backing of the American people.

ATOMIC ATTACK
A pall of smoke lingers over this scene of destruction in Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 7, 1945, a day after the explosion of the atomic bomb. (AP Photo)

In 1965, this version of the events was taken to the cleaners, by the investigative journalist Gar Alperovitz. Alperovitz’ path-breaking research over the Pacific war is collated in the compendium ‘Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima And Potsdam’, a treatise that has stood the test of time, unlike Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s apologist tome ‘Racing The Enemy: Stalin, Truman, And The Surrender Of Japan’.

It is time to address the myths one by one.

A) ‘Japan Was Forced Into A Surrender’.

In reality, Japan had surrendered a few weeks prior to the cessation of hostilities. It had considered an unconditional capitulation to the Allied Forces, something that American intelligence documents that were only declassified in 1976, have revealed. Here is an excerpt from the document titled ‘Estimate of the Enemy Situation’ that was presented at the Potsdam Conference to the Combined Chiefs of Staff of the United States. The event took place on the sixth of July in 1945, a month before the bombings. “We believe that a considerable portion of the Japanese population now consider absolute military defeat to be inevitable. The increasing effects of sea blockade and cumulative devastation wrought by strategic bombing, which has already rendered millions homeless and has destroyed from 25% to 50% of the built-up area of Japan’s most important cities, should make this realization increasingly general. Although individual Japanese willingly sacrifice themselves in the service of the nation, we doubt that the nation as a whole is predisposed toward national suicide.”

The aforementioned document is significant, in that it goes on to emphasize Japan’s willingness to accept U.S. terms of the former’s laying down of arms. “A conditional surrender by the Japanese government might be offered by them at any time now until the time of the complete destruction of all Japanese power of resistance.”

Furthermore, the report goes on to state, that “Japanese ruling groups are aware of the desperate military situation and are increasingly desirous of a compromise peace.” A month before Nagasaki and Hiroshima faced their fate, American military leadership was well aware of Japan’s anxiety in seeking a surrender.

B) ‘The bombings were a last-ditch effort at reining in the enemy’.

Hardly. As Gar Alperovitz writes in Atomic Diplomacy, in the late April of 1945, American secretary of war, Stimson, wrote a note to President Truman, stating,

“Dear Mr. President,

I think it is very important that I should have a talk with you as soon as possible on a highly secret matter. I mentioned it to you shortly after you took office, but have not urged it since on account of the pressure you have been under. It, however, has such a bearing on our present foreign relations and has such an important effect upon all my thinking in this field that I think you ought to know about it without much further delay.” ~ Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson to President Harry S. Truman, on the 24th of April 1945.

 

President Harry S. Truman
President Harry S. Truman

The secret matter was regarding the Lend-Lease agreement that the United States had been a partner to, along with the erstwhile Soviet Union. Russia – a name that has been used interchangeably with ‘Soviet Union’ – with its contribution to the war effort since the late June of 1941, had suffered considerable losses in manpower and materials. Its devastation cannot be overstated. It had been the wish of the Russian top echelon, that the Americans would forward an indemnity to them in the shape of a loan. The loan that the Russians were looking forward to, amounted to billions of dollars. By the standards of the 1940s, it would have been a gigantic sum of money.

While the Americans were willing to help Russia in her post-war rebuilding efforts, they were increasingly intimidated by her expansionism. The Soviet sphere of influence now engulfed all of Eastern Europe including the strategically crucial location of Poland. Despite being allies during the Second World War, Russia could no longer see eye to eye with her western comrades-in-arms around the time the cessation of hostilities was occurring. After their brief camaraderie while fighting the Axis Powers, the free-economy supporting West split with the Communist Soviet Union, with each going their own way in protecting their interests.

A man charred from the resulting radiation of the bombings.
A man charred from the resulting radiation of the bombings.

When time arrived for the Potsdam Conference, Churchill was pushing President Truman in exacting his pound of flesh from the Soviets, who were clearly no longer perceived as allies of the West, but were seen as an ideological behemoth that was best done away with.

Was there a way in which Russia could be arrested in her advance over the globe especially in Eastern Europe? Perhaps under duress, she could be forced to back down? This duress had to be caused by something magnificent. An astonishing show of technological strength, that would make the Soviets rethink their obstinacy over political matters. Something, that was good enough to warn them, that America – as team captain for the West as a whole – was far superior and thus, not to be messed with.

The absence of moral courage is notable in the demeanour of the leading Americans of the time. Very few, like Roosevelt, actually displayed any. In 1941, when Roosevelt was sticking his neck out in favour of the Lend-Lease agreement – to the tune of six billion dollars – with the Soviets, Senator Truman was shooting down the initiative with these words “If we see that Germany is winning the war, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible……”

The Following Generations Felt an Immediate effect of the radiations. Many chilldren were born deformed.
The Following Generations Felt an Immediate effect of the radiations. Many chilldren were born deformed.

