Dec 2014 The pain of injustice after the shooting death of an unarmed young black man and the legal verdict echoes so many similar incidents in the United States over a long history of racism and violence in our country. The verdict and its meaning is somehow unsurprising and heartbreaking. And heartbreaking in how unsurprising it is.
The dharma lens that can perhaps help is the Four Noble Truths. There is dukkha — pain, suffering, unsatisfactoriness in individual experience and in society. There is a cause for this, so let us explore this and try to address the root causes of racism, violence, militarism, and fear. Hatred and delusion manifest in many ways, and there are many ways to work on the individual, organizational, systemic and societal levels.
Let us hold ourselves and others with much compassion. Let us give ourselves a moment to feel the pain before rushing on. May we learn to love and respect each other and ourselves. May we move towards justice with radical love. May we apply our energy to creating change in this unjust system.
Aug 2014 Just back home and catching up on media news. Sad to see Bay Area comedian and actor Robin Williams committed suicide. Further proof that “Mind is the forerunner of all things”, in spite of fame, fortune, and an adoring public. Also sad to see the killing of unarmed young man of color Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the violent military police response to protests. Clearly the trauma of racism and militarism in the US continues to take its toll. May all beings be free from suffering.
Sept 2013 This summer I have had the honor of attending three weddings— none of which would have been legally recognized last year as they were all same-sex couples. Each celebration was unique, beautiful, and reflected the special attributes of each couple. Love comes in so many ways, and it was a joy to be part of these special days. Here’s to continuing to remove the obstacles to recognizing love, in ourselves and in our societies.
July 2013 This past month has seen some major progress in the United States around civil rights for LGBTQ people, while at the same time the erosion of the Voting Rights Act is a cause for concern around civil rights of people of color. Dharma practice calls on us to see what is really true, and to step out of delusion. On the Voting Rights Act, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes in the dissent:”40 years has not been sufficient time to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination following nearly 100 years of racial discrimination” and ““Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet,” indicating that to believe racism is not still at work in politics in these places and that these policies are no longer needed is believing a delusion. (see p 16 & 17 of her dissent for examples). So the work continues.
Meanwhile on the Prop 8 case, dismissed on standing, Chief Justice John Roberts finds that the plaintiffs could cite “no particular or personal injury” that would happen to them if same-sex couples were allowed to marry. That is, their objections and society’s fears around this are a fiction. The decision thus remains with each individual state, but since 81% of 18-29 year olds think it is no big deal, it is only a matter of time before there is justice on gay civil rights (after a lot of hard work along the way, of course). Meanwhile same-sex marriage is still illegal in 37 states, and you can still be fired for being LGBTQ in 29 states, which is why we need the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), so this work also continues.
Feb 2013 I had the opportunity to attend the Presidential Inauguration last month, which was the first time I have done such a thing. It was inspiring to be standing on the lawn of the Capitol and to hear the President laying out a vision for America: “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall, just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall….It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” Out of compassion and wisdom, may it be so.
Sept 2011 This month our country is remembering the 10th anniversary of Sept 11th and honoring all those who died in that tragedy.
“Hatred will never cease by hatred, hatred will only cease by love; this is a universal law,” said the Buddha. This statement was echoed across time and space by Gandhi and MLK Jr, suggesting that it really is a universal law!
Let’s reflect thoughtfully on these events as we mourn those who passed that day. We can also remember those of all nationalities who have been killed in related (and unrelated) wars over the past 10 years, civilian and military, and those who have been suffering from prejudice and hate crimes in the aftermath of 9-11.
May 2011: The distribution of wealth in US society has become more unequal in the last 30 years than it has been since the Great Depression. While the top 1% has access to over 35% of the nation’s wealth, the bottom 80% has access to less than 13%. This puts us close to Mexico and Sri Lanka in terms of inequality, rather then with other more affluent countries and has impacts on health, lifespan, and quality of life. Our situation as a society makes it a struggle for many people to live: for instance, more than 14% of the population are using food stamps to get by. When asked to guess, most Americans think that our society is far more equal than it actually is. As a dimension of recognizing interconnectedness and out of a sense of compassion, it is good for us to be aware of this and to feel out what a wise response is for us individually and collectively. Click any of the underlined links to learn more.
Apr 2011: Recently there has been a lot of intense, exciting, and challenging news about our world: revolutions in the Arab world ; earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns in Japan; and much more. How can we take all this in? Is it possible to make this part of our spiritual practice? I have been reflecting on this recently; here are some of my thoughts (a work in progress)
Watching the News Through the Lens of Dharma