2023-10-27-Gil-Non-Violence (5 of 5) Courage to Engage
12:07AM Nov 2, 2023
So we come to the fifth talk on non violence. And I think most of you clearly know that this is a maybe understated way of responding to the term horrible, horrific violence that's happening in the Middle East. And, but also in my heart to the horrific violence in Ukraine and Syria, Sudan's Burma, all over the world. And and then, if last meditation I led, it might not have been maybe the most popular meditation that I've guided meditation I've given, it may be because many people associate Buddhist meditation with acceptance with relaxation with allowing, which is settling back and being no one going nowhere, nothing to do. And I would like to propose that that's only half the picture. And in fact, to make that the full picture of what Buddhist practice is, is to shortchange oneself, is to not really step up to really live in this world, in a completely free way. The Buddha did not avoid the world after he was enlightened, he engaged in the world. He intentionally went into places where people were back to his home, one of the first things he did was go back to his hometown, and visit his people and, and, and so half of the practice may be considered relaxation. The other half of practice is to awaken, awaken a, an energy, a capacity to act, and to, to not be held in check by fear, not be held and checked with resistance, not being held in check by diminishing ourselves or making ourselves some artificially little. There's a way of letting go of self conceit. Letting go of fear, that allows us to show up more fully. In fact, with to practice mindfulness to really be present in such a way that we're no longer limited by our fear. There's nothing that limits us from acting wisely, well, compassionately in this world. And, and Buddhist practice is about going forth is about connecting is about living for the welfare and happiness of everyone. I quoted it earlier in the week, but one of the very important quotes from me and the Buddha's discourses, it the one that says that a wise person does not intend harm to self, to others, to self, and others, and to the whole world. Rather, a wise person intends welfare for self intends welfare for others, and 10s of welfare for self and others intends welfare for the whole world. And it's not just intending, but it's also showing up. And so, I would like to give a couple of quotes and then make what for me is a very important statement. So this idea of showing up courageously, the Buddha uses metaphors, that it's not so popular to use in the modern Western Buddhist circles. There's a very strong ethos against anything that is excessively assertive or masculine or macho or warrior like. And so there's been a strong movement of backing down from these kinds of metaphors that the Buddha uses a lot warrior kind of metaphors. And I've been avoiding them mostly because if I use them people will be critical and surprised when women and teachers are allowed to use it and he During it was really inspiring to come from women. But here's one that compared to a person who conquers 1000 times 1000 people, is the person who conquers oneself. The person who conquers oneself is supreme in battle. So the greatest battle we fight is the one with ourselves. We fight all the ways that we limit ourselves hold ourself in, check, get attached, live in fear. That is the battle. That's where we show up. And that's what we have courage to do in this practice. And certainly relaxing, it takes courage to really relax deeply, to settle back and allow our experience to go through us It takes courage. But these two elements, letting go and courageous actions, they go hand in hand, one done sometimes what some situations one predominant, so others, the others, but it's not all about letting go. It's also about action and courageous action. And this battle with oneself. That doesn't mean that we're hostile towards ourselves or aggressive to ourselves or hating ourselves. It means that we actually love ourselves because we want to stop the ways in which we limit ourselves. And then the person who day and night delights in harmlessness and as loving kindness towards all beings, is the one who has no hate for anyone. So here we get again to the Buddha's idea of harmlessness. But here delights in living a harmless life comes with loving kindness, free of hatred, towards hostility towards anyone. These are some of the key and most important teachings the Buddha gives. And over and over again, we see this emphasis on living a harmless life, but living with mettā with loving kindness, with no hate for anyone. But this does not mean that we are passive. And there's that Buddha's example of his life is not one of a passive passive person, he was engaged with people and the situations of his time. But here's a small quote that I kind of like that. It is possible, Ananda, the Buddha speaking to his main attendant, it is possible that you can look on with indifference at an elder, monastic, the senior monastic being being offended, truly and under care does not grow from being still unreactive when a senior monastic is being offended, so if there's if someone's being offended, stand up. Go get involved, don't just do nothing is the teaching here. And and the Buddha even said to his monastics, even if your teacher does something which is unethical, speak up, talk to the person speak up, don't let them get away with it. And and then. So the reason I want to emphasize today action. And then this week with us, stepping up and doing something is that the more we're troubled more, we're distressed by events in the world, the more important it is, for us to act, to do something to live differently. And to simply sit back and be angry and upset and afraid and expect someone else to do everything to have opinions about what should have happened and who's wrong is not helpful for this world. The world needs people who step up who courageously act in the world and there's many ways of doing this and and each person has to find what's appropriate for them their life their situation and what the doors that an opening for them for what they can do. If you know I have I think if it the San Andreas fault ruptures here in the peninsula I live. And there's a massive earthquake, like there was in San Francisco in 1906. You know, their fault is only a mile or two away.
