Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kumbaya you white-skinned devil!

Racism in our sanghas Part 1. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

In the past I’ve written about my experiences with a Lao temple in the Holland, Mich., area, about how subtle issues of race and white privilege played a significant role. I’ve written posts about racism that have explored a variety of issues within that larger topic. But recently I’ve wanted to dive into this very complex subject and explore its impact on our sanghas, plus investigate what the Buddha said about what is simultaneously – at least for me – a fascinating and uncomfortable topic.

But how to begin?

I’ve come to realize that this subject cannot be covered in a single post: the issue of racism and white privilege, even when limited to how it manifests in our sanghas, is far too intricate a subject to be glib about. And I have written about it in the past. What was this new interest, this new drive, to write more?

Buddhism is a lot of things, but one thing that I believe often is forgotten about the Buddha’s teachings is that they are a guide to investigation. The First Noble Truth tells us that life is unsatisfactory, that despite our wish to be happy all the time, there is suffering and unhappiness. To end this suffering, the Buddha told us that we must investigate phenomena so we can see how things really are. At the root of suffering is delusion – we lie to ourselves about how things really are.

And what my investigations are revealing to me is not only that racism is a manifestation of delusion, but that the delusion at the root of racism is our notion of race. This is a bothersome conclusion for me because I hate the Pollyanna-ish retort that all notions of race are abandoned by the enlightened mind. More on that in a moment. First, please watch the following Led Zeppelin video of a live performance of “That’s the Way” before reading further.


While in Holland, Mich., I was covering a celebration at a Lao temple. The president of the group showed me around and talked about the congregation’s plans. I had already been visiting the temple because I was teaching conversational English to the resident monk who liked me very much. But after my tour, the president left me alone. I walked around, the only white person among close to 100 Lao people who would not look at me or speak to me. I went into the community room where a ping-pong tournament was in progress. I stood in the corner and watched and felt completely invisible. I contemplated trying to strike up conversation with someone, to meet others, but instead, I gave into a feeling of frustration and discomfort and went home.

I felt isolated, alone and powerless. I was keenly aware that I was “different” from those around me and the fact that I was deliberately being ignored by everyone else there was painful. But for me to say based on this I had experienced oppression because of my race is ridiculous. For me to say I “understand” what it means being an oppressed minority based on that afternoon’s experience is childish. Because what I experienced was temporary. I was able to leave that group and return to the larger world surrounding me of white European influence, an hegemony in which I was privileged. That experience in no way was the same as feeling different, isolated and powerless every day, all the time, wherever I go.

Unfortunately, some white people think that when they experience something like this that they suddenly have earned some sort of racism awareness card. This attitude, in fact, is often viewed with disdain by people of color, as a writer from the website Resist Racism posts in an entry titled “Why I hate white ‘anti-racists’.”

“So if you want to call yourself a white anti-racist, start by giving up your privilege. Of course, this is a trick request. Because the privilege isn’t even visible to you. Yet it, and you, are sucking all the air out of the room.”

The problem with this is that it suggests that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. got it wrong when he said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” The writer from Resist Racism castigates whites for sitting back and resting on their privilege, while at the same time chastises them for even thinking they could do anything to challenge racism. It’s as though he/she is singing a variation of a Lesley Gore song, “It’s my racism and I’ll be bitter if I want to.”

What is at the root of this? A tenacious and even unhealthy clinging to the notion of race and that it must be protected. But alas, I am white, so I shall always be accused of being disingenuous by asserting this notion that race is a fabrication because I am a member of the “privileged class.”

Dealing with the subtle and blatant manifestations of racism in our sanghas, let alone in society, is necessary. But at the same time, identifying this problem and working on solutions to it while acknowledging that it exists is, in fact, a hindrance to our practice. Members of an oppressed minority who cling to the notion of being a member of an oppressed minority and who develop anger and resentment over being repressed are holding sacred a delusion.

