The ultimate measure of a man is not
Where he stands in moments of comfort
And convenience, but where he stands
At times of challenge and controversy.
~Quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.
The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights allows us the privilege of free speech and to peacefully assemble. We can petition the government for a redress of our grievances. However during the recent protests, it went beyond what the First amendment guarantees. We have not taken the time to think. We have become reactionary instead of decisive.
The first amendment includes the word, “peacefully assemblage.” An assembly can be a peaceful demonstration. It is an expression of concern for the welfare of people or a way to bring about awareness of an issue that concerns not only one culture but also maybe many. An assembly comes in the form of protests or demonstrations.
A demonstration is an expression of objection, disapproval or dissent towards an idea or action. Protests can be in the form of a letter on the subject or to a mass gathering. But it is this gathering’s goal that can lead to dissension within the group itself.
People have come to believe it was a time to riot, burn, fight each other, and to loot. Businesses were broken into and robbed. It was these people who took this protest one step further; they made a plan to loot stores and knew what to take. They even had a driver who drove up to the front, popped the trunk and they loaded their goods. I question if they knew what the subject of the protest march was or were they out for their own greed? But so many people refuse to hear and understand what peaceful demonstration means.
During the Buddha’s times, there were also many struggles, hardships and hopelessness. Even after the Buddha obtained enlightenment, the five ascetics or monks who the Buddha practiced with, found differences of opinion of what they saw. But as the Buddha continued his forthcoming of the dharma, the five ascetics came to truly hear and understand the teachings. They became Buddha’s first disciples.
The two marches or assemblies of Martin Luther King, Jr were peaceful gatherings. They all shared a common goal and wanted everyone to understand the mission. There were probably still some misunderstandings in the group, where one group wanted it this way and the other wanted it that way. But all in all, the focus was to convey their message.
There is so much chaos and many issues that have to be dealt with. It seems we have lost our focus. Lately we have had a lot on our plates. Children are home full time, and some parents are working at home or others are wondering if they still even have a job. They worry about money situations, and it is a heavy burden for many. Yet through all these hardships and struggles, there is conciliation and that is, it has made us strong. Stronger family ties, stronger on how to deal with problems, it has made us focus on what is important. It has shown us that we can make decisions, even if we have to find alternative solutions.
The Three Treasures state that life is hard and now we are living it. No one said it was going to be easy, but we are learning and we are surviving. It is simply Namu Amida Butsu in gratitude for what we have and so thankful that we are able to strive and work and think.
May be it is our time to break the shell of our old self and to truly look within. We hold the answers, we only have to think, understand and see what we are capable of doing. The Buddha and Shinran’s teachings are always with us, we only have to be open to hear and see and learn for their lessons. Yet, are we willing?
I am very fortunate to the point of being spoiled. I live on 14 acres of beauty, surrounded by nature and wildlife and live with a crazy cat. I listen to the news and still get angry on what I hear. I take the information without researching further into the cause and conditions and sometimes I make irrational decisions. I must learn not to react but to think. I rely on Namu Amida Butsu to clear the mind, calm the anger that I feel rising within me and to rely on the teachings.
Before we take an issue “to the streets”, we should know what the goals are. We must have a clear vision of what we are attempting to convey to others, what is that message and who are we directing this message to? We must look at these questions with a clear mind and understanding. The answers come from within our true self and that comes from thinking.
These are trying times, yet we are a thinking society. We are forced to make difficult decisions and to solve them for our selves and loved ones. However we have to stop reacting, learn to breathe and to think. We have many choices and the ones we choose are the ones we make. We share Namu Amida Butsu for guidance and direction and we are thankful for the compassion and wisdom shared by our teachers, the Buddha and Shinran Shonin.
Centuries have passed since the time of the Buddha and Shinran however, their teachings are still viable for us today. Yet, are we willing to listen and hear? Do we want to understand? It is the individuals who are willing to understand and think that can answer these questions.
We do the best we can and we recite Namu Amida Butsu. If it comes to a stalemate, we take a breath in, release it out and find that peaceful place in our hearts and minds. We can have a rational thought, we only have to dig deeper within our minds and hearts.
Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano