It wasn’t like it might be for some of us…He’s a foreigner and a dark-skinned dude, he’s got a funny accent and does his best with English but it’s not natural for him. He’s awkward with our ways, unsure of himself and manages just fine but sticks out in any crowd.
Shortly into the trip, he encountered a gang of thugs who didn’t appreciate his individuality. They ridiculed him and swore at him and talked about him for hours on end as they made the journey thru one of the worst storms in history, giving them twice as long to torment.
For a few hours he tried to sit quite. He felt the heat of anger within him, the waves of hurt and exclusion and the fear of aggression.
He didn’t know all the words they used but he knew hate was squarely placed upon him.
As the storm worsened, they finally had to pull off the road and make their way to a rest area. As he left the bus, relieved to be away from the angry vibe, he noticed how well he managed his feelings and was buoyed by his mindful steadiness amidst such hostility.
When they finally got back on the bus things got much worse quick. He felt physically threatened and briefly wondered if they would attack him in some way beyond the verbal assault.
He sat and used all his skill to remain calm and composed— avoiding confrontation and just mindfully observing the waves of feelings but not acting on anything other than a centered peace that kept him cool.
As he tells the story, it’s evident he holds no ill will what so ever towards his agitators. It was as if he recognized a part of himself within them and he treated them with the respect and dignity he wanted in return.
Eventually, a young college student looked over at him with concern. She asked him if he could hear the people and if he understood what they were saying. She apologized for them and said she thought it was because he was from another country and because of his weird clothes.
This moment was his opening to explained that they weren’t in fact clothes but a robe and that he was a Buddhist Monk and he viewed the torment as an opportunity to practice loving-kindness and observe his emotions but not act upon them.
They began a conversation and she had a million questions. She was a student in a religious studies class and she grasped the opportunity for this one on one encounter with a dedicated holy man.
He mindfully answered her questions one by one over the next two hours and shared with her his beliefs and views on things.. what his life is like, why he’s dedicated his entire life to kindness, peace and adding more love and what he believes that means for the whole world.
As they talked, he recognized an opportunity and raised his voice with each answer he gave—he wanted the thugs to hear him and to perhaps be impacted even in some small way by his commitment to peace and his approach to managing their actions and his reactions.
By the end of their journey, each of the thugs had come up to him to apologize and together they traveled thru the night discussing philosophy and peace, practicing loving-kindness and debating what that really means, talking about what happens inside of each of us to behave the way we often do. They even practiced some loving-kindness meditation together and exchanged numbers to stay connected.
Until my noble friend shared this, I’d spent months trying to put words to what loving-kindness means to me. It’s the 9th of the 10 Perfections and I’ve been deeply committed to studying, contemplating and practicing them in all my affairs.
Although I feel confident that I practice loving-kindness in lots of ways, I was at a total loss on how to actually explain it. To me, it’s so vital, so beautiful, so big it just doesn’t fit into words…. But as my friend shared his journey, I recognized how loving-kindness was wedged in-between every action he took, every word he spoke and every intention he set… and the power of it isn’t measurable.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
I am diligent in my efforts, I wake and walk thru each day considering and practicing these 10 perfections. I can feel them deep within me; I see the fruitage of the practice all over the place.
The Ten Perfections are: Virtue, Renunciation, Discernment, Equanimity, Patience, Persistence, Truth, Determination, loving-kindness and Good Will.
Read about the first 8 here:
“Those who make compassion an essential part of their lives find the joy of life. Kindness deepens the spirit and produces rewards that cannot be completely explained in words. It is an experience more powerful than words. To become acquainted with kindness one must be prepared to learn new things and feel new feelings. Kindness is more than a philosophy of the mind. It is a philosophy of the spirit.”
~Robert J. Furey