Having said that, I become the white-skinned devil because people of color can retort with the fact this is easy for me to say because I am a member of a privileged race, that I do not experience the oppression they do every day. Which is true, I am a member of the privileged race. I do not experience on a day-to-day basis the oppression people of color do. Any individual, isolated instances that I have experienced being the “different one” are transient. I do experience daily the oppression lesbigay people experience, but I don’t necessarily have to reveal that to others. And besides, because I am white, I believe that my being gay is more easily tolerated by others than if I were Asian or black or Latino.

But that doesn’t change the fact that one’s obsession with race as a political issue is a hindrance to one’s Buddhist practice. The fact that I am white doesn’t make this any more or less true than had it been said by an Asian, an African American, or a Latino/Latina. I do realize, however, that those of you who have read this blog closely may sense a contradiction. And you would be correct. As I wrote here, I admitted that I am bothered by a particular common dismissive statement. In an enlightened mind, the fabrication known as “race” is abandoned, but so are all other fabrications. And this issue exists in our sanghas and in society because of unenlightened minds. This sophomoric retort is not a solution, it is not an argument. It avoids the problem through condescension.

How, then, do we erase the racism – both subtle and blatant – that does exist in our Sanghas and within ourselves? Because make no mistake, it does exist. And for too many, its presence is so palpable that it drives them away from the Dhamma. Let’s not forget that Dhamma translates as Truth, and if our automatic notions of race are driving others away from the Dhamma, then we are driving others away from the truth.

Please take a moment to watch the following video of Neil Young performing with CSN&Y the song “Southern Man.”


And what do I mean by “automatic notions of race”?

I’m going to break this topic into multiple posts for readability’s sake and will continue with the next post.

You go your way and I’ll go mine

Racism in our sanghas Part 2. Part 1 is here and Part 3 is here.

In another post, I explained how my investigation into racism and white privilege is fraught with challenge because our very notion of race is often a hindrance to our attempts to overcome racism. These notions are largely automatic, and I ended this other post with the question of how, then, do we overcome these automatic responses?

Again, it comes down to investigation of our own actions and of those around us.

Wakoh Shannon Hickey writes in the very interesting article “Two Buddhisms, Three Buddhisms, and Racism” found in the Journal of Global Buddhism that regardless of the multi-cultural and multi-racial makeup of a Buddhist congregation, not-so-subtle but unconscious segregation often occurs.

“One can indeed observe significant differences between groups catering primarily to Buddhist converts and those catering to people whose cultural heritage is Buddhist. Communities in each category tend to approach practice differently, and serve different purposes for their members.”

“In the temples Paul Numrich visited, he found “parallel congregations” operating side-by-side: one composed of immigrants and their descendants, who engaged in cultural and merit-making activities; and one composed of converts, who were mostly white, and who were interested primarily in meditation and Buddhist philosophy.”

This parallels discussion I’ve read elsewhere that presents an idea that a “Western Buddhism” is needed that is “devoid of cultural baggage.” (link to more writings by the author)

“White people may not notice these characteristics—either because it is easy for us to associate mostly with people who are like us, which leaves our cultural assumptions unchallenged, or because we may be reluctant to face the full, painful implications of white privilege. As Addie Foye, a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist of Scottish and Japanese ancestry noted, ‘In white racist America, there is no way for a person of color to relate to any all-white situation without experiencing racism. This is an unavoidable fact that white people must wake up to’ (Foye, Fall 1994).”

When I read these passages, I realized how that has been my experience in all the sanghas that I’ve been affiliated with.

There’s a temple in Chicago I’ve gone to on occasion whose congregation is predominately Thai. There are some white members, or at least white people who show up for the Sunday ceremonies, and I’ve seen one black couple. Most of the white people group among themselves during the lunch buffet and when it comes to the chanting, it is only the Thai members who participate. After the lunch, one of the monks leads a walking meditation session followed by a sitting meditation session that is almost entirely attended by white people. Instead of the meditation sessions, the Thai members that stay do so to chant with the other monks.

