2022-06-19 Juneteenth: Wisdom, Truth, Relinquishment, Peace
8:27PM Jun 19, 2022
And welcome to IMC and you're in person and also online. And so today is the anniversary of delayed emancipation of African Americans here in the United States. Some two, two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It took that long to, for some of the slaves in this country to head slaveholders to finally realize that freedom from slavery in Texas 1865. And it's now that it's become a national holiday, it's this, it's United States now has two independent stays. And the first one marked a certain kind of independence, and also represents in so many ways, in Independence, that was only partial independence that ended up legalizing the enslavement of other people. So a freedom that some people that aid, but which institutionalized or sanctioned the lack of freedom for others. And it took almost another 100 years before, legally, that freedom became much more complete, and that slaves were emancipated. And as probably many of you know, this, the history, but that's been celebrated every year, first in Galveston, Texas, and then spread to Texas into other places over time. And until now, it's a national holiday. And the people who mostly celebrated until recently have been black Americans who are most impacted by this. And it was certainly a celebration for them over there, this freedom from slavery. It was also a remembering of the horrendous oppression and suffering that their ancestors went through. And it's good to remember. And that there's, but also, African Americans have used time as a celebration of their achievement, their perseverance, how far how brilliantly some of them have worked through their oppression, including the challenges they've had over the last 160 70 years, since emancipation. And, and, you know, it's remarkable how much African Americans are contributed to this culture, not just contributed to tuition, helped make it with some phenomenal achievements, and highest levels of government and military and science and literature and music just goes on and on. So the stage is also the celebration of this, the tremendous drive and creativity and capacity of this population of people who've been so oppressed. And for me, personally, I've been inspired very much by, by this perseverance, this the degree to which so many of them have not given up, have not turned around to, to
reject this country, but really have stepped up in a powerful way to claim their place, as citizens of this country, proud citizens of this country. And I've met with oppression, violence and murder and all kinds of things, some of them with persevering and insisting on the truth, insisting on asserting or finding their freedom at But also, many of them, maybe partly from their Christian background, but a message of forgiveness and love. It's phenomenal to see how this has worked that someone was so much stacked against them so much horrible things done to them, have kept showing up showing up showing up over and over again. And excelled in so many different ways, including the capacity to love. I've met a number of African Americans who are good practitioners, some of them have become teacher, Buddha's teachers, and have learned little bit about their personal story and how challenging it's been growing up in this country and, and what they've had to face. But that they came to Buddhist practice, in order to deal with their tremendous pain that they carried with them. And their tremendous rage, their anger, and how difficult it was to sit in a room full of mostly white people and retreats. And, and sit there and sit there and but they use this practice in order to somehow resolve that and to work with it and heal it. And came out the other side with a dignity and confidence and a capacity because they had healed their rage and their woundedness a capacity to still be in the fire of racism in this country. But to be able to look at it in the face with strength and confidence. And with a certain kind of love sometimes of fierce love. And sometimes I met these African American practitioners and had been Skyping to all of them had kind of like it's well inspired by them and kind of felt Wow. I hope you know, what would I be able to do that? Would I hadn't been able to manage with that level of challenge? Like you would hope so. But I don't know. So a day to celebrate you they measured the amazing accomplishment of what a free people can do. And to recognize there's a plenty of people who are no not not yet free enough. There's still oppression in this country, there's still still limitations of things that undermine lots of people, not just African Americans, but that's what we're celebrating today. And that to keep lots of things that keep them from excelling. Keep them from living a free life. Keep them from fulfilling their capacity in beautiful ways. So what I'd like to do today is to teach you what did the teachings of the Buddha are called The Four Great resolves the four things, the word resolve here, the Pali word is a de tanah, which kind of etymology of the word means something like a higher stand, where you take your stand. So it's not just the resolve, which can see like, where you're headed, resolve to get someplace. But this is where we take our stand like this, you know, this is what we're committed to, and we're going to find our way. And these four resolves, or four stands are wisdom, truth, relinquishment, and peace. So I'll say a little bit about them. But mostly, what I want to do is use this as a, as a structure to read some quotations from African American writers, activists, people. And I've chosen different quotes that kind of fit into these categories. And that might kind of give a different application or orientation in order to kind of consider these four stands. I think many, in the context of this Buddhist meditation practice, that these four resolves are often understood in terms of our own practice. It's like, turned inward towards ourselves, how to practice them that that's actually very significant to do that.
