I don’t watch a great deal of TV apart from the news and the occasional documentary, but last night I saw a TV ad that reminded me of why we in the west are still a long way from understanding happiness.
An ad for the Virgin Fibre Broadband service was highlighting how frustrating it can be when online media stutters and pauses while buffering. Now, call me Mary Whitehouse, but as I watched David Tennant grab a baseball bat and smash the buffering icon in the middle of the screen into a thousand virtual shards, I had to wonder about the message this sent out.
“Don’t be stupid” you cry, “it’s only pretend… nobody got hurt”. But I beg to differ. This TV advert is so utterly at odds with every teaching of the Buddha, it can bring no benefit to anyone. I’m reminded of Shantideva’s opening verse in the Patience chapter of the Way of the Bodhisattva:
All the good works gathered in a thousand ages,
Such as deeds of generosity,
And offerings to the Blissful Ones–
A single flash of anger shatters them
How quickly our lives can be destroyed by a momentary lapse of reason. When not crushed through mindfully observing oneself, anger stains us forever and builds a dark cancer in our heart.
While we might think that anger is at the root of our worst behaviour – it’s not. Our desires are at the root of our worst behaviour. Our desires overwhelm us to such a degree that, like a red mist, nothing between us and our perceived goal, seems to matter as much as our attainment of that goal. It is the red mist that is our anger.
From Vigilant Introspection (also Shantideva)
Wondering where it will, the elephant of mind,
Will bring us down to torment in the hell of Unrelenting Pain.
No worldly beast, however wild and crazed,
Could bring upon us such calamities.
Every thought, view, opinion, or mental state that undermines the cohesion between our subconcious and conscious mind are afflictions – the blundering around of the elephant of the mind. Anger, lust, pride, greed, avarice and so on, are all such afflictions – they are wholly destructive to our happiness, and are the kernel of all unethical conduct – our worst enemy.
His Holiness The Dalai Lama has spoken much of Anger, but once of his more succinct remarks goes like this:
Anger is the real destroyer of our good human qualities; an enemy with a weapon cannot destroy these qualities, but anger can. Anger is our real enemy.
Howsoever the focus group concerned with this ugly piece of salesmanship rationalised it in their minds, they knew it is wrong. Even if the thought had not crossed their minds, it would have been there – a small voice in their heart – repressed through their desire to support their own perceived praiseworthiness. I feel genuine pity for the people concerned, not out of piety, but out of compassion that they feel anger is so benign that is can be used to promote a gadget used by, well, children!
When violence and anger can be so sublimated into everyday advertising, and we do nothing about it, how can we complain when violence erupts?