Friday, March 07, 2008

The Buddha, the Dharma and the Media

It's Friday and I'm clock-watching and poking around some of my book-marked sites. One I've been keeping tabs on lately is The McGill Report, maintained by veteran journalist Douglas McGill. A recent entry, The Buddha, the Dharma and the Media, yielded this gem, so simple yet so solid:

A journalism grounded in Buddhist morals would display two salient traits derived from its moral purpose and methods. Such a journalism would be:

1. A journalism of healing. Buddhism is often not classified as a religion because it teaches no theology, declares no divinity, and requires no faith. Instead, its doctrines revolve entirely around the achievement of a practical goal: “the end of suffering.” Nor is the definition of suffering complex or esoteric. It is ordinary everyday suffering, aches and pains, mental moods and afflictions, sickness and death. On a social level, suffering in Buddhism is defined as any harshness, violence, and division of the community. A Buddhist journalism would therefore be aimed at helping individuals overcome their personal sufferings, and helping society heal the wounds caused by injustice, hatred, ostracism, and physical violence. Such a defined professional purpose would give the Buddhist journalist a measuring stick for each word and story produced: does it help overcome individual and social suffering?

2. A journalism of timely, truthful, helpful speech. A Buddhist journalism would need tools and materials adequate to its healing purpose. The Buddhist “Right Speech” doctrine provides many of them. Right Speech sits midway along the “Noble Eightfold Path,” the Buddha’s prescribed method to reach the end of suffering. The midway place of Right Speech along the Noble Eightfold Path is interesting, because speech is the first action to follow the gaining of wisdom and positive intention, as developed in mediation. By this view, speech is a person's very first chance to act morally in the world. It is followed then in the Noble Eightfold Path by “Right Action” and “Right Livelihood.” Also, very helpfully for journalists, the identifying traits of Right Speech are specifically defined as “timely, truthful, helpful, and spoken with a mind of good will.” Likewise, the five main types of speech to avoid are lies, divisive speech, harsh and abusive speech, and idle and distracting speech.

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