Thursday, April 8, 2010

PBS Does Shoddy Job on "The Buddha"

PBS aired a special called “The Buddha” last night that purported to tell the story of Buddha’s life and the subsequent development of Buddhism throughout the world. Filled with inaccuracies and anecdotes from unqualified speakers, the special wound up providing an often confused portrayal of my religion.

Not only did it spend entirely too much time on Tibetan monks whose belief system is arguably the farthest from Buddha’s teachings, it also ignored Zen and the message it teaches. Below I have compiled a hasty list of inaccuracies I noticed off the top of my head. Feel free to discuss, dispute, disparage or disintegrate:

Special claimed Buddha’s final words were something to do with working untiringly. He actually said, “Be a lamp unto thyself.”

Special claimed the woman who offered Buddha a bowl of rice at the river mysteriously appeared, when in fact she was at that river daily doing laundry and took pity upon him when she saw him wondering around after having realized there is a Middle Way.

The Dalai Lama said Buddha “failed” when he experienced sadness for an entire day upon hearing about his old kingdom being slaughtered by an invading army. Any Zen Buddhist will tell you he did not fail. Emotions are to be experienced until they run their course. If we hold onto them, we form an unhealthy attachment. If the duration of the feeling is an entire day, then let it run for that day.

Special claimed several holy men proclaimed that Siddhartha would grow to be either a great king or an enlightened one...actually, only one monk made this proclamation.

Special claimed that the first person Buddha encountered thought he was nothing special and disregarded him with no mention of the alternate version of the story where the person did indeed see something special and asked if he was a god. The Buddha answered, "No. I am awake."

Special claimed that Buddha died a final death and attained Nirvana with no mention of Mahayana Buddhist belief that no enlightened one would attain a personal Nirvana while the rest of the world suffered.

No mention was made of the fact that Buddha’s followers immediately began arguing over his message following his death.

I am sure there were more but Richard Gere might do a Scientology on me if I keep going~


~Autumn said...

I have been toying with the idea of doing some research on Buddhism. It's interesting that PBS would have some inaccuracies. Not shocked mind you, no one's perfect... but from what you listed, and if there's more you didn't, that's not good.

ca nadeau said...

I really felt that it was set up to make the Tibetan form of Buddhism look good.