By Ivan Latham
We’re predisposed to discriminating on so many different levels. This includes the worst kinds of racial, sexual or gender-based prejudice, and more.
But we all discriminate: comparing this with that and the other. We often do it in order to bolster our own sense of superiority. Hence we hear comments such as, “It’s only an animal,” or, “It’s only a tree,” to try and justify the heedless abuse of the natural world.
But the discriminating mind causes us to experience a moral and spiritual disconnect from the rest of the world, and from each other. This mindset erects walls and boundaries that exist only in the imagination, but which are harder to break down than any physical boundary. Delusion is a far stronger adhesive than mortar.
Discrimination is an expression of dualism, which operates on the principle of subject and object. It deceives us into believing that we are tiny worlds unto ourselves, separate from our neighbours—maybe even better than them—and certainly separate from the rest of the universe. It is as deluded as a body part suddenly raising a flag of independence from the rest of the anatomy.
This ignorance is the foundation of the rape of planet earth for its resources at such a rate that we would require several earths to maintain demand if the current consumption continues unchecked. This ignorance fuels nationalistic movements that raise walls to correspond with the lines of ink in an atlas, as if the walls existed first.
As a society, we may deplore these extreme examples of discrimination, but with the same breath we perpetuate the mindset that allows it to express itself in many other ways. We can always find an excuse to justify our unskillful actions, and our bad karma.
We can always find an excuse for what we want to do because we think we are a law unto ourselves, and we tell ourselves that our actions are not as bad as those of such and such—always comparing, always justifying. Always failing miserably and never seeing through the deception.
I believe that it is by the light of Amida Buddha, the lamp of our own Buddha-nature, that our lack of wisdom is exposed.
This ignorance only increases our suffering, and keeps us in the Samsaric cycle we have been locked into for countless previous lifetimes. If we wish to end this cycle, we can, but we must change our mindset. And it is possible; it is always possible. We have to stop thinking in terms of us and them, and begin appreciating the unity of all things.
Sentience is not confined to our own brains. All living things are sentient. It is possible that even the sun and stars are conscious in their own ways, at some quantum level. We are all made of the same stuff, the same dust and atoms and quarks, continually cycled and recycled over time and eternity.
As we keep Amida in view, he can help us see through the illusion we have believed in for such a long time. We can see through it to the emptiness of all things, and the dependent nature of the conditional reality we inhabit. Nothing exists in itself, by itself, or for itself—from atoms to the man or woman in the street—and this awareness can trigger an automatic compassion for the world.
Suddenly one is aware that one’s neighborhood is comprised of the whole world and other worlds beyond. The hungry child is not just someone else’s problem; the lonely, the sick, the dispossessed, the refugee, the outcasts—suddenly you feel the weight of their pain and suffering. This revelation is life-changing.
Suddenly you have a hint of the mind of Amida himself, and of the bodhicitta devoted to the liberation of all beings. Not just in this lifetime, but a full and final liberation from Samsara itself. A liberation to nothing less than Buddhahood for us all. Namo Amida Butsu!
Ivan Latham is a writer, blogger and member of the Shandao lineage Pure Land Buddhist school. He has a blog called the Apertures of the All. Originally from the UK, he lives in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, with his wife, Julia, and their three children.
Editor: John Lee Pendall
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