Applying Buddhism to daily life: one Kadampa’s journey


A guest article.

hate hasn't solved problemsI’m a white Australian/American and the video of George Floyd being murdered by a police officer, while other police officers watched, is not something I can ever “un-see”. While painful, as a Buddhist practitioner discomfort is something I am trying to learn to work through, not repress. I am no expert, but I would like to share my journey of looking deeper into this with you in case it’s of any help.

I have been studying and practicing Dharma for around 20 years now, and I am quite aware of the concept of reading/listening but not hearing, hearing but not knowing, knowing but not understanding, and understanding but not realizing. We can read about, listen to, and feel that we understand many things without it deeply touching our heart or moving us. Anyone who has ever had a Dharma insight will understand this point.

My profoundly kind Spiritual Guide has been giving me more or less the same words of wisdom for two decades, and I smile, enjoy the small progress I make, and don’t rise the next day with the fury of a Bodhisattva in my heart to decry all the simple and silly attachments and other delusions in my life in pursuit of protecting all living beings. I have access to the most complete and clear Buddhist path, I have faith in the teachings — and yet I hide in the so-called-comfort of my own samsaric existence — somewhat knowingly!

Just before I start ….

From the different opinions I am hearing on the matter of racism against black Americans and the Black Lives Matter movement, I realize that what I am about to say might not resonate with all people, including all Buddhists. All I can reply is that I understand you and I hear you.

iTo those who say this conversation is necessarily political, I reply that I feel the lines between political and civil & human rights seem to be blurred. People are confused with the verbiage and politicians are also standing on platforms that are about humanity – making “taking sides” about humanitarian issues seem political. But the issues are humanitarian whether a politician agrees with them or not. And the deep solutions are not political but spiritual.

On this subject, I think a lot of people are mistaking being asked to “take a side” as being political. If this were the case then the whole of Buddhism is political. I think that the only thing being asked of people is for them to pick the side of the Bodhisattva. I am no expert at being a Bodhisattva, but in my experience of trying, the best way to arrive at the act of having compassion for “all living beings” is through specific living beings, in a targeted way. I believe that Venerable Geshe Kelsang says that at the end of almost all the Mahayana meditations on developing love and compassion — start with our karmic circle.*

 What can I myself do?

With that out of the way, I will now talk about my own journey. Before my very recent insights, I was looking but not seeing. I believed that because I had heard of the racism against black Americans, I understood it. In the past I also believed I knew Dharma before I had any actual insights. Neither were the case. And I suspect I am at the very beginning of my journey. As Buddhists, this is our specialty — so my feeling is that we do not need be afraid or have self-judgement. Instead we can have plenty of joy that we are trying – trying to get in there and root out anything keeping us in samsara.

I have read about the disparity between white Americans and black Americans. I have seen it on the news, including the numbers of deaths during the coronavirus being disproportionately weighted towards black Americans. I have seen videos, and more than I would like to count, not just of abject racism, but of the police murder of black Americans. Captured on video! And yet, I have done little for the cause.

I support several charities regularly, one of them against animal abuse. I never open the mail they send because I can’t un-see those images, and they are horrific. Why is that? I know many gay women and men who have been abused, women who have been raped, and black people who have suffered deeply at the hands of racism. Again here, I am supportive and loving, but have not necessarily actively engaged in practical or maybe even specific spiritual solutions to these atrocities in the past. So why not?

Isn’t it good enough to be a good person? Isn’t it good enough to do good things when you can?

botanic gardens 1I am a Buddhist. I am a Bodhisattva-in-training. And, as such, I believe deeply in the merit of Buddhism as a solution to all of our actual or inner problems. Only once I am enlightened will I truly be able to help all living beings … all of the time. So, what of my journey to enlightenment? How should I spend my time on the way there? How should I prioritize the many demands pulling me in a multitude of directions? And how does my spiritual practice intersect with practical solutions in my daily life?

Being true to the tenet of Mahayana Buddhism, having compassion for all living beings without exception, a Bodhisattva finds the suffering of all living beings – which means any living being — unbearable. The caveat here is that the Bodhisattva actually “finds” the suffering. This would take not just looking, but actually hearing – or deeply understanding what that meant. That is when we find something unbearable. This is also the reason I don’t open my mail if I don’t want to look at what it is showing me because it is unbearable. It’s not that I don’t care, in fact, I care deeply; but I am making a number of fatal flaws as a human and especially as a Buddhist.

