An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]
Imagine what the world would be like if generosity, kindness, and wisdom prevailed over greed, hatred, and ignorance. We would devote our resources to education, science, creativity, wellness, and infrastructure rather than spending on defense.
Instead of destroying the infrastructure of Iraq and Afghanistan and rebuilding it poorly, we could use that largess to benefit humanity there and around the world where people are in great need. For that matter, we could spend some of that money at home where it is needed here.
Humanity has always dealt with upheaval, uncertainty, and change. I’ll make a bold claim: Everything that is wrong with the world stems from greed, hatred, and ignorance. The Buddha was right about this in the Bronze Age and it is still true today. The financial crisis of 2008; countless wars and conflicts around the world, domestic abuse; pollution, climate change, overpopulation – all the result of greed, hatred, and ignorance that sometimes arises to near delusional proportions.
The same principles apply within ourselves. Better to be generous than greedy. Generous in the sense of being interested in the world around us and curious about what our mind does. To be greedy is to try to hold onto things, to hoard pleasures, to try to make the impermanent permanent.
We engage in a lot of self-hatred with self-judgment, it seems to be endemic to our culture of stress, anxiety, depression, and self-entitlement. It’s a paradox that kids how grow up in very critical environment and kids who grown up in a over-praising environment both develop a harsh internal critic. It seems like too much attention to self – to me— whether positive or negative in conjunction with our culture of achievement, perfection, and idealism leads to these self-problems.
Kindness to self has to be taught to most. We need books like Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance, Christopher Germers’s Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, Steve Flowers and Bob Stahl’s, Living With Your Heart Wide Open, and Polly Young-Eisendrath’s The Self-Esteem Trap. We are practiced at harsh self-judgment, what I have called the Strident Self – a self driven by impossible, contradictory, and capricious standards of perfection. Not only is this Strident Self engaged in hatred, it is also ignorant – disconnected from reality, subject to cognitive distortions that serve outdated mental models of who we are in the world.
Wisdom, well that’s a whole other story. We live in an insane world of stupidity, lies, and short-sighted thinking (we also live in a world of beauty, courage, and grace, so when I say “we” I am referring to the leaders of the world). We don’t live in harmony. We take actions that harm ourselves and others. We don’t seem to recognize that things are always changing. We glorify the self promoting greed and hatred. We don’t seem to know the difference between fantasy and reality. We are ignorant, perhaps even delusional. As a result, we are chronically dissatisfied, even anguished in life.
Generosity-kindness-wisdom and greed-hatred-ignorance are karma. Karma means action in Sanskrit (or Kamma in Pali). It points to the observation that actions have consequences – all actions have consequences. This consequences may only be emotions born of thoughts. Wisdom helps us to choose good actions.
Without mindfulness its hard to be wise. In fact, I’d argue it’s impossible. Mindfulness is the currency for generosity-kindness-wisdom; it’s the vehicle, the path, and the method.
Be good; embrace mindfulness.
Waking Up is a Revolutionary Act: A Manifesto for Mindful Living was inspired by Experience Life magazine, Editor-in-Chief, Pilar Gerasimo’s, article Being Healthy is a Revolutionary Act: Renegade Perspectives for Thriving in a Mixed Up World, and its accompanying A Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed Up World. Visit http://RevolutionaryAct.com, the website devoted to Being Healthy is a Revolutionary Act: A Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed-Up World and download your own copy of the manifesto and join the movement! Read more about Experience Life here.