We began by viewing each other as enemies and ended up holding hands—a young college student and a broken soldier holding hands together in the brightness of early winter. I give his story to you now because it’s all I can do to relieve the heavy tenderness I still feel for him to this day.
Buddhism ultimately is not about making ourselves comfortable and well adjusted in samsara. It is about getting off that wheel entirely, by ending what they call the uncontrolled rebirth that arises out of confusion. We have to be careful in caring for each other and adapting to circumstances that we don’t reify the self, and reinforce our suffering.
Lotus Animal Sanctuary, raising awareness, awakening hearts and saving lives. The sanctuary is the life mission of Lynn, a vegan animal rights activist. When I met her, she tells me she is following a Buddhist path and was inspired by her teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh to become vegan and to get off the meditation mat and put compassion into action in everyday life, and she is.
The thought of extraordinary individuals has the power to shift what we conceive of as possible in this human realm. It also changes what we think of our teachers, ourselves, and our brothers and sisters. A saint, both in the East and in Western traditions, is something more than a good person, or someone of exemplary character. Moving past this mundane conception, we enter into a supernatural framework for understanding the lives and influence of a saintly person.
In Vajrayana Buddhism, we learn to see ourselves and all others like this, as essentially divine, transparent beings of light. We interact continually with others and this world, receiving blessings and responding compassionately as needed. At first we do this as an act of imagination, but gradually we learn to see that this is how things actually are, all by themselves. At that time, what we call prayer, in thought, word, and action are entirely natural.
We trade one rigid, constricting way of being for another rigid, constricting way of being. And because we call the new way spiritual practice, we may tell ourselves and others that this is great, this is better, this is how and who we want to be in our practice and in our life.
Meditation develops one’s open-mindness, sensitivity and appreciation, while enhancing one’s ability to stay focused and engaged with more challenging experiences. Wouldn’t meditators of all traditions therefore have a key role in contributing to solutions for the difficulties the world is now facing?
The debate is open.