Articles July 11, 2016

A Week of Tragedy

Phillip Moffitt

We join all of the members of the Spirit Rock community in acknowledging the tragedy of the three shootings that occurred last week (July 3-9, 2016). We offer compassion and support to the families and loved ones of those lost, and to the communities that have been torn apart in anger, fear, and grief. So many voices are crying out that this violence must stop, and we add our voice to this plea.

We also acknowledge that for change in attitude and interpretation to occur, there needs to be an acknowledgment of the systemic level of institutional racism in our society that leads some police officers to delusional actions based on false perceptions coming from anxiety and fears that have been conditioned into their view of the world. Likewise, we acknowledge that any kind of violent response only gives false validation to the very misperception of seeing others as different and dangerous, which is at the root of this tragedy while causing additional suffering. We stand for unity that says all Americans need to be safe in order for any Americans to be truly safe and that all Americans must be recognized in their dignity and lawful rights in order for any Americans to have sustainable dignity and rights.

The Buddha’s teachings begin with the truth that there is suffering, and we have witnessed this truth in Orlando, FL, Falcon Heights, MN, Baton Rouge, LA, Dallas, TX, and in many other places and actions too numerous to name, just in this country alone. The Buddha’s Second Noble Truth is that suffering is caused by the grasping mind that, in its delusion and ignorance, seeks happiness, safety, and stability from things that cannot possibly provide these benefits. The Buddha offers a path to the end of this suffering composed of wise understanding, wise intention, wise speech, wise action, and wise mindfulness, along with other factors that lead to wisdom and compassion.

In this time of pain and turmoil, it is vital that we utilize our mindfulness and compassion to not tune out, but to stay present, to be willing to be with our anger, grief, fear, and sadness.

It is our mindfulness practice that allows us to realize how we, too, may be inadvertently contributing to the underlying causes of this fear and alienation in our culture. It is our practice of compassion that allows us to see how others like ourselves think, speak, and act from ignorance and delusion so that we do not make enemies out of anyone but rather unite in our efforts to bring change. It is our wisdom that allows us to condemn harmful actions and wrong views without condemning the individuals that experience them. It is our hard-won equanimity that allows us to stay the course and to do our various parts—small and large—to end systemic misunderstanding, prejudice, and violence.

May we as a community support one another during this agony, and may we stay present for it in lovingkindness such that we can, in some small way, help relieve suffering.

Phillip Moffitt

Phillip Moffitt

Residential Retreat Teacher

Phillip Moffitt is a Buddhist meditation teacher and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also the founder and president of Life Balance Institute where he trains leaders and professionals in how to skillfully make major transitions in their lives.