Friday, June 24, 2011

Selfish PR Move or Truly a Step Toward Enlightment?

I know that it has been a while since my last few posts, my apologies but I have been pretty swarmed with photo editing that putting words together can sometimes become difficult when all I know is “levels”, “contrast”, “highlights”, “color balance”, and “saturation”. I often wake up in a cold sweat just screaming those words.

So many of my thoughts on what I want to write are thrown on the back burner for this blog because I want to accompany each post with memorable photos and since I am constantly editing and taking more photos, I'm always behind. But no excuses, therefore many ideas and topics will be old, but nevertheless interesting.

“Enlightenment cannot be obtained without working hard at it. To believe otherwise means you are harboring some form of selfishness.” - His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I chose this quote because I originally was going to write about a much more unrelated topic but just recently read news that Los Angeles Laker, Ron Artest has filed the paperwork to legally change his name to Metta World Peace.

“I think I did it for a lot of good reasons,” Artest (or World Peace) said. “It's going to open up a lot of eyes. And create a lot of good energy.”

While many people are laughing at Artest's actions, and many have been for years now, I think that it is admirable. I recall back in 2004, writing about Artest's involvement and key role in the Palace Brawl, in which is fought several Detriot Pistons fans on (and in the stands) during the middle of a game.

Artest career has been plagued with bad attitude, punishment, and perhaps even misunderstanding that includes 60 technical fouls, 33 foul-outs, 17 flagrant fouls and six ejections. And not to forget his record-setting 86 game suspension after the “Palace Brawl.”

But the man, who I judged quite severely when he was in his “punk” phase, has dramatically changed. He has gone public saying that seeking help for mental health and therapy is important for everyone and that everyone deserves a second chance like he has been given. He really is somewhat of a new-and-improved man. He raffled off his 2010 NBA Championship ring to help children with mental illness, has done dozens of volunteer and philanthropic work, so much so that it earned him the NBA's citizenship award for philanthropy in mental illness.

And on the court he's changed as well, only getting six technical fouls and one ejection last season.

Does he go about his business in an unorthodox manner? Absolutely. Do I agree with the way he addresses certain serious subjects? Not all the time. But what I think is impressive is that instead of changing his legal name to something egotistical like “Ochocino” like Chad Johnson (whom is once again changing his name back to his birth name), Artest is making a bigger statement. He plans to have his jersey (one internationally known for the Laker purple and gold) read “World Peace” on the back. Although it's not exactly a loss of selfishness or egotism, it should be commended that its a gutsy move and it gets the idea of actual world peace on peoples minds.

I stumbled upon this story on Twitter, as the words Metta World Peace was trending. My time as a Theravada Buddhist monk taught me more than I can still understand, but one thing I learned a lot about is the word “metta” which has many meanings in the Pali language. Most have meanings are of loving-kindness and compassion toward all things and beings. But I always remember that every message or email that my master wrote, he signed off with the word “metta” and I asked him the meaning.

He said (in so many words), “monks must use the word metta because it is all encompassing yet generalized. Monks cannot use words to lay people (those not part of the sangha or monkhood) that elicit any sort of love or praise. They must remain level headed, non-bias.” So signing off with metta has more meaning than the direct definition of loving-kindness to all things.

I do not really like that someone must change their name to send a message (especially if they are someone famous) when if the message is for the “world” but shows some egotistic tendencies. But at the end of the day, I don't think Artest doesn't really deserve the bad press for this act, as I think he is intelligent enough to know that his name is synonymous with “bad-boy.” Therefore attention will be brought to him, which in turn means attention toward the main message... world peace.

This is not much of a feel good post but I think recognition for this “trending” event can definitely be turned into a positive light, rather than a negative. So in Ron Artest's attempt to find enlightenment, I recognize that he has (and will continue) to have a difficult time with his reputation, but as HH the Dalai Lama says, enlightenment is not obtained without hard work. I hope that he finds what he is looking for with this life changing event and that he truly believes in (and understands) the grandeur of a name he has chosen.

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