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Buddhadharma : Winter 2005
buddhadharma| 31 |winter 2005 very important political dimension to our experi- ence. We need to deal not only with the aggres- sion we see all around us in the world but also with fear. Particularly since 9/11, we see fear of the other so clearly. When we see the other person stop the car and come toward us, underneath our aggression, there is a fear about whether we can tolerate their anger. It is necessary to make friends with fear. What is our response going to be to the fact that the world is uncertain, and that sometimes bad and painful things happen? Are we going to be aggressive in a collective way, or is there a kind of wisdom that we can bring to the world? Thich Nhat Hanh talks about the boats car- rying Vietnamese refugees and how if everybody panicked when they encountered storms or pirates, all would be lost. But if even one person could stay calm on the boat, that was enough. It showed the way for everybody else. There’s a tremendous political task, a courage that’s asked of us in these times, like Martin Luther King would ask of us, a courage not to be reac- tive, both in the political sense and in the personal, although I’m not sure you ever separate them. Michael Krasny: When King marched through Cicero, Illinois, he said he had never seen such hatred, unmasked and naked. How does one work with compassion and wisdom in the face of hatred like that, or the hatred of suicide bombers? Pema Chödrön: Well, what did Martin Luther King do? Michael Krasny: Turned the other cheek. Pema Chödrön: He did more than that. He resisted the hatred, went against it. He wanted everyone to be cured of the disease of hatred – the victims of the disease and those who had the disease. The whole idea was that you were going to get kicked in the head; you were going to be called names. You kept in mind that these things that were usu- ally going to trigger and provoke you were a kind of illness, and the only way to cure the illness was not to retaliate. Jack Kornfield: And yet it’s not passive. Gandhi said if he had to choose between passivity, which he equated with cowardice, and violence, he would choose vio- lence. What he chose, what King chose – and what we’re called on to choose in this time, personally or collectively – was to be present with a lot of courage. King said to his adversaries, “We will wear you down by our capacity to suffer, to face suffering, and still not stop, still march, still tell the truth, still do what’s necessary to make the change.” Not being reactive is not being passive. It’s not a kind of stupidity, holding back or being uninterested, removing oneself from the world. Real equanimity isn’t indifference. It’s the capacity to be present with your whole being and not add fuel to the fire. One of the great blessings I see in people who have committed themselves to a Buddhist practice is that their capacity for both joy and for dealing with the sorrows and the pain of life grows. Practice opens the door for both. — Jack Kornfield christinealicino