Works on Paper, 1980-1986

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People who bought this also bought. The News from Nampa 35 superior. That Trungpa alone is shown in a position of fealty is hardly accidental in a tradition where hierarchical gestures are tremendously important. In February, Harper's published "Spiritual Obedience" the title tells all by Peter Marin, a diary of a summer at Naropa, and the first national account of the Merwin story, although Marin, oddly, uses no names. In March, Boulder Monthly published an excerpt from the Sanders report, accompanied by Tom Clark's interview with Ginsberg on the incident.

The Naropans formed squads and bought up every copy. The petition was a flop: even those who loathed Trungpa refused to attack Ginsberg's baby. According to Callahan, "It was a case of party lines, party loyalty, of not losing gigs or giving up a station. To date, Trungpa has made no public statements on the incident, and Ginsberg continues his private lobbying.

The last of them was, until recently, Tibet. The culture of the Indians, as is known, almost certainly came from Tibet, just as all our arts like agriculture, numbers, the game of chess, ete. Perhaps it all did indeed. Divine power has inevitably become entwined with worldly power; there has never been an apolitical religion. Even the wandering mendicant is, in himself, a criticism of the existing political structure.

The actual history of Tibet is as violent and depressing as any other history: the continual rise and fall of warring monasteries and sects, each connected to a noble family; the forging and breaking of alliances; endless vendettas; holy squanderers supported by a miserable majority of landless serfs-and a few great teachers, criticizing and struggling against the worldly excesses of their contemporaries. Tibet until is the mirror of medieval Europe, its Buddhism a rigid and hierarchical institution whose relation to the teachings of the Gautama corresponds to that between the medieval papacy and the guru from Nazareth.

Tibetan Buddhism and the medieval Church: both are defined by the magnificence of their scholarship and art, their legends of exemplary men, and the local anecdotes of sex, greed, exploitation, and debauchery.

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In both cultures the lusty monk is a stock comic figure among the common people. In both, the advocates of reform are swallowed by the institution. This is the tradition Trungpa comes from. If we ignore the exoticism of his Eastern trappings, we might imagine him as a bishop who walked out of a time warp, discoursing brilliantly on Aquinas and Augustine while peddling papal indulgences. Not only has Trungpa walked out of a medieval theocracy into a land full of spiritual junk food, he also comes from a tradition where the teachings are largely transmitted orally-for though Tibetan Buddhism has produced a sea of books, these are mainly mnemonic devices, touchstones, starting points for pedagogical exegesis.

The heart of the religion then, especially in the "active" Nyingmapa tradition, becomes the relation between master and disciple. The typical Christian tale is of miracles and torture; in Tibet, the stories of the saints usually concern the ordeals imposed by the teacher on his student: impossible and useless tasks, senseless beatings-a kind of physical version of the Zen koan, designed to stop the flow of discursive thought in the disciple's mind, allowing him to project outside of the self. Even debates between lamas of equal rank become a physical combat: early The News from Naropa 37 travelers to Tibet were startled by these formal contests where points were made with menacing gestures, foot-stamping, clapping; and where the victor humiliated the loser, sometimes by riding around the room on the loser's back.

Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelukpa order in the fourteenth century, characterized these debates as "contemptuous contradiction": the MerwinTrungpa confrontation, seen with Tibetan eyes, is merely tradition. But Trungpa is not a wise man in the Rockies with a few students. He has taken the ancient master-disciple relationship and-having swiftly deciphered the signs of the times-massmarketed it.

It is at this point that fascism comes into question. Merwin, in his letter to the Sanders team, writes eloquently on the topic There was then, in the Vajradhatu, and no doubt there still is, a jargon peculiar to the sect, in constant use. It began to flow in at once to accommodate what had happened. Force directed from on top, for instance, is a teaching device, a sort of divine sanction; infallible.

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Resistance to it, or any questioning of its aptness is neurosis, and probably aggressive, because it's a "defense of one's territory. If everything is to be explained away, or swept behind a veil as part of an esoteric "student-teacher relationship," then a great deal depends on how much one can trust the teacher, and the teacher's attitude to power, as it manifests itself.

Personally, I think that it makes a great difference whether "surrender" and "devotion" to another human being is an individual matter, or is made part of the functioning of a group.

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I think that's been one of the repeated teachings of political history. Trungpathen, at least, was surrounded by people who were scared to death of him, and he seemed to encourage their feelings of dread, as part of their "surrender" and "devotion" to him Anyway, I wasn't using the word "fascism" loosely. An autocratic set-up using organized force, group pressures, fear and informants to bring about conformity of attitude. And those who surrender their own judgments, in a group situation Naropa and Tilopa, by contrast, were on their own to someone they're afraid of, aren't to be trusted, in my opinion.

Buddhist fascism: the fact that Trungpa has even possibly linked the two words caused Kenneth Rexroth to remark that "Trungpa has unquestionably done more harm to Buddhism in the United States than any man living. A possible answer must begin with disgust at America: after Vietnam, after the failure of the counterculture to produce anything other than some new consumer choices, under the shadow of the Bomb.

Ginsberg: And then I'm supposed to be like the diplomat poet, defending poetry against those horrible alien gooks with their weird Himalayan practices. And American culture! And Burroughs is talking about "democracy, shit! What we need is a new Hitler. They exploded the atomic bomb without asking us. Everybody's defending American democracy. American democracy's this thing, this Oothoon. The last civilized refuge of the world-after twenty years of denouncing it as the pits!

Here are these people invading us with their mind control.

So, yes, it is true that Trungpa is questioning the very foundations of American democracy. And pointing out that the whole-for one thing, he's an atheist. So he's pointing out that "In God We Trust" is printed on the money.

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And that "we were endowed with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Trungpa is asking if there's any deeper axiomatic basis than some creator coming along and guaranteeing his The News from Naropa rights The whole foundation of American democracy on that, and it's as full of holes as Swiss cheese. The longed-for revolution of the 's never happened.