Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Furious Buddhists

Monday, 8 June 2009

My Observer column this week was about a young Buddhist lama who has run away to film school. I said that Buddhism is a beautiful religion and that this fellow could grow up to be a great lama one day. Some of the posters on the website are furious at this “attack on Buddhism”, pointing out that I would be “too cowardly to say the same about Catholicism or Islam.”

I don’t think these posters can be real Buddhists, because I don’t think Buddhists get angry so quickly. It’s hard to be sure because the only Buddhist I’ve ever met is Andy Black, and I think he’s probably unusual in Buddhism - professionally anyway. One thing that’s odd on CiF, I realize, is that some of them seem to see the Guardian as a single entity - they tangle up what I write with what others have written in the same paper, and get cross about what they see as a general line. I’ve only been into the office once! I file my stuff from home and it would be exactly the same whichever newspaper I was sending it to. I do understand what someone said on the other thread here about “If you give it out, you have to take it”, but I really don’t think I give it out very much at all. Quite depressing to write something pretty respectful and praising about something and have it read as an attack. Maybe I’m just less in control of my tone than I think I am. Ah well. I’ve got a few weeks off the column now, for the World Series, which may be no bad thing…

Facebook Google Digg Reddit Yahoo! StembleUpon Newsbine LiveJournal BlinkList

Add Comment


AndytheDealer at 12:46 pm on June 8th, 2009

I’ve got a mate who can build you a Duck House.

He lives in Italy and has never worked for a politician.

GL at the World Series, you’d be in my fantasy team if only they had the sense to give you as an option.

catherine powell at 1:11 pm on June 8th, 2009

Hi Victoria
Andy Black’s partner Cat here - I’m a Buddhist too - a friend drew my attention to your article about Osel. I thought actually the guy’s story so far is fascinating. I really like your warm, humorous and open-minded take on it and you’re spot on that he could be experiencing the wilds of the forest and become a greater teacher for that -  if he chooses to attempt ‘doing both’ - living his life in the world and being a lama. Loved how you recognised his direct perception of the nightclub situation! 

Andrew at 4:03 pm on June 8th, 2009

It’s very tricky trying to engage in any sort of discourse with Organized Religion types as their whole justification for being is based on what they believe to be true (“faith” justifies too much).
The logical, cogitating, person will always be undone by the sheer steadfastness of the unthinking and it just causes frustration.

Dan at 4:04 pm on June 8th, 2009

I didn’t think it was disrespectful at all.  I was slightly worried when I saw the subject but by the time I reached the end was relieved (and also entertained by this light-hearted piece).  Wouldn’t have thought any differently if it had had serious mistakes but it just confirmed you as an open-minded, intelligent and unprejudiced person, and can’t quite understand why it would ruffle anyone’s feathers.

I am a Buddhist (which could mean a lot of different things really), and though I’m not qualified to comment seriously on the subject, I just wanted to redress the balance a little bit (not for the first time!)  It was obviously a considerate and respectful article. CiF is a strange place sometimes.

Andy W at 5:08 pm on June 8th, 2009

Actually you have (unknowingly) met another one - Men the Master.  Really.  Black and Men, two of the most un-Buddhist-like people you’d ever meet, somehow manage to reconcile their behaviour with the philosophy.  Crazy world !


Henry at 12:19 am on June 9th, 2009

I think you should pay less attention to the replies to your articles on the newspaper’s website.  This seems like a recurring theme in your blog so I guess it really gets to you.

I’m sure plenty of people read your articles and enjoy them.  Surely it’s just a vocal minority who bother to post replies which are less than complimentary.  My advice - for what it’s worth - is that you should just get on with your writing and be confident about the contribution you’re making.  Put the commentary out of your mind, or just stop reading it.

Personally I’m not a big Guardian/Observer fan but usually take a look at your articles and get something out of them.

Victoria Coren at 1:51 am on June 9th, 2009

Hi Cat! How great to have you posting here, thank you. Apparently we might have only got half your message? But I may have got wrong end of stick. Thanks so much to “genuine” Buddhists who could see that I wasn’t trying to cause any offence whatsoever. But Men the Master? Men the Master? The angriest man in all of poker? I can’t believe it!
  To Henry: I know I know, you’re right and I do let it get to me too much. I think it’s just at the moment because I’m in the last stages of my book, so confidence at a very low ebb. Writing books is terrifying anyway because it was such a childhood dream of mine, and writing a book about poker feels especially important to me because it is the one big story I have to tell, plus I seem to have managed to tell it in an incredibly personal way so… you know, I’m feeling very nervous and not at all confident. Al Alvarez says that anyone who finishes a book is convinced it’s not good enough, however good it is. But logically, that must also apply to people who have written books that aren’t good enough…. Anyway, so, feeling generally a bit nervous and vulnerable, which I suspect is the reason that these kinds of online comments are getting to me more than usual. But as I say, off later this week for a little while in the City of Sin, with no writing, so that should sort me out…

David R at 2:53 am on June 9th, 2009

From what I recall from school, the unit measurement of anger is the ‘grrr’.

