For years, people have gone to retreats in a protected space like a monastery, often in a natural setting, to hone their skills in loving awareness and learn the craft of meditation. Outside monastery and retreat center walls, governments rise and fall—while people drawn to contemplative practices of mindfulness and compassion quietly pursue their spiritual concerns and questions. Our center, too, is an oasis of peace, a refuge from the strong political winds currently blowing towards…we don’t know where. War is my worst fear—the wisdom teachings of loving awareness, my faith.
Beth Sternlieb sends these words from the highly esteemed monk/translator Bhikkhu Bodhi:
“There are certain convictions that Buddhists hold and consider inviolable. We believe, for instance, that every human being possesses intrinsic dignity, that everyone should be treated fairly, that those fallen into hardship should be protected and given the chance to flourish, and that the resources of the earth should be used judiciously, out of respect for the delicate web of nature…. We’re entering a turbulent time when it won’t be enough for us merely to adopt the practice of mindfulness as a regimen of resilience, a means of maintaining inner balance against the shockwaves rippling across the social landscape. [...]
The Meaning of The King Holiday
BY CORETTA SCOTT KING
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who taught us through his example — the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King’s character and empowered his leadership. On this holiday, we commemorate the universal, unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit.
Whether you are African-American, Hispanic or Native American, whether you are European-American or Asian-American, you are part of the great dream Martin Luther King, Jr. had for America. This is not a black holiday; it is a peoples’ holiday. And it is the young people of all races and religions who hold the keys to the fulfillment of his dream.
‘I say to you…I have decided to stick to love. I know that love is ultimately the ONLY answer to the problems of humanity. I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love.’
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a day of service all across America, in hospitals and shelters and prisons [...]
One night at the dharma talk, a student asked Zen Master Seung Sahn, “What is great faith?” He held up his little finger: “Do you see this?” And she said, “Yes.” “That,” he said quietly, “is great faith.” In the simplest way, he was encouraging us to trust our perception. Faith is a kind of confidence; it’s complete trust in the truth of what we see, even when we’re being told something different.
The teachings of mindfulness and self-compassion ask us to trust and stand up for what’s most important, to live the truth in our hearts. The teachings of understanding and love inspire us to see the nature of reality with wisdom; the content of wisdom is compassion.
Compassion cares about racial and environmental equity, women’s rights, the earth. Compassion cares about what Mahatma Gandhi called satyagraha, the force of truth. Self-compassion says, it’s time to trust our own perceptions and act—to change both the world within and the world around us.
For a little while during the night, our Los Angeles horizon was wreathed in gorgeous, towering cumulus clouds we rarely see. They dissolved into mist and vanished with the pouring rain. Great faith means trusting the fleeting truth of this [...]
Have you ever been to the Four Corners Monument, marking the place where four states meet? The quadripoint where a corner of New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado meet also marks the boundary between two Native American governments, Navaho Nation and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Reservation. As you drive across the country, through hundreds of miles of stunning desert wilderness, signs begin to appear along the highway, saying, Four Corners! Four Corners! And the closer you get, the bigger the signs are, and the more often they pop up.
Do you remember the cartoon where a car driving through an empty countryside passes a billboard proclaiming, “Your own tedious thoughts next 200 miles”? In the sometimes monotony of long-distance driving, it’s easy to get excited: “I’m going to Four Corners! Can’t wait to get there!”
Then you get there. It is exactly the same rugged, remote, and isolated Southwestern desert landscape you’ve been driving through for hundreds of miles before. There’s nothing there! It’s an idea in emptiness, Four Corners. Just a bronze plaque and parking lot overlooking the vast sweep of mesa and mountains. It’s beautiful. But not more beautiful or any different from the sweeping land of boulder heaps, [...]
Last Saturday morning, we packed up the toys and food you donated for the Westside Children’s Center in cartons decorated with gold tinsel, red ribbons, and festive holiday cards. Then we all sat on the floor and talked about generosity. The children in our circle, aged 6–8, listened attentively as I described my puzzlement at hearing, “Tis better to give than to receive,” when I was their age. It seemed obvious to me then—it’s way more fun to receive than to give!
And yet, these young children astonished all of us with the depth of their wisdom. The 6-year-old appreciates a subtle reciprocity—people who don’t have enough to eat, or kids who have no toys to play with give her the chance to be generous. A 7-year-old talks about being someone that others can trust, so no one has to be afraid of you. Without knowing it, she’s echoing the Buddha, who calls that “the gift of fearlessness.” As they eagerly raised hands to voice their insights and observations, the children embodied clear, pure-hearted generosity.
This is the season of renewal of the light, celebrated in religious traditions and cultures around the world. With ever burning lamps, with enlightenment at seeing the [...]