We would like to first acknowledge that this episode covers a sensitive topic, specifically recent policies by the US government that have brought great harm to immigrants.
This was recorded a while ago, when the media was focusing on government policies separating children from their families. Due to various temple responsibilities, we weren’t able to get it out as soon as we had hoped, but I feel like posting it now is also powerful because it has been over a month since we’ve recorded the episode, and there are still many children and families who are still going through immense suffering.
To be clear—compassion towards all parties does not mean allowing harmful behavior to continue. It does not mean that we are okay with one party inflicting suffering on another. We always need to work diligently in ending suffering.
What it means is that we understand that those who inflict suffering on others do so out of greed, anger, and ignorance. It means that we recognize their transgressions as the product of collective forces, and that we need to bring peace and support to both the victim and the aggressor. In this episode, we focus on directing compassion towards the aggressor in the situation because for most of us, it is very easy to give rise to compassion to the victim. Upon seeing headlines, we are able to instinctually wish that the children and their families may find a path to peace, security, and happiness. However, upon seeing these same headlines, we may give rise to anger and resentment as well, wishing misfortune and pain onto those who can be so heartless.
But in doing so, we forget our own compassion. By letting ourselves be filled with thoughts of harming others, we become consumed by the flames of anger. So, while we step in and intervene to protect victims of aggression from further harm, we must remind ourselves that the aggressors themselves are also broken.
In a previous episode, we talked about Angulimala, the serial killer. The Buddha did not get mad at Angulimala for murdering others because he understood the causes and conditions that led to its occurrence—he simply went to stop Angulimala from continuing on such a violent path. Through skillful means, the Buddha taught Angulimala to change, and he later became enlightened, showing that even mass murderers have the capacity to be rehabilitated and develop genuine compassion and wisdom. However, this did not change how villagers viewed him, and he was still harassed on his daily alms round. Ultimately, do we want to be the Buddha or the villagers? Hatred and compassion are both powerful feelings, and they can transform people in drastically different ways.
Let’s make the compassionate choice.
Re: Armor of Compassion, I’ll mention this more in the blog post.