This is what I am talking about regarding automatic notions of race. We don’t even realize how we separate ourselves into our various tribes when it comes down to something as fundamental as how we practice.

Please listen to the following “video” before reading further.


When people of color attempt to explain their experiences with white privilege and racism within the Buddhist community, it is unfortunate that their words are often discounted by us whites. We tell them that they shouldn’t feel that way. How arrogant is that? To tell someone that their feeling is wrong, that he or she shouldn’t be feeling that way – what makes us think that we know what constitutes a valid feeling? These words, found in Making the Invisible Visible, are extraordinarily humbling and constitute an important call to action:

“The oppressive racial and economic conditioning of our greater society, whether intentional or not, manifests in our sanghas. Practitioners of color face many obstacles of access, as well as of attitude, when attempting to join Western Sanghas in order to develop and sustain their practice. It is extremely difficult and painful for people who are already marginalized in society to then be marginalized again in their spiritual community.”

I strongly encourage you to download and print this 75-page document, as it is filled with important testimonials by both white practitioners and people of color. It is sobering to read their experiences and there are too many for me to excerpt here. But I will include this passage because of its importance as a call to action:

“White people must educate themselves about these issues. Racism in the United States is now and always has been a White problem, and therefore it is incumbent on White people to talk amongst themselves about how they propose to solve this problem. Waiting for people of color to enter White spaces in order to educate White people about their blindness to racism is arrogant, patronizing and disrespectful. Feminists have, for years, called men to task for not taking responsibility for dismantling patriarchy. The same is true for the responsibility White people must take for dismantling racial hierarchies.”

Time for another video I think.


Although writing about Buddhism and violence, Elizabeth J. Harris makes some excellent points that are relevant to racism.

“In another sermon handed down to us, two men are pointed out while the Buddha is talking to a headman, Pataliya. One of them is garlanded and well-groomed; the other is tightly bound, about to lose his head. We are told that the same deed has been committed by both. The difference is that the former has killed the foe of the king and has been rewarded for it, whilst the latter was the king's enemy. Hence it is stressed that the laws of the state are not impartial: they can mete out punishment or patronage according to the wish of the king and his cravings for revenge or security.”

If we look at racism as a form of institutionalized violence, we can see how different groups, when members rise to power, establish laws that protect the status of members within the group. The Buddha recognized, also, that religious practices can involve violence that is ostensibly justified:

“The austerities practiced by some of those who came to the Buddha were worse than any enemy might inflict as punishment. The Buddha himself confessed to having practiced them before his enlightenment. In the Maha-Saccaka and the Maha-sihanada Suttas there is vivid description of the excesses undertaken. Taken together, the two suttas cover the complete range of contemporary Indian practices, which included nakedness or the wearing of rags, tree-bark fiber, kusa grass, wood shavings or human hair; deprivation of food to the extent of existing on a single fruit or rice grain; self-mortification through lying on thorns or exposing the body to extremes of heat and cold; copying the habits of animals such as walking on all fours or eating similar food. It was the Buddha's view that such practices were a form of violence, although undertaken in the name of religion and truth-seeking.”

And a key element of violent practices among aesthetics included debate.

“In the Kassapa Sihanada Sutta, the Buddha speaks out: ‘Now there are, Kassapa, certain recluses and brahmans who are clever, subtle, experienced in controversy, hair splitters, who go about, one would think, breaking into pieces by their wisdom the speculations of their adversaries.’”

Violence and racism has no place in the practicing Buddhist’s mind set, but because racism is based in delusion, it is often difficult to see it within ourselves. Yet, it must be eliminated if we ever wish to achieve the ultimate goal, or even just get close to it.

“Nibbana is the ultimate eradication of dukkha. It is a possible goal within this life and, among other things, involves a complete de-toxification of the mind from greed, hatred and delusion, a revolution in the way the world is perceived, freedom from craving and liberation from the delusion of ego.”

