A Day to Celebrate

Racism is a Zen topic because it is about our mutual human inheritance, our struggle to live up to our personal, social and religious ideals, our ability or failure to acknowledge our common humanity and our connection with that which is greater than us. It has been in the US news of late in two particular instances – one in which a wealthy white man made some extreme comments about slavery and another in which a very wealthy white man made comments about associating with blacks and about the black men that played basketball on his team. In both these instances, those with authority have made clear decisions that express their strong disagreement with racist views. This is a day to celebrate, a day when those in power use their authority to issue appropriate consequences for those who would injure others through their deluded views of separation and arrogance.

San Francisco Airport mural

San Francisco Airport mural

The sense of separation is one of the most fundamental delusions we hold as human beings. It is a mistake that might cause us to feel that we must put ourselves above others, or that we simply cannot care about others because we are too busy caring for ourselves. Simply writing this down makes it obvious how absurd it is. The fact is that we alone cannot completely take care of our own interests. We need other human beings to survive and they need us as well. So, while it is true that each person is a unique individual with a unique life, it is also true that every single person on the planet has the same DNA and that what we are is much, much greater than any one human being.

So it is up to each of us to turn this sense of separation around, and begin to study our own bodies and minds and the truth of our interaction with everything around us. Zazen, sitting meditation, is one way to simplify the amount of interaction to the point that we can begin to be present for it. Give it a try. You might find that your ideas are as fleeting as time and as changing as water. And that’s a good thing. Because racism can only exist when you hold on to a view of a very, very small world.

4 responses to “A Day to Celebrate

  1. thank you for your commentary. It brings to mind that we are also connected to those who make the racist comments. Katagiri Roshi said, “All sentient beings are allowed to live and are, from the beginning, forgiven for living their lives in this world. Everything, whatever it is, has some reason why it exists: evil, good, even something neither evil nor good. You cannot destroy devils just because you don’t like them. Even though you don’t like monsters, still there is some reason why they exist. Everything is entitled to live in the world in peace and harmony beyond our judgment, our evaluation. This is the first condition we have to realize—everything is Buddha.” We have to accept that Donald Sterling’s and Cliven Bundy’s comments are our comments, and that ending racism starts with recognizing that these men didn’t wake up and decide to be racists, that they didn’t decide to offend us. As we turn around the separations caused by racism, we have to turn around the separations that between us and those whose speech we label racist.

    • Hi Bob, thanks for your comments. It’s a good point. Non-separation means everyone’s included no matter how they behave or what they say. From the perspective of the totality, all people and things are expressing the interplay of conditions, which demonstrates the truth of suffering and liberation from suffering. This is the perfection. At the same time, there are karmic consequences and the everyday life we lead. It’s for that reason we have precept practice. It’s not very skillful to simply say that everything that happens in the world is okay just as it is. I believe we can accept everyone without agreeing with them. So even while Donald Sterling and Clive Bundy are fully an expression of buddhanature, they are also deluded, limited humans who need compassionate boundaries.

      • “It’s not very skillful to simply say that everything that happens in the world is okay just as it is.” I could not agree more. The “stink of zen” is that sense of accepting everything without viewing it through the precepts and karmic impact. Personally, I have a great difficulty holding the Sterlings and Bundies and other “bad players” with compassion in light of their actions and speech, though I know I must do so. It’s so much easier to separate the children in my care from their behavior, and to hold them to those compassionate boundaries, while at the same time loving them, than it is to do the same with adults. That is just one more edge of my practice. Thank you, Konin!

  2. Thank you, Bob, for staying engaged with the edges! Bows, K.

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