Wagner and Buddhism

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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Mkoll » Sat Aug 16, 2014 12:00 am

Zhen Li wrote:
MKoll wrote:But if you think the Buddha manifests himself in music, then I'm probably barking up the wrong tree here. :P

Well, as a pureland practitioner, I certainly do believe that.

Interesting, I didn't know that.

So is this a common belief in the Pure Land school? Is it a common belief in other schools as well?
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Aug 16, 2014 1:11 am

Mkoll wrote:
Zhen Li wrote:
MKoll wrote:But if you think the Buddha manifests himself in music, then I'm probably barking up the wrong tree here. :P

Well, as a pureland practitioner, I certainly do believe that.

Interesting, I didn't know that.

So is this a common belief in the Pure Land school? Is it a common belief in other schools as well?

Pure Land isn't, strictly speaking, a school, in exclusive doctrinal isolation from other schools. It operates on the same fundamental principles as all of Mahayana Buddhism: Prajnaparamita and Tathagatagarbha. The Buddha manifests everywhere, and nowhere. :sage:
kirtu wrote:I was a supernumerary in several operas at the Kennedy Center in DC for the Washington Opera - this naturally affected my opinion

That sounds like a fun job. Did it affect your opinion for the better or worse?
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Mkoll » Sat Aug 16, 2014 1:21 am

Zhen Li wrote:Pure Land isn't, strictly speaking, a school, in exclusive doctrinal isolation from other schools. It operates on the same fundamental principles as all of Mahayana Buddhism: Prajnaparamita and Tathagatagarbha. The Buddha manifests everywhere, and nowhere. :sage:

So the Buddha manifesting in music is a common belief in all Mahayana?
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Aug 16, 2014 1:44 am

Mkoll wrote:So the Buddha manifesting in music is a common belief in all Mahayana?

Like I said, doctrinally in Mahayana, everything is a manifestation of the Buddha. As for beliefs, that's individual, some people believe the Buddha was an alien, so how can anyone make universal statements like "everyone believes X?"
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Mkoll » Sat Aug 16, 2014 1:50 am

Zhen Li wrote:
Mkoll wrote:So the Buddha manifesting in music is a common belief in all Mahayana?

Like I said, doctrinally in Mahayana, everything is a manifestation of the Buddha. As for beliefs, that's individual, some people believe the Buddha was an alien, so how can anyone make universal statements like "everyone believes X?"

So it sounds like you're taking the doctrine "everything is a manifestation of the Buddha" and applying it to the feelings you get from listening to music. Got it.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Aug 16, 2014 2:05 am

Mkoll wrote:So it sounds like you're taking the doctrine "everything is a manifestation of the Buddha" and applying it to the feelings you get from listening to music. Got it.

:rolling: Either everything is or isn't.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Mkoll » Sat Aug 16, 2014 2:40 am

Zhen Li wrote:
Mkoll wrote:So it sounds like you're taking the doctrine "everything is a manifestation of the Buddha" and applying it to the feelings you get from listening to music. Got it.

:rolling: Either everything is or isn't.

So you think the Buddha manifests in evil things like rape, murder, and torture too. Gotcha.

:rolleye:
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Aug 16, 2014 2:58 am

Farts, poops, vomits, too. There are fundamentally no good or evil, near or far, manifest or unmanifest.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Hieros Gamos » Sat Aug 16, 2014 5:18 am

Zhen Li wrote:no good or evil

OK but for those of us who are lucky if we can stay with insight for ten seconds we need more than that. If I'm already an accomplished heart surgeon and I just have to realize it would you let me operate on your child?
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Ayu » Sat Aug 16, 2014 9:09 am

kirtu wrote:Out of curiosity what do you object to in Parsifal?

I don't like Wagners pathos. It doesn't touch me well.
And in my mind Wagner is linked to megalomaniacs like Hitler and King Ludwig II. Because Hitler was a great fan of Wagner and without the help of his patron King Ludwig II of Bavaria Wagners Art would not have been published in that time. Both, Hitler and Ludwig, were somehow megalomaniac - this is fixed in my mind as a pair: "Wagner & megalomania". :shrug: Sorry. This doesn't fit good to the ideal of buddhism. Buddhism means for me "humility & compassion".
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From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Aug 16, 2014 2:57 pm

Hieros Gamos wrote:
Zhen Li wrote:no good or evil

OK but for those of us who are lucky if we can stay with insight for ten seconds we need more than that. If I'm already an accomplished heart surgeon and I just have to realize it would you let me operate on your child?

