Zen 101

Tuesday, February 07, 2017


With palms together,

As Buddhists our practice is to look deeply, to not accept the superficial, and to resist simple, broad brush solutions to complex issues. We hear the word "resist" often in today's social media. It has taken on a political and moral connotation. But what does "resist" actually mean? The O.E.D. says the following:
A verb.
1 verb trans. Stop or hinder the progress or course of; prevent (a weapon etc.) from penetrating. lME.
b Withstand the action or effect of.
2 verb trans. Strive against, oppose, refuse to yield to, (a person, illness, influence, hostile action, etc.); refrain from (temptation); refuse to comply with (an order, a law, etc.). lME.
I suppose I take the second definition, especially the "refuse to yield to" aspect. We are under some pressure to yield to our government and it's edicts. We are like patients in hospitals told to follow the colored lines on the floors. And most of us do, I am sorry to say.
Liberal America, that America responsible for free and open thought, that America opposed to religious or civil persecution or oppression, has yielded too long to the supposition that it is weak, that it is passive and yielding in the face or an aggressive, conservative, right wing..We have even agreed with the authoritarian right in some ways keeping our liberal POV a secret for fear of ridicule.
No more.
While there clearly are exceptions, in most cases liberals are open-minded and passionate about freedom of thought. In most cases we are a forward-looking bunch, a bunch committed to social justice and individual responsibility. While the conservative right, in our silence, assumed the position of moral superiority, we passively accepted that theft.
We failed to have faith in our own ethical position in contrast to the conservative right's assumption of moral superiority based on a fundamentalist ethical position. We assume a relative ethical position, which is to say, our ethics are based in the context of a given situation with one principle rule: bring about the most good over bad for all concerned. Such a moral position allows for differences within and without social systems. It allows for a good that is evolutionary and not stilted by rigid rules which rarely apply to changing circumstances.
The morality of the right is easy: apply a rule. Carry the standard of religious faith as if it is a simple and clear cut thing. In doing so, its like an old paradigm trying its best to fit changing conditions. Yet, it has the appearance of certainty, an appearance we often feel we are in desperate need. It is such a need that can be our Achilles heel.
As Buddhists we know there are no certainties, that everything changes, as change is the true nature of the universe itself. We welcome great doubt as doubt brings questions and questions bring light. We live with great faith in our practice, practice going back to the time of the Buddha himself. As liberals we welcome the challenges of change knowing entrenchment in a belief is a path to darkness.
My commitment is to resist authoritarianism from its smallest glimmer to its full-blown manifestation. My commitment is to support freedom of thought and religion. My commitment is to resist simple solutions to complex problems. My commitment to to always try to see the Big Picture even in the smallest of details. For me, to resist is patriotic, it is the foundational support of truth itself. It is the crack that lets the light in. And folks, we are the light.