Embracing Compassion And Sharing Grace This Holiday Season
Attachment is the Issue
Even after failing to keep the Buddha from enlightenment, Maara (The Demon God) would visit him frequently, His loyal attendant, Ananda, would tell him with despair that “The Evil One” had returned.
Instead of driving him away, the Buddha would calmly acknowledge his presence, often inviting him in for tea, setting his place, and serving him before taking his own seat.
Recently, I have been studying a few trends in the United States: the controversial three strikes law still valid in several states, which sentences a prisoner for life after a third felony offense, regardless of what it is; the debate over gay marriage and acceptance of the LGBT community; and the fight to keep Syrian refugees from entering the country. Several states, including Idaho, where I live, have refused to accept them at all.
It’s a pattern in Western culture, religion specifically. For whatever reason, conviction that something is wrong or differs from an individual’s opinion makes it difficult for them to show compassion. The golden rule, to love others as you love yourself, seems invalid in these circumstances.
A relationship with a good friend is marked by understanding and compassion, and we need to extend those same considerations both to ourselves and those around us, even if we see them as Maara, or evil.
There are a few things we can do to aid this process.
Seeing what is true, we hold what is seen with kindness.
Is the repeat felon a danger to society?
However true that statement may be, imposing a life sentence without consideration of the circumstances shows neither understanding nor compassion.
Rather, fear born out of attachment—and not tempered with kindness—feeds this attitude.
Rather than resisting our experience, we should open our hearts.
Often, we pick up the prejudice of our parents and those around us when we are young. As we grow in understanding, there still may be moments when depression, meanness, and dark thoughts may enter our minds.
Rather than resisting them, we should “meet them at the door, laughing,” as Rumi says. “Be grateful for whoever comes. For each is sent as a guide from beyond.”
The reality is there are cravings and fears that reside in all of us.
Whether that is an irrational reaction to the LGBT community or some other prejudice arising from attachment to certain ideals, the ability to recognize this reality, yet still be compassionate, not only improves the lives of those around us, but softens our own hearts as well.
We should offer refuge to those who cry for help.
“All religions and spiritual traditions begin with the cry ‘Help!’” wrote nineteenth century American psychologist and philosopher William James.
Our lives are fundamentally insecure. and we often try to soothe ourselves with false refuge, which actually distances us from the peace we are looking for. When we see others whose lives have been disrupted and who have been torn from the physical comforts of home, it is for us to offer them what comfort we can.
When we look at Syrian refugees, often the fear that arises is from our attachment to a false security, so rather than show compassion, we strive to protect what isn’t real in the first place. Only by releasing this attachment can we truly be free to offer assistance without prejudice.
Every year, as the Christmas holiday comes around, we are assaulted with ads encouraging us to acquire more and gather temporary things for ourselves. Instead, this year, perhaps we could trade attachment for compassion, hold to truth with kindness, embrace our experiences while opening our hearts, and offer refuge to those crying for help.
This holiday season, give the gift of grace to yourself and others. The world will be a kinder place for it.
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