Actors go to Hell?

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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby octathlon » Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:28 am

If anything, this is more relevant today, not less. The art forms are now much more sophisticated and even better at manipulating and evoking the emotions and passions. Plus some of the actors we have now -- political talk show hosts -- generate huge amounts of delusion, fear, and outrage in their audience, who get addicted to it and keep tuning in for more, and spreading it to others. It's easy to see this behavior leading to hell.
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:22 am

I would take issue with the generalization that theatre, in all forms, serves only to increase the veils of delusion in others, or to stir up emotional tempests. That's simply an inaccurate statement. Theatre over the ages has served different functions (depending on what genre we're talking about). In some cases, as with medieval morality plays, it was designed to teach lessons of virtue and vice. I think it was Samuel Johnson who said the purpose of theatre was to "entertain and instruct".

In ancient Greece, it provided a means for viewing existential problems with discernment. Aristotle argued that the function of drama was to help people become less entrapped by their emotions and better understand reality. Theatrical "catharsis" refers to a kind of purifying or cleansing (this is what the word "catharsis" literally means) which enables clear reflection to take place. In the modern period, Berthold Brecht said that theatre can have a distancing effect which strips away the fantasies that reinforce the existing power structures and allows people to look at society with a critical/dispassionate eye.

To put Shakespeare, Chekhov and Euripides in the same boat as Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck seems to me like a gross oversimplification. The goals of serious theater are directly opposite to that kind of demagoguery.
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby octathlon » Thu Dec 16, 2010 3:05 am

Lazy_eye wrote:To put Shakespeare, Chekhov and Euripides in the same boat as Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck seems to me like a gross oversimplification. The goals of serious theater are directly opposite to that kind of demagoguery.

Hi Lazy Eye,
If you read my post, I said that the admonitions are even more relevant in today's entertainment than in the Buddha's time. I didn't mention the time of Shakespeare, Chekhov and Euripides. Also, I used the political talk shows (and I should add in Keith Olbermann to avoid seeming to only include the right wing) as examples of the more dangerous types of entertainment today, in terms of the negativity and even violence that they promote. So I don't understand why you interpreted my post that way; it was not meant to say the things you attribute to it at all. So, do you disagree with anything I actually said? (fine of course if you do, but you were arguing against stuff I didn't even say).
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Dec 16, 2010 3:18 am

octathlon wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:To put Shakespeare, Chekhov and Euripides in the same boat as Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck seems to me like a gross oversimplification. The goals of serious theater are directly opposite to that kind of demagoguery.

Hi Lazy Eye,
If you read my post, I said that the admonitions are even more relevant in today's entertainment than in the Buddha's time. I didn't mention the time of Shakespeare, Chekhov and Euripides. Also, I used the political talk shows (and I should add in Keith Olbermann to avoid seeming to only include the right wing) as examples of the more dangerous types of entertainment today, in terms of the negativity and even violence that they promote. So I don't understand why you interpreted my post that way; it was not meant to say the things you attribute to it at all. So, do you disagree with anything I actually said? (fine of course if you do, but you were arguing against stuff I didn't even say).


Octathlon,

You wrote that "the art forms are now much more sophisticated and even better at manipulating and evoking the emotions and passions" and then compared theatre to political talk shows. The meaning I got from this was that you were using talk show hosts to support the general principle that art is bad for you -- in other words, you were mounting a kind of straw man argument by offering the worst possible examples.

Was that not the case?

And Chekhov is modern period, by the way.

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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby Jason » Thu Dec 16, 2010 3:32 am

I find the idea of a literal "hell of laughter" laughable.

I think it should be kept in mind, however, that when the Buddha talks about hell (niraya), he's often talking about unpleasant or painful painful mental feelings "like those of the beings in hell" (AN 4.235). As I've mentioned elsewhere, I think the Buddha held a more nuanced position than a lot traditionalists believe. For example, David Kalupahana notes in his book, Buddhist Philosophy, that:

    A careful study of these concepts of heaven and hell, gods and evil spirits, reveals that they were accepted in Buddhism as regulative ideas or concepts only. The fact that they are merely theories based on speculation is well brought out it certain statements by the Buddha. To a Brahman who questioned the Buddha as to whether there are gods, the replied, "It is not so." When asked whether there are no gods, the Buddha’s reply was the same, "It is not so." And finally to the Brahman who was baffled by these replies, the Buddha said, "The world, O Brahman, is loud in agreement that there are gods" (ucce sammatam kho etam brahmana lokasmin yadidam atthi devati). The same is the attitude of the Buddha with regard to the concept of hell. In the Samyutta-nikaya he is represented as saying that it is only the uneducated ordinary man (assutava puthujjano) who believes that there is a hell beneath the great ocean. According to the Buddha's view, hell is another name for unpleasant feelings (dukkha vedana). [The first reference is MN 2.213, the second is S 4.206]
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby octathlon » Thu Dec 16, 2010 3:42 am

Chekov is pre-TV and movies. Before the modern forms of entertainment I'm talking about.

My opinion is posted above where it can be read as many times as necessary until it becomes obvious that I didn't equate movies and theatre with political talk show hosts. But I did say that both of those evoke emotions.

To clarify: I said we EVEN have these talk show hosts. As in: Not only are the movies nowadays really good at evoking the emotions and passions (which BTW is what they are designed to do after all), but we even have these other actors/talk show hosts who evoke really strong negative emotions in their audience. I hope that is clear now.
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby pulga » Thu Dec 16, 2010 4:29 am

"The ripening of action, monks, is unthinkable, should not be thought; for one thinking (it) would come to madness and distraction." Aiv, vii, 8

But how much of what is contained in the Suttas is put into jeopardy by that admonishment?
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Dec 16, 2010 4:30 am

octathlon wrote:Chekov is pre-TV and movies. Before the modern forms of entertainment I'm talking about.

My opinion is posted above where it can be read as many times as necessary until it becomes obvious that I didn't equate movies and theatre with political talk show hosts. But I did say that both of those evoke emotions.

To clarify: I said we EVEN have these talk show hosts. As in: Not only are the movies nowadays really good at evoking the emotions and passions (which BTW is what they are designed to do after all), but we even have these other actors/talk show hosts who evoke really strong negative emotions in their audience. I hope that is clear now.


Ok, then, so who exactly is going to hell? Talk show hosts? Hollywood stars? Shakespearean actors? The Manhattan Rep? Since you say the teaching is more relevant today than before, perhaps you can clarify how it should be applied?
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby octathlon » Thu Dec 16, 2010 5:02 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Ok, then, so who exactly is going to hell? Talk show hosts? Hollywood stars? Shakespearean actors? The Manhattan Rep? Since you say the teaching is more relevant today than before, perhaps you can clarify how it should be applied?


Hi Lazy Eye,
I just gave my opinion that the teaching is "if anything, more relevant today, not less" in response to someone suggesting that it might not be relevant today. Of course you don't have to believe in it, or anything else. I'm not here to try and convert anyone.
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby cooran » Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:51 am

pulga wrote:"The ripening of action, monks, is unthinkable, should not be thought; for one thinking (it) would come to madness and distraction." Aiv, vii, 8

But how much of what is contained in the Suttas is put into jeopardy by that admonishment?


None whatsoever. You didn't give the full quote. It simply means that attempting to work out of the results of kamma is so complicated that it would bring madness and vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. This is one of the famous Four Unconjecturables which the Buddha taught about.

Acintita Sutta AN 4.77
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby Annapurna » Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:06 pm

Individual wrote: I seem to vaguely recall a certain modern Theravadin monk who ran a blog -- can't remember his name... It was dhamma-something or something-dhamma.

Anyway, despite being an ordained Theravada monk, he stated that he still watched films and television from time-to-time because his interpretation was that modern artistic works have a capacity for enlightenment that was not found in ancient times, where the acting and comedy was something like vaudeville.


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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby Annapurna » Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:20 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:I would take issue with the generalization that theatre, in all forms, serves only to increase the veils of delusion in others, or to stir up emotional tempests. That's simply an inaccurate statement. Theatre over the ages has served different functions (depending on what genre we're talking about). In some cases, as with medieval morality plays, it was designed to teach lessons of virtue and vice. I think it was Samuel Johnson who said the purpose of theatre was to "entertain and instruct".

In ancient Greece, it provided a means for viewing existential problems with discernment. Aristotle argued that the function of drama was to help people become less entrapped by their emotions and better understand reality. Theatrical "catharsis" refers to a kind of purifying or cleansing (this is what the word "catharsis" literally means) which enables clear reflection to take place. In the modern period, Berthold Brecht said that theatre can have a distancing effect which strips away the fantasies that reinforce the existing power structures and allows people to look at society with a critical/dispassionate eye.

To put Shakespeare, Chekhov and Euripides in the same boat as Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck seems to me like a gross oversimplification. The goals of serious theater are directly opposite to that kind of demagoguery.


Very good points.

I have wept in movies, but not because I had only emotions stirred up, but because I experienced an expansion of my understanding, enlightening moments, and the ensuing thoughts triggered a cleansing process manifesting in tears, a mix of shame, gratitude, and hope.

I do need hope.

:anjali:

So I think it also depends on what is staged, and with which intention.

But who knows.
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby adosa » Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:30 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Isn't that Laurence Olivier over there on the left?

Image



Nope. Only comedians. I think that's Bob Hope.


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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby Hoo » Thu Dec 16, 2010 3:03 pm

No one asked for my view, so here it is anyway - chuckle. I did years as a musician, did a tiny bit of acting, and eventually grew to be a media artist as my preferred expression of the "artistic compulsion." :) So I guess I get to pick my hells out of the many that are available to me.??