And that's what these African American practitioners in some ways did in order to find their freedom in order to be able to go out and after that afterwards, some of them are kind of activists now. So there's a place for that, but we can't tell them it ourselves too much our freedom and being internally focused sometimes at this Buddhist practice. And so to hear these, these quotations in the context of these four resolves might be interesting too. for reflection, and also a way of kind of honoring this holiday. So, the first one wisdom. And there's a number of definitions of wisdom in Buddhism. But the one that I find most inspiring is not that of wisdom, but of a wise person. So how a wise person thinks is their wisdom. And the Buddha says, A wise person is someone who considers their own welfare, consider the welfare of others, the welfare of both self and others, and the welfare of the whole world. This is different than what most people think wisdom is in Buddhism, or video, things that are defined as wisdom. Sometimes it's people point to emptiness or their four noble truths or two, dependent arising, all kinds of thing kind of other things, but to front and center put wisdom put, defined wisdom have wisdom be connected to welfare. And for that, we have to know what is welfare, what is the well being. And we have to, for that, to be concerned for the welfare of others, we have to know them, we have to know something about them, we have to be able to meet them with a lot of respect and understanding, and so to have Buddhist practice, that part of the context for it according to the Buddha, is this mutual welfare. And what he says the Buddha says, self sell yourself, other self and other and the whole world. I understand there's no explanation of what these three four categories are, but self and other I understand it to be the We the relationship we have what happens when we come together, the Interact into relatedness that we have. And that gets created and our mutual contact with each other. And that the whole world, it just I just take it to be, you know that our scope or the care of a wise person is 360 degrees, that nothing is left out. Nothing is outside the purview of what our care is. So one of the really, one great African American historians in this country was W. EB Dubois, amazing man, who, you know, there was about a century, from the time of the end of the Civil War, that's a patient proclamation to the Civil Rights Act. And in 100 years, he lived 95 of them. He was born in 1868, the height in 1963, a year before the Civil Rights Act, which he championed and worked for. And what oh, what a lifetime to live through. Jim Crow, when Cooke was clad, you know, the World War One World War Two and the civil rights movement, you know, just committed to so many powerful things that happened. And, and he studied it, he wrote about it, he commented that he was a prolific writer and one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. So he wrote, here read lies the tragedy of the age, not that men are poor, all men know something of poverty. Not that men are wicked, who after all, is good? Not that beg their men are ignorant. After all, what is truth? Day The tragedy is that men know so little of men. Little hard to read, when we don't do that we choose gender inclusive language these days, but this was the language of the time.
The tragedy of we all know each other. And so one of his summations of all the suffering that he's seeing in his country in this country at his time. I had this quote, kind of zeroes in on it. We don't know each other well enough. And what happens when we really know people? There was a African American jazz player who made it his mission is to convert or disarm members of the Ku Klux Klan. And he would go around to Ku Klux Klan rallies. And he would befriend the people there become their friends get, invite them out for lunch, we've arrived to their houses for lunch. And these clans forgot that they never had friendship with a black person. And they got to know him. And they realized that their beliefs, their vision of you of what a black person is, was wrong. And they left the clan to some other high wizards left the clan that he has a whole collection of Clan robes that they gave to him, it's kind of to mark this, they're leaving that clan, he collects them, he has a big closet full of them. What are remarkable thing to do, they'd be that kind of sounds a little crazy, you know, in principle to me, but you can read about it to lots of articles about him and forget his name.
Ellis Walker healing begins, where the wound was made. healing begins where the wound was made. So here also this wisdom, of knowing, you know, being concerned for the welfare of others. But can you know about the welfare of others without knowing the wound they have the suffering, the challenges they have. And one of the principles of wisdom and Buddhism is the wisdom, the importance of being attuned to suffering, being attuned to paint the woods, the challenges of ourselves and others, not so that we're oppressed by it or suffer even more. But without understanding or suffering with understanding or societal suffering, there's no hope to move forward, move through it and find the freedom on the other end. healing begins where the wound was made. James Baldwin wrote, for a while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted. And how we may triumph is never new. It always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell. It's the only light we got and all this darkness. So we have to do wisdom of facing this to be able to tell the story and or to recognize how we suffer how we're delighted. And how we triumph. And that's what's you know, this holidays about part, just not only freedom with the triumphing of those African Americans who have really pushed through their oppression and excelled in so many different ways. And Malcolm X man who is still controversial, perhaps for some people, but he's has many people have come to appreciate him more and more as that distance of his time. We are not fighting for integration, nor are we fighting for separation. We are fighting for recognition as human beings. In fact, we are actually fighting for rights that are even greater than civil rights. And that is human rights. So fighting for recognition, hey, we're here. We count we're important. This is you know, this Why think so wonderful, wonderful rallying cry and teaching in its own right. Their slogan, Black Lives Matter. And because it's been so there's so much resistance to this slogan in this country, surprising that anybody would resist that slogan. I wonder sometimes whether we add one word to it, whether that would help. Black Lives Matter, also. Because the who could who could argue against that. So wisdom, to recognition to seeing the wound, recognizing other people recognizing the humanity of others and you know, as part of this whole wisdom through the Shinto here, not just in ourselves, but now looking outwards into this world. So the second resolve is truth. And this is central to Buddhist practice. We practice mindfulness to be able to be present for what is most true, the truth. That's the liberating. And for personal liberation, it's a real deep look inside into the depths of our hearts. For societal liberate liberation, there has to be some study and recognition of what's true out there. And avoid lies. complicated issue in some ways. But certainly we have examples in contemporary society where it's not a question of what is true and what's lies because it's freely admitted there. People are lying. But they're doing it anyway, tremendous cost to our society. So Nicole, Hannah Jones, who was one of the one of the main originators of the 1619 project, to study racism in this country. She wrote if we hear it the United States, if we are truly a great nation, then
