Barbara Emson: How do I maintain my spiritual equanimity in the throes of so much suffering and social injustices? If I pay attention to my strong call of social activism, I become angry and bitter and hopeless. It’s a constant pendulum.
Lama Surya Das: When I read or watch the news during these decades I too can feel discouraged and even despondent, but whenever I talk to young people I feel great hope and joy, irrational as that may be.
Our country does seem to be in the throes of struggle and partisan divisiveness while going over the hill, but we can still work for a better world, for us and our children. First of all, we are all subject— in varying degrees— to the Eight Worldy Winds of pleasure and pain, loss and gain, fame and shame, praise and criticism. How much these knock us off center about is mainly up to us. That is why Buddhists stress the cultivation of Upeksha, or equanimity and objective detachment, an even-handed and moderate approach to life which includes both acceptance (of things as they are) and a determination to genuinely help and contribute as well as we possibly can.
I find that if I engage in hands on activism with a good heart, things go better for me and I am less in my head about the kinds of concerns you’re distressed by, valid as they may sometimes be— which is what you asked about. The question of the activism’s actually effectiveness is another matter, which could be taken up separately— though it is certainly related and also important.
There’s a great deal of misery, inequality, unfairness and injustice in this world, and we absolutely need to redress those serious imbalances and do what I can for the betterment of one and all. Meanwhile, we can further our own inner peace and tranquillity by working on ourselves and evolving from inside-out and gain more acceptance to balance our fervent desire for positive change and transformation.
One way to cultivate equanimity which I find most helpful, is to repeat to myself this little traditional, either chanting it aloud or saying/thinking to myself: “Everyone has their own karma; their happiness and suffering doesn’t depend upon me.” This lends me a great feeling of relief and release of codependent tendencies.
Submitted by Barbara Emson via Facebook on September 7th, 2010.
Published in The Huffington Post 4-12-2010
Last night PBS aired The Buddha, a new TV special about the sage's life, impact, and particular relevance to our own bewildering times of violent change and spiritual...