First, I am letting the discomfort of the “unbearable” feeling prevent me from really looking, from really knowing, from really seeing. I think this is where a lot of well-intentioned people fall short. We look, find it painful to see, briefly acknowledging how terrible that must be “for all involved,” and we look away, getting back to our busy daily lives.

This same feeling keeps me from even engaging in conversation about the topic or racism when it comes up for fear of saying something “wrong” that would lead to a feeling of hurt or embarrassment. I know this does not reflect well on my character, but it is true. I raised this issue with a black girlfriend recently, to which she said:

Can you bear a small moment of discomfort in pursuit of a solution to racism, for a lifetime and generations of deep suffering?

I hope this sentence never leaves my mind.

if you are always trying to be normal

Second, on the basis of the fact that we “look away”, we deprioritize because we have not truly understood what the problem is. Today as I write this, it is a Saturday. My to-do list, like any other day, has more on it that I can possibly achieve in the time I have. I run a company, and between my work and home life, I seem to not have a moment to spare. And yet, if I looked up the street and saw several houses on fire, I would immediately abandon what I was doing and go help. Why? Because I can see it clearly. Lives are in danger. I couldn’t sit here finishing the financial reports for my company while simultaneously watching a house – with people in it – burn to the ground, all because I was too busy with other priorities.

Third, and just as important as the other items, is that even if we do have the time, the money, or the inclination to act, we are not identified with the solution, and we don’t have the confidence that what we are doing is really helping. This discourages us from continuing to act. This in turn undermines anything ever changing.

A Bodhisattva not only finds the suffering of any other living being unbearable, but is, at the same time, identified with the solution, knowing that freedom from suffering is possible. They have a clear vision of the solution and result, and a path to get there. In this way, a Bodhisattva is always confident in their actions, never stops working for the sake of all living beings, and never feels discomfort. The mind of compassion is a peaceful happy mind.

We need to be very honest with ourselves when we check – is my compassion a happy mind or not? If not, why not? Or maybe we even need to check by asking – how can I feel happy when I see the suffering of other living beings? It is not that Bodhisattvas feel happy when they see suffering, rather that their mind is never moved from peaceful confidence in the solution; and, when they see suffering, moved by it, Buddha naturethey act, knowing that what they do will be moving in the right direction.

Diving in …

And so, with all of this in mind, I went on a deep dive into racism against black Americans and its implications.

Seeing this, and knowing how little I had actively done in the past and considering my own opportunity or privilege, coming to this understanding about myself was actually a little bit of a shock. I had been resting on a belief that it was good enough to be a good person. It was good enough to consider all beings as equals. It was good enough to do the things I am already doing (of which there are some…). But the truth is, if we look (and we don’t have to look too far or deeply), the house is burning! And we must act now.

This is surely how a Bodhisattva would feel.

Going out of my way to help

And so what now? For me it is time to act personally, on both a spiritual and practical level, and it is time to use any platform I have to work against the disparity. The time to act is now!

Last week I got together with a group of Sangha friends with the explicit purpose of talking about this issue. We were there to be honest with one another so that we can change, and we were there to hold one another accountable to our wishes to change. We plan to continue these conversations regularly, and we are all committing to actions.

solidarity

Last week I held a meeting with all my employees. In the meeting I read out some topline statistics about the differences between black lives and white lives in America. After this I stopped and I asked everyone to take a moment of silence to think about what this really meant. Because this is where we need to start. We need to notice how things actually are. We need to truly see, to move, to act.

After this, I showed pictures of many black Americans who had been shot by police in 2020. I read their names, their ages, their home cities, and for a few of them, I read their stories. After this I asked people to take a moment to mentally place the pictures of their own family members on these photos, in these stories and asked them to spend a few moments thinking about how they would feel if it were their child, parent, cousin, uncle, etc. Because if we contemplate this deeply, we will be unable to bear the suffering.

And finally, we talked about action.

For my company, this will mean making systemic and formal changes as to how we hire people, where we spend our money, and how we leverage our communication channels as platforms to bring about positive change. This will also mean that we will commit to keeping the conversation and the action going.

