Sunday, November 8, 2009

Violence Within and Outside Of - No Separation

Thanks to Arun at Angry Asian Buddhist, I found this blog post on the debates over Buddhist Chaplains in the military. It's a complicated issue, and in light of the recent mass murders at Fort Hood, all the more important in my opinion. I continue to be compelled to examine the roots of violence both within myself, and out in the world. No separation, right?

This morning, on the way to the zen center on my bicycle, I noticed that old, familiar tightening in my stomach that occurs when cars come too close, or ignore my safety, or do something I just "don't like." my practice when I notice this, or even beforehand if possible, is to chant the Jizo Dharani. Jizo Bodhisattva is, among other things, a protector figure for travelers(not a God per se, but a manifestation of buddha energy in the world). As such, the chant is perfect for people on the go, and I have found it especially helpful in working with anger, fears, and violent energy that arrive during biking trips through the city.

It's a simple chant.(Om ka ka kabi san ma e sowa ka)

Easy to remember, and rhythmic enough to break through the muck that is arising. Sometimes, I chant it for an entire bike ride, and sometimes just for a few blocks. The original impetus, to stop getting so angry at careless drivers, has morphed into a deeper awareness of the very act of traveling brings up all kinds of challenging emotions and energies. And when I don't pay attention to those energies and emotions, they get lodged in my body, and control my thinking. Arriving at work after an "unconscious" bike ride, for example, can bring on a depositing of negativity on co-workers or my students that didn't need to occur. This is how violence begins on a small scale. People dump on each other, or jump on each other in small ways, and over time it builds up. If those builds up go unexamined, and uncared for, violent outbursts can be the result. At an extreme level, people rape, torture, blow up things, and kill each other. Do you really think that you are all that different from Major Malik Nidal Hasan? I think we can condemn his actions and, at the same time, see how razor thin the difference is between people who snap like him, and the rest of us.

In fact, it seems imperative, in a world filled with violence and hatred, to take these kind of steps. To stop separating people into rigid victim and perpetrator categories, and start examining how the roots of violence are in us all.

How are you working with violence in your own life? In your community? Around the world even? Sitting with, and reflecting on these questions, and others like them, seems like an important place to start this work. May we all give non-violence in all it's manifestations our best shot.


Anonymous said...

The Jizo Dharani is something that I have been chanting for a few years now whenever I get the chance. It is a beautiful chant and is recorded by Great Vow Zen Monastery in MP3 if anyone is interested in a copy.

They are open for public use along with some other sutras (Heart and Identity of Relative and Absolute).

I usually chant this one during my morning commute to and from work as well as during my morning meditative walk.



Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan,
There seems to be an increase of violence in our communication, on blog posts and particularly on Facebook. Perhaps it is in part the impersonal nature of these forums that tends to allow us to be less aware of other people's feelings? Or maybe we just do not take into account that there are a wider range of opinions represented in the folks that access these venues than we would encounter face-to-face in a typical day. I don't notice it happening so much when I'm talking to people in person. Have you noticed this to be the case in your online communications?

spldbch said...

There does seem to be something about traveling that can bring out the worst in people. I'm sure we've all experienced road rage in some form. I find myself getting edgy and impatient on my drive to work if traffic is heavy or if I'm running late. I try to pay attention to those feelings and remind myself that they do no good -- I'm going to get to work at the same time whether I get agitated or remain calm.

Nathan said...

Hi Glenda,

Yes, I have definitely noticed the level of violence in on-line communications. I do think it has to do, at least in part, to the abstracted nature of the internet. People say things online they'd rarely or never say to someone face to face. Also, it's easy to misread comments because of the lack of body language and in-person connection. This doesn't mean we should just stay silence, but I do think it means we have to be even more careful with our words on-line.


Irina Mooi Almgren said...

Hi Nathan!

Great question! I am with you about the importance of working with the violence inside us and appreciate the post.

The only war we can stop right now is the one inside ourselves that stems from the belief that reality should be other than what it is (car drivers should be more considerate of the bikers, colleagues should give me muffins instead of headaches).

The way I work with the violence inside is by bringing awareness (trying to be awake) in the activities of the every day life (meditation and self-observation are the methods) and not adding
the second arrow once I get in touch with the feelings or beliefs (if I discover a "negative" emotion, I try not to add up to the suffering by getting andgry with myself).



PS I wrote down the chant - thank you!- as Uppsala is a biking city but am not sure how to go about the tune. :-)

Anonymous said...

Wanted to share this wonderful poem on the topic:

by Dorothy Hunt

Do you think peace requires an end to war
Or tigers eating only vegetables?

Does peace require an absence from your boss, your spouse, yourself?

Do you think peace will come some other place than here?
Some other time than now?

In some other heart than yours?

Peace is this moment without judgement.
That is all.

This moment in the heart-space where everything that is, is welcome.

Peace is this moment without thinking that it should be some other way
That you should feel some other thing
That your life should unfold according to your plans.

Peace is this moment without judgement.

This moment in the heart-space where everything that is, is welcome.