An Amish woman was killed in her buggy, rear-ended by an SUV. Who are you? There is a woman who is threatened with stoning in Iran. Who am I?
What happens within us when we learn these things?
Buddhists believe that all of what happens everywhere affects everyone and everything. Nothing is foreign; it is all of us, all the time. There is no other-ness. Our life force and spiritual energy is interconnected. We are assaulted and cheered, encouraged and oppressed by things that happen everywhere.
The most difficult teaching of the great religions is that of gratitude, especially when it relates to our enemies and the oppressors in life. We may be joyously grateful that lively music fits our mood perfectly, but can we be grateful that a loved one has died or mayhem is imminent? Why do spiritual teachers ask us to do that? What's the sense in it?
Gratitude is a very difficult concept in the face of evil, makes much more sense in the realm of beauty and love. The truth is, if we can be grateful for the oppressor, we are more accurately ourselves as defined by them, and we become better aligned with what is good and true in the world if that is our intention. But, this is not simply a statement like: "Wow, they are so horrible, and I in comparison am an angel." More in truth it is: "I understand myself more clearly, and it is very certain that I must never become or be part of evil and destruction."
It is far simpler to hate hate-filled people and love love-filled people, but it really is just easy and teaches nothing. It is said that to know your enemy is to know yourself, and I say it is because you are forced to define your self very clearly when faced with clearly awful things.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way