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Posts Tagged ‘prejudice’

This month in our Zen study group we are learning about Bodhidharma, the 28th patriarch after Shakyamuni Buddha in the Indian lineage and the first Chinese patriarch of Zen.  He is well known for many things and is to have said many brilliant and mind boggling things as well.  He believed in teaching without words and is quoted as saying, “The ultimate Truth is beyond words.  Doctrines are words.  They’re not the Way.”  Last night as I was leading the lesson on Bodhidharma I realized that his life was just this: learning by doing, not by studying!

Most of our religions today are based around reading, memorizing, studying, and talking, but very little of it is based upon “doing”!  Jesus was a doer he took his Judaism seriously and went out and did the work, healed the sick, fed the hungry, stopped the stoning of the adulterous, and more.  The Buddha discovered the truth through practice (sitting) and expected his followers to practice compassion, love, and hope with all people (doing)—rich and poor alike. Bodhidharma is to have spent six years sitting in a cave facing a wall—simply sitting.

He was not reading books, philosophizing or talking, his life was “doing.”  What have you been doing with your life lately?  Is it just the chores, to-do lists, and projects at work or school that are the focus in your life?  Are you preaching the 10 commandments to others, but not living them yourself.  Doing. . . that is hard!  Talking. . . that is easy!  Living your truth as Bodhidharma and Jesus did—that was hard.

It is said that Bodhidharma took two years to travel from India to China to share his Truth about Buddhism.  Now in the years around 470-543 ca, when it is believed he lived, that was NOT an easy trip.  There were no jumbo jets, no high speed rail, and no paved 6 lane highways.  But that did not deter him; he was determined to do whatever it took to spread the dream of freedom and enlightenment that comes through the simple act of “sitting.”

He was not belying the fact that he learned about Buddhism through words such as the sutras, but he learned that in his brain, enlightenment came through the experience of sitting with those words or with no words, simply sitting.  The Truth is we need not depend on words, nor do we need to throw the books in the trash, neither do we need to take the words as the “one and only” path to enlightenment as many religions profess today. 

The best answer to this conundrum is the words of a student to Bodhidharma’s question to determine their state or “non-state” of realization, “The first disciple he questioned answered, ‘The way I understand it, if we want to realize the truth we should neither depend, entirely on words nor entirely do away with words; rather we should use them as a tool on the way.”  Bodhidharma answered him, ‘You have grasped my skin.’”[1]

Do not be the preacher or teacher who spouts words of goodness and love and then follows that with words of prejudice, hatred, fear, and lies about those unlike them.  Each of us must recognize the ultimate Truth is beyond words.  It is exemplified fully in our deeds: What deeds toward enlightenment, love, and compassion have you done today?


[1] Page 24, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen,1991

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What Laura Rendon, author of Sentipensante (Sensing/Thinking) Pedagogy: Educating for Wholeness, Social Justice and Liberation, talks about in her book is so relevant to the situations occurring in our world today.  The actions by the militants in Libya and Egypt, the creation of a totally inaccurate and prejudice video about Islam from a nut case in California, and the threat to burn the Koran by the crazy minister in Florida, plus the “shoot from the lip” response from Romney about the crisis in Egypt and Libya are a direct result of their education being at odds with Rendon’s research and philosophy on teaching.  She writes:

               ” What does it mean to be truly educated in the world today? We are being challenged to educate students for a complex future with ever-ending, ever more difficult social, political, and cultural challenges that test our ability to make sound, ethical, and moral decisions, as well as to make the world peaceful, equitable, and survivable.  The entrenched belief system privileges separation, monodisciplinarity, competition, intellectualism, and passivity at the expense of collaboration, transdisciplinarity, intuition, and active learning, especially that focused on social change (p.135).”

Modern religious education in America and around the world frequently teaches our children to be separate, different, better “than,” and always right.  It does not teach them to be independent free thinkers but automatons, unquestioning, and rigid.  It creates death, destruction, wars, hatred, and misogyny.  It separates rather than joins, it hates rather than loves.  It fears rather than shares. It kills rather than heals.

And yet right now we see this going on here and abroad and we do nothing about it in our school systems.  We have the teachers on strike in Chicago because the politicians want to run the schools and they have had absolutely no education in teaching, pedagogy, administration, counseling, social work, or psychology.  All of which are imperative to run a classroom, a student counseling office, or a principal’s office.

We’ve even allowed them to re-write our curriculum and take “science” out of our classrooms and textbooks and teach “creationism” and “abstinence only” instead!  The nuts have taken over the nut house now they have taken over the school house as well! In Texas they have even taken Thomas Jefferson out of the history books because he fathered a child with a slave!  Yikes… What next?  Do we take Einstein out of the theory of relativity because he was a Jew?  Or how about taking Maria Curie out of our science books because she was a woman?  Even though her work included pioneering research on radioactivity, and she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences.  That will be next if these types of people are given additional power in our school systems here and around the world.

Rendon goes on to say:

                “In our quest to transform the entrenched belief system, we must be willing to address questions such as: Why have I not broken out of a belief system that is oppressive in nature for many students and faculty?  How is my behavior upholding power structures in the academy? What do I believe about who can and cannot learn? How am I choosing my curriculum—what assumptions do I follow, and is the curriculum truly inclusive and multicultural in nature?  If not, what prevents me from doing this and why am I going along with this limiting view of knowledge (p. 135-6)?”

If these questions are not answered by us and by all countries and their leaders I hate to see what kind of world our children will grow up in.  What will happen with this lack of knowledge, love, and compassion for all beings, all religions, and our slowly dying planet Earth?  Sometimes I am glad that I am old enough that I will not live to see these potentially devastating outcomes.

Today is the day for each of us to BE the change that we want to see in the world….what will you do to make that happen?

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