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February 24, 2010 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Oprah interviews Vietnamese peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh. The results may surprise you.

"A peace song based on a poem of Thich Nhat Hanh's was one of several widely used in every province of South Vietnam as teams travelled to explain and sing about 'Do Not Shoot Your Brother':"
Our enemy has the name of hatred
Our enemy has the name of inhumanity
Our enemy has the name of anger
Our enemy has the name of ideology
Our enemy wears the mask of freedom
Our enemy is dressed in lies
Our enemy bears empty words
Our enemy is the effort to divide us.
Our enemy is not man.
If we kill man, with whom shall we live?
James H. Forest, The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (Netherlands: International Fellowship of Reconciliation, 1978), 12
posted by shii (69 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oprah: Beautiful. Now I'm going to ask just a few questions about monkdom. Do you exercise to stay in shape?
posted by Joe Beese at 8:43 AM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


The results may surprise you.

Oprah beats up Thich Nhat Hanh?
posted by stinkycheese at 8:53 AM on February 24, 2010 [12 favorites]


Thich Nhat Hanh beats up Oprah?
posted by slater at 8:58 AM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


They beat each other up and then end up doing it?
posted by Artw at 9:00 AM on February 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


Thich Nhat Hanh expresses his love for Katie Holmes?
posted by mrbarrett.com at 9:00 AM on February 24, 2010 [13 favorites]


The results may surprise you.

I don't think you should approach this with any concept of "result".
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:00 AM on February 24, 2010 [16 favorites]


Mindfulness, walking meditation, nonattachment, continuation in other forms, compassion ... I like Thich Nhat Hanh but that was about exactly what I expected.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:01 AM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm almost to the end. No one tell me the surprising part...I don't want it ruined for me.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:03 AM on February 24, 2010


spoiler alert--Oprah gives him a car.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:04 AM on February 24, 2010 [55 favorites]


Self-immolation?
posted by gc at 9:10 AM on February 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


Mindfulness, walking meditation, nonattachment, continuation in other forms, compassion

Right? It's like, dude, time to get some new material. Or at least punch it up with some ventriloquism or something.
posted by everichon at 9:10 AM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, anyone else imagine Casey Kasem saying, "The results... may surprise you"?
posted by gc at 9:12 AM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Look under your seat! Everyone's getting enlightenment!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by betweenthebars at 9:13 AM on February 24, 2010 [112 favorites]


The results may surprise you.

Are you talking about Oprah's overall tone of acceptance and respect for a non-Western / Christian spiritual practice? Otherwise, not sure what you meant by that, since Thich Nhat Hanh's side of the interview is consistent with everything else I know about him.
posted by aught at 9:15 AM on February 24, 2010


Great, another TNH post.
posted by m0nm0n at 9:16 AM on February 24, 2010 [20 favorites]


Another example of why I will fly to Oprah's defense when all around me are hating on her. She takes an audience that the mainstream has dismissed being consumers of pap 'n crap, and bestows to them spirituality, art, literature, and culture. After being nauseated by 45 seconds of Michael Savage's willfully ignorant rantings on the radio yesterday, this simple explanation of mindfulness and compassion delivered to Oprah's mass audience calms and heartens me. Dismiss this for being Zen Buddhism 101, but who else is able and attempts to bring it to so many? Go Oprah!
posted by squalor at 9:18 AM on February 24, 2010 [37 favorites]


Is he in line for the Tonight Show in five years?
posted by gcbv at 9:19 AM on February 24, 2010


SPOILER: Oprah is on the cover of this month's O...again.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:21 AM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


SPOILER: At the end of the interview, Thich Nhat Hanh vigorously jumps up and down on the couch. Except on the third bounce there's a blinding flash of light and he vanishes, replaced by a lotus flower which falls to the ground with a solemn and unnatural slowness. Later, every copy of the latest printing of The Secret Oprah was planning to distribute to the audience crumbles simultaneously into dust.
posted by griphus at 9:21 AM on February 24, 2010 [26 favorites]


No. Chin isn't big enough for that, gcbv.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:22 AM on February 24, 2010


Thich Nhat Hanh: I'm all for peace. It's kinda my thing. But even more than peace, I'm all for PALIN/BECK 2012, WOOOOOO!

