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A second thought on compassion for the evil

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On my way home from work yesterday, I was reading a section of my WWBD book, “Mindful Politics,” when I started an essay by Joseph Goldstein, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society. I have to admit that I didn’t know Goldstein by name, but the other co-founders of the society, Jack Kornfield and Sharon Salzberg, are among the top Buddhist meditation teachers in the West. So I will take anything Goldstein has to say as if it were coming from a master.

As I turned a page in Goldstein’s essay, “Three Means to Peace,” the first thing I saw at the top were the words “Six weeks after 9/11…”

The thought of what I had written here earlier, about being unable to think compassionately about the 9/11 hijackers, instantly came back to my mind. I was pretty sure where Goldstein would take his discussion, and it really made me think about what I said yesterday.

His words were like a mental gut punch:

“If our aspiration is peace in the world, is there anyone we would exclude from this wish, whether they are terrorists, suicide bombers, soldiers lost in violence, or government policy-makers? … These are the mind states that drive harmful acts. If our own response is enmity or hatred or ill will, whether we acknowledge it or not, we are part of the problem.”

After reading that, I found myself standing there on the subway platform, trying to mentally justify what I wrote here yesterday about the 9/11 terrorists. Why would I exclude the people who most need compassion and loving-kindness directed their way? Ignorance, I guess, fueled by mindlessness (as in, the opposite of mindfulness).

Those few people who left supportive comments at the Virginia Tech memorial site certainly knew where to direct their compassion. They remind me of another quote from a great master: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Author: Sean

I am Sean, a writer/PR guy originally from the Rural South who grew up and settled down in Washington, D.C. My interests include local politics, Eastern philosophy, languages and reality television.

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