A Test of my Principles

by fulltimestudent 9 Replies latest jw friends

  • fulltimestudent

    Yesterday, a friend I'd helped with a problem at University came to see me. He wanted to thank me for that help, and gave me a beautifully carved image of the boddhisattva Guan Yin for me to wear around my neck.

    I like the Buddhist Guan Yin story. As a story of sacrifice and compassion it beats the similar Jesus myth hands down. Briefly, the Guan Yin mythology originates in India, where the Avalokitesvara, often pictured as a beautiful young male, (known in India as Avalokitesvara) refused to take the final step to Buddhahood until every last human had taken that step before him.

    As Buddhism reached China, the boddhisattva started to be seen as a woman - Guan Yin, sometimes seen as the Goddess of compassion. The name is understood as short for Guanshiyin, which means "Observing (seeing/hearing) the sounds (cries of distress) of the World". Whereever you may be, and you sob with emotional or other pain, Guan Yin will hear you and comfort you.

    Some Buddhists believe that when one of their adherents departs from this world, they are placed by Guanyin in the heart of a lotus, and then sent to the western pure land of Sukhavati, which as described in Buddhist literature, is so similar to the description of the New Jerusalem in the Revelation. Since this form of Buddhism preceded early Christianity, I wonder whether the author of the Revelation, knew of the 'western paradise'? That author certainly seemed to know about the trading arrangements across Asia (so-called Silk Road) and describes them in Revelation 18:11-20. And, it was over those trade routes that Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity spread, so that person could easily have known about the western paradise and used the information to describe a Christian version.

    As a post-Christian I have no problem in wearing my friend's gift, accepting it as an appreciative thought, and liking the mythology associated with the Guan Yin story.

    But, there is a problem. The gift is made of ivory, and I have some passionate feelings about the ivory trade. The elephant from which the ivory came is dead. Nothing (neither Guan Yin or Jesus) can change that. And, the friendship associated with the gift is alive.

    So I am undecided whether to keep this gift, (which I do treasure) or destroy it as part of my protest at human cruelty, cupidity and stupidity. I feel my attitude to life is under test.

    Worse, this is the second time that this has happened to me. A friend in China (a few years ago) gave me a Buddhist symbol as a gift. Since i knew that person was poor (and ivory is not cheap) I persuaded myself that it was made from bone, not ivory. But, I am feeling that this gift is actually ivory, and I hesitate to ask my friend.

    Not sure what to do next.

    It is generally accepted among East Asian adherents that Guanyin originated as the Sanskrit Avalokitesvara

  • Mum

    If you have negative feelings about the gift, explain them to your friend and ask him/her if he/she wants the gift back.

    Throwing it away would only add insult to injury. It's this way: I own a fur coat, Throwing it away would not help the animal that it was made from. At least in its present form it's useful and beautiful. I bought it used, so I did not participate in the purchase of new fur. If I threw the coat away, it would not change a thing that has already happened.

    Keep the gift and treasure it, or give it back. IMHO.

  • Gopher

    Hard to know. Is it old or new? Was the elephant murdered for its tusk, or was it culled as part of a government-sanctioned hunt?

    Here's an interesting page where the same question was raised and received a wide range of responses:


  • perfect1

    it is very unlikely it is ivory, its probably bone. Take it to a jeweler and have it appraised in you are worried and thinking of throwing it away.

  • Hortensia

    It's unlikely to be ivory, unless it's very old. It's probably bone. Wear it and enjoy it.

  • ldrnomo

    Just wear it, enjoy it and don't worry about where it came from.

  • Lore

    I'm a bit confused about how destroying it would be beneficial.

    The idea behind boycotting things is to make them less profitable to produce.

    You don't buy a stolen computer because you are giving money to a theif. That gives the thief incentive to go steal more. The fact that the theft already happened does not make it ok to purchase it. But only because it gives incentive to the theif.

    If the thief already sold it to someone, he has already gained the maximum profit from it he will ever get. And if the computer gets destroyed after he's already sold it, well all the more better, that's one less used computer flooding the market and possibly one more dude looking to buy a computer.

    If you have a receipt, you could return it, that would harm the vendor selling ivory. But just destroying something after it's already been bought and paid for isn't going to help or harm the poaching industry at all.

  • sooner7nc

    Wear it. Forget about it. It doesn't matter in the greater scheme of things.

  • yadda yadda 2
    yadda yadda 2

    If your friend is a true friend, he/she will understand your principles and admire you for it.

    In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. -Thomas Jefferson

  • fulltimestudent

    Hey! so many thoughts- thnx to everyone that took time to think and post.

    Gopher's link (with many more opinions) had someone's thought that too strong a reaction was 'silly.' Yeah! Maybe, my reactive conscience is a legacy of too many years under the control of Yahweh, the faceless image modelled by the GB.

    I would not throw this gift away - it was such a nice thought on the part of the giver. But I also have passionate feelings about the spread of the 'human rash' that mindlessly destroys other life forms on our shared planet, while at the same time appreciating the problem of poverty that affects humans. Compassion has many fingers reaching everywhere. Yhat's my problem - I'm too idealistic. Which is why I became a JW - it seemed the best way out of the human mess - How wrong I was!!!

    Nothing is simple is it ? Thnx again.

    Here's a pik of a beautiful carving (in wood - hope its not a endangered tree species - grin) of:

    (quote) The bodhisattva Kuan-yan (Guan Yin), Northern Sung dynasty, China, c. 1025, wood, Honolulu Academy of Arts.

    Clearly, in human history many found comfort in this this mythology, just as so many have found comfort in the Christ myth.

    File:Kuan-yan bodhisattva, Northern Sung dynasty, China, c. 1025, wood, Honolulu Academy of Arts.jpg

    PS: and thnx Hortensia for YOUR succinct advice - I'll wear it to class today!

Share this