Jesus, that WAS a surprising result.
posted by shmegegge at 9:23 AM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


She tears off a piece of her $11ty-billion all-Godiva-chocolate set and hands it to him as a parting gift.
posted by blucevalo at 9:25 AM on February 24, 2010


Thich.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:26 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


She takes an audience that the mainstream has dismissed being consumers of pap 'n crap, and bestows to them spirituality, art, literature, and culture.

Also all manner of pseudo- and anti-science. She's probably more culpable than Jenny Jenny McCarthy for pushing the antivax nonsense, because she's the one funding the publicity.
posted by CaseyB at 9:27 AM on February 24, 2010 [13 favorites]


I believe I have a copy, at home, of the Tao Te Ching, as translated by him.

This changes everything, which is to say, it doesn't.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 9:28 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised she didn't do it over a jerky Skype connection. Does that count?
posted by notmydesk at 9:32 AM on February 24, 2010


They ate each other up. They ate each other ALL up.
posted by Artw at 9:42 AM on February 24, 2010


> The results may surprise you.

Jay Leno's taking his job?
posted by ardgedee at 9:45 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


gc : anyone else imagine Casey Kasem saying, "The results... may surprise you"?


Well, I wasn't, but now that you've stuck it in my head, I'll be walking around the whole damn day doing an impression of it.

I'll let my coworkers know who to thank...
posted by quin at 9:47 AM on February 24, 2010


The results may surprise you

It was all made up and the books are being recalled?
posted by fire&wings at 9:49 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


She takes an audience that the mainstream has dismissed being consumers of pap 'n crap, and bestows to them spirituality, art, literature, and culture.

Like The Secret and Jenny McCarthy's BS? You're so right, we need more media moguls cum homeopathic doctors. They make the world a better place.
posted by OmieWise at 9:51 AM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oprah :: intellectual discussion of topics

as

Jenny McCarthy::Nobel Prize in Medicine.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 9:56 AM on February 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's actually kind of a cool interview, minus most of what Oprah says. He talks a bit about his feelings in the past, like sadness and anger.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:57 AM on February 24, 2010


She takes an audience that the mainstream has dismissed being consumers of pap 'n crap, and bestows to them spirituality, art, literature, and culture.

Like The Secret and Jenny McCarthy's BS? You're so right, we need more media moguls cum homeopathic doctors. They make the world a better place.


I don't think there's an easy answer here. Oprah's explorations of spirituality — specifically Oprah's Soul Series — have included many hours of discussions with bona fide, non-charlatan thinkers and teachers (Eckhart Tolle, Jon Kabat-Zinn) many of whom offer a message that desperately needs to be heard in the consumerism-drenched media environments where Oprah's ability to be watched and heard is second to none. But it's also, sadly, led her into pseudoscience. I want to celebrate the openness and honesty of the personal quest she's clearly on, but then again, you can't deny that this openness is damaging when it involves helping dangerous anti-MMR hysteria, and the like, reach a much wider audience.

And of course the messages of Tolle and others are rather at odds with, say, giving everyone on your show a free car.

It's a difficult call, but narrowly, I think the world is a better place for having Oprah Winfrey in it.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:04 AM on February 24, 2010


Oprah is the Golden Child?
posted by electroboy at 10:04 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The results may surprise you. . .

Oh shit, please don't tell me Oprah has a penis.
posted by The Bellman at 10:04 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't send your negative energy out into the universe like that OmieWise - it bounces back and wrinkles the Armani.

Thich Nhat Hanh I like though.
posted by vapidave at 10:07 AM on February 24, 2010


The facehugger lays the eggs and then the alien bursts out of the chest. It's not *that* surprising.
posted by codswallop at 10:09 AM on February 24, 2010


Is Tolle a non-charlatan?
posted by ServSci at 10:13 AM on February 24, 2010


Who's Oprah?
posted by GernBlandston at 10:13 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is Tolle a non-charlatan?

Yeah, I think so. A populist repackager of Buddhism & Hindu spirituality, etc, in a very accessible way. I kinda wish he wouldn't sell endless re-repackaged versions of his stuff, which probably encourages a certain type of troubled person to buy every new one in the hope of finding an Amazing Secret Hidden Message, but that's partly just an inevitability of doing what he does in the context of consumer capitalism. Anyway, it's a long distance from, say, claiming that homeopathy works, or that MMR vaccines cause autism.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:16 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


it bounces back and wrinkles the Armani.

