Ugh. A Little Tolerance, Please!

Last week a court in Myanmar sentenced three bar managers of the VGastro bar in the city of Yangon to two and a half years in prison at hard labor for publishing the above photo on their Facebook page. The charge was "insulting religion".


I've come to expect ugly news from the Middle East and the likes of ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al Qaeda. I accept, but hate, the idea that the likes of Westboro Baptist Church (!) can exist in a country like ours. But finding out that Buddhists can dive off the deep end of fundamentalism just doesn't compute in my head very easily. Just goes to show you the humans have their nature, good and bad, regardless of the labels with which they identify.

A couple of in-depth articles on the Mianmar conviction here, and here. And the Facebook post that has now been edited with an apology and the image removed—comments after are often narrow-minded and one might expect.

A conviction that the truth you live by should be the truth others live by is the first step toward a loss of Liberty For All!

tony's picture

…but it gets political traction.

Science is only 500 years old now, it should be taking hold but religion & hate still work to dominate society, sorry.

That Lawyer in LA is proposing killing all Gays, it's getting international press coverage.

This hate stuff is everywhere. I have a home in Fly-over country and think of California as a haven of freeness, it's a breath of fresh air to land at SFO and take BART (with my bicycle).
Portland, Or. is another little paradise for me, however the rest of the Planet is be careful territory

My wife is an Ordained "Christian" Minister so I see plenty of this bible based crap. In fairness I'll have to say the Blacks are the least hateful people I ever encounter ( it seems ).

Tony in Michigan

ps. My psychiatrist suggests a person has to hate themselves in order to hate. So, if you can't understand it, you don't have it. Good for you.
By the way: it shows in your work

Long time listener's picture

"But finding out that Buddhists can dive off the deep end of fundamentalism just doesn't compute in my head very easily."

So true, but even a way of thought that isn't a religion, like Buddhism, can become institutionalized and take on characteristics of religion for some. Hate, violence, and repression arise when frustration, anger, fear, and insecurity become too strong too control. In a world where cultures are intermixing more than ever, we all seem to be encroaching on everyone else's territory--and creating insecurity and fear. I guess it requires us all to both increase our sense of respect for others but also our tolerance for their differences. And to have the confidence to realize that if your own beliefs are good ones, they'll be recognized as such by others because as they inform your life. Then any threats to your beliefs from parody, humor, or even advertising will hopefully not seem threatening or as just cause for repression.

Smiling Kev's picture

I've been a devout, active Buddhist for more than 50 years. Although some very conservative Buddhists might be a bit irked or offended by an image of headphones on Shakyamuni Buddha [there are many different Buddhas, not just one], many others would laugh aloud. The various accounts of Shakyamuni Buddha's life leave on doubt that he was a very lighthearted man who laughed easily, even in the midst of his urgent pleas for us to treat one another with compassion. A contemporary example of the kind of man he was is His Holiness the 14th Dali Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, who embodies optimism and a hearty appreciation for joy [and a good joke!], although he also strives ceaselessly to stop the eradication of Tibetan culture, the Tibetan people and the exquisitely lovely and peaceful practices of Tibetan Buddhists.

I respectfully encourage you - and others who read about this travesty of justice in Myanmar [also known as Burma] - to inquire more deeply about its roots. There are currently many conflicts in Asia that would seem to pit one religious group against another: Buddhist vs. Muslim; Muslim vs. Hindu; Hindu vs. Chrisian; etc. A closer look, however, reveals that a great many of those conflicts are either longstanding disputes over territory (and other resources) or efforts by some self-proclaimed "prophet" to amass power and wealth by using a terribly distorted version of religion as a facade behind which to hide facism and tyranny.

The prosecutions in Myanmar have nothing to do with Buddhism as it has been practiced peacefully and effectively for almost 2,500 years. The violent and intolerant thugs who are destabilizing Myanmar are no more "Buddhists" than the violent and intolerant ISIS/ISIL thugs who are terrorizing the Middle East are "Muslims."

So, feel free to laugh heartily at the clever images of the Buddha blissfully enjoying his tunes via headphones. I personally think he favors a set of Shure 1540s and has Knife Party's latest EDM album, "Abandon Ship, " on repeat! But also take the time to say a prayer, in whatever form that takes for you, for the safety of good people everywhere on this planet who - on a daily basis and in frightening numbers - are being savagely oppressed by fanatics who try to clothe their abominable behavior in "religious" attire. There is no genuine religion practiced on this earth that condones anything other than an overwhelming commitment to compassionate and charitable treatment of other people. All the rest, for better or worse, is politics, economics, egotism and dishonesty.

End of rant! Back to listening . . . and I think I'll cue up some of Deva Premal's gorgeous renderings of mantras drawn from several religious traditions. Namaste!

zobel's picture

Why not? Knife Party is pretty cutting-edge, but not sure looping the whole album on repeat would be the "middle way". Maybe repeating mantras (like Deva Premal's) would make more sense.

