Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Guide in Plain Style

The 2003 book Change of Heart: The Bodhisattva Peace Training of Chagdud Tulku compiled and edited by Lama Shenpen Drolma, and published by Padma Publishing, is a book for those wishing to change their hearts, minds, and the world. It is intended as a guide for the transformation of one’s life and that of others, which can ultimately lead to contentment and peace. A high school English teacher of mine suggested I read this book, as an interest in religious studies, particularly Buddhism, and meditation had sparked in me. This book is written at a 9.9 grade level and is therefore a generally reader-friendly read, perhaps more so for those at a high school reading level and above. Since this book functions as a guide or manual for peace training and meditation based practice, several plain style rhetorical devices are utilized. Devices such as exemplum, meaning a specific or concrete example is provided to further explain the text’s implications, distinctio, or providing the meanings of specific words to prevent ambiguity, and conduplicatio, or repeating a key word from a preceding sentence near the beginning of the next sentence or paragraph. These devices provide for a clear, accessible, and fairly smooth reading of the text. The significance we can formulate then is that the compiler aims to provide a practical reading of peace training while simultaneously taking into account the ethical implications of her language use.
Throughout the excerpt I have chosen from the text, the compiler appears to continually and conscientiously guide the reader through understanding what peace training consists of as if to ensure the reader that they will be able to successfully practice what is put forth. The compiler does this by using inclusive language, such as the word “we,” along with the clear consideration of “others.” A sensitive, sensible tone is prompted in return. This is exemplified in the following sentences:
We begin with the sincere wish to benefit others as much as ourselves. Recognizing that they want to be free of suffering and find happiness as much as we do, we seek ways of caring equally and simultaneously for ourselves and others. Over time, we expand the scope of our motivation, increasingly placing others’ needs before our own. (Drolma 5)
            Chagdud Tulku was a Tibetan meditation master who ordained Lama Shenpen Drolma as a lama in 1996. Lama Shenpen Drolma collaborated with Chagdud Tulku on several books and eventually compiled his teachings into the book I am now discussing. This information provides an outlook on the credibility of the editor, Lama Shenpen Drolma, and the person, Chagdud Tulku, she has drawn and compiled the spiritual practice from. These people can be trusted by those, especially in South America, who have experienced extreme corruption and violence. It is also tailored to just about anyone who wishes to find peace and contentment in their life, as I mentioned in the beginning of this writing.
Many of Chagdud Tulku’s teachings took place in various places around South America and the United States. The audience that attended his oral deliveries mainly consisted of students as bodhisattva’s or people who are motivated by a great sense of compassion that wish to attain Buddhahood. The term bodhisattva is also clarified further later on in this paper. The audience for the book however, likely consists of a wide range of people from a wide range of places in the world afflicted by the world’s seeming chaos. These people also consist of those who simply wish to change their hearts and minds for the sake of peace and contentment.
Focusing on the compilation of this text, we take into consideration the factors that went into the arrangement, which involved taking oral delivery and transferring the information into a written delivery. In doing so, I suspect the compiler must have had to condense much of what was delivered orally, as Chagdud Tulku must have communicated his practice many times equaling many hours of advice. This required the gathering of ideas communicated orally and in turn, caused an appropriation or setting apart to occur in the process of writing these ideas down in a clear, concise manner. In effect, the ideas most likely weren’t changed, but the overall delivery of the product could have been affected. For example, we don’t get to hear Chagdud Tulku’s voice or inflection of his words and the structure of his sentences. We instead read what Lama Shenpen Drolma has gathered and written of what Chagdud Tulku has spoken. This could result in the emphasizing or de-emphasizing of certain phrases or ideas reformulated in the text. Accordingly, the reader’s reaction to the teaching, compared to the attendees’ reaction, could be affected as well. In example, according to his students, Chagdud Tulku in his oral teachings stressed the idea that the bodhisattva students be compassionately motivated when spiritually practicing, whereas Lama Shenpen Drolma perhaps went so far as to de-emphasize that idea by emphasizing the idea that the reader simply focus on practice and usage of the spiritual methods provided in the book. This could be due to the fact that Lama Shenpen Drolma wished to make the book accessible to an audience of more variety than just Chagdud Tulku’s students.
            The guide is written concisely, yet not oversimplified to the extent that the reader is either offended or bored by the reading. Again, certain rhetorical devices mediate the concision. An example of exemplum is present, “Like mending a hole in our pants by sewing on a patch, we must use the methods of the spiritual path to stitch our understanding to the fabric of being” (Drolma 4). The compiler uses metaphor within a concrete example in this case to further explain the text’s implications. Distinctio is also found in the writing, “Bodhi refers to wisdom mind, which is completely selfless. Sattva can be translated as “hero” (Drolma 5). The compiler clearly provides the meaning so as to ward off any ambiguity that might initially be present when referring to the term “bodhisattva.” Conduplicatio is also applied:
We cultivate boundless, unbiased compassion—not just for our children, friends, parents or associates, but for all beings alike, without preference.
Such compassion—the desire to alleviate the suffering of all beings equally—is part of the meaning of the Sanskrit term “bodhitsattva.” (Drolma 5)
In this case, the key word “compassion” is repeated in close proximity.
            After an in depth look at the way rhetorical devices, inclusive language and gentle guidance are employed, the cultural function of the text becomes clearer. Both Chagdud Tulku and Lama Shenpen Drolma intend to make an impact on the lives of those struggling with corruption and violence, as well as on those who simply wish to find peace in what at times seems to be an ever more chaotic world. The desired outcome is to create a more peaceful outlook on life, living and loving across a plane of diverse beings. The desired outcome is given in the following sentences:
If we are to fulfill the short-term goal of resolving conflict, and the ultimate goal of eliminating all our flaws and making evident our positive qualities, we must rely on spiritual methods. Intellectual understanding alone will not make possible the profound inner peace that can influence others. (Drolma 4)
            In conclusion, the use of the rhetorical devices I mentioned above, inclusive language and gentle guidance create a safe space for a diverse set of readers to explore the potential of peacekeeping that they possess. To further this conversation, I would like to take into account the question of whether or not this kind of guidance book would be an acceptable classroom tool used for teaching and practicing peace not just in South America, but in the United States as well.


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