Hatred Is Our Own Private Osama bin Laden
Notes on a Talk by Gehlek Rinpoche, September 20, 2001, New York City. Notes taken by Marcus Boon.
Jewel Heart's New York space is in an alley, south of Canal Street, in the "frozen zone", and last Thursday you needed ID to pass through the police checkpoint. Nina met us at the barricades and ushered us lovingly through, like animals onto the ark. The Jewel Heart space, usually an oasis of tranquility, had a nervous energy that night. People exchanged stories and chatted. Some could smell the fires still burning a few blocks away. Others could feel the immense disturbance of the entire space around them.
We chanted, as we always do at the beginning. When we stopped, Rinpoche sat with his eyes closed for a minute or so. I felt like my heart was going to break. I felt like the sangha's heart was going to break. When he began to speak, Rinpoche's voice sounded choked with emotion.
We are meeting here tonight with a heavy heart, with the feeling that the closer you get to ground zero, the more you feel it.
This is karma. Some people think that saying that means we're blaming the victims. But we're not. This is karma: this is what happened.
This is very sad indeed. (A long pause.) It already happened. What can we do?
I'll be straightforward, I'll speak my mind, which hopefully is influenced by the Buddha's teachings.
Two things: for those who died, we can dedicate our positive karma to their benefit. Particularly when we're this close. Literally visualize giving to the dead whatever they need -- good new lives, etc.
Thanks for coming tonight and listening to me rather than George Bush. (laughter)
It doesn't matter whether we say "Buddha", "God", "consciousness" ... when the sun shines, we have time to argue. But right now, it doesn't matter.
What can those of us who are still here do?
I couldn't help thinking, some children were waiting for their parents that night, but they didn't come back. How many of them? How many spouses? It's very painful -- it makes you pain your heart. But you can't do much.
And then the other consequences. Because of that action [of destroying the World Trade Center], how many more are going to get hurt?
From my point of view, there's no way I can justify any of their deaths.
A friend said, "I hope you're not on the CIA payroll!"
The Buddha, in a previous life was a captain on a ship. There's one guy on board who was going to kill 500 passengers. So the captain killed him.
I'm always against these things -- but these people have to be stopped. We shouldn't hurt a fly -- so long as the fly doesn't kill 6,000 of us.
I'm not interested in digging into the causes of these events. Hatred is the cause. Yes, there was the Shah of Iran and all that period but that doesn't justify what happened.
I'm more interested in moving forward, not backward. We must deal with hatred. That's the problem. Your hatred, my hatred are our own Osama bin Laden. Your, my Osama Bin Laden is hiding behind the mountains of our hearts. And we have to deal with it. Hatred breeds hatred. Violence breeds violence.
This is very serious. We must know what love and compassion really means. We have to do something to stop this - with compassion. We can't do it indiscriminately. Then it creates more hatred.
Where does the hatred come from? We bullied them. But the leaders of these countries [that we bullied] don't like democracy -- they want to control people and they don't like it when people speak freely.
We must recognize hatred and the cause of hatred.
What's our mind going to do? We get angry. Even me, after sixty years of Buddhism, I am not necessarily guaranteed that anger won't rise. When they reported an explosion in Kabul after the attack, I said, "oh yeah, good ... get bin Laden." Don't copy me! I try to recognize [my thoughts] and say: this is wrong. Me -- sixty years in the love, compassion business!
Our challenge is not to indulge in hatred. To develop compassion. Feel the pain in your heart. We should think what went on in their heads. Someone said they think they can have sex with seventy-two virgins [when they die]. Or go to heaven. I always say, if you follow someone with blind faith this is what you get. Like Jim Jones. This is a vivid example of how hatred can hurt people.
So label hatred as an enemy, and challenge it at all times. Never submit to it, never even entertain it.
My Osama bin Laden is hiding in the mountains of my heart. If I bombard it, I die. So I have to be very careful. This is the challenge of spiritual practice. Not submitting to hatred, but not becoming a doormat.
We can change our motivation. Try to use compassion. The spiritual path is not just love and light -- that's fine, but in this situation, love/light won't help. You have love and light -- wonderful! Thank you. What does it help?
I wasted a lot of time tonight talking rubbish! Back to karma. Understanding karma is harder than Perfect Wisdom.
We have some karma to do with this. It's not victim blaming. Karma is continuation. You kill me, I kill you. We want to stop this. Compassion for victims, but also those who did this. Compassion must stop the repetition [of the negative act]. It's not revenge, not "I got you!"
When you look at the Buddha, it's not all love and light. There's a Tibetan joke: if you sit smiling while the temple burns, you're not serious enough. If we were in nirvana -- it's great! But we're not -- we're in samsara, and the nature of samsara is suffering. It's happened here -- but it happens everywhere. It's samsara. That's why we have hatred, anger, jealousy, ignorance. Shantideva says, if your feet are sore, you can't cover the world with leather, so you cover your own feet. So each of us has to do it: develop compassion -- for the victims and for the perpetrators.
If possible we have to bring the whole country together -- otherwise individually.
A questioner asked: My sense is that the desire for revenge is being replaced by fear. How should we deal with our fear? Rinpoche replied: Don't be afraid. Yes, you can be afraid, but if fear freezes you, it's an extra problem. Fear comes out of ignorance. Fear, wrong-knowing ... it's all ignorance. Which I label as an ego activity. Use your own intelligence.
A questioner said: Do we have an obligation to push for non-violence? Rinpoche replied: Yes, we do. Can we do it? I'm not sure. We have to stop the violence. The questioner said: I have a problem with the story of the captain. Rimpoche replied: I'm sorry. Love and compassion is not just love and light. You have to stop things happening.
A questioner talked of his feelings of depression. Rimpoche replied: Depression is a doorway to the negative emotions. So don't do it. You get stuck in there, you don't move -- so decide not to! Move as much as you can. It's like meditation: when you lose focus for a moment, you bring it back again. Resolve: I won't entertain depression. Say, I'm not going to submit to that. Rejoice in what you can. Depression is an addiction, just like an addiction to a substance, such as alcohol or drugs. It is important for us not to entertain. When you start drinking you think "It is good for me, it is good for my body, I can handle it." Suddenly you realize you cannot handle it and you have become an alcoholic. Depression works similar to that. So right from the beginning, don't entertain. Don't feel self-pity.
A questioner asked whether there's such a thing as "intelligent fear", when it comes to the desire to flee New York. Rimpoche replied: Death is always there. There is always uncertainty in life. Even if you move away to a no-man's land, you may slip and nobody will be there to help you and you can die. I'm going to keep to my book tour schedule. If I die, I die ... If I don't, I don't. You can die everywhere. If I get hijacked, I get hijacked.
We chanted again, dedicating our singing to those who had died, so close by; and praying for those who have survived.
Gehlek Rimpoche is Spiritual Director of Jewel Heart.