Paul P. Mealing

Check out my book, ELVENE. Available as e-book and as paperback (print on demand, POD). 2 Reviews: here. Also this promotional Q&A on-line.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Interview with a Buddhist nun

Robina Courtin is an Australian Buddhist nun, who’s lived in America for the last 15 years, and runs a prison ‘outreach’ programme, for want of a better term, which she initiated. (Actually called Liberation Prison Project and now also in Oz.)

I saw the movie she mentions, Chasing Buddha, in 2000, at a special screening where the filmmaker, her nephew (about 21 at the time) was present for a Q & A. I didn’t know she was an Aussie when I went to see the movie (I thought she must be American) but the movie opens with this off-screen voice in an Australian accent swearing like the proverbial trooper.

I remember that one member in the audience took offence, during the Q&A, saying she didn’t represent Buddhism at all. I think she’s changed even since the movie was made – in this interview (see the link below) she is less angry, though no less passionate. I can identify with that as well.

She has a very existentialist view of Buddhism, which is very similar to mine. I particularly agree with her existentialist interpretation of karma. Although I don’t agree with her ‘hypothesis’ that our current karma is a result of a past life. But her views on consciousness should not be summarily dismissed, even though they’re contrary to current Western thinking.

This link is only available for the next 2 weeks, and the interview is 55 mins long, but worth the time spent in my opinion. It's the Tuesday 2 June interview in the list. If you download it as an audio file, you can listen to it at your own leisure, but you won't get the musical selections, for copyright reasons.

I can identify to some extent with her childhood, both her attraction to religion and her trauma, though mine was not as intense, but it was soul-destroying or soul-damaging, albeit in a different way.

When you hear her sing, you wouldn’t know it was the same person.


PK said...

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the link. I downloaded the mp3 of her interview, and found it inspiring. I have some rudimentary knowledge of Buddhism, but I'm not a Buddhist, and since I self-identify with another religion, I feel it would be morally inappropriate for me to comment on her version of Buddhist theology, even though, if I did, my comments would be in no way negative or disparaging. What I will say, is that I find her works and the empathy, sincerity and passion reflected therein, immensely admirable, and am grateful for your referral.

Regards, Peter

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi PK,

Yes, she is inspiring, which is why I posted the link. The movie is inspiring as well, if you should ever come across it, in particular, the scenes shot in a prison. From memory it was Memphis, Tennessee (though I could be wrong) which, according to the filmmaker, was the only prison to give them access for filming.

I don't call myself a Buddhist either, but I'm probably more Buddhist than Christian - I have 'disagreements' and 'agreements' with both, for want of a better terminology. I don't believe in Jesus as saviour and I don't believe in reincarnation, which are respective central tenets to both. I actually regard Jesus as more Buddha than the Buddha - no doubt, that will upset people on both sides.

But the Jesus or the Buddha that people believe in, is, at least partly, a projection or reflection of their own psyche, so I admit that's part of my projection.

Regards, Paul.