Monday, September 2, 2013

Be Generous to the Human Condition

A few years ago, I had a meeting with our head teacher at the Zen center. Zen people tend to call these meetings dokusan, although the way it unfolds can be anything from a one minute blundered koan presentation to a long conversation about life - it really depends on the teacher's style, as well as the circumstances behind having the meeting in the first place. Anyway, during this meeting, the content of the conversation seemed to lead us both to the phrase I titled this post with: "Be generous to the human condition." It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? But what does it mean exactly?

I’ve been reflecting a lot on war again, given the crisis in Syria and the Obama Administration’s pressuring for military action there. My current post over at Turning Wheel media digs deeply into all of that. Warfare is, ultimately, a surface approach to a below the surface set of problems. Societies built on greed and power mongering. Pervasive poverty. Human fear and ignorance. You can cut off the top of a dandelion again and again, but it's only through uprooting it completely (and eating it's health-giving body :), that you'll be rid of it.

As such, we can use the phrase "Be generous to the human condition" as a reminder of our individual and collective struggles to go deeper. Our tendencies to seek quick and easy solutions, even when we might know that they're ultimately doomed. It is about recognizing all the foolish and destructive behavior that comes from our individual and collective delusions. To be able to just breath it in, and touch what it's like to be human in this world at this time.

Not because you're better than anyone else - you're not - but because doing so is one of the ways to soften the edges, develop compassion, and see that we're all in this together.

This practice, and life in general, is hard work. Not always, but often. And so even as we offer fierce critiques, or sit silently with the world's turmoil without any coherent response, it's helpful to remember to be generous to the human condition. Moment after moment.


Helmut said...

The beauty of Buddhist training for me has been to learn that silence is a response.
Not everything needs to be coherent for me or by me.
I also find it helpful to remember I'm a human being; not a human doing.

Zach said...

The biggest moment when I try to be compassionate of the human condition is when a child asks a question, whether it be trivial, annoying, or inappropriate... and I struggle to understand the amount of trust the child to ask me the question. And how that trust will be crushed if I ignore the question, or minimize it.