“Gendered Imaginings of ‘Courage’ and ‘Compassion'”…and President Thich Nhat Hanh?

Via Reverend Danny Fisher
on Oct 17, 2009
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Over at Religion Dispatches, writer Ryan Croken offers a really interesting piece about “gendered imaginings of ‘courage’ and ‘compassion’” and the seeming “incompatibility of spiritual intelligence with political viability.”   There are also some interesting observations in there about the role of monasticism–represented pictorially by the two spiritual titans above (Thomas Merton and His Holiness the Dalai Lama).  The author begins his exploration with an interesting hypothetical:  a presidential race between the former U.S. President George W. Bush and the Very Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh.  He writes:

To probe the root causes behind the separation of enlightenment and state, imagine (for a moment) an impossible yet illuminating hypothetical: Thich Nhat Hanh is running for president against, say, George W. Bush. This historic campaign would undoubtedly give rise to many important, superficial issues, but perhaps one question above all others would seize the electoral imagination: is Hanh “tough” enough for the job?

The standard metrics would be employed. Does he eat the flesh of dead animals? Has he recently threatened or condemned a Third World nation? Does he enjoy sports in which strong, sweaty men frequently smash into one another? As soon as the American public learns that Thich Nhat Hanh’s favorite pastimes include sitting quietly, smiling, breathing, and drinking tea, Hanh ’09, “The Right Man for the Present Moment,” would be done for. The gentle monk would be branded a sissy and sent back to his commune in France.

The fearless Zen master may have the courage to set himself on fire to put an end to war; but for this very reason he would be considered weaker than George W. Bush, a man who has earned his masculine credentials through his resolute yearning to send other people to war.

Read the rest here.


About Reverend Danny Fisher

Rev. Danny Fisher, M.Div., D.B.S. (Cand.), is a professor and Coordinator of the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at University of the West in Rosemead, CA. He was ordained as a lay Buddhist minister by the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California in 2008. In addition, he is certified as a mindfulness meditation instructor by Naropa University in association with Shambhala International. A member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains, he serves on the advisory council for the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program. In addition to his work for elephant journal, he is a blogger for Shambhala Sun. He has also written for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Religion Dispatches, The Journal of Buddhist Ethics, The Journal of Religion & Film, Eastern Horizon, New York Spirit, Alternet's Wiretap Magazine, and other publications. His award-winning website is http://www.dannyfisher.org


One Response to ““Gendered Imaginings of ‘Courage’ and ‘Compassion'”…and President Thich Nhat Hanh?”

  1. Very interesting. These two guys, Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh are both on my " Need to learn a lot more about" list. So it's enjoyable to see them in the same photo together.

    Also when I woke up this morning I had a half-baked piece in my head about The Bhagavad Gita and how it's been used, paradoxically, as a justification for both war and pacifism. So coming upon your article fit right in.

    Bob Weisenberg