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Buddhadharma : Spring 2012
SPRING 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 59 as though we are trying to promote the interests of the 99 percent by destroying the 1 percent. We can’t be naive about the challenge of dealing with the power of the 1 percent, but from a Buddhist standpoint, the emphasis is on realizing that what we’re working toward is ultimately going to be for the benefit of everyone. BUDDHADHARMA: Identifying the anger as an energy, as opposed to something we would get rid of—throwing out the baby with the bathwater—is quite interesting. What does the dharma offer in working with that energy? DAVID LOY: Anger is often expressed dualistically as anger against someone, but within that energy lies not only an asser- tiveness but also a kind of fearlessness. I know that on those occasions when I got angry at my son, I got his attention. So it can have a role in our activities. JOAN SUTHERLAND: I agree that ferocity and fearlessness are important qualities. But I’ve noticed that when I get angry it’s often because I’m taking a break from sorrow. The sorrow is almost unbearable and it can be easier to be angry. One of the ways we work with that is to provide the circumstances in which people can come to terms with their multiple sorrows and develop the capacity for their heart that has broken open to remain broken open, so that it doesn’t close back up and develop calluses and battlements and moats in defense. We have a practice of meeting our broken hearts with the great broken heart of the world, which of course is the first noble truth. We look to see what’s possible when we’re not fleeing from that sorrow into anger or self-righteousness or numbness. As for ferocity and fearlessness, questioning becomes crucial, because if you’re going to be fierce and asser- tive and all of that great stuff, it makes a big difference if you don’t believe you’re right. Even with the things we hold most dear, the things we’re most certain of, we have to keep looking at the assumption that we’re right. What the dharma offers is that the most we can aspire to is our best guess—and that’s subject to change, depending on new information. MUSHIM IKEDA: A good practice question for the dharma stu- dents I work with, many of whom are strong social justice activists, would be: Can I just be purely in that anger over the incredible injustices in the world, over the people who are get- ting chewed up and spat out by the machinery of our society every single day, without any trace of aggression? If we get involved in politics, it’s because we’re trying to achieve something. For Buddhists there’s always going to be some tension between thinking in terms of means and ends— causality—and acting out of an emptiness that has nothing to gain and nothing to lose. —David Loy DAVID LOY: The key here is whether the anger arises within a larger container of nondualistic love, in which we’re not tak- ing sides by pursuing the well-being of one group of people at the cost of another group of people. From a Buddhist perspec- tive, the love or compassion we’re talking about obviously does include what is called the 1 percent. BUDDHADHARMA: Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche talked about compassion including both yes and no. Saying yes is accom- modating, but saying no—clearly identifying what is wrong and unjust—is also compassionate. JOAN SUTHERLAND: On the “no” side of compassion, if we’re holding other people accountable for their actions, we have to be sure we’re holding ourselves accountable too. One of the ways we can do that is with a rigorous inquiry when we are working for change. When we feel anger about something we think must not stand, we need to ask whom we are trying to make comfortable. There might be an element of “I’m try- ing to make myself comfortable because I just can’t bear that things are like this,” which is very human. But we need to be aware to what extent our activities are motivated by a genuine sense of wanting to help those who are suffering—wanting to be what Leonard Cohen beautifully called “balancing mon- sters of love”—and to what extent our motivation is about wanting to feel more comfortable ourselves. BUDDHADHARMA: Probably the two largest political issues of our time are socioeconomic inequality and war. Our wars have been mostly fought by people of lower socioeconomic ➤ continued page 83