Upaya is employed for dealing with affairs in the world. That the Buddha interacted with humans on a mundane level was performed as a kind of phantasmagoria. I think this is explained best in the Ratnagotravibhāgomahāyānottaratantraśāstram. But fundamentally, we were talking about the question of the manifestation of Buddhas everywhere, I wasn't suggesting a livelihood.
Ayu wrote: "Wagner & megalomania". :shrug: Sorry. This doesn't fit good to the ideal of buddhism. Buddhism means for me "humility & compassion".

Part of compassion is also being able to step into another's shoes, being able to empathise and understand people by putting ourselves in their perspective. If we do this, we will always find that categorising individuals with a single Freudian term is wrong, and not very Buddhist to do. Every person has humility and compassion in them to varying degrees. Also, how can we truly understand someone, if we don't take the time to listen to them? Since you're using a Freudian term here, I thought you would have at least known that listening to someone is the most important part of diagnosing them.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby kirtu » Sat Aug 16, 2014 6:48 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
kirtu wrote:I was a supernumerary in several operas at the Kennedy Center in DC for the Washington Opera - this naturally affected my opinion

That sounds like a fun job. Did it affect your opinion for the better or worse?


I had to be talked into it by a friend who acted as a supernumerary for the Washington Opera and who was interested in German. The Deutsche Oper Berlin brought Goetz Frederick's famous "Time Tunnel" Ring cycle to DC in 1989. My friend had the idea that it might be helpful to have a couple of German speaking Americans in the opera. He took me to what I thought were auditions but were in fact immediate blocking and staging by the director. The supernumerary manager for the Washington Opera had already said that I couldn't perform as she had a list of alternate supernumeraries and I'd have to do a real audition, etc. She had called all the supernumeraries present and anyway a supernumerary is a real position in German opera. The Deutsche Oper Berlin was letting DC supernumeraries in their production and only had a couple of German supernumeraries (who were in fact directorial/staging apprentices). On my way out I had to cross the large rehearsal room to get my gym bag. Half-way across the room the director grabbed me and began blocking. I was there for two hours. He was not a man that you could easily interrupt to explain that I wasn't supposed to be there. We explained the problem to the same Washington Opera director and she said "If he blocked you then you're in." So that was my direct exposure to opera (but not theater - I had acted and won an award for a small German-American theater in Nuernberg). As it turned out my friend's intuition was correct: In Goetterdaemmerung the actor playing Siegfried fell wrong so consequently the blocking was off for the funeral bearers. I was one of the four funeral bearers and the only American. All three German guys reacted negatively to this event and the head of the team (who did minor staging himself during the performance) had seconds to give us changed directions. He began in English (which I thought odd as away from the opera I took at least two of the team including him out to clubs and we almost only spoke German) and then immediately changed to German. Then we executed the changes flawlessly. They complimented me at the end because this was a real problem - any errors on stage can clearly be seen in the audience - and they were professionals and I wasn't. Later I realized the director had grabbed me at the initial rehearsal because I was the same height and age and had the same look as the other funeral bearers and this was the first thing he blocked. The older friends of mine were in the audience and commented on the fact that we looked alike. And carrying a 200+ lbs person offstage on our shoulders without looking silly, we pretty much have to be the same height.

I was in many operas after that my last being in the late 90's (2-3 a year or so). Then the Dot Com boom and bust took all my attention.

I'm still not a fan of opera music itself. But it works with the setting and drama in a way that other forms of singing or poetic delivery cannot. So my experience as a supernumerary affected my view of opera positively. And most of the time it was fun (although getting yelled at by a director occasionally or a chorus member who is also performing when things aren't going well in rehearsal is not).

