A Guide to Bodhisattva’s Way of Life
Looking in the rearview mirror, the events of past 6 months look surreal. We have become a civilization wounded by our own anger and actions. Our collective actions are infused with a naked dance of hatred, bigotry, and anger as never seen before, bleaching the moral standing of the whole country meticulously earned over centuries of dogged pursuit of virtues by our forefathers.
I was not an innocent bystander, but a loyal member of a self-righteous echo-chamber, loudly labeling the other side with choicest, negatively optimized, words. My world, like many others’, was completely trapped in consensual hallucination with likeminded persons. Our anger was generated by the feeling that the country was heading in the wrong direction and we were powerless.
Now, at least for me, the vision clogging dust is settling down, although it looks that the journey of acceptance is going to be arduous and will have some hiccups. I try take time and look underneath the burning amber of anger to find pearls of wisdom buried in my unconscious. These pearls tell me how to understand nature and embark on a path of peace, and hydrate the anger so it does not become an uncontrollable fire. The starting quote of Shantideva is an important reminder that the antidote of anger is the practice of patience.
Old wisdom accepted the fact that anger is part of our nature to varying degrees, never going away. We are beckoned to transform its energy into something positive. A twelfth century Sufi Saint, Baba Sheikh Fareed, talked about this idea in the following couplet:
Fareeda bure da bhala kar, gusa man na handaaye
Dehee rog na lagayee, pale sab kuch paayey
(Do not hold and process the anger within your mind and body but process it by doing good to the ones who have done bad deeds to you.
The benefit in it will accrue to you. Your body will remain healthy and you will have boon of peace and equanimity)
The unearthing of this pearl gives me some solace and peace. Then another incomprehensible tweet hits the airwaves and I again get shaken out of my wits.
I try to understand the mindset of people who voted for him. I remember that during the peak of my restaurant business, I had 8 running units in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton area of Pennsylvania. I employed over a couple of hundred men and women and came in close contact with them. Most of them were hard working people, and they were not racists or bigots. This is an area that overwhelmingly voted for Trump. We from the opposing side do a great disservice by painting them with a broad negative brush. We who are intoxicated with libation of mutual superiority forget that our necks are joined with those “Red Necks” we apparently despise so passionately. It is said that collective anger is born of hopelessness, homelessness, and isolation. All these factors were present in the lives of our ignored brethren.
Suppressed and ignored anger is like volcano. At its core, where the dragon of hot destructive lava rests, is the quietest place. The anger of masses is akin to lava, silently burning in their hearts. We do not possess the powers to stop volcano from erupting but we have the wisdom to recognize the anger, understand it, and transform its energy for good deeds. The necessary pearl of wisdom to do so here is networking and community involvement.
Lord Buddha said that Sangha (community) is a powerful tool for transformation of negative impulses to positive. Reintegrating the alienated back into circle of networks is like tying a knot on two ends of a broken thread. The knot becomes the strongest part of the thread.
Such pearls of wisdom, while helpful, are not putting lid on my restlessness. I see a pandemic of anger and there seems to be no inoculation. Everybody is jubilantly participating in Pandemonium Orchestra singing Angry Euphoria. I wonder, why most of the people are wearing anger on their noses. That brings me to Thomas Merton. In my opinion, he understood the main cause of anger. He said, “the rush and pressure of modern life were a form, perhaps the most common form, of contemporary violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone and everything is to succumb to violence.” Our modern life is stretching the fabric of life so much so that it is ripping apart creating loneliness, fear, loss of direction, loss of company of friends and family, and loss of self-worth. This in my opinion is the main cause behind creation of angry civilization and loss of direction.
Pondering on Thomas Merton’s insight on the source of anger tells me that part of the solution lies in dialing down and saying hello to life. Thinking about this reminds me of a beautiful song from a Indian movie, Guide, which goes like this:
What is the rush O fellow traveler, in this transient world nobody is waiting for you, so where are you heading? Sit down under the shade of this tree and rest (your soul). You may never again find comfort of this cool shade.
According to Zen Buddhists, we all have the potential to experience appreciation of the beauty of time. It requires cultivating Bodhi Chitta, a state of Awakened Heart. In this state, there is no anger, attachment or judgment, only acceptance and a state of joy. Attaining a state of joy is a goal-less goal, a pursuit with patience, whose beginning and end is within us. An awakened heart is a happy heart, happily spreading joy around. Like an alchemist an awakened heart’s touch transforms other hearts into Gold. I have Chitta which still gets angry but no bodhi to guide me out of this delusional darkness.
I need healing hands of an Awakened Heart, but I realize that I do not have the luxury of physical time to wait and even if that person came in front of me how would I recognize him? I cannot see through the fog of ignorance which is obstructing my vision. Therefore, I push myself to sit silently in meditation and reflect on the nature of anger. In silently gazing at my inner self, I see brokenness scattered everywhere and from it a saying of Persian Poet Hafiz floats up lifting my spirits:
A hole in a flute
That the Christ’s breath moves through
Listen to this