Friday, August 29, 2003

Hate: The Answer?

Winds of Change is proving to be a mighty thought-provoking blog. A recent post got me thinking. I want you to go to the post and read BOTH the links it suggests. If you want, you can read something I wrote as well: A Buddhist Critique of Islam, then another post re: Right and Wrong, then go sit down under a tree, or by a river, or somewhere you can remain undisturbed... and just think for a good half-hour or so.

It may be obvious, if you've been following this blog, that my mood swings a lot, and some of my near-and-dear convictions are right now being tugged in many directions. Some of this I can date to some rather spirited emails between me and my closest friends just before-- and then during and after-- Gulf War 2. Some of this comes from even before that time. I find myself questioning previously unquestioned assumptions, realizing that, in many cases, I simply don't know where I stand on a whole host of issues, yet have visceral reactions in very definite directions. Some of the problem stems from the fact that, for all my irreverence, I take religion very seriously-- yes, even when I joke about baked French people, or post an "evil thought" about Islam and where I think it's going-- and see so many current problems through a religious perspective.

I've said in a jokingly smug tone that I'm a nondualist. That's fairly true. I'm a Christian by practice (though I've done my share of Zen Buddhist meditation), probably a philosophical Taoist in terms of my metaphysics, and maybe Christian-Buddhist in my ethics. There are very, very few truths I consider important enough to die for, and most of them are the kind which you, dear reader, might find mundane or overly specific (relating, as they do, to family and friends in almost all cases; ultimate reality, despite its loftiness, doesn't really need my defense of it, so I'm not inclined to defend certain so-called "core" religious propositions). But issues like the Korea problem and the Islam problem require responses, which means that my nondualism can't express itself as a vague "maybe" all the time, even if I'm being sincere when I say it. "Maybe" and "I don't know" aren't acceptable responses when someone has broken into your house with the intent to harm your family, nor are they appropriate when you're hanging off a cliff by an exposed root, with the tiger in front of you, another tiger circling beneath you, and two mice gnawing the root you're holding on to.

Is hate the answer? That's my kong-an for this evening. When a Son master gives you a kong-an to study, and you have to visit him periodically to discuss where your meditation has led you, it's very rare for the master to accept silence as your "answer" to the kong-an. Silence is very "been there, done that" to many Son masters. The "right" answer is what leaps out of the confluence of events and phenomena that make up this moment. Who can say what that answer is?

But the point is, you have to answer. Muddled vagueness doesn't fly in the son-won. No wishy-washiness allowed. Does this mean you must, always and forever, adopt a fixed, rigid mind? No. You know better than that if you read the abovementioned links! Instead, your mind must be like what Christian theologian Howard Thurman called it: LEAPING.

[NB: Do not confuse him with Uma's famous Buddhist father, Robert! Howard was Martin Luther King's mentor!]

This "leaping" mind is extremely hard to achieve if you don't know exactly where you are and in what direction to leap. My Christian past says, "You leap in confidence, you leap in faith. Look if you want, but the looking isn't so important." My Zen training (patchy as it is) suggests, "Leap smartly. Mindfully. Heartfully. And leap NOW."

Leaping NOW requires clear mind. Clear mind requires settling and centering. I'm neither settled nor centered right now, especially on these issues. Blogging this intensely, every day, I think I'm losing perspective even as I'm gaining a broader knowledge of the issues (hat tip to all the bloggers I've read, on the blogroll and not). Maybe it's time to stop and breathe.

Anyway, I have my kong-an for the night. Gotta sleep now.

Is hate the answer?


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