Springingtiger's Blog


Intolerance and Slaughter

I have begun my year by reading once again the biography of Milarepa edited by WY Evans-Wentz. I don’t know how many times I have read this nor my other books on Milarepa, but he is ̶ like St. Francis of Assisi ̶ one of my favourite sources of inspiration. As I am also just now ploughing my way through Genesis, it is nice to have something elevating to read as an antidote to the grubby materialism of Abraham and his forbears.

I have been reading again the death of Milarepa. I love his calmness, good nature and generosity of spirit in the face of adversity and death. However there is nothing sugary sweet about Milarepa’s sanctity, like St. Francis he is uncompromising with himself, robust in his criticism of the failing of others and compassionate in his concern for their welfare. As Milarepa learned from his guru Marpa the Translator it is not kind to treat another too gently for fear of upsetting them. Marpa subjected Milarepa to harsh trials to enable him to burn off the hold his past actions held on him. The young Milarepa was a very accomplished magician when he came to Marpa and needed to get the arrogance, violence and anger knocked out of him so that he could properly follow the path of meditation,

I find it a little sad to contrast Milarepa’s concern for all beings with the fierce and violent partisanship of the Old Testament and the God of the Old Testament’s delight in slaughter, encouragement of slavery and lack of regard for creation in general and humanity in particular. Today’s reading concerned the birth of Ishmael, claimed by some to be the father of the Arab peoples and the condescending contempt God has for the child of Abraham’s slave and his descendants. The contrast with ancient India is marked when we look at the acceptable ways a king might find to secure his succession when deprived of normal means.

I find the materialism and partisanship of Yahweh depressing. He is a tribal God in conflict with the Gods of the other nations in the area who has a desperate need to establish his position by having his followers defeat, slaughter and enslave the followers of his rivals. Sadly this same conflict is still being acted out in the Middle East by the adherents of the tribal Gods of the region. Ashtaroth, Ra and Baal may have gone, but the followers of Yahweh, Allah and Jesus Christ maintain the traditions of intolerance and slaughter. I can’t help but feel that the descendants of a common father (mythologically at least) must be able, with a little humility, to find a way to coexist.

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