The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
Dec. 22 th 2016
I will answer this question at least in part through Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Nine Billion Names of God” (first published 1953). This story gave English language readers, and, in my case, broadcast media consumers a nuanced view of Buddhism which made a very amusing and at the same time compelling argument that it was something other than a religion and at the same time had powerful explanatory powers for dealing with the seeming incontestability reality of both the world and suffering. In the case of Ruben Habito’s class, which was delivered to us in audio, visually-interactive, manner, on two giant 7x 4 meter screens and which also allowed him to see and the class to speak to each other as if we were in the same room, even though at the time he was either in real time in a Zen Center or in his academic office somewhere in the Philippines. I feel that this technology of knowledge is emphatically a legitimate adaptation of the dharma, first on a pragmatic level, particularly in terms its ethical impact on the planetary environment, and also ecological as opposed, for example, to have brought us all together in any physical sense from our various non-UW-Eau Claire points of origin. I am not arguing the cost is negligible in terms of fossil fuels, environmental impact, and lost-opportunity capital costs but as a delivery system to present sixty or so of us students brought from at least as far away as Scotland with the perspective of someone who was ordained as a Jesuit priest, a Buddhist educator, and a Doctor of Philosophy. The delivery system was transparent but in no way invisible. I claim a certain expert knowledge among other things on the ethical impact of web based electronic educational delivery systems since that was the topic of my non-doctorial CAGS (Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies) dissertations at UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies. Yes I would argue that the medium-part of this class was a legitimate adaptation of the dharma.
However we are not done yet, and though Canadian Marshall McLuhan argued that “the medium is the message,” in the case of Dr Ruben Habito we must go farther than this pronouncement and actually deal with the content of his message, particularly the answer he gave me to one of my questions as if I we were act actually speaking to him nd one hour and forty five minutes later I became the messenger carry his message one floor up to Hibbard Hall room 222 where my seminar with Dr. Pace on Trans-Atlantic Transcendentalism and social action was being conducted.
I felt a very strong subjective connection to Ruben Habito’s thorough his 7×4 Metter educational technology delivery system when he invited me gigantic image and all to become part of the discussion in way including me in the discussion even if it meant abandoning my handicapped access straight back chair to sit on a swivel seat which my 340 pound bulk and sore old wrestlers knees found excruciating painful, but I like to think he asked me to walk the path with. The camera image projected on the screen was of him in an office full at least a thousand books. I know I have been a book seller for forty years. .
The question I asked him w.as what books were his favorite in his office and held up the Christian Bible, and I don’t think that he was speaking of that as being a symbol of his former life. He made it clear that though he is inactive status he still had a certain in the case of necessity perform his priestly duties. To Ruben Habito was professor, priest, Jesuit Buddhist were all part of what he is and might be but clearly he was now biblical literalist in any protestant, but I suspect that form his catholic feeling of social justice, responsibility and sensitivity to gender issues he would make a pretty good “Protestant Buddhists in the 19th century British sense.
There was one last thing he showed us it was another little book in his office but it was more of a pack of papers tied with a string he said it was something very important, and he used it often. That statement drew me into my second question revering to entry on Koan from page 426 of the Buddhist Encyclopedia, which being only four pages long had a Koan like effect on me. ( Its strange as I go off to pick my wife up at a meeting in the winter darkness of the shortest day of the year I simply assume that I will come back to continue, know everything changes. And I am back though we almost got in a snow bank and our driveway is very slippery with rain covered ice.)
As I was saying the key point that Ruben Habito’s clarified for me was the difference between a discursive understandings a text for his purpose a logical rational reason approach to a small unit of a selected text usually illustrating a problem is the mode of perception. The intuitive then means a perception of text other than through the intellect. Perhaps one might think it like the Hebrew Bibles Madrash This lead me to turn my own work in progress, From Maypole To Whipping Post The Letter A:in The Scarlet Letter, The Customs-House Section page 23 of the Amazon Kindle Edition as the narrator experiences the letter in way that transcends, leaps even beyond rationality.
“My eyes fastened on the old scarlet letter and they would not be turned aside. Certainly the was some deep meaning in it most worthy of interpretation , and which stem forth from the Mystic symbol , subtly communicating with my sensibilities, but evading the analysis of my mind..”[i]
Thus Hawthorne’s privileging of the intuitive in the voice of this speaker at least as he comes in contact that which is both letter object and as he states on page 271 of the main body of the text fails in the office was to perform still as an object and as Hawthorne would continues to command the readers and discussion 166 years after its publication.
Yet I am not writing a testimonial to Ruben Habito’s position as technological attractive it because as I remember his answering of questions perhaps the most interesting thing he did was not really answer certain question perhaps the most would be this. Did he consider himself to be a Jesuit priest and a practicing Buddhist Sangla simultaneously and was he walking the path to Salvation and Enlightenment at the same which would appear to me that the two paths were not mutually exclusive . His answer was we will what happens when we die. This is a kind of begging of the question. Also I contend that if he was still a Jesuit priest then at least wit issues like Gay rights abortion and birth control his position would put him at least in standing of moral error as far as the central Catholic Church or at least it would seem so to a lay theologian. Of Ruben Habito’s position course as I think was one of our quiz their there is no Buddhist equivalent to the Roman Catholic pope, and within Buddhist doctrine the path to becoming the Dali Lama is through reincarnation rather than election which to me is a philosophical difference in kind, As I reflect on the way he spoke last week it was almost as if he was speaking as two separate entities at the same and the biggest question that did really not get answered was this. Is the Buddhist path to Enlightenment through seemingly infinite incarnation it every conceivable sentient creature the same path as a single life as in the Roman Catholic theology and as this line from the official Roman Catholic “The Nicene CreedI look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.” http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/. Now a week later I realize that at least from a his position as a Roman Catholic priest Ruben Habito’s seemed to be grounded in an the correct translation so in the end I think one could say yes at least as far Western Buddhism is a legitimate adaptation of the dharma.