the truth cannot destroy us. It's a powerful statement in my mind, to hear the tried to get to keep combat to bring out the truth of the wound of their what's happened here, and that so many people are resisting and not wanting, thinking somehow it's going to do something terrible. But the truth can never destroy us. Dubois said, The Cure isn't simply telling people the truth. It is inducing them to act on the truth. So to act to live the truth to act on what's true. So, you know, part of the danger in Buddhism where we have on our practice, at least where we're having insights and understanding and wisdom is that it the powerful for us maybe to see the truth in some ways in our practice. But then we don't take the next step, which is to is to understand how that influences or or inspires, living a different way, let go of attachments. Not so that we can watch more Netflix, and not have to worry about anything because we did our own spiritual world work. But to discover how to be I feel like go over our attachments. So that that we can step into the world. In the freeway, dedicated to freedom. I said, I'll go on so. So that becomes relinquishment. relinquishment is a fascinating word, because it also the Pali word Chaga. For relinquishment, also means generosity. And the fact that relinquishment letting go in some deep way, can mean generosity, they kind of gives a different twist, because some people think relinquishment is kind of giving something up. But the word giving up, it was originally apparently suggested offering something up on the altar, giving is also the word giving, isn't it. And there was sometimes a colloquial English giving up feels like a kind of a hopeless surrender or something. But what if giving up is a powerful Act of, of independence and freedom and you know, that that's not surrendering something, but rather stepping in let it go to step forward in a free way. So again, Dubois, there is in this world, no force, as a force of demand, determined to arise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained, the human heart cannot be permanently chained. The here to steal the human soul cannot be permanently chained, as for via translate that as heart our heart does not want to be held in check doesn't want to be repressed or held down. There is in us a call to freedom, a yearning for freedom to be set free. And I believe that once we do mindfulness practice or meditation practice that lets the mind quiet down enough from all its distractions, all its preoccupations, and we could feel this setting here ourselves more deeply, will hear that call for freedom. The way in early Theravada Buddhism that's expressed is the word He pacifical, which means come and see, there's a call, there's a call to come and see come and look here. Freedom is found here come and look for it. When I Buddha's segment, a Chinese Buddha saying is that freedom beckons us in everything. There's a call to freedom, the heart wants to be free, the heart doesn't want to suffer. And what are those simplest kind of maybe
rational maybe even mechanical ways of understanding this call to freedom is that it's a call to let go of all the ways in which the heart is contracted or tight fisted. And it's a lot of work to do that. It's a lot of effort. And if you really, if you feel into a fist, which is all contracted and tight, you feel kind of a call and the fist to relax, it doesn't want to be that way, you have to assert the mind over and over again to keep the hand fisted up. There is a call in the heart for freedom for release. The human soul cannot be permanently chained. To boy, again, the cost of Liberty is less than the price of repression. That's a powerful statement. And I don't know if you can reword it for the cost of freedom is less than the price of attachment, the price of craving and clinging. That's a so if you want to do the economic analysis of this practice, it clearly comes in favor of us doing the work to become free. Boy, again, I believe in liberty for all men, the space to stretch their arms and their souls, the right to breathe, and the fight to vote, the freedom to choose their friends enjoy the sunshine, and ride on their railroads, and cursed by color. Think gig dreaming and working as they will in a kingdom of beauty and love working as they will add a kingdom of beauty at love. Don't we want to live in a kingdom like that? And we're all like that, don't we want to contribute to that. And we want to be someone who contributes to beauty, love and freedom. I think that it's actually if you learn how to do it. It's actually less less work than the alternative. That a colleague of Dubois is a man named Carter Woodson, he was actually the main founder of the NAACP, lead lived around the same time. And he wrote, history shows that it does not matter who is in power, or what revolutionary forces take over the government. Those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend so solely on others, never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end, that they had the beginning. So this is where Buddhist practice comes into play. Because this is a kind of a specialty of Buddha's of I think that has to contribute to all this. We, those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend so solely on others. Buddhist practice is leading us to becoming independent. There's a certain kind of the Buddha was explicit using this word not dependent to live a life not dependent on anything, not dependent on others. Is that possible, psychologically in certain way, it is possible and to the degree to which the heart can become independent. Without that Woodson doesn't believe it's possible to have any other freedom. So then, in terms of his freedom, living a life of beauty and living a life of love to Tony Morrison has this beautiful quote. If you can't imagine it, you can't have it. If you can't imagine it, you can't have it. So some of you maybe don't feel like you have freedom, yet, full freedom. Don't live a life of full love and all the context that you'd like to live it, maybe you don't have to. But imagine that it's possible. Imagine it had a vision for it.
