September 2012


A person who is impartial, fair, calm, gentle, serene, accepting and open-hearted is indeed a refuge.

In the person of the Buddha, who had gone beyond the limitations and partialities of selfhood, many experienced a humanity that made them feel that life was endurable. A truly compas­sionate person touches a chord in us that resonates with some of our deepest yearnings.

People flock to such people, because they seem to offer a haven of peace in a violent, angry world. This is the ideal to which we aspire and it is not beyond our capacity. But even if we achieve only a frac­tion of this enlightenment and leave the world marginally better because we have lived in it, our lives will have been worthwhile

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Enmity shapes our consciousness and identity. The people we hate haunt us; they inhabit our minds in a negative way, as we brood in a deviant form of meditation on their bad qualities. The enemy thus becomes our twin, a shadow self whom we come to resemble.

Nations may also feel deep antagonism towards people they have wronged and the enemy may become so central to national conscious­ness and identity, that he becomes a second self.

If we want to achieve reconciliation, not only do we have to struggle with the enemy, but we also have to wrestle with ourselves.

And in the struggle, this myth tells us, we may find ourselves blessed and embraced by the presence of something greater.

 

Let all beings be happy!

Weak or strong, of high, middle or low estate,

small or great, visible or invisible,

near or far away, alive or still to be bom —

May they all be perfectly happy!

Let nobody lie to anybody or despise any single being anywhere.

May nobody wish harm to any single creature out of anger or hatred!

Let us cherish all creatures, as a mother her only child! May our loving thoughts fill the whole world, above, below, across

without limit; our love will know no obstacles – a boundless goodwill toward the whole world, unrestricted, free of hatred or enmity.

Whether we are standing or walking, sitting or lying down,

as long as we are awake we should cultivate this love in our heart.

This is the noblest way of living.

 

 

Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness:
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas;
Annihilating all that’s made
To a green thought in a green shade.

 

Andrew Marvell

 

When I found the door
I found the vine leaves
speaking among themselves in abundant
whispers.
My presence made them
hush their green breath,
embarrassed, the way
humans stand up, buttoning their jackets,
acting as if they were leaving anyway, as if
the conversation had ended
just before you arrived.
I liked
the glimpse I had, though,
of their obscure
gestures. I liked the sound
of such private voices. Next time
I’ll move like cautious sunlight, open
the door by fractions, eavesdrop
peacefully.

 

Denise Levertov, Aware

If we remain trapped in this greedy, needy selfishness, we will continue to be unhappy and frustrated. But as we acquire a more realistic assessment of ourselves, we learn that the envy, anger, fear and hatred (which often spring from thwarted egotism) have little to do with us; they are ancient emotions that we inherited from our earliest ances­tors.

‘This is not what I really am,said the Buddha; ‘this is not myself. Gradually we will begin to feel more detached from these negative emotions and refuse to identify with them. We will also slowly become aware that our feelings about other people are often relative and subjective, bearing little relation to reality. Instead of being objective, rational assessments of others, they can simply be ‘all about me’. As long as we allow them to dominate us, they will imprison us in a defensive, self-obsessed world-view so that we never realise our full potential. A more productive way to deal with hostile feelings towards others is to realise that those we dislike are suffering from them in much the same way.

When people attack us, they are probably experiencing a similar self-driven anxiety and frustration; they too are in pain. In time, if we persevere, the people we fear or envy become less threatening, because the ‘self that we are so anxious to protect and promote at their expense is a fantasy that is making us petty and smaller than we need to be.

W H Auden wrote, in A Certain World,

“In this world, so long as we are vigorous enough to be capable of action, God, surely, does not intend us to sit around thinking of and loving Him like anything. Aside from rites of public worship in which we bring our bodies to God, we should direct our mental attention towards Him only for so long as it takes us to learn what He wills us to do here and now. This may take only a moment if the task he sets us is easy; if hard, a little longer. But once we know what it is, we should forget all about Him and concentrate our mental and physical energies upon our task.”

Audens task, of course, was his art.

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