Armani does not wrinkle. Ever.

It stresses.
posted by Skygazer at 10:17 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


thanks g.w.t.t.e.r., while I've seen him talk on the TV I haven't read the books personally, and couldn't get past some of the feel-good new agey language he uses (at least in the interview in question)
posted by ServSci at 10:29 AM on February 24, 2010


She takes an audience that the mainstream has dismissed being consumers of pap 'n crap, and bestows to them spirituality...

'Spirituality' like The Secret, where God/the Universe is a mail-order catalog operator standing by to deliver any kind of consumer pap 'n crap your heart desires?

But, isn't there also an air of snobbery that comes along with anti-Oprahism? Yes.
posted by AlsoMike at 10:29 AM on February 24, 2010


It's a difficult call, but narrowly, I think the world is a better place for having Oprah Winfrey in it.

I was curious, so I googled around to find Oprah's charitable contributions, and they seem to be quite substantial. In more than one place she's listed as the most generous entertainer, although it's not clear to me if this counts all disbursements from her foundation, for which she covers the operating costs, but that other people donate to.

I do think it depends how you weigh these things in the balance, though. I tend to think that the anti-vaccine bullshit does a lot more harm than people being introduced to Tolle etc. does good, especially when the consumerist message of her show puts her spiritual aspirations in a very definite second place. This may be partly because I count the loss of understanding and belief in science that her pseudo BS leads to in the debit column. Given the shocking and quite rawly physical power that science has to affect people's lives, I think decreasing scientific literacy at the level at which she's doing it is a pretty big deal.
posted by OmieWise at 10:30 AM on February 24, 2010


The results may surprise you.
He is not the father.
posted by govtdrone at 10:31 AM on February 24, 2010 [10 favorites]


I neither crave nor avoid surprises. I also try and avoid attachment to television shows, with somewhat less success.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:39 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who's Oprah?

She's the one trying to get her audience to not drive while texting or talking on the phone. Personally, I hope she succeeds.
posted by quin at 10:40 AM on February 24, 2010


Metafilter: cynical über alles
posted by LakesideOrion at 10:41 AM on February 24, 2010


The results... (puts on sunglasses) ...may surprise you.

YEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH
posted by andreaazure at 10:42 AM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


MeTa.
posted by homunculus at 10:42 AM on February 24, 2010


A populist repackager of Buddhism & Hindu spirituality, etc, in a very accessible way.

The thing is, I feel like neither of these spiritual traditions can or should be repackaged in an accessible way. Most people have the problem of not going nearly deep enough into the teachings and philosophy. I don't know much about Tolle, but from his Wikipedia page it sounds like he's heavily influenced by the right stuff:

"Tolle acknowledges that he has been influenced by the writings of Meister Eckhart, Advaita Vedanta, A Course in Miracles, the Bible, mystical Islam, Sufism, and Rumi's poetry, as well as Zen Buddhism's Linji (Rinzai) school. As an adult he found deep understanding in the New Testament, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching and teachings of The Buddha."

I kind of feel like an honest teacher would avoid writing endless rehashes of his books and getting rich off of it, and instead say something like, "Here's your reading material - please finish this curricula and then come to me for questions and further insight." How can you improve on the Gita or the Tao Te Ching? Are you really helping people achieve enlightenment by selling them dozens of cliffnotes versions of these primary texts? Maybe you are, okay. Really I might just be a snob.
posted by naju at 10:54 AM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think what's missing with Oprah (and by extension, most of the Maui, Marin County, Sedona, and the rest of the vortex-inhabitants) is a critical approach to spirituality. I respect those who are open to new ideas, and who are exploring less mainstream approaches to life, theology, or spirituality ... but I hate that science and reason are concurrently tossed aside.

I'd love Oprah so much more if once in awhile she would just jump up and yell bullshit! at a few snake oil salesmen.
posted by kanewai at 11:12 AM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


I kinda wish he wouldn't sell endless re-repackaged versions of his stuff, which probably encourages a certain type of troubled person to buy every new one in the hope of finding an Amazing Secret Hidden Message...