I bet we would see heroic efforts by the survivors, tireless efforts to really help and step forward and help and do something that people are not going to say, Well, I'm gonna go meditate. Now, we step up and do, otherwise, we're actually harming ourselves. So in my situation, the when 911 happen, I had this strong understanding that I had to do something different. The first thing I did different was that the small thing was that two weeks later, I was supposed to give a day long workshop on the Buddhist teachings of on mindfulness. And I decided I can't do that. Not right after 911. So I changed the workshop to be a workshop on the Buddhist teachings on peace. And, but that was a small thing. It wasn't enough. And the last thing I was, I wanted to do was to go back to business as usual. And that happens over and over again, in ways we so many times in our life, we read some horrible thing in in the news. And then we're changed for a while. But then things go back to usual. The murdering of George Floyd was horrendous, and had a big impact on so many people highlighted the racism in the United States in a way that hadn't really been highlighted before, I believe. And many people were alarmed, and there was movements to change. But now some years later, how much has changed how many people have stopped their focus on this issue and concern, and so many things could have passed much more quickly. But with 911, I said, I, we I have to be changed by this. If I'm not changed by this, I haven't really taken it in. And so it also is one of the institutions I'm involved with a sati Center, which was a is a Buddhist Study Center. So we have to I said, we have to do more than just study the sukha study the Buddhist teachings, we have to do something for society. So from that, we decided to do the Buddhist chaplaincy program and now for 20 or 20 years now. We've been teaching a year long introduction to Buddha's chaplaincy, that's trained now many, many people in the skills and the orientation to Buddha's chaplains has opened doors for people into this very significant way of offering spiritual care. People have become hospital chaplains, prison chaplains. People have been involved in politics certainly in in chaplaincy kind of ways and all kinds of places people have stepped up and offered care and and that his chaplaincy program was started because of 911 has now spawned two other similar programs in chaplaincy. And so you know, a big part of my life for the last 20 years has been oriented around what impact how I was changed by 911. With the with the situation now for a couple of years in Ukraine, which is huge. The amount of violence we're seeing, and what's happening now in Gaza. And Israel is huge. And you know, it's impacted many of us for many decades, the endless cycles of violence there. But there's something different qualitatively different now more powerful, what's happening now. They have so many children being killed, teens being shot down. Innocent people being, you know, murdered, and, and people kind of living a life that's worse than I go off into St. Quinton is at the state prison here in California. And the pictures and the reports I get of people how they live in Gaza. Sounds like it's worse than what it's like in prison here, United States. And now it's a lot of opinions, a lot of ideas about all kinds of things. But if we have opinions are we willing to be changed by by this? And so what I would like to suggest is, the more deeply we are impacted that we do ourselves harm if we don't allow ourselves to change and do something different. And it might not be that we do something for the people in Gaza and Israel. How much can we do there from our distance? But maybe we do we now motivated to do something else better. Many times when I read in the newspaper, horrific things that impact me, it motivates me to be a better Buddhist teacher. give myself more to this teaching. And this work, because I believe this work is peacemaking, this work is helping so many people become free of suffering. But sometimes that's doesn't feel like enough. So now with for me, I've been impacted a lot by these last couple of weeks, Israel in Gaza. And the question is, at my age and my point in my life, what do I do? What how do I do things that are different. And so I don't know yet what's possible, what I can do and what doors will open up that are appropriate to step through. But, you know, like, I created the chaplaincy program many years ago, I've wondered about training and sati center, this study group center, we have maybe creating a program or facilitating a program in non violence, non training and non violence and the strategies of it and wisdom of it. The philosophy of it, the, the, and the inner work that has to happen in order to be able to be a nonviolent warrior in a sense for peace. Or may also have been interested in for many years of Buddhist peace studies, live more content, social justice, and politics, having to do with peace. But you know, it's, I've devoted my life to other things these years and as a Buddhist teacher, and my time is limited, and what can I create at this point in my life? So I'm wondering, so I'm reflecting I'm not just giving us an example, I'm reflecting on this thinking about how how do I be different because of this, it's not enough just to sit back and have opinions. So So I offer that to you or something for you to think about. That the more deeply you've been impacted by tragedies of this world that we live in your own personal ones are the ones around you or near you are the ones in other places in the world, that maybe you'll do yourself a disservice if you just kind of hope just to relax, chill out, get back, get back to life as usual, that maybe do yourself a tremendous service, of evoking a degree of courage and strength, that yes, you will step forward and be different and act differently and contribute to this world in a different way. And to do it in your way, in a way that's appropriate for you. So it's not a source of stress. It's not a source of exhaustion. It's a source of inspiration and enlivening and meaningful for you. The Buddha's dedication to non harming includes not harming oneself, benefiting oneself. And so this courageous way of acting in the world for the welfare of everyone includes for yourself, so that it's not stressful is not causing more harm to yourself, it's not putting yourself in greater danger to feel even more distressed. It's the opposite, that you stepped forward into the world to meet the suffering of the world, in such a way that you are a better person because of it, nourished by it, freed by it even this is possible. courageous action in the world can be transformative. So thank you very much. And I hope this week has given you things to think about and consider and in a serious way, and certainly this teaching, for all its way of shortcomings in terms of really actively addressing kind of things more specifically, for me is very important teachings and I share with you something that's been at the center of my life for many years and glad to be able to speak from speak about it. Thank you very much.