An immediate showdown was how the point men of the United States, planned to rein in the Communist Soviet Union. This is demonstrated with finality by the following paragraph culled from the personal diary of President Truman, in Gar Alperovitz’s Atomic Diplomacy:

“(Secretary of State) Byrnes had already told me…..that in his belief the bomb might well put us in a position to dictate our own terms at the end of the war.” ~ President Harry S. Truman on a conversation with James F. Byrnes in April 1945.

The post-war credit of six billion dollars due to be received by a Russia devastated by war was ultimately withdrawn by the American leadership and two days before he left for the British capital, we have a diary entry by the American Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy, that recorded a conversation that had recently transpired between him, and Truman. Byrnes’ opposition to Stalin and his influence over the decision-making ability of President Harry Truman, was well known to McCloy.

Men were incinerated due to the radiation of the bombings.
Men were incinerated due to the radiation of the bombings.

“Jim Byrnes had not yet gone abroad and I had a very good talk with him afterwards sitting in the White House Hall…..I took up the question which I had been working at up in St. Hubert’s, namely how to handle Russia with the big bomb. I found that Byrnes was very much against any attempt to cooperate with Russia. His mind is full of problems with the coming meeting of foreign ministers and he looks to having the presence of the bomb in his pocket, so to speak, as a great weapon to get through the thing……”

It is notable, that striking a teetering Japan with an atomic holocaust, quite unnecessarily, to end a war that was all but over with Japan seeking surrender on American terms, was never on American minds. Instead, President Truman, and the mastermind James Byrnes, were interested in threatening the Soviet Union through a display of atomic power, in the hopes of containing her and preventing her expansionism in Eastern Europe, and by extent, elsewhere.

It seemed ‘morally right’ to the United States, that Japan be turned into cannon fodder, with millions of innocent Japanese citizens being killed or maimed and future generations inheriting the damaged genetics of their bombed ancestors, if their arch enemy, the Soviet Union, could be contained.

C) ‘There was an overwhelming American consensus over Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s fate’.

This terminal myth deserves a thorough confuting. We have already learnt under what circumstances the Americans were proposing using their atomic technology. Not Japan, but a muscle flexing Russia was the target. John Hershey, author of ‘Hiroshima’ has written “The Atomic Bomb was first of all an intimate, personal, highly individual experience. To walk the streets of Hiroshima today is to be forced to recognize the obvious: A young housewife passes, walking arm in arm with an elderly woman, perhaps her mother-in-law; three schoolchildren, maybe nine years old, scamper up the road; a tired, aged garbage collector makes his rounds. Such people remind us that such people then, individuals, were the ones who felt the experience of Hiroshima; and it was a very, very direct one indeed. Reflect for a moment on the death of a loved one, perhaps a father or a mother; reflect on a moment of personal illness. There is no way to grasp the meaning of Hiroshima, ultimately, to 200,000 individuals. In the attempt, however, it may be possible to begin to break loose from the abstractions to know what nuclear warfare meant, really, to fellow human beings.”

Of the few men in power who could exercise their conscience over the bombing of two Japanese cities, and whose words perhaps reflected the regret of many ordinary Americans who were never asked for an opinion, were the observations of Admiral William D. Leahy and those of Eisenhower. “I was not taught to make war in that fashion” Leahy had noted. As for Eisenhower, he is reported to have felt sick at the thought of the mass destructions of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. “It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing”, was an entry in his personal diary, a view probably echoed by millions of American citizens themselves.

As for Eisenhower, he is reported to have felt sick at the thought of the mass destructions of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
As for Eisenhower, he is reported to have felt sick at the thought of the mass destructions of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

For decades the United States prevented the publishing of photos that had been taken soon after the double atomic bombings of 1945. People around the world, were only privy to a select number of pictures of the catastrophe. Not until the twenty first century had dawned, and the internet became a tool for people-to-people contact, could the public enlighten themselves on the true nature and extent of the devastation wreaked at the aforementioned locations. Up until then, photographers like Yoshito Matsushige and Yosuke Yamahata, who had shot images of the devastation, did not have a chance of displaying the fruits of their labour at anything apart from Japan’s national galleries.

Righting the wrongs of American war history and tackling its propaganda myths that were carefully constructed around the twin bombings in no way means, that Japan’s aggression in East Asia as a member of the Axis Power block, can be absolved of its guilt. The rape of Nanking in China, and other acts of downright barbarism on behest of a false sense of hubris that Japan had been harbouring, are frozen in time as a reminder of Axis brutality.

In a war, there are no true victors, as the axiom goes, but as far as the story of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are in focus, it is safe to quote the Gnostic author Elaine Pagels. She had famously said “It is the victors who write history. Their way”.

Tania is a freelance writer with a masters in defence and strategic studies, who has a wide range of interests.