For a Buddhist, this means spiritual action, which incidentally will lead to practical action. We (me) need to uproot our own ignorance through looking honestly at our own mind, and our own racist tendencies, even if that is avoidance or concealment or denial. We need to examine those places we feel discomfort, and look at why we feel it and how to move past that. (If we find we are already completely free from discrimination, which some of you reading this may well be, then that is wonderful too, and there was no harm looking.) We need to develop authentic compassion, which is a peaceful, action-oriented mind. We need to understand the great and unnecessary tragedy that mistaken appearance and conception keep us trapped in this place. And we need to use all of this to develop a strong intention to become an actual Bodhisattva and a Buddha.

I want to finish this article with a quotation from Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:

Although there are many different parts of the body, such as the arms and legs,
We protect all these parts as equally as we protect the body itself.
In a similar way, although there are many different living beings,
I should cherish them all as equally as I cherish myself.

The suffering I experience
Does not harm others,
But I find it hard to bear
Because I cherish myself.

Likewise, the suffering of others
Does not harm me,
But, if I cherish others,
I shall find their suffering hard to bear.

Therefore, I should dispel others’ suffering
Simply because it is suffering, just like mine;
And I should bring happiness to others
Simply because they are living beings, just like me.

Postscript

*Since I wrote the above, I have received some more feedback. In response to people saying things like (these are real questions), “Why don’t you feel it necessary to have black lives matterthese huge debates about the Syrians, the Palestinians, the Muslim Burmese? Are they not quite important enough? Where do we draw that line I wonder? Racism will not stop until delusions stop, it’s that simple. Why don’t you care equally for all the other minority groups and oppressed people around the world?”

Fair questions. One answer is that with regards to the Syrians, the Palestinians, and the Muslim Burmese, these people ALL MATTER. A child dies in the world every 10 seconds from hunger. More than a million (known) children are trafficked each year. Almost 30% of the world does not have access to safe drinking water. And I could go on… those trapped in refugee camps, victims of war, living in abject poverty, child marriages, the violence and abuse of animals….. These living beings ALL MATTER. All the time.

Drawing attention to one group is the only way we learn about it and can learn what it is that we can do to help. Don’t we want to help everyone? We can’t learn about gross injustices against “all living beings” at once. We are also not in a position to help everyone all at once either. But this happens to be an opportunity to speak up and do something about racism, which affects people all around me and right under my nose.

our job is to prayI think it is interesting to think about what it means that our job as Kadampas is to pray, and that the only way we will truly end racism is by ending self-cherishing and self-grasping. Until then, samsara will prevail over us. I agree full-heartedly with all of that. That being said, Geshe Kelsang tells us that modern Buddhism means to be “out there” in the modern world, the world we helped create, amongst people, helping them through example, through peaceful minds, through teaching, through giving advice, and, when able, through practical help too. Geshe-la would never say to NOT help someone if we see something practical that we could do. But do we see?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what activism means, and how it doesn’t mean going to demonstrations or even writing blog articles, but how it does mean living a life where we take every opportunity to protect the lives of human beings and animals we are intertwined with. I think if people have a platform – like a well read blog, or if they are a celebrity or a business owner or even a politician — then it is valuable to many people that they use their platform to speak up. Because this is what a black Kadampa said to me today:

The silence around racism is very loud
Touches us at the core of who we believe we are and who others are.

Over to you! Comments for the guest author are welcome below.

 

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 37 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to our everyday lives, and vice versa. I try to make it accessible to everyone who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

23 thoughts on “Applying Buddhism to daily life: one Kadampa’s journey”

  1. Nothing has changed because we ourselves have not changed. We have the dry knowledge that what has gone on is wrong but we have not developed the realization that forces us to change. Until no child suffers under the yoke of racism for their entire life, racism will not end. Until we ourselves have all changed there will be no change.
    This is not easy work or we would have all done it already. It waits for us on that grassy hill with our blue sky mind surrounding us. It waits for us to raise the blinds on our window of perception. Geshele can tell us where it is but we must all do the traveling to get there. He can point us in the direction but we have to knowingly take the steps…no one else can do this work for us, ever. And the only way to do this work is with pure joy.
    dwain