You don't make money off Siddhartha, you make it off Govinda.
posted by klanawa at 11:21 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


[Disclosure: I have a one-degree-of-separation connection to the author of the book I link to below.]

The book Reading with Oprah: The Book Club that Changed America argues that the titular club has had a positive impact on American culture. I don't know that I necessarily agree with the thesis. What little I've seen of the club has involved lots of people feeling very validated and optimistic, a condition I regard as a sort of creeping pestilence with a candy coating. I prefer it when people look at things with cold, morbid objectivity, bleakly humorous detachment, or outright disgust. Though I suppose positive feelings have a place, even in the world of books.

Anyway, the point is... This book mounts a serious, carefully thought out argument and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. For example, the author points out that Oprah is criticized for exercising mad control over literary taste, but that the New York Times book reviews do the same thing and no one says anything about it.
posted by Clay201 at 11:34 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It turns out that he also wrote that poem about an old man from Nantucket.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:43 AM on February 24, 2010


Metafilter: The results hamburgers may surprise you.
posted by panboi at 12:41 PM on February 24, 2010


Say what you want about Oprah's zombie horde (and I have), but I have trouble mustering that much any hate towards Oprah herself.

By all accounts she had it pretty rough growing up: raised by a single mom, raped at 9, pregnant at 14. To overcome all that and be where she is today... pretty amazing stuff.

She started at $0 and now sits at an estimated $2.2 billion. Gotta tip your hat to that.
posted by Exploding Gutbuster at 12:57 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


There once was a man from Nantucket
Who upon realizing that in saving all beings in all possible worlds from the chain of causation, no beings were, in fact, saved,
Said to himself, "Well, fuck it".
posted by everichon at 1:00 PM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: No Beings Were, In Fact, Saved.
posted by Mister_A at 1:04 PM on February 24, 2010


Metafilter: Cold, morbid objectivity, bleakly humorous detachment, or outright disgust
posted by The Whelk at 1:19 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


naju: The thing is, I feel like neither of these spiritual traditions can or should be repackaged in an accessible way. Most people have the problem of not going nearly deep enough into the teachings and philosophy.

Ditto the Mega-Church Christians and the Maddona-esque Kabbalah devotees, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

Here is a pro-tip, people: Religion, philosophy, life, none of these have a "Dummies" book, and anybody who tries to pretend they do is lying to you so that they can steal from you.
posted by paisley henosis at 1:23 PM on February 24, 2010


All I meant by "the results may surprise you" was that it's a genuinely refreshing interview free of self-help pap, and that the stories Nhat Hanh related touched me personally. I don't know whether I expected that claim to result in a fruitful discussion here on MeFi.
posted by shii at 1:31 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here is a pro-tip, people: Religion, philosophy, life, none of these have a "Dummies" book, and anybody who tries to pretend they do is lying to you so that they can steal from you.

I disagree quite strongly, especially where Buddhism and Vedanta are concerned. The real teachings are stunningly simple; the cash lies in complexifying them and pretending that you have to follow some bullshit multi-stage system to get there when in fact you're already here, now.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 2:06 PM on February 24, 2010


Yeah, the core of Buddhism is pretty easy to break down and doesn't require that you believe anything that you can't personally experience, so if that's made accessible by someone, I can't really argue against that.

OTOH, some of the Buddhist-based stuff, including some of HHDL's and TNH's writings, is soooo watered down and obviously geared towards a Western audience that it's the literary equivalent of baby food. I think authors who grew up in the West, like Pema Chodron or Alan Watts, have the benefit of being able to interpret without diluting it too much.
posted by desjardins at 2:35 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: creeping pestilence with a candy coating
posted by sneebler at 6:52 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Self-immolation?
Is that supposed to be funny? I would suppose you are alluding to Thích Quảng Đức, his dear friend who immolated himself in protest of the Viet Nam war, but I am not seeing why that is clever. Please explain, I apologize for not understanding.
posted by jcworth at 7:38 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's probably about the car.
posted by A189Nut at 12:40 PM on February 25, 2010


Lovely, uplifting and inspiring. Thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 1:28 AM on February 26, 2010


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