When my friend Joy comes to visit me we always go to the Temple to see Bhante Sujatha and the other monks. Although she is a Sufi, Joy is a student of the spirit and she couldn’t care less what label is attached. Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Dr. Bob and Bill W… it’s all good to her. But the first time I introduced her to Bhante I observed his apprehension. I was so surprised, I’ve never seen him be anything but filled with unconditional love and joyful ease with anyone.
I found his reaction so odd I invited all the monks over later for a bon fire. I wanted Joy to fall in love with them and vise versa.. some of my favorite people all gathered together. I asked Joy and her husband Wahid to do the call to prayer (adhan in Arabic ). We’d been doing it together all over the place; on mountaintops, beaches, inner cities and in the center of cornfields for as long as I can remember. “The call” is so beautiful to me not because of its faith origins but because of its intention, to remind people the grace that abounds us and to connect and commit to your spiritual practice above all else. In Muslim countries you hear “Allah Akbar” from loud speakers in town squares and from the top of masques five times a day. When Wahid began The Call I watched all the monks tense up considerably and one left to go sit in his car. Turns out that some Muslim’s in Sri Lanka are creating enormous suffering and hardship for Buddhist families and the monks had been witness to much suffering. Even the call to prayer evoked this fear and apprehension in them no matter how sure they were that everything was ok.
Since that awkward day, Joy’s been back to the temple a bunch of times. A few monks have even traveled to see Joy in her spiritual community and without question they are a friend to her while she is a friend to them. They themselves practiced what they preached with Joy, using the seventeenth practice of the Bodhisattva, “Treat them respectfully as you would your teacher: Put them above you”, to help them set aside their fear and aversion to the inaccurate judgment’s they had formed as a result of individuals, not of a faith or spiritual tradition. I had no idea hearing the call to prayer was the same thing they heard moments before they watched family and villagers be killed or the chanting Bhante Sumana heard while hiding in tree’s above his home. Watching the monks practice this seventeenth practice in spite of such incredible emotion and seeing the incredible transformation it had within their hearts I realized the incredible power of this practice, it’s as if by practicing it our judgments towards others get erased even when hurt and fear is so big.
Put you down to make themselves look better,
Treat them respectfully as you would your teacher: