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February 24, 2017

The Heart of The Matter

by Seijaku Roshi

We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering.  We will meet your physical force with soul force.  We will not hate you, but we cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws.  But we will soon wear you down by our capacity to endure suffering, and in winning our freedom, we will so appeal to your heart and conscience, that we will win yours in the process.”  – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Whether one is a Buddhist, a Christian, or Jewish, there exist certain universal convictions that the founders and their disciples of each of these paths held and continue to hold to be inviolable. 

“Every human being without exception possesses intrinsic dignity; everyone without exception should be treated with fairness, loving-kindness, and compassion; that each of us has the responsibility, and this includes how we treat the stranger, to protect those who cannot protect themselves, to lift up the fallen and provide them with basic tools to rebuild and flourish once again; and finally, the delicate web of the natural world should be handled with respect, and all natural resources should be used appropriately.”

Our nation and the world finds itself once again in tumultuous times marked by so much uncertainty and instability, accompanied by threats of increased violence and assaults on personal freedoms and basic human rights.  This time, however, it will not be enough to simply assign these dramatic changes which have already begun and the ones that are still ahead, to just the ruling party’s political platform or vision for the nation.  No, we are witnessing a dynamic effort to thwart the evolution of human consciousness that has been moving toward a more loving-kind and compassionate society, an inclusive society where no one is left behind or forgotten, a real and imminent threat upon the social fabric of our society and all humanity. 

We no longer have the luxury of merely seeking solace in times of trouble, turning to a regimen of prayer, or meditation, as a means of just waiting out the storm.  Resist we must, opposing injustice wherever we see it, bringing light to the darkened corners of our world.  Each of us must be advocates of peace, of loving-kindness and compassion, of basic sanity, and human rights; “Protecting those who cannot protect themselves, lifting up the fallen, insisting that government work to provide them with basic tools and needs to rebuild their lives and flourish once again; and finally, demanding that the delicate web of the natural world which corporate greed and government collusion continues to assault, be handled with respect…”

In his article titled, “What Successful Movements Have in Common” (Harvard Business Review November 30, 2016) author Greg Satell suggests that, “Values Are More Important Than Slogans,” the purpose of any successful movement is, “to empower its people” but, “only after it has done the heavy lifting of creating shared consciousness.”  He references Senator John Lewis’s memoir of his role in the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, “Walking With the Wind,” underlining the importance of, (and I am paraphrasing here): preparation or training, skillfulness, clarity of purpose, and discipline.  Only those who have found true peace within themselves can be true peacemakers.  I can only bring to battle what I have, and if I do not have inner peace how do I expect to make the world more peaceful?  If I do not have a healthy and loving self image, how can I expect to see the “intrinsic dignity” in others including and especially the opposition?

The peacemaker is an advocate for peace, not for political positions or ideologies. The real battleground is where ethical contests are fought, not politics.  The battle, is first fought in the “silence of the meditation hall,” where like the Freedom Fighters of the 1960’s, who prepared and trained to meet the onslaught of a physical force of unimaginable proportions before entering the battlefield; we train and prepare to meet the forces of ignorance, greed, and indifference.  In the meditation hall, in our places of prayer, and in sacred spaces designed for community, we forge “clarity of purpose” and our anger and passions are transformed from merely personal resentment into Forces of Nature for empowerment and healing.  We train and we train, and we train, we prepare until finally our resistance, our protest, is able to, “Wear the opposition down by our capacity to endure suffering (while never relinquishing our basic convictions or our integrity), and in winning our freedom we so appeal to their hearts and conscience, that we win theirs in the process.”

In the same article Greg Satell suggests that, “The Strength of a Movement Is Not Large Crowds, But Small Groups.” Here again I must ask a question: If our purpose is to end polarization and awaken ourselves and others from the illusion of separation, how do we expect to do this without first creating and participating in community?  Satell says, “So while we usually notice successful movements after they have begun to attract large crowds and hold massive demonstrations, those are effects, not causes, of successful mobilization.”  It is when (and I am paraphrasing again here) people connect and come together in community that they gain any significant power to make any real changes in the world. 

“Community is the Spirit, the Guiding Light, whereby people come together to fulfill a purpose, to help others fulfill their purpose, and to take care of one another.”

Community manifests the basic conviction that, “Every human being without exception possesses basic dignity and, should be treated with fairness, loving-kindness, and compassion; that each of us has the responsibility, and this includes how we treat the stranger, to protect those who cannot protect themselves, to lift up the fallen and provide them with basic tools to rebuild and flourish once again.”  Community is where we develop inner strength, cultivate the ground for action, and nurture our capacity to be a benefit to others in the community and to the global human family, to be helpful, and to take care of each other and the natural world.

There is a longing within each of us which begins shortly after birth, perhaps even sooner, to be known and to know, to be loved and to love, to be in relationship with our new world.  When this longing is inevitably impeded, ignored, or even thwarted, suffering follows, and over a lifetime of ignoring Its voice suffering compounds.  It is not until each of us responds to Its invitation to return to our original purpose for existence, a universal purpose shared by all sentient beings and rooted in the truth of Love and Interconnectedness, that history will continue to repeat itself and the whole world will simply continue to “Wander from dark path to dark path.”  It is “my response” this longing seeks, or as in the words of Rumi, “That which you seek is seeking you.”

Resist!  Wisely!

I love you,

Seijaku Roshi

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