Buddhism: the Path to Compassion… and Conciliation

IMG_1184

Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka

Buddhism is well-known for its compassion, but actually: shouldn’t they all be? In fact, yes all religions are pretty equal in that regard, to their own adherents, at least. Christians who rejoice in their style of communion might be surprised at the joy of two Muslims meeting at the unexpected random encounter in some disparate (and not necessarily desperate) country.

So that’s the challenge, really, then, isn’t it—to expand the umbrella of inclusion, so that people can feel that feeling of brotherhood whenever and wherever and with whomever? Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way, as cultural baggage weighs heavily and racial and facial considerations rear their ugly heads in calculated derision…

Christianity and Islam have been at each others’ throats for so long, that it seems like it must be up to Buddhism to be the neutral ground for conciliation, a task for which it is perfectly suited. That’s what the Middle Path is all about, isn’t it? It’s the only major religion that’s never fought a war of conquest, after all, though individual member states have long fought each other in the far corners of SE Asia and elsewhere, for no better reasons than those of Christianity and Islam…

Christianity at its best is all about universal love, of course, and Islam does the same for universal dignity, but only Buddhism reconciles all these disparate needs into one quest for balance. Buddhism is all about control, really: control of mind and control of body. I guess that’s why so many Westerners have so much trouble with it, we with our passions and aggressions and ambitions and credit card statements, all balance sheet without much balance…

That’s why I feel so bad at the moment: I blew it today. I blew it badly—really badly. I know all these things, yet still revert to anger and vitriol in the heat of battle, in the moment of victimization. Here’s what happened: some bloke ran over my foot while I was kneeling at the discount bin at the grocery store, and before I knew it I’d hurled an epithet at him best reserved for Robert Frank documentaries about the Rolling Stones, then doubled down with an F-word coup de grace that struck more than a glancing blow, and all for nothing…

Hey! I’m a semi-ovo-lactarian-pescetarian, i.e. vegetarian in remission, who doesn’t ovulate much and lactates even less, so that deli-style tuna salad is a real treat when it’s on sale at half-price! And I’ll even splurge on some mystery-meat lasagna if no one’s looking! I felt really bad almost immediately afterward—still do. He did run over my foot after all, and with no extravagant effort at contrition.

But that’s no excuse, is it? Of course by then he was long gone, blended into the faceless masses at Fry’s (no pun) Food Store, no doubt intent on cold cuts, and dairy products, and sauces galore, pre-packaged bread crumbs and pre-sliced salads, and probably a particular avoidance of me, who could’ve gone much more ‘postal’ than was on ritual display at the bargain bin…

Ritual! That’s what it was, just me playing a role, without rhythm nor rationale! So I can claim innocence by separation, yes, distinct degrees of separation between myself (whatever that is) and the role I was playing. I was in character; that’s all! There’s only one problem: it’s all BS. I lost my cool in the anger of the moment, and nothing can change that fact. But it wasn’t really me, was it? Oh yes, it was, no ‘temporary insanity’ defense allowed…

So I spend the rest of the day trying to make amends, helping little old ladies cross the street and trying to make little kids grin, all with mixed results. Only time can heal acts of aggression and false claims of possession, time and assorted acts of kindness, forgiveness and… apologies, hard to do when the bloke is long gone, so do I apologize to any store employees who might have overheard? Oh, the agony…

Then I have my revelation: I only did it because the perpetrator was a wimp. I could’ve kicked his ass six ways from Sunday and a couple of holidays without paid leave. I’d’ve chosen my words more carefully if it had been some beefcake looking to ketchup with his fighting. Thus the role of religion is essentially democratic, more so than any brand of politics: to treat each other as equals no matter the status of our piss-trails. Now I know. That doesn’t change my guilt for what’s past, but it might affect future outcomes, if not income, and that’s worth something now, isn’t it?

Advertisements