The Beloved Community

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose teachings resound through time.  He preached that each of us has the power to change the world and ourselves, to consider how one confronts social evil without creating further evil, division and enmity.  This is not unlike  Buddhadharma, both recognizing the universality of the human struggle for freedom.

Despite the pernicious effects of segregation, Dr. King advocated love and nonviolence.  His stated purpose was creation of the beloved community, whose cornerstone is love and justice. Like the Buddha, he taught that the resolution of conflict, rather than absence of conflict, is the fertile ground on which to build such a community—“our loyalties must transcend our race, tribe, class, and nation”—and that only a change in attitude created by love can create a just and respectful society.

There is more work to be done for personal and collective freedom—and it starts with making what is unconscious conscious.  Each of us has a unique contribution to transforming what Dr. King called “this pending cosmic elegy” into “a creative psalm of brotherhood.”  And it comes from wisdom and love that is ours to uncover every time we sit and pay attention.  Dr. King said love is the binding power that holds the universe together “tying us in a single garment of destiny, … an inescapable network of mutuality.” Our loving recognition of interdependence opens us to understanding our connection to, and dependence on, every fellow being.

May the beloved community be built and served in every human heart, here and now.

Blessing the World

This week many of us will pause to participate in what we call “Thanksgiving,” for the blessings in our lives. There is a text called the “Mangala Sutta,” the Buddha’s discourse on Blessings.  At the beginning of the sutta, he asks: “What is truly auspicious, truly a blessing?”  His response (perhaps surprising) is how to craft an empowered life that is in harmony with, and supportive of, our deepest values. The thirty-eight enumerated blessings in the sutta remind us that we are a part of something greater than a small sense of self. Connected to all of life through integration of deep wisdom in our lives, we give and receive blessings.

What he describes as blessings is essentially an integrated way of living in the Dhamma—fulfilling individual spiritual and communal requisites for success such as education, attaining a craft, discipline, virtue, fulfilling family responsibilities, generosity, as well as the elements of a spiritual life—respect; humility; contentment; gratitude, patience, the ability to take criticism.  Through these come the blessings of a mind unshaken by changing worldly conditions, “sorrowless … stainless … and secure.”

Can we this week of Thanksgiving look at the world with “quiet eyes,” (as expressed by the Theologian Howard Thurman) and remember these deepest gifts with which we are blessed?  Can we give and receive such blessings by our quiet—acknowledging the turmoil of the world, remembering its many injustices, and yet blessing it with our peace, loving kindness and compassion?