2010-03-02

Meditation as a selfish thing?

Minnesota native Jim Reynolds became a Theravada Buddhist monk in the Thai tradition. Now known as Ajahn Chandako, he is the abbot of a monastery near Aukland, New Zealand. Recently he was visiting his home state giving a series of talks. About his physical and spiritual journeys, he said:
“I could have gone off to the Amazon and become an ecoterrorist, blowing up bulldozers that were ruining the rainforest. But I knew that would potentially harm other people, and it wouldn’t come from a peaceful mind. If one is practicing meditation correctly, it naturally leads to a reduction in anger and selfishness and greed. It very directly affects the people around us, our family and friends, the people we know best. Ripples start to go out in unseen ways. Immediately, the idea of meditation as a selfish thing doesn’t make sense. It has immediate effects.”
Friends, this struck a chord, because, frankly, those un-blown-up bulldozers really are wreaking an atrocious toll on the rainforest, and, yeah, I’ve got some anger about that. I can see the appeal of taking direct action to equalize the ratio of blown-up bulldozers to not-yet-blown-up bulldozers. Ah, but the good Ajahn is right. Such playing with incendiary devices is not the product of a peaceful mind. Not to mention that it would harm other people.

Compassion and understanding toward the downtrodden – the people and ecologies bulldozed by injustice and greed and fear and consumerism and ignorance – is easy. The trick is to bring compassion and understanding to the bulldozers, too. In the end, only this can effect real and permanent good.

Does spiritual practice help you feel better?
Sure.
It also cultivates the peace and compassion that our world so desperately needs.