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Audio Dhamma Talk : Unity or Division : Building Bridges or Demolishing Them?

This is going to be a rough post, and a bit outside the norm of what I usually do, as it delves into the outside world a bit(I already can’t believe im doing this), but still related to dhamma, and those who wish to practice it. This post, and the audio dhamma talk associated with it, is the summation of 2 years of observation and contemplation, but first a little history.
As many of you have heard me say before, I’ve always been a bit weird in many ways. One of which was that I always tended to end up being a neutral or middle party between two opposites. When my family would get into tiffs growing up, I’d always be the one to try and calm everyone down to interact rationally and discuss… my sisters nick named me “Switzerland”.
Many also know that I was heavily involved in politics and activism for most of my adult life. In fact I was even the chair for most of the southern part of my state in my party for a few years. Here again I am a bit weird, I was never either of the two major parties, I was neither a conservative, or a liberal, nor a progressive, nor have I ever voted for a candidate for either major party, but I always voted.
Over the years of my experience in politics it showed me that there is actually very little difference between the two major parties, and they often work together to suppress and control , more then being opposed. They are coke and pepsi, mcdonalds and burger king, supposed rivals who are always right next to each other…hmm ;).
I use to always watch the news, and no not my just a favorite news channel, but all of them, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, all heavily biased and focusing on only the parts of the story they want. I watched them all because I believed that they all had partial truths that could be combined into as close to the actual truth I’d get in any news event. Towards the end I was even including BBC and Aljezera for more views and biases to add to the mix.
This was when the era of the “pundits” arose, people who worked for the news but who’s only job was to point out how stupid and evil the other side was and to get you angry about what was going on.
I’ve seen more deeply then the average folk how politics works,I’ve hit the streets, I’ve sat in at state gubernatorial (governor) debates, and when the time in my life arrived that all aspects converged as one, my knowledge of history(its all happened before, tell me about a modern politician and I can tell you about an ancient roman one), politics, and the growth of my Buddhist practice, I was ready to let it all go, and I did. This was a few years before I even went to the monastery.
Fast forward to the Election of 2016. All of a sudden people lost their minds. I wrote a post about unity and how humans are, and it was met with so much strong aversion and derision.
We had a retreat not 3 days after the election, and many of the people looked shell shocked and had so many questions. It was out of compassion for them and the feeling that I needed to be able understand what was going on so I could speak with them and do what I could to help them cope, that I delved deep into the political culture of the day.
Suddenly so many people were ” racist, sexist, biggot, homophobes” and there were now apparently Nazis running rampant in the streets that needed to be punched. There were SJWs and Anti- Sjws, Intersectional Feminists and Mgtows. I did a deep dive into it all. When I researched something I always delved into both sides, same as when I use to watch the news.
This was unfortunate for me, because it brought back all of the views and opinions I had practiced letting goes of years before. All of a sudden I started watching more and more videos about “the culture war” and the politics of the day. I fell into the same trap of many these days, mentally getting involved in the back and forth, my views and opinions feeding off of it, pushing me to know more and worry about the state of the country.
These days thankfully I am ramping back down from this, trying to bring myself back to focusing on my practice and building Bhavana. I have slowly begun to bring myself back to renouncing these worldly tangles, as a monastic is supposed to, and it’s bringing back the peace of mind I had when I let go years back.
I know most people in the world feel they cannot afford to do that, so what I’ve tried to tell people these two years, is that if you have to be involved in all of this and act, do so not when you are full of emotions like anger, but when you are calm enough to mindfully think about the most skillful way to act that is beneficial to yourself and others, and not harmful to yourself and others.
also that It is important for people to be able to develop the skill of listening to people of a diversity of views and opinions. This does not mean you agree with them, but that you can accept people think differently. This is also a great thing for helping you lessen your attachment to views.
I’ve sat across from all kinds of people in this world, from people who molested their grand children, to the leaders of gangs, and I always had a policy of treating others like human beings, they were not the sum total of their actions, and no being is the sum total of their political party or a singular view. I always listened to what they had to say, not only because I had to, but because I wanted to. It’s all to easy for us to dehumanize people we don’t like or who have different views then us, or who have done actions we don’t want to identify as human, since it hits too close to home for us.
In the end I’ve figured out what my message would be in this time, or should I say Buddha’s message, and that message is Unity. I’m not going to go preach it from the roof tops, nor do I expect whatever I say will make much of any difference, but when people ask questions about anger and dealing with situations in modern life, My message is one of Metta, bringing people together and building bridges, to fight against the political parties and social media algorithms that seek to divide us and inflame our anger. Divide and Conquer is the tactic of the day. I want to speak only words that unite people, not divide.
The Buddha told us to demolish the bridge of our craving, of our views, not of the connection we have with all of our fellow beings, not out of hatred or fear or anger.
So hence this dhamma talk, “Unity or Division”. This was not really a prepared talk, but it was a topic I wanted to speak about and see what came out. Topics include:
– our natural tendency for in group/out group categorization (or us vs them) and how many religions preach bringing more people into our in group, into our circle of “us”.
– trying to view things from various perspectives
– that you have the choice to destroy bridges, or to build them. You can bridge wide divides if you choose to.
– and more.

2 Comments on “Audio Dhamma : Unity and Division

  1. Thanks Bhanté J, that’s very encouraging. I got rid of my tv and I don’t look at news online. I wasted alot of time stewing over cnn comments.
    But, 2 months ago I was walking my dogs and a neighbors 100 pound mastiff was loose and he chewed up one of my sweet little dogs. The owner can’t understand why I’m upset. He says his dog doesn’t like little dogs. He doesn’t apologize for his dog or for his negligence. Other people’s happiness is not important. Only his own happiness.
    I just meditate on metta, but my heart is broken. I guess this is all a result of the separateness and antagonism that has been going on for years. The me first attitude in our society.

    • Ann,

      the comments section is a dangerous place for views, I understand that from my own experience, too easy to get wrapped up in the back and forth and division.

      The situation you described sounds like something you would need to take to court, or at the very least make a police report over. If this persons dog hurt your dog, and you incurred costs, that person is liable for it, he most likely knew this and automatically became aggressive as a way for the conversation not to get to that point, or to discourage you from doing anything about it.

      you can have metta and stick up for yourself in a skillful way at the same time 🙂

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