guns n’lotuses

The prominent Buddhist teacher, author, and activist, Joan Halifax, on the day of this shooting tweeted “I want to live in a country that loves its children more than its guns.”

I would like to wish everyone a thoughtful International Woman’s Day (today, March 8, 2018). Here in the USA, the #MeToo and the Time’s Up movements have deservedly captured positive media coverage. Not long ago, Time Magazine honored the movements with their Person of the Year award. Last week, the Academy Awards haltingly celebrated their message.

Yet, there is a troubling backlash.

#never again

This week I would like to discuss a sister movement, which also started and grew dramatically on social media, and is also experiencing backlash – #NeverAgain. This movement began with twenty students who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in which 17 of their classmates were gunned down by a former student with an AR-15 rifle he obtained legally.

The prominent Buddhist teacher, author, and activist, Joan Halifax, on the day of this shooting tweeted “I want to live in a country that loves its children more than its guns.”

outrage as routine

As with sexual assault and domestic violence, school shootings are becoming tragically normalized. We experience outrage as routine.

These questions are on many meditators’ lips: How do I respond mindfully to gun violence? Or, stated from a less secular perspective, What is a Buddhist response?

our practice creates a holding space

On a personal level, our mindfulness practice allows us to create an inner space that can hold outrage and despair. This holding space prevents us from falling into what one commentator called the “defeatist consensus – yes, it’s horrible, but it will happen again.”

This holding space allows us to fully feel the pain and outrage; if we don’t do this first, our healing will be fragmentary.

As Rumi wrote: “The cure for pain is the pain.”

Robert Thurman observes in his book Anger:

People are afraid that if they let go of their anger and righteousness and wrath, and look at their own feelings-and even see the good in a bad person-they’re going to lose the energy they need to do something about the problem. But actually you get more strength and energy by operating from a place of love and concern. You can be just as tough, but more effectively tough.

This space also guards against being hijacked by our feelings; we can think clearly, effectively, and as Robert Thurman advises—compassionately.

finding balance

If our personal reactions teeter too much toward ferocious rage or are too dispassionately chilled and accepting, we are far less effective. Balance is key, in our hearts and in our communities.

Robert Wright, the author of the New York Time’s bestseller Why Buddhism is True, recently wrote in his Mindful Resistance newsletter about skillful opposition to Trumpism:

I think we sometimes react to Trump’s provocations with a level of outrage that, even if justified (as it often is), is tactically unwise because it winds up helping him. An alert, attentive, watchful mind is a good thing to go to battle with.

to hold rage in a healing space

This is our response as mindfulness meditators, personally and as a sangha – to gently hold rage and despair in our sacred inner healing space, while cultivating clear, steady concern and action.

We also need to see to what extent we have colluded with our culture of violence, e.g., our media consumption. The editor of Tricycle Magazine, James Shaheen, wrote last year about terrorist attacks:

The Dhammapada teaches that thinking is action and action has effects. If we want this violence to end, each of us needs to clarify the ways we have internalized and normalized violence.

After the Paris terror attacks in 2015, the Dalai Lama tweeted “although I am a Buddhist monk, I am skeptical that prayers alone will help. We need enthusiastic and committed action.”

The Dalai Lama’s tweet begs the question-What sort of action?

One  answer — any meaningful action, no matter how small.

Again, James Shaheen, from Tricycle Magazine:

“Recall the infinity of our small daily actions that support what is good. Even our smallest actions have effects, depending on what kind of mind we bring to the world…we can’t know what effect they will have, and there is no point in getting sidetracked by this. Just rest in the knowledge that it is through these small actions that goodness is sustained and transmitted.”

take small actions

If you feel motivated please consider taking some small actions. Why not join a March for Our Lives event near you–its nationwide protest on March 24 to protest gun violence. And if you can’t attend, there are more suggestions on their website.

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Ma. Angeles
March 8, 2018 5:26 pm

But then…how do we explain what buddhist people are doing in Sri Lanka and Burma these days? is it really Buddhism the answer?

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