Same old, same old

Life is mainly about what happens in your heart and mind. In Pāḷi there is a single word for “heart and mind”; that word is citta.

When Henry David Thoreau was on his deathbed, his aunt – who today would be called an “evangelical Christian”, and who greatly disapproved of Henry’s transcendentalism – asked him accusatorily, “Have you made your peace with God?” Henry replied, “I wasn’t aware that we had quarreled.”

Now there is a man who is at peace with his place in the universe.

Recently a dearly beloved friend of mine – who has lived in Israel for many decades – posted this to her Facebook page:

“We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

It is a quote from Golda Meir. I replied as follows:

No one forces you to kill anyone. That is a choice that you make. “We cannot change people with our hatred. Maybe we can change them with our love.” – Ayya Khema (a Buddhist nun who was born a German Jew, and who was one of the last Jewish children to leave Germany before the borders were closed before WW II.)

From a purely clinical point of view, it is an issue of cause and effect. But of course, it is fundamentally about your heart and mind. How do you want to be? Do you want to be happy? Do you want to live in peace and harmony with the world around you?

Robert Thurman – that inimitable Buddhist force in the world – says that we usually pit ourselves against the Universe. Since the Universe is much bigger than we are, the Universe usually wins.

There is a famous quotation that is usually attributed to Einstein, although its source is undetermined. Nonetheless, its wisdom is indisputable, and that quote is, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

If the Israelis want life to continue, year after year, decade after decade, as it has, then they should continue with the same policies that they have in the past. It will, of course, get the same result.

It they want a different result, they will have to adopt a different approach.

The Buddha says that the antidote to fear, hatred, and anger is love, compassion and wisdom. In my own personal experience, he is correct. I tried hating those who hate me, with an obvious result. And I tried meeting people who hate me with love, understanding, equanimity, and wisdom. I had somewhat better results. It was not perfect, but it was better.

Mark Twain once said in his essay Advice to Boys and Girls, “Always speak the truth; it will impress some and astonish the rest.” The same can be said for love, compassion, and understanding. A little bit of practical wisdom – seeing that doing “A” leads to “B” – does not hurt either. Keep firing those missiles. Keep killing people. The result is predictable.

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