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Is Our Love Sufficient?

The charge of "depraved heart murder" was filed against one of the Baltimore police officers accused in connection with the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. That's an odd term for most of us: "Depraved heart."

Maybe it's more familiar as "depraved indifference."

"Depraved" is a strong and unusual word meaning morally corrupt and wicked. Most of us can look at this charge and assure ourselves that we're  not capable of this act, we're not depraved.

But "indifferent." If being indifferent, or apathetic, is a crime, I know I'm guilty. We don't think of indifference as a problem in the course of the day. Maybe it makes life easier, sometimes, not to notice, not to care.

In Buddhism, the three poisons are passion, aggression, and ignorance. They keep the wheel of samsara spinning. It's easy to see with passion and aggression -- they're fiery, fierce, make themselves felt. Ignorance? Meh. How do we relate to what we don't know? How does ignorance -- or delusion -- cause suffering?

A few weeks ago, I attended a refuge vow ceremony with the Karmapa. Over the last decade, I've attended probably a dozen such ceremonies -- usually they leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, connected. Not this time.

Why, the Karmapa asked, would we go for refuge to the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha -- the teacher, the teachings, and those who follow them? (Awareness, the paths that lead to awarness, and those who live in awareness.) Traditionally teachings cite two reasons: Fear and faith.

The Karmapa turned to another subtle and invisible danger: the inadequacy of our love. The fear of obvious dangers, such as war, famine or sickness, we can easily identify. Lack of love, however, is another story; it leaves too many people and animals without protection or refuge. Their terrible suffering could be prevented if we had enough love, His Holiness stated. Since this deficit is within us, we can recognize it and change, and change we must, as insufficient love poses not only the danger of eventual disaster for others but for ourselves as well.

A deficit of love ...

Under the law, the charge of second-degree murder/ depraved heart requires "the conduct must contain an element of viciousness or contemptuous disregard for the value of human life which conduct characterizes that behavior as wanton."

The reason to take refuge, Karmapa said, is the fear of living in a world with insufficient love.

Usually, he said, we limit our love and compassion to relatives and friends; we set a boundary to our caring that allow us to ignore others.

“We need to extend our love,” the Karmapa said, “and come to see that we are connected to everyone.” The Karmapa expanded the usual definition of fear: “When we think about how living beings harm one another, we can see this lack of love clearly. Fearing it within ourselves, we go for refuge to develop the love and compassion that the Dharma teaches.” 

The opposite of compassion -- of seeing others' suffering and aspiring to remove it -- isn't hatred or aggression. It's apathy. Not seeing. Not caring.

What are the boundaries of your love and compassion? Who do you not see? Where is your love lacking? What are you indifferent to?

Love the questions, even when the answers are hard to find or hear. That's how boundaries expand. That's where change happens.

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thank you Nancy

A direct, necessary and tender post,
Thank you Nancy
for your wisdom and skill,
care and Love
and your Great Efforts in sharing


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