In light of the political “bread and circus” happening in America, leading up to the 2016 presidential elections, Jack shares stories and wisdom on the topic of tending ourselves and tending the world.
“The one who awakens shines with a radiance of spirit. Come out and shine like the moon, but first, quiet yourself. Quiet the mind, tend the heart, and come back to yourself. Let what is beautiful in you have space, to be heard and listened to, and blossom. ” – The Buddha
On this episode of Heart Wisdom, Jack explores how tending to injustices big and small and do all we can to ease the suffering of others.
05:00 – Jack starts with a story from the British writer, Bernard Hare. While a struggling student, Hare gets word to return home to see his dying mother, but he just misses the last train. After hearing Hare’s dilemma, a ticket taker goes out of his way to hold the train at its next stop. This act of kindness shook Hare to his core and changed the way he lived his life.
The conductor would not take anything in return for his deed, but asked Hare to just, “pass it down the line.” Hare now works with young people at juvenile hall and similar programs. He tells the kids he works with that if they feel that they owe him a thing for his help, then to pay it forward to someone else.
10:20 – Inspired while visiting a museum exhibit on the African American slave experience, Jack reads a passage from “Bury the Chains” by Adam Hochschild. The reading describes a small activist group in 1780’s London led by Thomas Clarkson. Clarkson brought ex-slaves into the living rooms of English people across the country, recounting the terrors of the slave trade. After 30 years, this group grew into a movement and was able to pass a law that abolished slavery in the Brittish Empire.
These two stories highlight the momentary tending of another person on the train who is in trouble and the tending of the injustice in the world. Each had an incredible impact, and we can see how an extraordinary act of kindness can carry on, developing into greater deeds.
14:45 – When it comes to politics, we cannot escape them any more than death or taxes. One way to look at politics, however, is that they are a way to tend to people’s fears, desires, and suffering. Politics speaks to what we have to tend to as human beings, be it good or bad.
22:40 – Jack recounts a recent visit to the White House for the first Buddhist leadership meeting. At this gathering, there were many stories of the Buddha and his teachings to many great kings. The idea that Jack was able to deliver, is that these stories are more than just ideals. Systematic compassion, mindfulness, and loving-kindness are practices and training for us to cultivate. When we plant these seeds inside and tend to them, beautiful things will grow.
25:50 – What does the Dharma have to contribute to all of this? Underlying is the wisdom that what we need in the world is not greater technological advance. Instead of continuing our outer development, we need to focus and catch up on our inner development. Dharma teaches us to develop our heart as well as our mind.
33:15 – Jack talks about “The Book Of Joy,” a week-long dialog between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu. The principle question of the book is how the two men who have suffered so much came to be able to laugh and be as joyful as they are.
The Dharma offers us a reminder of who we are, and this leads to a kind of equanimity. Having this equanimity allows us to see how things always change. It makes it possible to take our seat in the midst of all the chaos of the world and remember our place in it so that we can plant beautiful seeds wherever we are.
40:50 – John Muir is known as one of the greatest naturalists in the Western world. One of the things he did was to go out into a storm instead of taking cover indoors. He describes the thrill and freedom of being on the highest ridge during while others hid inside. Lashing himself to the top of a tree in the middle of a storm and let himself feel the moving of the seasons.
Jack recounts the story of Muir to remind us how we must find a balance in the midsts of everything. Whether it be climate change, the election, or concerns about the supreme court we can get lost in a kind of reactivity. But like Muir, we must find a way to weather the storm and find balance through it.
53:25 – What is our response to suffering in our life and the world around us? Hatred never ceases by hatred. We have compassion training and the training to see the four noble truths. The roots of suffering are a false set of identity. The roots of love and wisdom are interdependence.
Photo via ABB