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Luna. As we all grapple with the question “what should I do” I’m inspired and grateful for your spiritual guidance and insights at this time. I have also been inspired by the recent trend for influencers (those people on social media with a large base of followers) to allow BIPOC voices to use their platform to communicate much needed messages at this time to their audiences. I am grateful when you allow “guest authors” and welcome more BIPOC sangha as guest authors as right now I’m trying to educate myself from the perspective of other and I find it most helpful to get information first hand from the people who experience racism first hand and open discussion about their experience at centers as well, climbing down the mountain of self and up the mountain of other. This way we can remain in the perspective of other and build more inclusive spaces and programming. As someone who strives to be an ally, and hopefully one day an effective ally at that, I have a wish to listen, learn and take part in a discussion on how I can use dharma to recognize, reduce and abandon racism (deluded pride) in my own mind and then help others do the same while also being supportive of a movement that makes us look at our organization as well to see how we as NKT can produce centers and content that are inclusive. I think it’s far fetched to say any organization doesn’t have some room to grow so let’s not be afraid to address change. We need to be open to listening to our fellow sangha and humble enough to hear our shortcomings so we can touch more lives world wide in the future. Although I know it’s not BIPOC’s responsibility to educate me, or tell me what I need to do to change the world or our centers, but I want you and everyone else to know that I am welcome to hear it (and I know there’s plenty of sangha that agree) so, share if you will, and I recognize that this is often traumatic from its own side and comes with it it’s own burden so if no one takes that space that’s fine too. And for you, Luna, to know I appreciate your willingness and courage to speak about relevant and necessary issues and share your platform for greater change. I have benefited greatly from having a multitude of open and honest conversations with my close sangha friends about racism as we dive into our practice alongside new resources from social justice experts, I find no contradiction to Dharma whatsoever. I think this is a time of great change and we can all really take advantage of if we just sit back and amplify the voices that need to be heard, support them, and take action in our own small part of the world.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Lindsay.

      Thank you for this reply. I agree with you – who of us can say that we don’t have room to grow?!

      I confess that before the media attention that has been set upon the matter of racism – in the USA but also in the world – this subject was raised at my center. I heard people I trust and admire talking about it being an issue, so I believed them, but I didn’t really try to understand what that meant. I didn’t understand it was a place that I had room to grow.

      Getting from the place of hearing to some level of understanding was a journey that I pray I am able to continue on. Being able to have honest conversations with my Sangha has helped me greatly so I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to share part of my journey here, and engage in conversations along the way.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a wonderful essay that gives us guidance for how to integrate our Dharma practice into our everyday life, living in the world. There are many important lessons and some real gems in here.
    “For a Buddhist, this means spiritual action, which incidentally will lead to practical action.” Yes, we tranform the world from the inside out. The “out” part, the practical action motivated by our inner practice cannot be omitted from the equation. Some people want to confuse it with being political but that is not what is meant. Because by that logic, “all of Buddhism would be political”, as the author rightly points out. I was also encouraged by the admonition to look inwards and avoid denial by being honest about what we find there. It’s about the Buddhist theme of facing reality. Only then can we root out the delusion of racism. Thank you for this very important and timely contribution!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Lars.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Yes, I love the theme of facing reality. Facing reality does take a kind of “brutal” honesty that is an affront to our attachments (speaking personally). Reality is the opposite of self-grasping – that has attachment on its heels. This is a perpetual process with me…. Im working on it.

      The concept of this being political is mystifying to me – because I truly feel this is about humanity. If I decide to demonstrate I don’t have a political motivation – I have a human, compassionate motivation. I am actively listening to my friends who feel that it is impossible to extract these matters from political motivations. I think about how in Buddhism, and within Buddhism – in our own school, the New Kadampa Tradition, we are very precise about how we communicate. We use a word and define carefully what that means. Even between Buddhist traditions, certain words can mean different things. I have been thinking deeply about how the word “political” can mean many different things – to different people.

      I also think about my statement “spiritual action, which incidentally will lead to practical action” and how what I really mean is- there is no practical action outside of our mind. Practical action is mental action – and if that has a spiritual motivation then it is not separate. The only way it is separate is if we make it mentally separate.

      I continue to think on these topics and delineations… and your comments and the discussion we are able to have certainly helps. Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for writting this!!
    All of this stuff has been swimming around my mind for so long.
    I want to protest, be an activist, to DO something about SO much!
    This article has just pulled together my fragmented mind that doesn’t have the overarching wisdom to put it all together.
    This has just helped me no end and I will keep this article to refer back to whn i get it all wrong again!! Xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Natalie.