It's been hinted several times, if not said outright, that the arts are like anything else. It is their use that makes them wholesome or unwholesome, conducive to the goal or to distraction, etc. If an actor stands on a stage, uttering lines that she has learned, to no audience, in what way is she distracting others from the path? Is she stepping off the path herself? And who are we to make that judgement. The artist usually has an urge related to his/her art...to compose, perform, create or interpret, for example. That urge is no different than the urge to eat. We can eat, speak, act, etc., mindfully or not.

The other point the Buddha made seems to agree with this. He commented that the actor that believes he is going to the land of laughing Devas by his acting is expressing Wrong View - and it is Wrong View that leads to Hell.

And what of the audience? Are the audiences any less kamma-inflicted than the performers - they choose to go and escape from reality, through the laughter, distraction, etc.

JMHO, but art is not wrong livelihood. Viewing art is not wrong action. What we do with that can be "Right or Wrong," but that is our choice, just like anything else.

These are just my views, so feel free to take them with a grain of salt or dismiss them entirely :)

Who, having trouble remembering my name today ;)
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby pulga » Thu Dec 16, 2010 3:44 pm

cooran wrote:[quote="pulgaNone whatsoever. You didn't give the full quote. It simply means that attempting to work out of the results of kamma is so complicated that it would bring madness and vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. This is one of the famous Four Unconjecturables which the Buddha taught about.

Acintita Sutta AN 4.77
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

with metta
Chris


I'm not denying that the Buddha encouraged a belief in kammavipaka, of course he did. But the suttas (and the later Abhidhamma) are obsessed with the idea to the point where the Buddha's admonition seems warranted.
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby Individual » Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:09 pm

I remembered the monk's name I mentioned. Ven. Dhammika.

Interesting blog here, relevant to this topic:
http://sdhammika.blogspot.com/2009/01/elephant-man.html
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby clw_uk » Fri Dec 17, 2010 9:52 pm

It seems to me that the sutta is teaching against getting lost in sensual desire, rather than a "hell of laughter"
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby Jechbi » Tue Feb 15, 2011 4:31 pm

I realize this is an older thread but I had been meaning to put a few other observations in here and have been distracted by other things. In answer to the OP, no, I don't think the sutta says all actors go to hell. More precisely, I don't think it's appropriate to read this sutta as a teaching that all actors under all circumstances are bound for rebirth in a hell realm.

This sutta appears in a part of the Samyutta Nikaya that includes the Buddha's responses to the teachings of other teachers. So in this case, Talaputa asks the Buddha about a teaching he has heard elsewhere that actors will be reborn in a deva realm. There's another sutta in the same group, worded very similarly, in which a fellow named Yodhajiva asks the Buddha about a teaching he has heard elsewhere that a mercenary will be reborn in the "company of battle-slain devas." In another, a fellow named Asibandhakaputta asks the Buddha about "the brahmins of the western region" who are said to guide the dead to heaven. In each case, the Buddha gives particular teachings that address specific misunderstandings with regard to the path.

In the case of Talaputa, the Buddha's description of what happens to actors is conditional. According to the Ven. Bikkhu Bodhi translation, the actor's rebirth is conditioned by that fact that he is "intoxicated and negligent himself." The actor's rebirth would be conditioned differently if the actor does not have this afflicted mindstate.

One sees the idea pop up now and then that the Buddha taught that all actors go to hell. Personally, I think that's an unfortunate oversimpification that could tend to turn people off from hearing the Dhamma. It's important to bear in mind that the Buddha's Dhamma's teachings are not intended for us to use them to judge other people; they are intended to help us see the path for ourselves. There may be religions that make blanket statements about entire classes of people who are going to hell, but Buddhism should not be one of them. If someone inteprets the Buddha's words to then hold the opinion that all actors are bound for hell, I believe that person may have misunderstood the underlying purpose of the Buddha's teachings.

With regard to those of us who are not monks, there are other teachings that can guide us about livelihood, such as this one:
"Monks, a lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison.

"These are the five types of business that a lay follower should not engage in."

Could a person be an actor within that framework? That's not even the appropriate question. The appropriate question is: Could I personally continue to be an actor in that framework?

I think a certain amount of harm can come from an unclear presentation about the Buddha's teaching about actors, especially in this day and age when actors are so highly regarded. Many children want to be actors. If a child wants to be an actor, is it our responsibility to teach that child that actors go to hell? I don't think so. Rather, I think it's our responsibility to encourage that child to pursue his or her authentic and healthy interests while also understanding, for example, the importance of moral conduct.

I don't think we have any basis for using this sutta to hold the view that the actors we see all around us are all going to hell, or to make any judgements at all about others. The relevant question is: How does this sutta help to inform my own path of practice?
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby PeterB » Tue Feb 15, 2011 4:39 pm

I would agree completely Jechbi.
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Feb 15, 2011 5:18 pm

I'm just surprised that lobha, Sosa, moha (greed, aversion, delusion) as the roots of karma, has not been clearly stated in this thread. If anyone acts out of these, bad karma results, in their absence good karma results. All we need to do in doubtful situations is to consider which of these karmic roots gave rise to performing a certain act.

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