The first experience of liberation and Buddhism is often called a vision, then we have a vision of what's possible. The first experience of liberation is not the end. But it's the beginning. Because now we kind of can imagine it as. So the four resolves wisdom, truth, relinquishment, and now the fourth one is peace. And for the Buddha, the terms of the kind of emotional experience of liberation, what it actually feels like, he has two concepts that he presents. One is peace. And the other is happiness, peaceful happiness, happy peace, if you put them together. So peace is kind of like the one of the goals of the Buddhist practice. And Malcolm X said, You cannot separate peace from the freedom because no one can be at peace, unless he has his freedom. No one can be at peace unless he has his freedom. So we don't want to live in a world where people are denied their freedom. Dubois what a world this will be, where the human possibilities are freed. When we discover each other, when the stranger is no longer the potential criminal, and this certain inferior doesn't really mention peace. But this is where the quote got put. worldview impossibilities. Tony Morrison. Don't let anybody anybody convince you. This is the way the world is. And therefore it must be. It must be the way it ought to be. This is unusual quote for Buddhists that are seen to be different. We keep emphasizing, you know, you have to see the world as it is. Yes, we see the world as it is. So that the social world can become what it ought to be. We see the truth of what's happening, things as they are in our hearts. So that our live life in this world can be as it's possible as we can imagine it. If we all may accept things as they are, ourselves as we are. Nothing's really gonna change. And is there really a freedom to be found? By simply just accepting things as they are? I'd say no. Things have to change to the degree to which Buddha's practice acceptance. It's only so that we get to know that better, more deeply, only so that our reactivity and our attachments, don't get the upper hand. But not we don't accept so that we permanently accept, we learn how to be present to see things as they are, so that we can let this growth into freedom happen. That's what our heart wants. That's what the heart, the heart of our hearts, there is a possibility for a different life, there is a possibility for a different society. Whether or not we attain it in this lifetime in this century, and this little idea, one of the most powerful way, ways of freedom that gets enacted and lived is we don't we don't limit our freedom, our enactments are by the short term possibilities What's important, and even by the results, what's important is we act in free ways we act for freedom, we become somebody who wants to live, expressing our love, or care, maybe a certain beauty and freedom. So we can be free, at the love in our hearts can be set free. So that we can be attuned and supportive of the freedom.
Love, that others can have the possibility or freedom and love between self and others, and to contribute to a world where freedom and love are recognized, appreciated, valued and celebrated. And may it be there on this day of the Juneteenth. That's a day where we appreciate value and start to live more fully dedicate ourselves to the advancement, the freedom, the happiness of everyone. Including, and maybe with some priority. The African Americans in this country, they've been forgotten, ignored, oppressed for centuries. And so there's a little bit of reckoning that we should do and care for and support. We'll change, continue the change that's happening in a good direction on the student day. So thank you, wisdom, truth, relinquishment, and peace. So we will stop at that, for those of you who'd like we'll take some chairs, folding chairs outside the parking lot, and we can sit there and have a little discussion and check in and whatever happens, we can take our masks off, if you like. Keep it on if you'd like, out there. And that's nice. You're all welcome to comp. It's nice to have chat. And one of the things I'd like to do maybe at the beginning of that gathering, is to talk a little bit about some of the thinking about how to what kind of changes were quite an act of for the COVID protocol for coming here on Sunday mornings in July. As an IP, not the big change, but a little bit of change. One of one of them is maybe to stop using this whole registration system, we have to have it be an honor system that people are vaccinated still wear masks, but maybe also not limit the numbers and see what happens if it just you know if with that, so we haven't decided we haven't decided what to do. But I thought the least to give you those of you who'd like to stay and have some discussion about it. We could begin our conversation out there with that. So thank you very much and