      I am glad that this article helped you in your process. It is great to hear from other people who are on the journey and who are tapping into their own energy around this situation. Please remember that I too am in the process of understanding. My words here are not “the end” of it for me – but the journey of it.

      I love tapping into the pull of wanting to “do something” and investigating what is going on. I am a devoted Dharma practitioner and have full confidence in the power of prayer and in the instructions of our stainless Spiritual Guide. The article here describes how I arrived at an understanding of the balance between practical and spiritual solution. When it comes down to it, I believe, there cannot be a practical solution without a spiritual motivation / [or] under-pinning of the solution.

      As we know, everything is just an appearance to mind – so practical action is only mental action. [“There is no coming, there is no going…”]. That being said – if the house is burning in front of our eyes – then out of compassion for our friends and community I believe we should help. Karmically, as Buddhists, what do we think about a situation where we notice the deep suffering of another, and our decision is to engage in formal meditate, and disregard any notion of “practical help” (which to me is all encompassed in the concept of familiarizing ourselves with virtue – which is the basis of Buddhist meditation). All this presupposes that we actually notice the house burning.

      And another thing one of my employees in a group meeting when we were discussing this topic: “we are not going to be perfect activists” and just like approaching life – we shouldn’t expect that we will get everything right all the time. As Dharma practitioner’s – we understand that it is called “practice” for a reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this big-hearted and deeply thoughtful article. I applaud your superior intention, this is a beautiful example of modern Buddhism.

    I know I will not be able to end racism in the whole world, not until I am a Buddha. Our tradition is wonderful, full of Bodhisattvas. But I do feel our Kadampa Centers would become even more “Everyone welcoming!” if those who don’t know yet would take the time to learn about the lived experiences of our black Sangha members, including the abuses, oppressions, and macro and micro aggressions, so they know, when they come to the Centers, that the teachers and Sangha are relating in full honesty and understanding to them as well. Dharma works for everyone, but it is hard to receive it from those who sometimes seem tone deaf. I don’t think it would take much, just some willingness like you say to work through potential discomfort to a fuller understanding.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Shewayne for drawing attention to this important matter – being inclusive and welcoming in our Dharma communities, and in this case to our black Sangha members. In the past I had believed that it was enough to think that I was personally welcoming without considering deeply the experience of the person who might be different to me. Upon deeper consideration – for me all brought on by the current appearances – I have some to believe differently, and I started asking myself questions like:
      – What would a welcoming environment mean for a black Sangha member?
      – What might make a black Sangha member feel uncomfortable?
      – What can I do given the platforms and voice I have?
      – Given my own opportunity what is my responsibility in this situation and how much do I need to step out of my comfort zone?
      I think you are right – it wont take much. I think many of us in Dharma have pushed through the concept of the “non-existent monster under the bed”… where we don’t want to look because we are afraid of something (discomfort) but when we look we see that it wasn’t really there.

      One thing that I hear over and over again from black Americans is that they feel unsafe. I have thought a lot about this lately… what would it feel like to wake up and feel unsafe everywhere – in my home, in my car, in the streets, while jogging, at work, at school, and so on. From the standpoint of being white, it is hard to comprehend. I can only imagine, but I think that the more I imagine this, the stronger my compassion would be.

      The other thing that I think you touched upon is that communication is about the listener – not the speaker. In order to have effective communication we need to understand how the listener hears and what “appeals” to them. If we don’t truly understand how people are receiving our Dharma teachings – how can we know we are being “modern Buddhists” and teaching to the needs of the community we are in.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow. This was an exceptional article… what a beautiful examination of the mind in the face of everything that is going on in the world recently. I am so moved.

    “Drawing attention to one group is the only way we learn about it and can learn what it is that we can do to help. Don’t we want to help everyone? We can’t learn about gross injustices against “all living beings” at once. We are also not in a position to help everyone all at once either. But this happens to be an opportunity to speak up and do something about racism, which affects people all around me and right under my nose.

