Friday, September 30, 2005

What Exactly Did He Say?

Monday I took advantage of my Santa Rosa commute to visit Spirit Rock Buddhist meditation and retreat center in Marin. I went to their regular Monday evening dharma. This evening hosted a special guest, A.T. Ariyaratne (Ari), billed as “the Ghandi of Sri Lanka”. Jack Kornfield, very well known among my more Berkeley/spiritual friends, hosted.

Ari was super charismatic. In a cute, high pitched voice, he told us about the meditation session he led with 650,000(!) people in attendance, on the importance of practicing loving-kindness as a first step towards erasing barriers between people and fueling compassion. A high-impact guy.

He then explained that when he led groups of volunteers in paving roads between villages in Sri Lanka, people asked him why he uses manual labor and doesn’t use bulldozers. Because, he said, we’re not building the road, the road is building us…

Sounds great, but Ari was slowly beginning to personify in my eyes the reasons that countries like Sri Lanka remain so poor.

IMHO - when you use the latest in medical technology – which they slowly are – you get to population growth at a scale that forces you to use other modern technology such as bulldozers. You can’t really avail yourself of one while disdaining the other.

But the other 499 people in the room didn’t seem to feel the same way. They were eating it up.

Finally Ari expounded on his views on abortion. Abortion prevents a soul from incarnating. The soul remains angry and hovers over, trying again and again to be born. The people that were killed suddenly in the world trade center – their spirits still hover their because the suddenness of their death prevents their reincarnations. Back to abortion: Ari adamantly stated that it’s an act of violence and should never be done unless the life of the mother is in danger.

The overwhelmingly pro-choice room fell silent, so Jack Kornfield transliterated

“Ari is against late term abortions” he said.

That certainly didn’t sound like what he said. Why couldn’t Kornfield let Ari speak for himself? Ari didn’t correct him. I think he realized we all understood what he really meant.

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