Contemporary opera in particular has opened some real possibilities. While we can read Feynman and Openheimer and others for the drama of the first atomic bomb test, or watch excellent movies (Infinity for example) these do not draw people in sufficiently and often fail to completely transform the observer into a participant as an opera like "Doctor Atomic" can. To me opera also seems to provide a rarely matched vehicle for moral analysis.

So the idea of Buddhist opera is not so far fetched. It was just surprising that the first example (after Ashvaghosha, who's works after all were not and could not have been operatic) was Wagner. I agree that this needs to be given some consideration. There are unique theatrical forms found in many cultures: Noh and Kabuki in Japan, Chinese opera, there's a kind of unique Korean theater which is sung poetry with traditional Korean music, etc. These expressions may be more or less a fundamental expression of the underlying patterns of thought and experience of a particular culture rather than just learned forms.

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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby kirtu » Sat Aug 16, 2014 7:58 pm

Another advantage of opera is the use of symbolism for dramatic effect. At the same time the symbols can form a dialogue with the audience advancing the ideas that the composer/writer/director wants to discuss.

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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby kirtu » Sat Aug 16, 2014 8:56 pm

Ayu wrote:
kirtu wrote:Out of curiosity what do you object to in Parsifal?

I don't like Wagners pathos. It doesn't touch me well.
And in my mind Wagner is linked to megalomaniacs like Hitler and King Ludwig II. Because Hitler was a great fan of Wagner and without the help of his patron King Ludwig II of Bavaria Wagners Art would not have been published in that time....Buddhism means for me "humility & compassion".


Ludwig II still gets bad press unfortunately. However after being pushed into the Austro-Prussian war in 1866 he vowed that Bavaria would never again enter war and it mostly didn't until 1914 (well it was forced to fight for Prussia in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War).

Ludwig II basically withdrew from politics in 1871 after the establishment of the German Empire. His ministers didn't care for his actions or his building projects (some of which can be seen as make work projects during an economic depression) and of course had him declared insane. Shortly thereafter he and the main physician involved in the declaration of insanity drowned in less than 6 ft of water at the Starnberger See (Ludwig II was over 6 ft tall).

I think Ludwig II can be seen from different angles. He can be seen as a patron of the arts and architecture. Personally my reading of him doesn't support megalomania but this is one of the ways he has been portrayed. As for the truth, that remains elusive.

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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Aug 17, 2014 3:44 pm

Kirt, thanks for sharing all of this interesting information. You're certainly a fascinating person. I also agree with you on the use of symbols, while theatre and opera can both hide symbols visually and in dialogue, music can encode even more subtle messages about the story. I think the best example, at least as far as my knowledge goes, is the Magic Flute, the music of which encodes masonic symbols, some very complex. Of course Wagner is certainly the pioneer in this regard with leitmotif, which, I think history and the test of time have shown, are a very useful technique, which in no way degrades the quality of music. Wagner is really the grandfather of film music, which is certainly often of better quality than some operas being put out these days.

As for Ludwig, Hitler etc. I never really saw this as an issue with judging Wagner. He wasn't Ludwig's babysitter, and Hitler was born six years after he died. As Walter Benjamin says, an accurate view of history must be premised upon the ignoring of the passage of time between the present and the past event - for Wagner, the only history that exists is everything that came before him. He's situated in space and time, not an eternal ghost - which we as Buddhists should be first to realise.
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Re: Wagner and Buddhism

Postby Ayu » Sun Aug 17, 2014 6:18 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
Ayu wrote: "Wagner & megalomania". :shrug: Sorry. This doesn't fit good to the ideal of buddhism. Buddhism means for me "humility & compassion".

Part of compassion is also being able to step into another's shoes, being able to empathise and understand people by putting ourselves in their perspective. If we do this, we will always find that categorising individuals with a single Freudian term is wrong, and not very Buddhist to do. Every person has humility and compassion in them to varying degrees. Also, how can we truly understand someone, if we don't take the time to listen to them? Since you're using a Freudian term here, I thought you would have at least known that listening to someone is the most important part of diagnosing them.


:smile: Good point.
If I seemed to judge about Wagner in general, I apologize. I wrote about my personal feeling and taste.
If you find one person who is able to listen to Parcival in full although he doesn't like the music... congrats.
:shrug: I can't.
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
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