It never ceases to amaze me what a difficult and challenging path the Buddha’s way is. Our habits are so ingrained to look outward. But following the Buddha’s path is like being in a room full of mirrors. Even the ceiling and floor are mirrors. And no matter what direction you look, the reflection is always back to you.
The election this last week has sparked a lot of fear, anxiety and anger. There is a lot of uncertainty about the future. And we have seen a litany of anger, hate and fear mongering. It’s not pretty.
But the Buddha always told us to turn that outward looking back inwards. How do we respond to hate mongering? We do not have any control over what happens “out there.” If we cultivate good qualities, especially wisdom, we may hope to have some influence “out there” by the dignity of our conduct and speech. But that is the best we can hope to do. This is the way of the world.
So again and again we point our fingers out there and the Buddha gently tells us to turn that finger around and point to ourselves. Where is your mind? Is there fear? Why is that? To what are we attached? Are we attached to our sense of self? Are we attached to our opinions and views?
If we have anger, why is that? In one of his many poetic turns of phrase the Buddha advised us that the one time when killing is justified is when we kill anger:
“Having slain anger, one sleeps soundly;
Having slain anger, one does not sorrow;
The killing of anger, O brahmin,
With its poisoned root and honeyed tip:
This is the killing the noble ones praise,
For having slain that, one does not sorrow.”
– [SN 7.7.2]
Anger only leads to more anger. Only love Trumps hate. There was a demonstration against the results of the Presidential election this week in Albuquerque and some of the protestors turned ugly. They defaced and damaged property. Where is the benefit in that?
The future is, of course, uncertain. But it is always uncertain. We just delude ourselves into a false sense of stability. Once again, the problem isn’t out there. It is in our own hearts and minds.
No matter who the President is or how ugly the political and social situation is, our marching orders are the same. Cultivate compassion, love and wisdom. Guard your mind, speech and body. Be kind. Be generous. In times like this we may need a little more courage and strength. But if the Buddha’s way were easy anyone could do it.