Friday, May 15, 2009

Subway School

On recent voyages into Manhattan from Brooklyn I've noticed some of my fellow pilgrims partaking of the study of the science of kindness, a motivation which seems to be ripening in the minds of many I've crossed paths with, not excluding those I'm studying the workings of Bodhichitta (awakened mind/compassionate heart)with on Monday nights.

The texts in the hands of my fellow subway riders have included The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute, their Leadership and Self-Deception, and On Kindness by Adam Phllips and Barbara Taylor.

I haven't read these books but they seem to hold the promise of the deliciousness of wisdom, and I am plunged into delight. As for On Kindness, I'm a little worried that this will wind up being a materialist/behaviorist thesis that views kindness as a quality natural selection favors, and certainly there's arguements for the self-serving benefits of altruism. Even in Buddhism, it's often mentioned the only way to truly benefit ourselves is by maintaining a loving mind, which I suppose becomes a bit of a lash for those loving to project a self-righteous selflessness. Yes, I suppose it matters to also be kind to oneself.

The trick is which of your selves are you kind to? If we are most cherishing with that in us which identifies with race, tradition, tribe, preferences, sensibilities, opinions, beliefs, inherited dogma or beliefs, aggendas, we necesarily raise that self above those from different strains, and in so doing, trump the limited, superficial self over the universal.

Jetsun Milarepa addressed the issue with these simple but profoundly challenging lines:

When I realize everything’s equality
I forget all about my close friends and my relatives
It’s OK to forget the objects of your attachment

And perhaps Jesus' message was something similar when he made this harsh pronouncement, although, since I can't translate Aramaic, I'll hedge my bets:

"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26)

I feel these teachers were pointing out that the only place we're truly safe is on common ground, common ground that can be very elusive, and not at all where you think it is. I guess the idea that blood is thicker than water presumes that thickness is good.

BTW, there's a lot more discussion of the provocative Luke 14:26 here.


F.I.B said...

beautiful photo.... smith & 9th or 4th ave?

amarilla said...

Thanks - Smith I think.