“Not all beings rally to the call for compassion on the grounds that others have like feelings to themselves or that harmony in society is necessary.”

So what did the Buddha say about race and racism? Read this post to find out.

Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em

Racism in our sanghas Part 3. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

I found this interesting question in Yahoo! Answers about what the Buddha taught regarding racism.

“Did the Buddha or Buddhist doctrine ever specifically discuss the issue of racism or racial prejudice? And if not, is there a mainstream Buddhist position on judging others based on race? I know that in East Asian countries, such as Korea and China, there's a lot of xenophobia and even racism, but I was wondering what Buddhism would say about it.”

And this is what the asker selected as the best answer:

“The real Buddhist will believe that our Body and Mind are borrowed from the Earth. We don't own them. We also suffer from aging, sickness, death, and mental illnesses including greed, anger and ignorant of the true nature of reality. The so-called country, religion, race, sex, land, etc are all man-made. We temporary own this body, land, house and we will eventually give them back to the Earth. If we are all realized about this fact, there should not be any racism, fight or any unnecessary activities.”

So who is this “real Buddhist” the respondent speaks of? True, concepts like race and nationality are fabricated constructs that have no real meaning other than what we assign to these terms. But is the respondent’s answer really an answer? Does it really explain Buddhism’s position, if there is one, on this defilement?

On a very superficial level, I think we can all agree that race is a fabrication, that race really doesn’t exist. And that being the case, racism is a delusion based on a non-existent fabrication. But the irony of all this is that for us to truly understand racism, or any other social ill, we must seriously consider the fabrication upon which it is based. And that means we must accept race as a real construct. It is there, we must deal with it. And simply professing that we are not “racist” isn’t good enough. Sitting back on the presumption that our sangha is open to people of color, that people of color – or gays or disabled people or whatever – would be welcomed isn’t enough. Tolerating such people in “your space” is not acceptance nor is it welcoming. We must take action. It’s a tricky game because the key is to know when to hold on to the notion of race for us to understand it better and when to let it go without appearing to be an erudite, holier-than-thou snob.

Consider these words posted by a white practitioner at the website Resist Racism in the post On race and Buddhism:

“This is necessary because in America, passivity means white supremacy. It’s subtle and pervasive, conditioned by and conditioning our magazines, movies, tv, our clothing, all the things we buy. It is a virus infecting my mind as a person with so-called privilieges, and the mind of someone who might not have such privileges. Last week I was invited to talk about Buddhism and race to a diverse group of teenagers doing an interfaith social action internship in San Francisco. Now maybe I did a good job talking to them, but I was the first Buddhist choice that came to mind for the organizers. There is some irony in that. Buddhism in America gets defined as and by people like me. I have to watch myself carefully not to buy into this.”

Frankly, this is a difficult concept for white folk to handle. The reason for this difficulty, I believe, is that many white people think that to recognize the idea of white privilege and that they may be benefiting from it directly leads to the conclusion that they are racist. It is so much subtler than that, and as a result, so much more pernicious. It is certainly not always as plain as what Me'Shell NdegĂ©ocello sings about in “Leviticus: Faggot,” the next video.


Fortunately, the Buddha had a lot to say about this topic, although it is framed in his commentaries about the caste system prevalent in India.

In the Assalayana Sutta: With Assalayana (MN 93), the Buddha enters into a debate with a brahman on whether one's worth as a person is determined by birth or by behavior. Although some of the arguments he presents here deal with the specifics of brahman caste pride, many of them are applicable to issues of racism and nationalism in general.

Assalayana was a bright and learned 16-year-old Brahmin who was sent by the other Brahmins to debate the Buddha regarding his teachings on the purity of the four castes. Reluctantly, the youth agrees to seek out the Buddha and debate him. Assalayana presents the Brahmins’ position thusly:

"Master Gotama, the brahmans say, 'Brahmans are the superior caste; any other caste is inferior. Only brahmans are the fair caste; any other caste is dark. Only brahmans are pure, not non-brahmans. Only brahmans are the sons & offspring of Brahma: born of his mouth, born of Brahma, created by Brahma, heirs of Brahma.' What does Master Gotama have to say with regard to that?"

