For readers of The Australian, and them only!

Aussie folks will know The Australian newspaper as either our most prestigious national broadsheet, or as Fox in a bow-tie. My Mum reads it (hi Mum!) and she let me know of a review of a book by a former Buddhist monk, Bjorn Natthiko. Turns out, we were monks together all those years ago in Wat Nanachat. He’s been suffering ALS, a long-term degenerative and terminal illness, and after a long and painful struggle decided on voluntary euthanasia.

The book detailing his struggle was “reviewed” by Antonella Gambotto-Burke for The Australian. It was more of an outburst of vitriol than a review TBQH. The Australian is by subscription so I can’t link to it, but anyway, you’re better off not reading it. But if perchance you have stumbled across it, I wrote this letter to the editor in response.


Dear Editor,

In the 25 years I have been a Buddhist monk, I have had many blessings. When I entered the monastery, I got to know my fellow-monk Bjorn Lindeblad, who we knew as Natthiko. He was a kind, decent man, always curious and dedicated. I’ve followed his growth through new stages of life until his final choice to meet his death with dignity. I’ve also been blessed with the chance to practice and study Buddhism over these years, during which time I have translated the entire corpus of early Buddhist discourses from Pali to English.

Ms. Gambotto-Burke is blessed with neither knowledge of Bjorn nor of Buddhism. Yet that did not stop her from condemning—in oddly vitriolic terms—the man, and issuing pronouncements about Buddhism.

In 2006 I chaired a panel discussion on the ethics of euthanasia which included Buddhists from different backgrounds together with Dr. Philip Nitschke. It was an honest conversation where folks of different values engaged with empathy, intelligence, and respect. That is how we do things. What we don’t do is cherry-pick misunderstood passages from someone else’s scripture and use them as gotchas to attack folks who have been through tragedy.

For anyone who is suffering, like Bjorn, through a degenerative and terminal illness, please know that should you ever be faced with the same terrible decision, on behalf of the Buddhist community, I offer my love and understanding.

yours

Bhikkhu Sujato

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Not sure if people can view it, but it let me read it without a subscription; here is an article in the smh that may have raised the ire of the aus -

https://www.smh.com.au/national/the-news-hit-me-full-force-how-a-former-monk-handled-a-deadly-diagnosis-20220304-p5a1ry.html

If you can read it do so, if not it is a lovely, gentle and humane description by Bjorn of his experience of diagnosis published shortly after his death.

Reminding us that we are all already in our space-suits, and we are all going to die out here.

Metta.

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Here’s a link to the reviewer’s Facebook post about her review:
https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=405918108017385&set=a.166824785260053

From her Wiki page, she seems to have a bent for severe criticism of artists, and has an unfortunate and perhaps tragic bias around the issue of suicide: “After her brother Gianluca, a [Macquarie Bank] committed suicide in 2001, Gambotto-Burke changed. She began reading obsessively on death and on suicide.”

She also describes what appears to be some issues with mental health in her younger adult years. I am sorry that she has suffered in some certain ways, and it may be that her own tragic life experiences and suffering made her a poor choice to review Bjorn Lindeblad’s book, a book that seems to have garnered much praise and respect in most circles. Perhaps a different journalist from The Australian review staff should have been chosen to review Björn Natthiko’s book. A reviewer with less bias and vitriol might well have done better, and brought to light the life of a man who by all measure lived a very positive and influential life, and was loved by many.

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Thanks for the link. Much classier, let the man speak for himself.

Thanks! If anyone’s on FB, please feel welcome to post my response to her thread.

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Her response to the post of Bhante’s letter to the editors , Facebooked by Phranick Dhammarato

Antonella Gambotto-Burke

Phranick Dhammarato BS is not the custodian of Buddhism - his self-anointed stance on behalf of all Buddhists is bizarre - and I still hold by my views as they are substantiated, but thank you for relaying the information. I found Bjorn’s book reprehensible, and Nitschke? Toxic.

Good letter, put them in their place, but nicely.

Cheers, thanks. When someone falls back on ad-hominem attacks as their first line of defense, it says it all, really.

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