Acknowledging the injustices in our world. Embracing our sorrows and suffering. Facing our problems with courage. Finding compassion for all life. Nurturing the love and peace that is already within us and around us. Cultivating hopefulness. Rededicating ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world in which freedom, justice, and peace prevail.
“Meditation is to be aware of what is going on – in our bodies, in our feelings, in our minds, and in the world. Each day thousands of children die of hunger. Plant and animal species are going extinct every day. Yet the sunrise is beautiful, and the rose that bloomed this morning along the wall is a miracle. Life is both dreadful and wonderful. To practice meditation is to be in touch with both aspects.”
“Life is Dreadful and Wonderful” by Thich Nhat Hanh. From How to Relax (2015).
“I have heard compelling arguments for two very different points of view on our social responsibilities. From one perspective, it is essential for us to be engaged with the difficulties that surround us, especially the exploitation and injustices that are perpetrated all over the world. It seems that we are constantly either at war or preparing for war. For millions of people, war is not just an idea but a painful daily reality – as are starvation, poverty, disease, and all of the suffering in the world. Even in our very rich and affluent society, people are suffering in many ways. From that point of view, what is most important is what we do to end suffering and injustice. Is it possible to be aware of this and spend our time sitting in meditation?
But there is another point of view that is equally convincing, and that is that the best way to alleviate war and suffering is to learn the causes of them. For instance, what is the cause of starvation and wars and suffering? There is enough oil. There is enough food. There are enough resources on this planet. The cause of much of the suffering in the world is greed, and the cause of it is prejudice and hatred. We like our country, our family, and our religion, and we hate people of different religions, with different skin colors, with different customs. There is hoarding, grasping, greed, hatred, and ignorance. There have been hundreds of revolutions throughout history, and, although they’ve helped in some ways, in other ways the same kinds of problems keep happening again and again, because we haven’t addressed the root of the problem.
The root of the problem is that everyone has to first discover the root of anger and hatred inside themselves before they can understand how it operates in the outside world. The solution to the problem is for everyone to learn how to be free of the fears and prejudices that arise in human hearts and minds. To do that, we have to learn how to see the world exactly as it is, and not be afraid of what is painful or seduced by what is pleasant. We have to discover how to keep our hearts open to everything we encounter and everyone we meet.
From this perspective, we do not need more oil or food or money or anything external, as much as we need people who understand how not to get caught in anger, fear, and prejudice. In this way, meditation is not a luxury or an escape from the world, but it is a deepening sense of our responsibility to learn how not to be caught by these forces. That is why, in our meditation practice, we first learn what this understanding means for us on the inside before we bring that understanding to our interactions with the economic, social, and political suffering in the world.”
“Meditation and Social Responsibility” by Jack Kornfield. From Meditation for Beginners (2004).