Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Paths of Compassion

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”Thomas Merton

Merton sought to pave a road between his two good masters, Jesus and Buddha, but it is at this very point that the two masters diverged. Buddha's philosophy of compassion is to create peace by first placing oneself into a place of peace, and then enacting compassion out of that place. Should one find oneself out of that place of peace due to acts of compassion, one must return into peace in order to maintain compassion.

Jesus' philosophy was different. Compassion is a gift of God and must be given at all times, in all circumstances. Compassion can come from a personal place of peace, but it does not need to. Compassion is done to the detriment of oneself and, in the end, if the world is going to be changed, some must sacrifice themselves-- through allowing violence to be done to oneself.

These are two different philosophies of how the world can be changed for the better and those who seek peace must choose one or the other, the path of the Dali Lama or the path of Martin Luther King, Jr.

What we must avoid at all times is the third path toward peace-- that peace must be won by sacrificing others. By dividing the world into good people and bad people and the "bad" people can be harmed or destroyed in order to create peace for the good. This is the philosophy of suicide bombers, of racism, of war. This is the dangerous philosophy we, as activists, can fall into and this is what perpetuates injustice on the earth.

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