Actors go to Hell?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Annapurna
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Post by 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.
:smile:

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Annapurna
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Post by 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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adosa
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Post by 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.


adosa
"To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas" - Dhammapada 183

Hoo
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Post by 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?

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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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?

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Post by 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"
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Post by 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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But never soddens what is open;
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Post by PeterB » Tue Feb 15, 2011 4:39 pm

I would agree completely Jechbi.

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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Post by 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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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Feb 16, 2011 4:19 am

rowyourboat wrote: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.
As if that is at all easy to tell.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Post by legolas » Wed Feb 16, 2011 6:18 am

Wherever Laurel & Hardy have ended up, they will take with them a shed load of merit for bringing joy & laughter (gentle) to the world. Perhaps there are many wrong livliehoods but we can all see the light before its to late (see Angulimala) and I am sure there are varying degrees within professions. Maybe the joy that is brought to the world by actors and comedians is of a sensual nature, but maybe if it is done without exciting the baser passions it is not all bad.

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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Post by Ben » Wed Feb 16, 2011 6:23 am

legolas wrote:Wherever Laurel & Hardy have ended up, they will take with them a shed load of merit for bringing joy & laughter (gentle) to the world. Perhaps there are many wrong livliehoods but we can all see the light before its to late (see Angulimala) and I am sure there are varying degrees within professions. Maybe the joy that is brought to the world by actors and comedians is of a sensual nature, but maybe if it is done without exciting the baser passions it is not all bad.
And you have this on some authority?
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
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in mountain clefts and chasms,
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Post by phil » Wed Feb 16, 2011 6:42 am

pilgrim wrote:How about other occupations like the advertising industry? isn't that worse as it creates desire when there was none? Surely even the during the Buddha's time there were jobs equivalent to advertising like when a shopkeeper calls out the merits of his wares,..
If I'm not mistaken, the Samyutta in question lays out various occupations or ways of life and according hells they lead to. Let me get my book...

....no, it's not that one. It's somewhere else. If I recall correctly beings are witnessed as emerging from various hells, having earned their way out, perhaps, but they are still afflicted in ways that accord with the ways of life that led to the hells. I remember (as anyone will who read the sutta!) one poor fellow with gigantic testicles he has to drag around, I don't recall if he was a lecher or a pimp or what, and forgive me if the giant testicles are just a figment of my feverish imagination! In any case, I think there were occupations mentionned in that series of suttas, perhaps someone can lead us to them.
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)

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legolas
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Re: Actors go to Hell?

Post by legolas » Wed Feb 16, 2011 6:55 am

Ben wrote:
legolas wrote:Wherever Laurel & Hardy have ended up, they will take with them a shed load of merit for bringing joy & laughter (gentle) to the world. Perhaps there are many wrong livliehoods but we can all see the light before its to late (see Angulimala) and I am sure there are varying degrees within professions. Maybe the joy that is brought to the world by actors and comedians is of a sensual nature, but maybe if it is done without exciting the baser passions it is not all bad.
And you have this on some authority?
What on earth do you mean. I was quite clearly expressing a personal view. The words "maybe" and "perhaps" might give a clue. As for acquiring "a shed load of merit" I am afraid I have no authority - please forgive me.

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