In other words, the Brahmins believe they are top dog, no one else compares with them, and you can’t become a Brahmin if you aren’t already a Brahmin. The Buddha methodically dismantles this wrong view, and with each example the Buddha cites, Assalayana agrees with what the Buddha is saying. Despite that, Assalayana replies each time with: "Even though Master Gotama says that, still the brahmans think, 'Brahmans are the superior caste... the sons & offspring of Brahma: born of his mouth, born of Brahma, created by Brahma, heirs of Brahma.'"

This is the root of all bigotry and class division – an irrational belief stubbornly clung to despite all evidence contradicting the belief as being truthful or as having merit. Anyone who doesn’t believe this type of prejudice exists within the greater Buddhist community – regardless of whether it’s the Asian or Western Buddhist community – is deluded.

Rooting out this notion of difference that exists within us is extraordinarily difficult. Our clinging to it can be so tenacious that we don’t even recognize it. Which is why the Buddha used such dramatic and aggressive similes to describe the process, such as rooting out a defilement the same way we would dig up a palm stump to completely prevent a felled palm tree from re-growing. It literally must be cut out at the root.

With Sunita the Outcaste (Thag 12.2), we see how the sangha truly is a place without regard to anyone’s stature as a person within lay society. Sunita was a member of the lowest caste in Indian society, an Untouchable, yet he was welcomed by the Buddha into the Sangha and with persistent practice, he attained release.

And in the Kannakatthala Sutta: At Kannakatthala (MN 90), the Buddha tells a king that no matter what caste someone belongs to, if a person has the five factors of exertion within them, they live the holy life.

"I tell you, great king, that there would be no difference among them with regard to the release of one and the release of another. Suppose that a man, taking dry sala wood, were to generate a fire and make heat appear. And suppose that another man, taking dry saka (teak?) wood, were to generate a fire and make heat appear. And suppose that another man, taking dry mango wood, were to generate a fire and make heat appear. And suppose that another man, taking dry fig wood, were to generate a fire and make heat appear. Now what do you think, great king: among those fires generated from different kinds of wood, would there be any difference between the glow of one and the glow of another, the color of one and the color of another, the radiance of one and the radiance of another?"

"No, lord."

"In the same way, great king, in the power that is kindled by persistence and generated by exertion, I say that there is no difference with regard to the release of one and the release of another."

Passivity is the enemy. As whites, we must do more than simply rest on the notion that we are “welcoming” and others ought to know that. We must demonstrate our openness, it must be visible and tangible. And people of color must learn that self-identification via race or ethnicity, or gays who self-identify via sexual orientation, is a hindrance as well. As long as I perceive that I am different, I will perceive I am being treated differently.

This is no easy task. It takes vigilance and perseverance. But perhaps more importantly, it takes compassion. And more than likely, we need to start with compassion for ourselves. The Buddha teaches with the Loving Kindness meditations that we first learn to love and accept ourselves. Because if we’ve got any problem with that, we will have problems loving and accepting others.

Hate is never overcome with hate. Anger is never overcome with anger. Delusion is never overcome with more delustion. As simplistic as it sounds, only love conquers all.


I hope to hear from you and read your reactions to this. The image is from my friend Jimmy Huang.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gaining momentum

This really doesn’t have a lot to do with Buddhism, but it has everything to do with compassion. This is a long video, but it is worth watching all the way through. And when you’re done, share it.


