21 Feb 2008 |
Posted by Lama Surya Das | 0 Comment.
My dear friend Mirabai Bush, founder of The Contemplative Mind in Society Institute, based in Northampton, Massachusetts, has this to say:
“In this present political moment, words are being used both to inspire and to manipulate. What is a contemplative to do? Well, for an organization committed to the power of silence, we find ourselves most of the time talking, writing, speaking out. And discussing contemplative speech-what it is, what it isn’t.”
I learned my first contemplative practices in a monastery in Bodh Gaya, India, a dusty village of temples and chai stands. I sat in meditation for two months in silence, watching my breath rise and fall. Thoughts arose also, and since no one else was talking to me, I found them fascinating. How smart! How creative! But little by little, as I looked more closely, I began to see that they were simply thoughts, not necessarily true. They were full of preconceptions, colored by emotions, and dependent on words, which were rarely precise. It was sad to accept; I liked my thoughts. They were, after all, mine. But breath by breath, I began to appreciate that the truth is even more satisfying than our thoughts and opinions about it. I had just come from studying poetry in graduate school, and now I began to see what William Carlos Williams was getting at with “The Red Wheelbarrow”: so much depends/upon/a red wheel/barrow/glazed with rain/water/beside the white chickens. Simply say what is there, what is true.
As I was leaving the monastery and getting ready to talk again, I asked my friend Ram Dass for guidance. How could I speak with integrity if my thoughts were so untrustworthy? “Simple,” he said. “Say what you know; don’t say what you don’t know.” He thought it was simple; I thought I might never speak again!
Buddhist teachings include the concept of Right Speech: It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will. That could be a good test for the words of our presidential candidates. Bring as clear a mind as you can to them, un-pin the campaign buttons from your thoughts, and really listen. In the words of a prayer by Tibetan lama Jigme Lingpa, “At all times, and in all circumstances, may the wish to conform to conventional expectations not arise for even an instant!”