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All beings tremble

All beings tremble before violence.

All fear death.

All love life.

See yourself in others.

Then whom can you hurt?

What harm can you do?


-The Dhammapada

Suffering arises when we see our selves as separate -- from the initial moment when our consciousness is aware of itself and mistakenly thinks that means it is separate from the ground of being rather than the truth, that it is an expression of the ground. Suffering is intensified when we solidify our selves and see them as separate from other selves, when we see others as a threat, when we think -- not that they love life and fear death, just like us -- that they want to harm us. We become guarded and defensive, maybe aggressive because we think it's better to avoid the threat by eliminating what we think is the source than to wait and see if the perceived threat is real.

Suffering is reduced when we see our interdependence, recognizing that we all have the same nature -- which is the same nature of the ground of being.

When I hear the words of the families of those killed at Emanuel American Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, spoken to Dylann Roof, the man who murdered them, I hear the grace that comes from that recognition. Speaking in court, while Roof was held in jail and listened over a video feed, they offered forgiveness.

"I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you," a daughter of Ethel Lance said. "And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you."

I hear sadness and pain, but not anger and righteous, not defensiveness and isolation. We are all one in God, the families of those murdered at a prayer service said, and God, not us, will judge you.

Not like Dylann Roof judged them. Judgment creates separation, isolation, suffering. It closes us down. Interdependence opens us up, lets us witness the separation and take action to overcome it.

As Kim Brown reminded us in her blog post, "The Bodhisattva is not concerned with blame, and doesn't wish or pray for someone else to intercede to assist the world and its problems." The bodhisattva takes action -- first to see the suffering in the world, and then to ease it. That is our role.


Good and evil exist on the same plane, and operate by the same calculus. Evil is good covered over. Wherever we ourselves, in our confusion and in our unwillingness to look at life as it actually is, with all its pain and difficulty, commit acts of evil, we add to the covering. And whenever we have the courage and the calmness to be with life as it is, and therefore, inevitably, to do good, then we remove the cover. We transform evil into good. This is the human capacity. Evil is not a part of reality that can be excised, cast out and overcome. Evil is a constant part of our world because there is only one world, there is only one life, and all of us share in it.  


Norman FIscher, writing after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon


Image via the Roanoke Times, roanoke.com

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