To all the homophobes, the bullies, and those who hide behind a religious dogma that they really don't understand - to you I say you are irrelevant.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Coming out day 2010

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” MLK

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

“The pink triangle was established as a pro-gay symbol by activists in the United States during the 1970s. Its precedent lay in World War II, when known homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps were forced to wear inverted pink triangle badges as identifiers, much in the same manner that Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David. Wearers of the pink triangle were considered at the bottom of the camp social system and subjected to particularly harsh maltreatment and degradation. Thus, the appropriation of the symbol of the pink triangle, usually turned upright rather than inverted, was a conscious attempt to transform a symbol of humiliation into one of solidarity and resistance. By the outset of the AIDS epidemic, it was well-entrenched as a symbol of gay pride and liberation.” From the Silence=Death page at ACT UP.

“Hope will never be silent.” Harvey Milk

“It takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions.” Harvey Milk

"And what other five conditions must be established in himself?

[1] "Do I speak at the right time, or not?

[2] "Do I speak of facts, or not?

[3] "Do I speak gently or harshly?

[4] "Do I speak profitable words or not?

[5] "Do I speak with a kindly heart, or inwardly malicious?

"O bhikkhus, these five conditions are to be investigated in himself and the latter five established in himself by a bhikkhu who desires to admonish another." The Buddha, AN V

Sunday, October 3, 2010

“How did you do that?”

Kyle at The Reformed Buddhist has a very lucid and compassionate post that shares some of his thoughts and observations about the recent attention being paid to bullying and youth suicide. He has bravely shared bits from his own past, speaking about his experiences as being an adult victim of child abuse. It takes guts to do that in the public and anonymous domain of the Internet. And he’s done that without turning his narrative into a self-pitying plea for sympathy.

It’s been a crazy week or so. My own heart aches over the needless loss of life because too many young people see no other alternative but to end their life. There was Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers freshman who jumped from the George Washington Bridge because an encounter he had with another man in his dorm room was surreptitiously broadcast live on the Internet by his roommate and another; Asher Brown, a 13-year-old who shot himself in the head, driven to despair by constant torment over being both Buddhist and gay; Seth Walsh, also 13, another young boy who recently came out as gay and who also endured constant teasing until he went to his backyard where he hanged himself; Raymond Chase, an openly gay sophomore at Johnson and Wales University who hanged himself in his dorm room, although the precise reason why remains unclear; Billy Lucas, an Indiana 15-year-old who hanged himself after classmates said he had been bullied for years over being gay.

There are many others that remain anonymous because their torment wasn’t newsworthy. Because, you see, this is nothing new for gays. This has been going on since the Middle Ages when gay men and lesbians were burned at the stake, the fires stoked with sticks that were identified with the term “faggot,” a word to this day that is used to demean and injure gay men in particular.

It is also not new for us homosexuals that suicide among gay teens is more common than among any other group. Gay teens are more than twice as likely to report being bullied than straight teens. This is already well-known among us. Being a teenager is hard enough as it is, but for many gays life is a nightmare that can at times appear to have no end in sight.

As Buddhists, we recognize that life is filled with suffering. Clearly, the five boys I identified above were suffering. And unsurprisingly, most of us react not just with sorrow, but with anger – anger toward the ignorant bullies that drove these boys, and others, to such desperate ends. But anger is delusion and leads us to forget that the bullies suffer too.

Yes, bullies are in pain too. They experience fear and delusion like all of us. And for the bully, aggression toward others is a simplistic palliative to ease that pain: “I don’t want to be alone in my hurt, so let me share it with you.”

In the Danda Sutta, “The Stick” (Ud 2.3), the Buddha encounters a group of boys who are beating a snake with a stick. Upon seeing this, the Buddha uttered the following gatha:

Whoever takes a stick
to beings desiring ease,
when he himself is looking for ease,
will meet with no ease after death.

Whoever doesn't take a stick
to beings desiring ease,
when he himself is looking for ease,
will meet with ease after death.

