My family calls me Pancho, some of you don't know me but and I'd like you to know that I love you all...
There is no way to describe in the world of words the intensity of last Wednesday and the way we shared our common humanity. As many times I have said, the best present we can give to any one, to any community, is our attentive presence. And if you were there, you would have caught tears of joy in some of the personal stories shared in that river of kindness and life that is the Kindness Temple of the Mehta Family.
"How to distinguish between lack of patience and lack of courage?" asked brother Somik, and tapping into the power of nonviolence. Sister Guri just came back from traveling around some "slow down" cultures and she was tempted to lose some of the equanimity and awareness she cultivated in that last weeks. She, as compassionate as she is, shared the inner process she had to go throw in order to be-the-peace in the middle of the madness back in a U.S. airport. [The test of nonviolence is clearly when people are doing things we don’t like. With all the love we bring to our actions, with all the care for others’ well-being, we still need to know what we want, what it is that we are working towards... and sister Guri, she is the peace ;-)]
Dad Dinesh asked: "What if we get rid off all our buttons?Who will push our "buttons" then?" Hermana Ripa brought the tricky question formulated by one of her teachers: "What is the best of all Yogas?" Her answer reminded me of Gandhiji:
"A satyagrahi has infinite patience, abundant faith in others, ample hope."
Hermano Nipun shared a story of the huge heart of hermano Viral while he engaged with an angry neighbor and how his compassion touched the heart of this member of the community... all this rich spiritual/social material (and much more!) was gifted to me (and all of us!) and it is enabling me to write and to expand the three points I shared last week:
1. The Beloved Community
1. The Beloved Community
It has taken many years to Wednesdays to become what it is: an open, friendly, comfortable, welcoming space where people feel the river of loving-kindness flowing in their spirits and bodies. To come to Wednesdays is to acknowledge the beauty of true friendship and to be part of the emerging paradigm of generosity in this part of the Planet. Wednesdays is an example of the Beloved Community Martin Luther King Jr. made allusion for many years. It is another facet of his Dream speech.
It takes a thousand years for a redwood to grow strong and tall. It will take many years for us to grow a strong and majestic Beloved Community on the Planet: the Beloved Earth Community.
We all are interconnected whether we like it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not. We are not separated. That's an illusion. We all are connected to the Earth, to each other, to our choices. And when we lose track of the connections, and we break some of them, we don't know how we are harming ourselves.
That's why injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
But if we don't want to exacerbate the fractures of our communities with more violence (physical, structural, emotional), how do we recognize, as hermano Somik challenged us, between lack of patience and lack of courage?
The answer, from my perspective, is to respect (for starters) the human dignity of all. In the moment that someone attempts to attack our dignity, that's when we know courage, in the form of kindness and compassion, comes into play. Gandhi called it: Satyagraha.
Clinging to truth. Using the soul-force to stand up for what is love and respect.
Satyagraha is the other side of the coin of ahimsa, the state of the heart which has no enemies. We might disagree with the tactics of our opponents (or angry neighbors!), but the more we respect them as human beings, the stronger we become instruments for our principles of unity, empathy, courage, love and respect. The more we respect our ideological adversaries, the stronger we stay with hope committed to action.
“What Satyagraha in these cases does", Gandhi explained, "is not to suppress reason but to free it from inertia and to establish its sovereignty over prejudice, hatred, and other baser passions. In other words, if one may paradoxically put it, it does not enslave, it compels reason to be free.”
Aligned with the same principles of interconnectedness and service, the Prophet Mohamed (P) once was inquired by one disciples (D):
D - You said that we must serve everybody.
P - Yes.
D - That includes even the oppressor.
P - Yes, that includes the oppressor, too.
D - How are we going to serve an oppressor?
P - By preventing him from his oppression.
In the same frequency, Martin Luther King Jr said: "We must non-cooperate with evil and we must cooperate with good."
It is clear, from my point of view, that noncooperation has its roots not in hatred but in love. We, citizens of the World, will not submit to any injustice – not merely because it is destroying us but because it is destroying the oppressors as well. In that sense I see how divesting from corporations that produce weapons is an act of love. In Archbishop Desmond Tutu's letter to the University of California Berkeley students I can see the pro-Israeli tone and feeling, because the occupation is not only hurting Palestinians but also Israelis. Actually, the occupation is hurting the entire Earth Community.
That's why we must embrace satyagraha. Because it is an all sided sword… it blesses her/him who uses it and her/him against whom it is used.
“I do not seek to harm [the British]. I want to serve them even as I want to serve my own. I believe that I have always served them. I served them up to 1919 blindly. But when my eyes were opened and I conceived non-cooperation, the object still was to serve them.”-- Gandhi
It is my intention, with the Wednesdays training, to maintain respectful, open, and trusting relationships with everyone. Respectful consideration of our opponents, who are part of the Grand Human Family, and honoring of their humanity and their value, is a key element of nonviolence, not an accidental by-product. Let's respect all human dignity, to see the full humanity of our opponents who are our siblings in this majestic pale blue pearl.
May all become compassionate, courageous and wise. Or the shorter version: May all become satyagrahis.