Dear Still Water Friends,
Having come back recently from a trip to India, I especially enjoyed reading Martin Luther King, Jr.’s blog-like report on his trip to India, published in Ebony Magazine in July, 1959. It begins:
For a long time I had wanted to take a trip to India. Even as a child the entire Orient held a strange fascination for me — the elephants, the tigers, the temples, the snake charmers and all the other storybook characters.
While the Montgomery boycott was going on, India’s Gandhi was the guiding light of our technique of non-violent social change. We spoke of him often. So as soon as our victory over bus segregation was won, some of my friends said: “Why don’t you go to India and see for yourself what the Mahatma, whom you so admire, has wrought.”
King traveled in India for a month, accompanied by his wife, Coretta, and by his friend, the historian Lawrence Reddick, who had just written "Crusader Without Violence: A Biography of Martin Luther King Jr." While in India, King gave presentations and press conferences and talked about non-violence with many Indians who had worked with Gandhi.
I left India more convinced than ever before that non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. It was a marvelous thing to see the amazing results of a non-violent campaign. The aftermath of hatred and bitterness that usually follows a violent campaign was found nowhere in India. Today a mutual friendship based on complete equality exists between the Indian and British people within the commonwealth. The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.
This Thursday, after our meditation period, as a way of celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., we will listen to a sermon King gave on Christmas Eve, 1967, at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. In the sermon, King encouraged the congregants to join him in a nonviolent struggle not just for racial justice in the U.S., but as a way to bring peace to the whole world. His vision, his dream, blended the Christianity of his roots with the interconnectedness of life he absorbed from Gandhi and from his studies of Buddhism:
No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world. Now the judgment of God is upon us, and we must either learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools. . . .
It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
The sermon goes on to express his vision for a just and peaceful world, and the disappointments he was experiencing because of the violence that had entered the civil rights movement — on both sides — and by the increasing American involvement in Vietnam. He concludes the sermon affirming that he still holds on to his dream despite all the setbacks, because the dream gave him energy and resilience:
Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know, you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream.
You are invited to join us this Thursday. We will begin our discussion reflecting on how Martin Luther King, Jr; was energized by his dream, and whether we, too, are energized by our dream or vision of how we and others might live.
The text of the The Ebony Magazine article is available on line, as is the 1967 Christmas Eve sermon.
Next Thursday we will have our annual Night of Remembrance during which we honor loved ones who have passed away. It is a time to celebrate, to share, to grieve, and to look more deeply into our separateness and our interpenetration, our inter-being-ness. We would like to give an opportunity to share first to those who have lost loved ones in the past year. If someone dear to you has past away recently, and you would to be among those who are sharing first, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, a reminder that the 10 session Smiling Like a Buddha class will start on Monday, January 28.
Smiling like a Buddha: A Ten-Session Mindfulness Meditation Class, January 28 to April 15, 2013 at Crossings, Silver Spring, Md.
Settling Into Silence: Still Water Practice Retreat, February 15-17, 2013 at Charter Hall Retreat Center, Perryville, Md.
Special Note: Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Monastics will be offering retreats and days of mindfulness in North America, August to October, 2013. Information is available at www.tnhtour.org .