Bullying is a part of a cycle that is carried on from one to another. It may be from parent to child, but it can simply be from one child to another unrelated child. When we are targeted by this bullying, or see it occur with others, anger is a common response. But anger is delusion; a mind consumed with anger is a mind possessed with madness. If we take but a moment and let the initial anger pass, better solutions come to mind.

In the Kumaraka Sutta, “The Boys” (Ud 5.4), the Buddha questions a group of boys who are fishing. He asks the boys if they fear pain. “Yes, lord, we fear pain. We dislike pain,” they answer. To this, the Buddha replies with:

If you fear pain,
if you dislike pain,
don't do an evil deed
in open or secret.
If you're doing or will do
an evil deed,
you won't escape pain:
           it will catch you
           even as you run away.

If we are to have compassion for the bullied, we must have compassion for the bully as well. Admittedly, this is no easy task. But moments do arrive.

When I was in eighth grade, I endured bullying like many others. Being tripped in the hallway, called names, threatened – it was so common that I just shut it out. I also became very gregarious, making friendships with all types of people so that I was in good with the nerds, the jocks, the dopers, the straight-A students, and even the delinquents. This was my method of self-preservation – be friends with everyone. That’s another story.

Anyway, there was a girl a year older than me who was one of my true friends. She was a girl-friend, not a girlfriend. She and I were in the hallway after school by her locker when Billy Babcock walked up to us. Billy Babcock was a well-known bully at the school. He harassed and intimidated other kids constantly, his knuckle-headed minions giggling at his atrocious acts, giving him the praise he desired and which kept them safe from Billy turning against them. The girl and I were both nervous, but Billy was alone, so he had no audience.

“You two guys are friends, aren’t you?” Billy asked us. We both sheepishly said yes.

“How did you do that?” I looked at Vicki, confusion covering my face, as she looked back at me with the same expression.

“Do what?” Vicki asked.

“How did you become friends like that? I see the two of you together a lot. I know you’re not boy-girl-friend, but you are friends.”

Vicki and I sighed with relief, then she answered because, frankly, I was struck dumb. I didn’t know what to say. Here was an opportunity to share healing with someone who hurt, and I failed to meet the moment. She merely said that we enjoy doing things together that are fun and make us feel happy without bothering anyone else.

Billy stood silently there for a moment, mulling over her words. He then nodded, said thanks, and walked away. Billy never bothered either one of us again.

I am human, and like others, I initially responded with anger when I heard and read about the recent news. And I mean really angry. But my anger is no longer like a line drawn on stone, a line that can take years to be erased. It is somewhere between being a line drawn in sand and a line being drawn in water. We all suffer, even the bullies. Every day, I am given a chance to help lessen that suffering. And every day, I strive to be aware of these opportunities.

It’s not easy. But it is essential.

Addendum. I thought this Violent Femmes video was appropriate. Besides, it's a kick ass song.


Friday, October 1, 2010

OMG! Did you hear about...?

“Obvious is also the harm done to others by deception, by causing dissension and by backbiting. The mark of harming others is also attached to gossip because it takes away what is beneficial and causes to arise what is not beneficial …” Sallekha Sutta: The Discourse on Effacement (MN 8)

“He is a gossip: as one who tells that which is unseasonable, that which is not fact, that which is not good, that which is not the Dhamma, that which is not the Discipline, and he speaks out of season speech not worth recording, which is unreasoned, indefinite, and unconnected with good.” Saleyyaka Sutta: The Brahmans of Sala (MN 41)

“(He) should utter skillful words
that are not untimely;
should give no mind
to the gossip people might say.”

Sariputta Sutta (Snp 4.16)

“Here some person abstains from killing living beings, from taking what is not given, from misconduct in sexual desires, from false speech, from malicious speech, from harsh speech, from gossip, he is not covetous, is not ill-willed, and has right view. On the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a happy destination, in the heavenly world.” Maha-kammavibhanga Sutta: The Great Exposition of Kamma (MN 136)

And then there’s the Dhamma expressed by Kim Wilson, formerly of The Fabulous Thunderbirds.