War, economic injustice, racism, and environmental destruction
stem from the illusion of separateness.
our path is to contribute to the work of love, in smalls ways and large, planting seeds for the long arc. we can take heart in our work, knowing that even as we face what seems an overwhelming darkness at times, even the tiniest of light brings hope. after winter there is spring, after night there is the dawn.
The other person is not our enemy.
Our enemies are misunderstanding,
discrimination, violence, hatred,
Thich Nhat Hanh
I love this teaching. It is deceptively challenging. On the face of it, most would probably agree (though some may not). However, when put into practice, I think most of us will find we fall short of honoring these wise words.
In a time such as now, when so much feels at stake and emotions are heightened (and for good reason), the easier path is to assign blame to one person or a group of people and go in for the kill. It is easier to have a face to direct our anger, our grief, our confusion. It even feels good! However good this feels in the short term, and however much it may motivate and seem to contribute to a resolution, in the long run it remains a delusion and contributes to cyclical suffering, fueling the very enemies we are working to defeat.
We will only be successful in our struggle, in this movement, when our motivation to act is fueled by a fierce compassion, born of a love that seeks the end of suffering for all beings, even those who act in harmful ways and contribute to the suffering we are fighting to liberate from.
This is the challenge of our time. In an era where we seek targets to blame and scapegoats for our suffering, can we with fierce compassion, work for the very solid cause of defeating fascism, defeating racism, defeating homophobia and transphobia, defeating policies that dismiss the poor, the sick, the elderly? Can we do this without demonizing individuals, even as we tirelessly work for their removal from positions of power, and work against the harmful policies and suffering their ideology causes? Buddhism and other contemplative practices say we can. And in fact, when we do we are honoring our true nature and not adding to the suffering. When we act out of fierce compassion, born from love, we upend the true enemies we seek to defeat: confusion, discrimination, violence, hatred, and anger. And in doing so, we are planting seeds toward the long arc, contributing to the end of suffering for all people. Then we are acting as bodhisattvas in this world. And this world, especially now, needs as many bodhisattvas as it can get.
We begin with our own hearts.
A monk asked Xinghua Cunjiang, “What should one do when things come from every direction?”
The master said, “Hold to the center.”
The monk bowed.
The master then said, ” Yesterday, as I was on my way to a dinner in the village, I was caught in a sudden storm with heavy rain and violent wind, so I headed for an old shrine and found shelter.”
~ Entangling Vines: A Classic Collection of Zen Koans,
trans. Thomas Yuho Kirchner
I read the above story in the latest edition of Tricycle Buddhist Review, from an essay written by Wendy Egyoku Nakao Roshi. I was moved by this story and inspired to create the artwork above.
Where do you find your center? What anchors you as the waves crash around and against you? Where do you find your ease and calm as turbulent winds swirl around knocking you off balance? How do you keep awareness focused, when distractions vie for your attention?
For me it is my meditation practice, it is nature, it is the tenderness of an open heart, it is love. It is staying with all that is and bearing witness, anchored in my breath and them from a place of compassion, moving into some sort of action that feels beneficial, that hopefully serves love and light.
I suppose everyone’s center may be different. It seems increasingly important to know what it is. There seem to be some who are intent on knocking us off balance repeatedly, wearing us out. But what they have forgotten, or may not be aware of, is that there is a place for each of us where we can find our balance, our focus, and a calm resolve to stick with it for the long arc.