The shootings at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina by a young man intent on fomenting a race war. Other churches burned across the South. Homophobes incensed at the notion of same sex marriage vow resistance to the Supreme Court decision. Donald Trump calls Mexicans rapists and drug dealers. Yes hate is abundant still in America. Pronouncements by all the courts in the land, all the legislation passed to prohibit hate-based actions will not alter the hearts and minds of people. In a recent piece on Brain Pickings, the blog site of Maria Popova, can be found this quote from MLK:
“Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.”
Cut off the chain of hate–a simple enough concept, yet seemingly so difficult. It begins with an identification, a categorization, of others as different. It proceeds with the notion that the other has less value, deserves less respect–may even be less than human. Finally, responsibility for one’s own problems are the result of them. They have taken the jobs. Got the school slots you or your kids should have. Taken the money you should have received from your employer or from the government in the form of assistance. They have introduced drugs, depravity and other awful things into the community. They despoil neighborhoods, disrupt institutions like marriage and generally ruin America as we know it.
Popova notes that:
“Although Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used Christian social ethics and the New Testament concept of “love” heavily in his writings and speeches, he was as influenced by Eastern spiritual traditions, Gandhi’s political writings, Buddhism’s notion of the interconnectedness of all beings, and Ancient Greek philosophy. His enduring ethos, at its core, is nonreligious — rather, it champions a set of moral, spiritual, and civic responsibilities that fortify our humanity, individually and collectively.”
As a Buddhist myself, I can attest to the principle of the interconnectedness, the interdependence of all. We live in a physical, as well as a social environment. That social environment in fact is a reflection of our inner selves. View others with disdain or worse yet, hatred, and the consequences are entirely predictable. Buddhism at it’s core is a humanistic religion–not one based on commandments not far removed from the court decisions and the legislation modeled on them which fail to alter human misbehavior. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is an allegorical character whose humanistic behavior centered on bowing to all he met while praising them as Buddhas, needing only to awaken and assuring them that he could never despise them.
As a consequence, people hit him with sticks or threw stones at him. Compare what happened to Gandhi, King and countless others. Popova goes on to describe at some length, the six pillars of nonviolent resistance set forth in King’s essay, before addressing the ancient Greek principle of Agape. I mention it here to connect it to the perspective of the Bodhisattva noted above. Here is the quote from King that Popova includes in her piece:
“Agape means understanding, redeeming good will for all men. It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative. It is not set in motion by any quality or function of its object… Agape is disinterested love. It is a love in which the individual seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes. It is an entirely “neighbor-regarding concern for others,” which discovers the neighbor in every man it meets. Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friends and enemy; it is directed toward both. If one loves an individual merely on account of his friendliness, he loves him for the sake of the benefits to be gained from the friendship, rather than for the friend’s own sake. Consequently, the best way to assure oneself that love is disinterested is to have love for the enemy-neighbor from whom you can expect no good in return, but only hostility and persecution.”
Whether the love of agape, the humanism of Buddhism or some other perspective, the essential task is to stop blaming others–stop making others them, and stop hating them.