For the past 10 years I’ve been more into studying Judaism than my old Buddhism. Not that I’ve stopped studying Buddhism, it is just that the subject matter expanded and my old critique of religion in general “The Three powerful enemies” kept expanding until I realized it was a universal critique.

The Three Powerful Enemies Are Alive and Well

Recent events reminded me that the three powerful enemies are alive and well. Perverse, ambitious, attention seeking religious “leaders” still like to pretend that they are even-minded, high minded, or caring individuals and pretend to be offering objective facts, or inciteful critiques, or panaceas for people’s ills; when in fact all they are doing is trying to figure out a way to make cents from people’s dollars. I’ve been trying to make sense of it all, but it really makes sense now. How can I fault a person for needing a business model for his religious beliefs. After all the traditional idea behind the buddhist monk was that he’d give away his dharma to followers, and the followers would in turn give him something to eat. The issue becomes when he has nothing to give, or what he gives isn’t very good — does he or she still deserve to be fed? Well, for most of us it’s “don’t quit your day job.” But you can’t fault people for trying.

Learning from Our Own Suffering

The Jews do that part right. Christians make people priests and sometimes make them pretend they are holy people, when all they really should be is ministers to the church and community. The past month I’ve learned more about what it means to be a “minister.” Somebody has to bury the bodies and console the bereaved when people die, and that is the appropriate job for priests [as a classification] even as much as it is for them to marry young folks, and celebrate birthdays, parties and some kinds of holidays. Churches, Synagogues, Community Centers, mosques, they are there to form communities around. And Rituals are there to help people observe what is important to them. When they don’t do that they are empty things like an old pot whose plant died long ago. Even if a ritual puts people to sleep it is comforting because it is done with people.

Greatness is in Humaneness

And a great person is great because of the greatness of things he does. Which to me is things like helping the sick, helping the dying, and comforting the bereaved. The rest is all adornment. Does the Divine really care how people imagine it?

Sages Agnostic

I stopped being a Christian largely because of a debate I had with G-d. I’d say “where are you G-d?” What have you done for the people I care about? What are these miracles you talk about? I haven’t seen a burning Bush, and you don’t answer my questions.” Still, the divine tugs at me. At times I hear powerful arguments that arise from within. I am no sage. I am a common mortal. I don’t know if it is God, the divine within, the ineffable one, my subconscious. There is something to the concept. Just, God is not someone I can own, manage, or even prove exists. I’d be a “pretend” human being if I argued atheism or theism. I hope Universe is, or will be, awake.

Three Powerful Enemies as a Universal

But the truth of Nichiren’s warnings about the three Powerful enemies are greater than any particular religion:

“Miao-lo summarizes these three as follows:

  1. “The arrogance and presumption of lay people” or “arrogant lay people; a reference to those ignorant of Buddhism who curse and speak ill of the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra and attack them with swords and staves.”
  2. “The arrogance and presumption of members of the Buddhist clergy” or arrogant priests. ”These are priests with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked who, though failing to understand Buddhism, boast they have attained the Buddhist truth and slander the sutra’s practitioners.“
  3. “The arrogance and presumption of those who pretend to be sages” or arrogant false sages. “This third category is described as priests who pretend to be sages and who are revered as such, but when encountering the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra become fearful of losing fame or profit and induce secular authorities to persecute them.
  4. In On “The Words and Phrases,” Miao-lo states,

    “Of these three, the first can be endured. The second exceeds the first, and the third is the most formidable of all. This is because the second and third ones are increasingly harder to recognize for what they really are.”

    The thing I learned from Buddhism is that these are not merely “external enemies” but internal ones to pretty much any religious, political or even philosophical endeaver. Arrogance and presumption are a function of fundamental delusion and illusion, and are present in any of us potential. The only real guard against these enemies, is assiduous study, practice and validation of one’s spiritual behavior. Even real Sages, can act as false sages. That was my lesson learned. Worse, arrogant priests and lay leaders can distort what an actual sage said and turn it into something else, either by misquoting, misattribution, the arrogance of editors, or the simple “doctor play” of oral transitions. I learned that reading on T’ien-t’ai Buddhism and Buddhist history. The very effort to qualify the issue as being “false sages” is an attempt to distance the issue from the sources translating the writings.

    First written on 10/29/2011, original sources were in my own saved materials.

    Post Script, since I started this, the Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu, probably deeply embarrassed by the ugliness their dispute showed, came to a resolution of their fight and decided to act like it never happened. I’m pleased to see this. But it was a display of the three powerful enemies at work.

    The horrible lesson is that even genuine sages and sincere scholars, can mislead people and push them away from achieving enlightenment. It is up to us individually to find our own way, yet we need wise and enlightened sources, because illusion and delusion, illogic and bad logic, are all over. This website is aptly named “Fraught With Peril” because reaching enlightenment is a fraught with peril enterprise.

All through 2011 and for the following years I followed the amateur scientists who monitored what was really happening at Fukushima. The reactor didn’t just meltdown, the reactors in some cases flashed and exploded. These were equivalent to massive dirty bombs. And the radioactive material was scattered around the world on the winds, and is still flowing into the seas nearby last I checked. A friend invited me to blog about this at Fukushima Emergency What can we do and I have blogged there. I’m glad too. The facebook sites one tries to comment at tend to get overwhelmed with trolls and bad moderation. But we covered a lot what happened and I learned a lot from the amateurs and some nuclear scientists who were following what was actually happening. It is still dangerous. I drafted this post in 2012. It is still dangerous.

I’ve been reading the book “How Nations Fail,” which is about the importance of well constituted republican institutions in maintaining society. It talks about extractive versus inclusive institutions and how they either improve society or destroy it. Extractive institutions concentrate and waste resources and the capital produced when resources are turned into wealth that can be used as capital.

“Institutions are “inclusive” when many people have a say in political decision-making, as opposed to cases where a small group of people control political institutions and are unwilling to change. They argue that a functioning democratic and pluralistic state guarantees the rule of law. The authors also argue that inclusive institutions promote economic prosperity because they provide an incentive structure that allows talents and creative ideas to be rewarded.”

This essentially is part of the argument for why Democratic and Republican institutions are needed in our country. And an argument why dictatorships, Libertarianism, and oppressive systems like “managed democracy”, fail.

Written in 2012/06/26, updated 12/16/2018