Tea with Mara's Neighbors
I went to a mediation practice last night with a teacher named Tara Brach. She is world renowned and has a cool website where you can download audio versions of her weekly Wednesday night meditation/discussion sessions. (FYI--here is her website: http://www.tarabrach.com/talks-audio-video/ ). Its 30 minutes of meditation and then about 45 minutes of a deep talk and guided reflection and meditation.
She is a psychologist, Buddhist teacher and writer. I am so grateful to be able to attend these sessions. So last night she went into anger about Paris bombings. She quoted the Dhammapada, from the Twin Verses, (one I refer to in my novel) "hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule."
She also refered to an African tribe's "Drowning Man" ritual, who say, "Vengeance is a lazy form of grief." And she told a story of Buddha having tea with Mara. Rather than fight him and so engage and continue in his cycle disruptive and destructive behaviors, the Buddha simply called him out, and invited him to tea, thus deflating and disarming him. Even before that, when the Buddha was still Gautama seeking nirvana and enlightenment, and Mara drove at him time and time again with every pleasure and pain, every temptation known to humankind, when confronted with the last attack from Mara, that of insidious self -doubt by asking the Gautama, "Just who do you think YOU are?" Gautama reached down and touched the earth, invoking the Earth Goddess to reveal to himself, to the Earth, the Gods and Goddesses, and Maya, who he, Gautama, was-the enlightened one-The Buddha. Then Mara dissipated and was gone.
Well as always, Tara guides the talks to be self-reflective, about ourselves, and our inner life, our past, our feelings. In so doing, then we get into better touch with our own sources of emotions-in this case - anger and evolve our reactions to a more spiritual plane. In other words, to learn how to better respond. I think Tara is teaching and practicing a unique blend of Buddhism, transcendentalism, in an evolutionary psychology. She's practical, humorous, enlightening, and life changing. And I agree in principle that we have the tools at our disposal today-right here right now- to rewire our hunter/gatherer auto-reactions to our environment. If we but reach out apply them.
As for ISIS, and al-Qeada, and the random killers with guns in the US, unfortunately, they don't believe in evolutionary psychology. Or Buddhism. Much less any form of humanism. Therefore, I think they must all be taken out. Sorry Tara. And anyway, if we try to embrace them, or have tea with them, they'll only blow themselves up and us along with them.
Their sick pathology needed to be addressed and redirected in the circumstances of their birth and upbringing. True, the US and the West has neglected and tortured these societies with colonialism, capitalism, and pseudo Christianity, often in the guise of local puppet regimes for decades, even centuries. No wonder they direct their vengence at us.
And yet, just as these terrorists do not represent Islam, those colonizers no longer represent who we are. The killers in the US with random shootings do not represent Republicans, Libertarians, or the NRA for that matter. In each case though, we might at least try to invite if not Mara, at least Mara's neighbors to tea. Often, these neighbors are driven away or held captive or victimized by the same parties who seek to do damage to us.
In other words, we need to work with the locals in Syria, Iraq and other countries to empower them to rid themselves of these terrorist elements, just like somehow, back home, we need to work with Republicans, Libertarians, and maybe the NRA, to rid ourselves of gun toting maniacs.
Its not easy. And there may be blood. Or at least the sweat of compromise.
I hope and pray that my family and friends are spared from the ensuing, imminent battles. In the meantime, I can practice inviting Mara to tea in my own life when confronted with anger in myself and another. But if that other has a gun or a bomb, and he or she doesn't want to have tea, then I'll be out of luck.
Pray for me and all of us, Pope Francis!
And yet, as Gautama touched the earth to recieve its blessing and cooperation to defeat Mara, we must all call on the community, each other, to cooperate to show Mara the door.