Dear Still Water Friends,
I was shocked and saddened when I heard about the shootings on June 17th at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina: yet another mass-killing of innocent people fueled by hate. This week my heart was soothed and lifted when I listened to President Obama’s eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney. I especially appreciated President Obama’s appeal for compassion and the acknowledgement of our inter-beingness:
What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other; that my liberty depends on you being free, too. That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress. It must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, how to break the cycle, a roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. But more importantly, an open heart.
That’s what I felt this week — an open heart. That more than any particular policy or analysis is what’s called upon right now, I think. It’s what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness beyond and of another kind, that we are able to do for each other in the ordinary cause of things.”
President Obama’s eulogy reminded me of Thich Nhat Hanh teachings on the transformation of suffering. In The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings Thich Nhat Hanh writes about kshanti paramita, the virtue or perfection of inclusiveness. Kshanti is also often translated as patience, forbearance and forgiveness:
To suppress our pain is not the teaching of inclusiveness. We have to receive it, embrace it, and transform it. The only way to do this is to make our heart big. We look deeply in order to understand and forgive. Otherwise we will be caught in anger and hatred, and think that we will feel better only after we punish the other person. Revenge is an unwholesome nutriment. The intention to help others is a wholesome nutriment.
To practice kshanti paramita, we need the other paramitas. If our practice of inclusiveness does not bear the marks of understanding, giving, and meditation, we are just trying to suppress our pain and drive it down to the bottom of our consciousness. This is dangerous. That kind of energy will blow up later and destroy ourselves and others. If you practice deep looking, your heart will grow without limits, and you will suffer less.
This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will recite together the Five Mindfulness Trainings and focus on the First Training, Reverence for Life. Our Dharma Sharing will begin with the exploration of these two questions:
- How has my heart been touched by the Charleston shootings and the aftermath?
- In what ways do I feel personally called on to respond?
You are invited to be with us.
I’ve included below the text of the First Mindfulness Trainings and a list of some of the organizations I will be donating to in honor of those who died in Charleston.
The First Mindfulness Training
in the Plum Village Tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals.
I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.
Organization that may comfort those who are suffering and address some of the underlying causes of the Charleston tragedy.
The Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, set up by the city of Charleston.
Southern Poverty Law Center — Fighting Hate • Teaching Tolerance • Seeking Justice