A TRULY NON-VIOLENT PATH
While many of the worlds religions preach a path of tolerance and love there is only one faith that hasn’t been spread at the tip of a sword. In fact, one of the biggest reasons we have so many people against organized religion is due to the history of bloodshed that taints many of our institutions today. From Crusades to suicide bombers, inquisitions and witch hunts, many a peoples imaginations are ripe with images of “holier than thou” types marching down the street with pitch forks in hand hunting down their opposition. It’s no wonder we’ve entered into a sort of renaissance period for mysticism and seen a much larger interest being paid to spirituality as a whole as opposed to one specific faith.
After all, every one of the beliefs we share are centered in on a unity that exists at the core of the very Universe itself. Universe, unity. Now, whether the ancients choose to call that unified center the Tao, Dharma, G-D, or Allah makes no difference to the Cosmic Soul itself. Walk in with a 12 step philosophy and talk of the G-D of your understanding if you please, but at the end of the day all of our concepts are not separated from the center of creation itself. It is centered within me and you and every living thing we come in contact with, nothing is excluded. Nothing is a complete and independent expression of the Divine as our finite minds are not capable of truly wrapping our heads around whatever inner nature, or creative desire actually rests at the center of said Cosmic Mind. Men have gone mad trying to answer the unthinkable but, honestly, what’s the point? Existence is and we share it together.
Now naturally people have theorized and wrestled with existence since the beginning of our awareness and meditated on the Divine nature of reality. As that same center exists within all things anyone is capable of tuning in and awakening. What tends to happen is man realizes, jumps up and proclaims “this is my center and mine alone!” The ego is all too happy to feed our self-centered desire to be sole beneficiaries with tales of exclusive rights on salvation and an inside track on G-D himself along with countless other preposterous bits religious nutjobs have peddled throughout the ages. All of this division and bloodshed we see in the name of Holy Wars can be traced back to a human being who foolishly claimed the center of all things for themselves, or their people. Selfishness and greed are enemies of peace. Stockpiling goods is the result of fear. As this era of power and domination comes to an end we would do well to remember that nothing around us is hostile. Nothing around us can’t benefit all.
There is one spiritual path that hasn’t followed this pattern conquer and forced conversion. Buddhism has warned of the ignorance our dual minds produce since its founding. Ignorance has always been the only thing the bodhisattva is attempting to overcome.
Honestly, one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with Buddhist theology was because of how a people under the guidance of the Dalai Lama responded to the Chinese invasion. Many people are much more familiar with the history of the region than I and can undoubtedly offer a much broader perspective on the sovereignty of the nation equipped with timelines and theatrics but I merely want to illustrate point. In the mix of rebel troops protesting and growing tensions a young Dalai Lama, then 23, disguised himself as a soldier and slipped out of the palace in Lhasa and started his dangerous trek into India. A great deal of monks followed suit and crossed the Himalayas at great risk to themselves. Not only is it a mountainous terrain but they were also being hunted by the invading forces coming into their lands.
All in the name of surrendering their country in order to curtail the bloodshed. Think of this. They had centuries full of history. Cities full of buddhist artwork, beautiful monasteries and various statues and monuments. All of it left behind because why be attached to places and things when human life is so much more precious and valuable? How many of us could look at the pictures of our children, the pencil lines that mark their getting taller on our walls, that swing in the oak tree, and say “it’s just things?”
AT LEAST DO NO HARM
The Buddha himself taught that patience is the highest form of asceticism there is and that by practicing patience alone one can reach nirvana. That means if someone pushes you around, you should be tolerant. If someone comes at you with anger then the last thing you should do is respond angrily. If they strike you, take a page from Jesus and “turn the other cheek.” Even if they embarrass you or insult you, do not respond. By doing these actions our patience is increased. Sure, some monks threw themselves into war in Tibet in spite of these teachings but there is a freedom available to those who choose to refrain from causing harm. The Dalai Lama summarizes this course of action in a very simply way:
- If possible, you should help others.
- If that is not possible, at least you should do no harm.
By turning our attention to how we can help those around us we are slowly eradicating those selfish parts of ourselves we can do without. A strange thing happens along the way. We realize that looking out for others has actually assured that all of our own needs are met. By “removing the board from our own eye we can see clearly to remove the stint from our brothers.” The chaos of conflict clears from our lives. This results from real compassion being extended to others and not just our families and friends, but all sentient beings. Shantideva gives us an incredible insight in his reflections on what true compassion actually is:
“For a practitioner of love and compassion, an enemy is one of the most important teachers. Without an enemy you cannot practice tolerance, and without tolerance you cannot build a sound basis of compassion. So in order to practice compassion, you should have an enemy.
“When you face your enemy who is going to hurt you, that is the real time to practice tolerance. Therefore, an enemy is the cause of the practice of tolerance: tolerance is the effect or result of an enemy. So those are cause and effect. As is said, ‘Once something is arising from that thing, one cannot consider that thing from which it arises as a harmer; rather it assists the production of the effect.’ “
Probably even more profound than the teaching itself, for me at least, was where the Dalai Lama decided to share this bit of information. He shares Shantideva’s wisdom as he recants the many difficult periods of his life, including losing Tibet to Chinese Communist invaders. Some 50 years later he now regards those difficult times as some of the most important periods of his spiritual development. It was in letting go of his homeland that he was finally able to help focus his time and energy into preserving the Tibetan way of studying and practicing Buddhism. That struggle promoted growth and eventually landed them in an atmosphere free from fear. In that way, he came to appreciate the conflict and turmoil of his native land.
He goes on to say that” My own practice has benefited from a life of great turbulence and trouble. You too can come to see the hardships you endure as deepening your own practice.”
Wow! May we all strive to view our difficult circumstances in the same light. Then we could truly learn how to grow through what we go through. Peace be with you all.