    I think it is interesting to think about what it means that our job as Kadampas is to pray, and that the only way we will truly end racism is by ending self-cherishing and self-grasping. Until then, samsara will prevail over us. I agree full-heartedly with all of that. That being said, Geshe Kelsang tells us that modern Buddhism means to be “out there” in the modern world, the world we helped create, amongst people, helping them through example, through peaceful minds, through teaching, through giving advice, and, when able, through practical help too. Geshe-la would never say to NOT help someone if we see something practical that we could do. But do we see?”

    So clear and compassionate ❤️ Thank you so much for sharing your spiritual insight with us and writing this 🙏🙏🙏

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you ninajeandomingo.

      Your comment reminds me of something I have contemplated for many years. I am very drawn to retreat. I am very drawn to meditation and the impact of sustained and consistent meditation – in particular through retreat. There have been several opportunities where I have been scheduled to go on retreat but also asked to teach and I have asked for guidance on which should choose.

      I had previously thought that by going into retreat I would have the best shot at attaining enlightenment – that I would be making progress on my spiritual journey which I believed was ultimately aimed at enlightenment – for all living beings. This is why retreat seemed more important to me in the past.

      But where would we – as Kadampas – be if the first few people who met Geshela all went into retreat for many years instead of building our NKT structure, our study programs, our centers, Temples, and so on. Only because of all of this activity are we so fortunate to be able to study and learn ourselves – and be able to do this with so many other fortunate beings.

      No matter who we are as Kadampas, we are all teachers – and even if we aren’t formally teaching at a center, we are influencing the people at our workplace, in shops, in the streets, at school, and perhaps at demonstrations. The power of our teaching comes from blessings – which I believe means this is all rooted in prayer and connection to our Guru and the Buddhas. These actions are not separate from the minds that motivate them.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for finding the words for what so many are experiencing. I am stunned at my blindness.
    This, followed by the article posted above in the comments about the emotional impact watching people waking up to a nightmare experienced by so many, is having such an impact on my heart.
    Wanting to embrace all those that have been ignored for so long. Regretfully late to the party but happy to be here.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Donna.

      Your statement “waking up to a nightmare” resonates with me.

      It is quite visceral and I think that many of us are experiencing that right now. It reminds me of the teachings in Singapore where Geshela asked us to consider what it might be like to be in a nightmare, and “wake up” only to realize that we were in our reality.

      I guess from one perspective this is all one nightmare – in which some of us are able to evade manifest pain more easily than others. We also know that there is only one way out of the chain of the samsaric nightmare.

      In the meantime, as we find our way to the “party of enlightenment” we can help the others in our nightmare. Unless we realize it is a “nightmare” it will be very difficult for us to help others.

      One of my favorite quotes is from “King of Concentration Sutra” – “In a dream a girl meets a boy. She is happy to meet him but sad that he is dying. We should know that all phenomena are like this”.

      If this particular girl realized she was dreaming – would she walk away from the boy? Would she say “sayonara… you aren’t really dying…. Im off to meditate”? Or would she love him even more because she knew (in the waking dream version) that he too was trapped in ordinary appearance and conception? I think that for us the point is that we could avoid anger and attachment – and self-grasping – through recognizing that it is a dream… but I don’t think it means we “walk away”.

      What we need to walk away from is the “world we normally see”, not the entire world and its inhabitants, and once we are able to do that, we need to help them do this too.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I found this to be a very thought provoking, timely and beautifully honest article, it cut to the chase.
    Cell-phone video technology has shown itself to be the “burning house” igniting action the world over; pain and sorrow laid bare. The genie on BLM is out of the bottle for the world to see. Really see.
    Whatever action we can take to help alleviate the suffering we see under our nose every day is what we do as bodhisattvas-in-training. BLM is another tragic and devastating casualty of samsara, the victims, including the police, are our “brothers and sisters”. Let’s be honest, many of us are sitting in a world of white privilege, feeling a bit helpless in the face of BLM, looking/listening/understanding but maybe quite superficially, while we are more deeply preoccupied with not wanting our little bubble of comfort to be shaken up. Most white people probably do not have much of a clue at all as to what it must be like for so many black people who are marginalized simply because of the colour of their skin. The horrifying video footage brings us face to face with this problem, and our humanity – or lack thereof.
    Thanks to the kindness of our spiritual guide we get to look in the mirror of who we are and do something about it. We can start by taking refuge on their behalf, “being” their refuge whenever possible, and deepen our resolve to bring an end to all suffering.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Sheila.