Going up the anger scale, 10 grrrs is equivalent to a ‘Ricky!’; and a 100 grrrs equals a ‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!!’.

So looking at the comments, I don’t think the response to your Buddhism article was too bad on the anger scale:- I would estimate less than one Ricky!

  I also should point out that while the unit measurement of anger is the ‘grrr’, the corresponding unit measurement for calm and reason is the ‘ahhh’.

There was a high ‘ahhh’ response to Vicky’s Buddhism article, which helped to offset the grrr factor - hence the less than one Ricky!

catherine powell at 11:24 am on June 9th, 2009

hi Vicky

yes somehow half my message got lost - i was talking about Chogyam Trungpa - very inspiring Tibetan Buddhist teacher who led a wild life almost certainly shortened considerably by his deep plunge into Western culture - he taught like a blazing star.  And that I’m missing Andrew out there in Vegas… give him a hug for me if you see him - (he will be surprised - how could that have happened?!!) i may be on my way there soon too but am working hard on a painting exhibition with some deep personal subject material so not sure how soon i’ll get on a plane - when i’m ready i guess
good luck and take care


charlie at 12:47 pm on June 10th, 2009

Men the Master canny be the angriest man in poker. I was playing a guy the other night at the circus [edinburgh] and called his all-in with a straight draw [sick of crap hands I decided to gamble] and this proved to be successful. I’ve come across a few angry bastards before but I swear this guy was close to exploding - like the guy in the monty python film that eats too much….....Maybe laughing in his face didn’t help matters but hey….it’s only a game.

Paul at 12:53 pm on June 10th, 2009

Don’t punish yourself each week by reading such nonsense. But if you must, why not collect the more loopy coments each week and form them into some sort of book. I’m sure a few of your detractors would even buy it, if only so they could write to the publisher and whine about how badly written it was.

David Young at 2:03 pm on June 10th, 2009

I’m surprised that nobody’s commented on the morality of this and on the negligence of Richard Gere in particular. A very young boy has been handed over by his parents to lead a cloistered life of brainwashing in order to satisfy the dictates of some ancient superstitious claptrap. Luckily he’s been able to see how he was missing out on real life and is now distancing himself from his former guardians.

If Gere knew how unhappy this boy was and did nothing then shame on him.

Montana Wildhack at 3:12 am on June 11th, 2009


As someone who probably spends an unhealthy amount of time on Cif, let me assure you that there is an element out there that will ALWAYS find fault with a piece.  You could write an article about how the sky is usually blue except when it’s grey and you would still manage to offend someone. 

In addition to the professional offence-takers, you’ve got the reverse snobs to contend with.  You could consistently turn out prose that would put Tolstoy to shame and someone would sneer that it was rubbish and you only got the gig because of your dad & your Oxbridge education.  The problem is theirs, not yours.

To my mind, you were admirably restrained in your tone.  Whole story’s just weird to me.

- that ‘contributor’ as opposed to ‘staff’ thing seems to be impossible for some Ciffers to understand.  I’m sure they imagine you strolling into the office of a morning, popping your head into Charlie Brooker’s office to compliment his latest, chatting with Marina Hyde at the coffee pot and, later on in the day, eating lunch in the canteen with George Monbiot and Cath Elliott.

Montana Wildhack at 3:22 am on June 11th, 2009

Oh, should’ve added—that ‘contributor’ as opposed to ‘staff’ thing seems to be impossible for some Ciffers to understand.  I’m sure they imagine you strolling into the office of a morning, popping your head into Charlie Brooker’s office to compliment his latest, chatting with Marina Hyde at the coffee pot and later on in the day, eating lunch in the canteen with George Monbiot and Cath Elliott.

Roger at 2:21 pm on June 13th, 2009

Hey, VC, having read your attempt at making an adult movie, I think you’re extremely talented… You can also write as well. Indeed, I often compare your writing to a fine glass of 1870’s spanish red wine.

Interestingly, buddishim is simple, yet also complicated. It’s about life, love, desire, and good karma. So when you play your next Poker tournament, go with the flow, smile at your opponents, breath deeply, practise yoga, bluff always and you may well become an even better player…!

John at 3:20 pm on June 13th, 2009

Hey-ho… techno problems.  Anyhoooo… one more go.  Not 100% relevant to this topic but always worthy of a mention… Leonard Cohen on TV the other night from a recent concert.  Wot a gent, and wot a guy.  Maybe this ‘white man dancing’ would interest Nick Griffin?  Maybe Leonard’s lyrics were heard wafting through the garden party; song lyrics and poetry interpreted a thousand different ways (and I’m only about three threads out of date).

Victoria Coren

News: September 2017

September 7th is a big day!

Click here to read more »

Switch Theme

Click here to change colour scheme

RSS Feed

Subscribe to the RSS feed here