In today’s world, many are doing nothing to protect themselves and their loved ones from extinction. We have a pandemic where numerous people refuse to take the vaccine that will prevent them and their loved ones from dying. These folks have all kinds of excuses for not taking the vaccine or complying with standard public health mandates.
There are others who continually put off dealing with the reality of global warming because taking measures to correct the Earth’s heating up, to a destructive place of no return, is an inconvenience. Turning in gasoline engines for electric engines, reducing the continuous emission of greenhouse gases and monitoring water consumption does take a conscious effort, and with electric engines, often involves a higher cost.
And yet, what is our alternative if we want to lower greenhouse gases and continue to have an inhabitable planet to call home?
Ignorance is a death warrant
Buddhism teaches that we do the best we can with what we have to work with. If we had more to work with, we would do better in our efforts to compassionately relate with others.
Buddhist psychology also teaches us that ignorance is the cause of our suffering. Not knowing what we don’t know causes us to make mistakes, to misunderstand and be clueless about what is going on in our inner emotional lives, in our relationships with those who are close to us, and in relation to our interaction in society.
Adyashanti teaches that our suffering occurs when we believe in a thought that is at odds with what is true, what was true or what will be true. Being ignorant is a death warrant for humans and we exercise ignorance in an ongoing way, each day.
We are bombarded by many social platforms that spread misinformation and outright misstatements. Our world is full of such input, and it makes dealing with the truth of vaccines, COVID and the fragile rock that we live on as it hurtles through space, open to opinions that run all over the map. Such confusions lend themselves to fear that leads to dogmatic thinking.
Eckhart Tolle, in Stillness Speaks, writes: “Whenever you are immersed in compulsive thinking, you are avoiding what is. You don’t want to be where you are. Here. Now.”
Dogmas—religious, political, scientific—arise out of the erroneous belief that thought can encapsulate reality or the truth. Dogmas are collective conceptual prisons. And the strange thing is that people love their prisons cells because they give them a sense of security and a false sense of ‘I know.’
He goes on to say, “every dogma crumbles sooner or later because reality will eventually disclose its falseness.”
The question needs to be asked: When will we begin to see things for what they are, and not what we think or want them to be?
We need to face our own suffering
I have taken away from my 20-year mindfulness practice that I am not my body, thoughts or feelings; I am the awareness, compassion and loving-kindness who observes and witnesses my bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings.
Adyashanti adds to this view:
Awareness is that part of us that perceives, observes and witnesses our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and body. It can be quite transformative to realize that you are not what you thought you were, that you are not your feelings, that you are not your beliefs, that you are not your personality, that you are not your ego. You are something other than that, something that resides on the inside, at the innermost core of your being. For the moment we are calling that something awareness itself.
The simple way to relate to members of the human family is to treat others as we would want to be treated. Our need is to be mindful of who we are and where we are in relation to ourselves, to our formative experiences during childhood and to our reactions to those things that have caused us pain. Our need is to connect with our capacity for awareness and being compassionate and kind.
As Jack Kornfield of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center has written, “Our first task is to make our own heart a zone of peace. We have to face our own sufferings, our own fears, helplessness and pain in order to transform them into compassion.”
Even tiny insects survive by co-operating
When we do this, we become able to relate to others, regardless of their language, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation and beliefs, and to see others as the Dalai Lama admonishes us to do:
Whether one is rich or poor, educated or illiterate, religious or nonbeliever, man or woman, black, white or brown, we are all the same. Physically, emotionally and mentally we are all equal. We all share the basic needs of food, shelter, safety and love. We all aspire to happiness, and we all shun suffering. Each of us has hopes, worries, fears and dreams. Each of us wants the best for our family and loved ones. We all experience pain when we suffer loss, and joy when we achieve what we seek. On this fundamental level, religion, ethnicity, culture and language makes no difference.”
He goes on to say, “Interdependence is a fundamental law of nature. Even tiny insects survive by co-operating with each other. Our own survival is so dependent on the help of others that a need for love lies at the very core of our existence.”
We need to cultivate a genuine sense of responsibility and a sincere concern for the welfare of others. By doing this, issues like racism, comprehensive equity in all areas of life and climate change can be resolved.
Rather than reacting and protecting ourselves from one another, we can, instead, respond to life with compassion. In essence, our need is to treat others as we would like to be treated.
May we learn, grow and express empathy and compassion towards ourselves and one another. Our survival depends on our travelling such a path.
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image 1 Sandeep Handa from Pixabay 2 image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay 3 image by jplenio from Pixabay