      I think you touched on something important for us all to think about – are we trying to get out of samsara or are we using Dharma to make our samsara better?

      This reminds me about how I used to think about my prayers to Dorje Shugden in asking him for “favorable conditions to arise”. I know for many years I said those lines with knowing resistance and insincerity to what “favorable” meant. I knew that it didn’t mean favorable to my samsara that I was (am) quite attached to, so I kind of brushed the fervor of my prayers aside for the sake of my attachments.

      And I love your suggestion of providing refuge for others – knowing that real refuge comes from the 3 Jewels. If we have Dharma in our heart, if we are praying for the blessings of the Buddhas, then we can become a “way point” for others to head out of samsara.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow. Powerful article. Thank you for writing this. I feel like you’re hitting at the heart of it. The unbearability. The deep courage needed to really look. And how this is the deep courage of the Bodhisattva. 🙏❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Clare, thanks for your comment.

      Thanks for drawing attention to the courage part of this. When I think about courage, I think about the confidence of a mind that knows truth and can stand on that without fear. What we really fear is just our own negative, uncontrolled minds. If we didn’t have them, we would have no fear, no matter what we experienced. I would like to keep thinking about the courage of an actual Bodhisattva and where I differ from that… and how I can bridge the gap.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This article really helped me. Over the last few weeks I have entered into some really difficult communications and conversations that have often left me bewildered and saddened. I think for the first time I have found myself holding a different position to my own resident teacher and this has been really uncomfortable and caused me to doubt the validity of my own position with regards to BLM. Now, having read this article and others on this blog I feel assured that the position I have held is arising from the extraordinary combination of the teachings of Kadampa Buddhism and the appearances of Modern Life. I’m conscious that as I write I am not really expressing fully how this article has helped. Mainly I want to say that it feels thoroughly good to share this world with sincere faithful practitioners like you who will not stop doing the inner work that has to be done so that whatever outer work presents itself it is tackled from a heart transformed by Compassion and Wisdom.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you ManjushriGirl for your sincere reply.

      I understand how you could feel bewildered that you are holding different from other people around you, and especially others who you felt you were perfectly aligned with in values.

      I am not sure of your exact situation but I do know that many of us agree that the reality of racism has been downplayed, devalued, and suppressed – not only for those who are the recipients of the injustice, but even for those of us being complicit. This means that not all of us will come to a place of insight at the same time. This will be a process and will take some time. Things will not right themselves overnight.

      How will things “right themselves”? Us!

      When I feel discouraged after a conversation with someone that did not go as I believed it should have, I think about all the years that Black men and women have tried to express their experience and it has been met with resistance or has been ignored. The small disappointment we might feel in others not seeing things the way we do is a minor inconvenience compared to the impact of us not pressing through the slight discomfort. The other part of this is listening. We all know that we have been wrong before, so we cannot say that we have it all figured out. We will only come to understanding through learning – and part of that is listening. In business, a good sales person already knows all the objections that their potential client would have – and is ready and resolved in their approach to discuss them. With this matter for myself I cannot say the same. For this reason I welcome opinions that differ from my own. I want to understand where I or others might not be “hitting the mark”.

      After I wrote this article, a very close Kadampa friend of mine and I discussed things that they believed were flaws in my position. I agreed that I might not have it all figured out – and we had what I believe was a great discussion. During our conversation my friend read a quote transcribed from a teaching that Geshela gave that we were both at which I think gets points at the heart of why we might have slightly different views from our entire Kadampa family. I have included the quote below as provided to me by my friend (who is extremely reliable for matters such as these).

      “For example, nowadays we can see in the world so many problems — people experiencing difficulties. Some people said, “What should we Buddhists do to help these problems?” some people asking me.

      I said we cannot be involved in this political problem or it becomes worse. Our job is, we pray for these people to pacify their negativity, wrong view, extreme view, pacify, to prayer. Our job to solve these kind of problems is that we pray for everybody to become friends — harmony, good relationships and pacifying their extreme view, wrong view of selfish intention, and so forth. That is our job. I believe this is the best method to help, to benefit.

