I am not a Christian and yet when I recently read a critical comment it is Jesus' words that came to me: Judge not lest you be judged, turn the other cheek, love your enemies, and you who is without sin, cast the first stone. It's ironic but it is precisely those who use words as weapons that rouse my compassion. And I wonder, what pain are they going through or what pain have they lived through to get them to this point? I feel sadness. And I feel hurt and also annoyed. But I fight the annoyance, the desire to shoot an arrow in return. The person who tries to start a fight wants a fight in return, so turn the other cheek. The person who hates wants hate in return, so love. It is so simple and yet can be so hard to do.
Why do people balk at the truth that we all share in the same humanity? All of us have laughed and cried, felt love and fear, all of us have made mistakes. We are brothers and sisters and yet many of us are like Cain to Abel. Or more like Cain to Cain. We resent each other for one reason out of many and will not forgive. Until one day we go too far. From minor resentments brews hatred from hatred, violence and from violence to war. Everything escalates from small beginnings such as an insult thrown casually at an easy target.
Jesus councils on how to stop the cycle, through love and generosity, through focusing on our own faults rather than those of others: "first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Don't point the finger, work on yourself. Buddhists work on themselves by following what they call The Noble Eightfold Path. Three of those paths fall under Right Thought, Right Speech and Right Action. To change anything one must go to the source and the source of the contention here is in the thoughts. So, in this instance, I have been working on my thoughts, thoughts that want to strike out instead of understand. I encounter hostility in another and I want to respond in kind, but I don't. I work with my thoughts. I water the seeds of understanding instead of the seeds of anger. I stop being a mirror and begin to change my position. Only through Right Thought can you get to Right Speech and Right Speech is so important because words can be cutting and therefore destructively powerful. Words should not be spoken or written casually but with some forethought, with a sense of personal responsibility. And as we become more responsible about the quality and direction of our thoughts and speech there is the hope that this will begin to guide our actions.
And Jesus says to those that want to stone a woman to death for her adultery: "If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." One by one the men leave until it is just Jesus standing before the woman. And Jesus says to the woman: "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She responds "No one, sir" So he says "Then neither do I condemn you, go now and leave your life of sin." Jesus' Right Thought: Judge Not. Jesus' Right Speech: "If any of you is without sin..." And Jesus' Right Action: To not throw a stone. If anyone could have thrown a stone, it would have presumably been Jesus, and even he didn't. His thought and his speech set a good example and others followed him on to Right Action by walking away from judgement and condemnation.
But not all will walk away as is so clearly shown by the crucifixion of Jesus and is shown all over the world still in violence and war. Even dying on the cross Jesus asked God to forgive those who participated in his crucifixion: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." To the end, he practiced what he preached. Forgiveness is more than just good, it is essential, a powerful medicine.
A Recovery Blog
This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.