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Monday, March 12, 2012

Causes

One of the things that I really appreciate about Buddhism that is present much more covertly in Christianity is the notion that it is through my practice that I transform the world. Mind you, I am not advocating for isolationist spiritualities. There are more than enough people in every religion imaginable, as well as in the spiritual but not religious camp, who treat their spiritual practice as if it was their little party and will thank you very much not to interrupt it. That attitude isn't spiritual at all, it's profoundly narcissistic - a field day for the ego that serves no good purpose because it reinforces our already problematic belief that we are the center of the universe, thank you very much for noticing.

I believe that healthy spirituality always leads us to care for others. I also believe that we can have all sorts of motivations for caring about others, a good many of them rather self-destructive. We might care for others to build what I call our spiritual resume. This is especially prevalent in Christianity, where despite all of the teaching about God being loving, forgiving, and "saving" us through grace, most people still keep close track of their good deeds so that in the event that we should arrive at the pearly gates of heaven and the powers that be have not been duly informed of just how wonderful we are we can simply pull out our spiritual resume and clear the whole matter up before it gets out of hand, thank you very much. The problem with spiritual resumes is that they make our selfless acts of compassion and caring for others selfish rather than selfless. We don't care at all about Mildred, whom we are visiting in the retirement home, we are using her in hopes of saving our own butts at the gates of heaven.

His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama has taught extensively that (to paraphrase) peace is achieved one person at a time. We can hardly work for peace unless we have peace in our hearts. Of course, we don't have to be perfect before having an impact. Each step along the way toward peacefulness makes an impact. We don't have to sit in our rooms until we can emerge enlightened - if we did, we might miss lifetimes of opportunities to alleviate suffering here and now. I believe we do have to stay in our rooms until we see the truth of interconnectedness. An effective exercise in this endeavor is to count the number of people, places, and things we encounter in the course of a single twenty-four hour period that we brought to our life without any assistance. The answer may surprise you. It will also cause you to begin to appreciate just how interdependent we really are.

There are countless causes battling for our attention - in itself a curious and at times at least spiritually violent process. It seems that everyone with a case of indigestion wants to start a petition on Change.org. I have started to evaluate those requests and the causes I support or am otherwise connected with in terms of whether the increase the polarization in our already divisive society or whether they are able to take a position without demonizing the other. Would it surprise you if I told you not one has passed the test?

Of course, that may be a sign that people who understand non-duality need to make themselves available to the many important organizations that work for justice in our world. Changing what has become common practice will not be easy. What we may need are people who are very well grounded in their own spiritual practice and understanding of interconnectedness to start or join existing organizations that operate from this understanding. There are some that exist already, and there is certainly room for more. We could also talk with our friends and family about the truth that even those we disagree with are at the very least our brothers and sisters.

Whatever we decide, it is important that it is grounded in our spiritual practice, that we continue to transform and grow on our own journey. We don't need to have all the answers today, no matter what our hell bent for speed society would like us to believe. Our culture didn't get into this mess overnight, and it isn't going to be transformed overnight. As individual practitioners, if we rush in without adequate grounding and preparation all we will do is burn out - which, because of interconnectedness, hurts all of us.

Namaste!

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