      Other than that, if we try to physically, verbally, it makes worse, also we have no opportunity, nothing. We pray equally, every area, to pacify their negative attitude, negative intention and experiencing correct view, correct intention and following correct path. People throughout the world will become friends, maintain good relationships, harmony, and so forth.”

      Without writing another entire article here, I have arrived at a few things to think about as relates to this quote that will help me to understand where it is I differ in opinion from my trusted Kadampa brothers and sisters. I have complete faith in my Guru and I believe that he does not “mince words”, so I believe he meant every word of what was said.

      – What does “involved in this political problem” mean exactly? Does this mean that our actions, no matter where they are directed, are with a Dharma motivation – not political?
      – When I think about the statement “our job is, we pray for these people…” I think about the concept of prayer – and how through prayer we connect to blessings. The blessings are our minds connection to the reality of us being pervaded by Buddhas mind. In prayer we bring others into this reality with us. Can we really help people practically if we are not tuned into blessings – aka – reality?
      – And “Other than that, if we try to physically, verbally, it makes worse” I look at the first part of the statement where Geshela says “other than that” – which to me says if we try to act without being in alignment with the Buddhas and reality, then we are going against reality – and that is worse… for sure.

      Ultimately if we cant speak to things like this, we are not clear on our own view. To become clear and to gain deep understanding we have to listen to people sincerely and keep Dharma in our heart – for if Dharma is in our heart and mind, we are always happy.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you so much for publishing this.

    You may have seen this article.

    https://metro.co.uk/2020/06/12/emotional-impact-watching-white-people-wake-racism-real-time-12839920/

    I have been thinking about it a lot since I read it on the weekend, and I have bucketed racism into two main buckets:

    1. Macro-aggressions
    2. Micro-aggressions

    The former being the visible, egregious oppression of one group – in this case black Americans – by another – in this case mostly white Americans. This would include the unnecessary shooting of and treatment of those called on my police. The arrest and incarceration of a disproportionate amount of black Americans, and so on. It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to find daily contemporary examples of this, and trace it back to a continued line for hundreds of year. If we are not outraged at learning any of this, we should ask ourselves why we are not, because I believe that is a question that a Buddhist would ask of themselves. We have confidence that there is always something we can do, and know that the main thing we can do is attain enlightenment, but have we truly looked at what is happening?

    The latter, micro-aggressions are something that are not as obvious. Black people are not bringing them up because, well, why would they. If they did, they would be complaining all the time, just as I don’t bring up every instance of a man being inappropriate with me. It just is what it is. It still hurts though. If we are really looking – they are everywhere. And if we don’t see it, we should be looking for it. Once you see it – you cant un-see it. Think of how scarring teasing to a kid in school is. For black Americans – that (and much worse) doesn’t end.

    From the above article “Honour admits, however, that her thoughts on this are nuanced. In some ways, she says she can understand why white people may not have a full picture of what it’s like to live with racism, because she says Black people tend to keep day-to-day microaggressions to themselves.”

    Again, taking the time to do this does not mean we do not care about all the other issues or living beings. I care about all of them – once I know of them. And I should be doing everything I can, at any point I can to help as many as possible.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Anonymous. And thank you for sharing the article. The last line says a lot to me “‘In order to progress anti-racism, important conversations about race cannot prioritize white discomfort and white guilt ahead of racism, racial inequality and trauma. In all of this (speaking for myself) – in being culpable for our own complicity, in showing humility for our past foibles, in feeling the discomfort of not knowing what to do, what to say, in feeling whatever version of guilt that might arise for us, we cannot forget what this is all for… This is all in pursuit of happiness for others. Happiness for all, through recognizing exactly where our blocks and blind-spots are.

      When I think about these things my appreciation for Dharma and what I have in my life comes sharply into focus. The hearts and minds of people need changing and that comes down to Dharma. Racism is a view. A view is a mind – or the continuum of a mind. And I think we can all agree that there is only one solution here. Thank goodness for emptiness!

      I don’t disagree that there is a time when using our voices and other skills is helpful for the people believing they are trapped in our shared karmic appearance, but without Dharma behind it, its hard to imagine true progress. And so, in the short while since I wrote this article, I have been examining how I bring Dharma to the various areas in my own life where I can stand up and make changes, where I can be more engaged, more aware, and more active.

      Liked by 1 person

I'd love to hear from you...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.