The 14th Dali Lama might want to visit Myanmar and lay some truth on the right-wingers there. Maybe he could help them lighten up a little. He could even go out in public wearing headphones.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Thank you for the lovely post!
atomicbob's picture

Mr. Natural enlightening a young man, to his obvious discomfort. Humor seems to be lacking in a great many inhabitants of this planet. Very sad.

castleofargh's picture

I think there is a wrong interpretation of the facts here.
sure they are very very religious people and buddhism is everywhere. and like in thailand you pretty much have to be a monk at least a little bit if you want education and other stuff(getting married?).
but politic/military has been pushing buddhism a little too much as a mean to look better(pure marketing at this point). and if things are getting better(they really are!), we're still talking about a country that was in the top 10 worst for human rights for a looooong time, I know I learned about that when Aung San Suu Kyi became a little famous to us europeans and I imagine to americans too. so while it's no fun for the guys getting prison for a picture, it's really nothing on the scale of what this country had and still has to go through.
religion is just a pretext for political action here. at least that's how it looks to me.

zobel's picture

...probably due to the complete failure of these Burmese "faithful" to follow his teachings. Closed, full sized, over the ear headphones, possibly noise cancelling, can be a good tool for someone trying to be Buddha-like in that society, or in ours...or in any society for that matter.

I'm somewhat surprised that the government there didn't also prosecute for false advertising, as you can read, they were trying to sell frozen "Mararitas", whatever they are, (and bottomless ones too..scandelous!!!)

xnor's picture

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them...We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

- Karl Popper

When religious or ideological intolerance threatens the freedom or even life of others, we have to speak out against it. Tolerance can only go so far.

Dadracer's picture

I'm not a Buddhist so I'm not about to tell them how to run their religion. On the other hand if the people who created this image were Burmese nationals then did they do so knowing the rules? It might seem unreasonable to those outside Burma and lacking a sense of fun. And yet I don't get the impression in the USA that you see the funny side of people messing with images of the Stars and Stripes?

ednaz's picture

I'm quite a strong adherent to one religion (name is irrelevant to my point) and know and enjoy many people equally strongly adhered to other religions. In my experience, the more deeply held and genuine the beliefs, the less reactive and sensitive the believer. The raging fundamentalists to me are revealing their lack of depth of faith, and IMHO are heretics because their actions are completely against the belief system they claim to defend. It would be a sad and puny God that would need humans to defend it.

IMHO many of the people who are loud, rude, and personal in their comments about a lot of the controversial things in audio are similarly insecure about their expertise. You don't bring people around to your point of view by assaulting them.

To the point on Buddhists - many prominent leaders in the many forms of Buddhism would say that the concept of "violent Buddhist" is an impossibility. Being the first word means you aren't the second, and vice versa. There are so many forms of Buddhism because as it spread, it embraced and adopted significant portions of the existing religion in any place it went.

T N Args's picture

I hope you realise from comments so far that you have made a bit of a a blunder, equating the actions of political/military despots with something being done by Buddhists.

It is exactly because of their gentle pacifism that Buddhism-dominated cultures can find themselves run by anti-democratic, power-crazed nut-heads like you see running Burma and Thailand. Buddhism has a long history of being overrun by violent types, only to integrate with the new rulers of the day and occasionally gradually creep back over them like a hedge on a fence. Only to be overrun again by the next hoard of human locusts. Rinse and repeat.

Never assume that the actions of Burma and Thailand are the actions of Buddhists, no matter what the leaders officially put on their passports under 'religion'.

Itzme's picture

I think if you're beyond a certain age a lot of people have very
little interest in participating on "Social Media sites" for the
fact that the General Populace rarely demonstrates that it has the
"Maturity" & "Open Mindedness" to look at things subjectively enough to have worthwhile discussions with others.

Random ,"off the cuff" comments are pretty poor substitutions for
"thoughtful, measured thinking when it comes to conversing with others .

There's a difference between "keeping things light" & "saying next to nothing" that many people don't seem to get. You've heard the saying "lost in translation" well this is similar only language is
not the barrier; Thought processing is the barrier

TMRaven's picture

Some context needs to be taken here on the location. Given this was in Burma, these guys are lucky they're even living still.

Dreyka's picture

I'm surprised that nobody has said it but what does this have to do with the audiophile hobby? This isn't even really related to music and is instead an issue with the politics of that region.

I just don't think the content is relevant to an audiophile blog. If there is going to be politics here (which I'm fine with) then at least have it relevant to audiophiles.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
It was in my headphone news feeds and rung a bell in my head. That's about all the justification I have. Sorry.
Bobs Your Uncle's picture

I was going to post on current trends in legislation, especially at the state level, but .... Instead I'll leave a quote from George Orwell's classic, Animal Farm:

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

I can't shake the sense that Old Crows are constantly circling, intent upon converging & convening ....

jhaider's picture

Just google "Rohingya" and be depressed for a few days.

Unfortunately these sorts of things generally don't make the news when Muslims are the victims, rather than the perpetrators.

tdockweiler's picture

You should remove that link to the Westboro site. By linking to them you're only helping them out. Googlebot loves high profile links (such as from yours). Or you could add "rel="nofollow" to the link.

olfas's picture

This is just like China judge their own people. No mercy. I've got a bunch of good understanding the whole situation in such countries after reading Dr. Pillsbury's 100 year marathon book. Show must go on.

jamesblanc's picture

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