Thursday, March 10, 2011

Off The Cushion

Sitting in Starbucks this morning I was contemplating a topic for a blog post when a guy dressed in wanna-be military garb sits down beside me and announces, "Ya know, if you were here thirty minutes ago there wasn't a black person in here".  Bingo…. you're my blog post of the day.  Are you kidding me?!  I thought guys like this only existed in the movies, and certainly not in southwest Atlanta where the populace is well-over 90% African American.

For the next twenty minutes I was treated to an unsolicited ear-full of how when the gas prices go up all of the blacks are going to leave, and how all of the kids at the school bus stops have babies in their arms.  I struggled to exfiltrate myself from the conversation but part of me, like driving past a car wreck, wanted to hear this guy's destructive, hate-filled rant. 

I contemplated loving kindness and how this guy, as misguided as I believed he was, deserved my compassion.  It's easy to love the world's down-trodden and unfortunate, but when faced with someone that is the victim of his own limited mind, the task becomes much more difficult.  How do you show compassion for someone that you find so distasteful? 

The other take away for me was the question of why do I find his rant so offensive in the first place?  Clearly I'm attached to my viewpoints, and when confronted with such a dramatically different perspective I quickly retract and begin to judge and form opinions.

Buddhism is a wonderful thing, and when sitting on a cushion its simple to follow it's tenants.  Applying the same in the reality of a crowded Starbucks is a bit more challenging.


Vikesh said...

Wonderful post Eric, and can I just say that from my experience it is encounters such as these that will serve to enrich your journey far more than the silent, pensive moments will ever be able to do...

When we meet people who seem to be so diametrically opposed, so unfathomably bigoted, it is then that it is most important to remember these opinions they hold are most often not the product of conscious decisions they have made, but rather that of conditioning they have been subject to.

All throughout their lives, from their upbringing to their unique experiences, to the exposure (or indeed, lack thereof) they've had, all serve to inform their outlook on life whether or not they realize it.

This is how I have found it is possible to still remain compassionate with individuals such as these, by realizing that it is perhaps not their fault at all that they remain trapped in a mental prison of discrimination and perhaps even hatred.

The thought that they are being held captive by forces beyond their perception is what seems most tragic to me and personally I will feel the irrefutable impulse to sympathize with them, therefore allowing me to distance myself from the tendency towards judgement.

Danny from Canberra said...

Hi, this is Danny from Canberra Australia. I am you! By identifying the person in the coffee shop as 'other' you have missed the wonder of it all. The source of 'I' ness is the same source for all of us. You are a localized program governed by karma, which is the way the universe gets to experience itself, but there aren't billions of different selves. There's only one, manifested in multifarious forms. The form is nothing, the self, which transcends form is, for want of a better word, the observer or experiencer, and this is the same observer or experiencer in all of us. If you can drop the notion of 'you' being your little programed self, then the boundaries fall away. I am you and you are me. That's the source of true compassion. Buddhist masters don't take on Bodhisatva status for any other reason that this. There infinite compassion arises from complete identification with suffering humanity. I am you. Not two of us or a million, but one without a second. Paternalistic comment about the low level of awareness in others (including this one no doubt) is indicative of separation, and separation is an illusion. A pertinent question in response to this is, why then am I me and you you? This is a very simple riddle with a very simple answer. Good luck and good fortune. Danny