Friday, December 21, 2012

Living in a World of Violence

Violence is troubling. It is pervasive. It is everywhere. It is part of life. That makes it even more troubling. It is kind of like an upsetting riddle with no answer.

When I was young and I first became aware of violence and the many ways to hurt, torture and kill people I was so upset I couldn't really deal with it. There was a kids' movie that I loved called Bugsy Malone. It was a gangster movie with kids. Instead of killing each other with bullets, they used cream pies (or something like that). Oh, how I wanted to live in that world. I used to ask my dad why they couldn't fight wars with whipped cream. This is one of those things that drove me into Buddhism as I was stuck trying to make sense of things that make no sense.

One of the best answers I heard was a story of someone asking a religious master about how he could live in a world of such suffering. The religious man allegedly responded, in the world there is also much overcoming of suffering.

The killings of the kids at Sandy Hook is really the reason for this post. Of course, it stirred up many feelings in all of us. Very strong feelings. How do we deal with those feelings? How will those close to the victims deal with this tragedy? As much as the previous paragraph gives us hope, there are those who will never overcome their suffering. We do what we can with our feelings. Maybe we put these folks in our thoughts, hopes, prayers. We hope they deal with their grief. Yet we know they will never be the same again.

As Zen practitioners, we return to this moment and pay attention. When sad, we are sad. When grieving, we grieve. If we can be helpful to those in need, we help them without a second thought. We also pay attention to our own thoughts. Do we have any violence within us? Do we wish others injury or pain? Has someone wronged us and we want revenge? How do we meet those thoughts with understanding, compassion and love? Love. How do we bring love into our hearts and minds even for the evil people in the world?