Enjoy a 30-minute meditation and "What is the Beloved Community and Why is it Important?" talk. This class is part of our Creating the Beloved Community free training series. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of this video: https://www.boundlessloveproject.org/news/2019/3/14/tips-for-watching-a-live-stream-or-recorded-video Check out other classes in this series here: https://www.boundlessloveproject.org/creating-the-beloved-community Find the Beloved Community Pledge here: https://www.boundlessloveproject.org/news/2019/2/26/the-beloved-community-pledge This video was recorded March 19, 2019 at the Boundless Love Project's Group Meditation.Posted by Freeman Wicklund on Tuesday, February 19, 2019
VIDEO OPTION: The content of this article was shared and video-recorded at a recent group meditation. The video starts with a guided meditation, but if you wish to only hear the talk, scroll to minute 34:45. Please click the icon to turn on the sound and push play. Then sit or lie down in a comfortable, energizing position; close your eyes; and listen with an open heart and mind. Enjoy!
What is the Beloved Community and Why is it Important?
The Boundless Love Project's mission is to peacefully create a global beloved community where all life thrives. But what is a beloved community?
Imagine a world free of prejudice, war, poverty, homelessness, violence, and hunger. Imagine a world where the land, water, and skies are clean, healthy, and life-giving. Imagine a world where everyone views all people, animals, and other life forms as inherently dignified, worthy, valuable, and important. What you imagine is a global beloved community where all life thrives.
Such imaginings may seem like just another utopian dream, but various wisdom teachers from a variety of wisdom traditions assert that the peaceful creation of a global beloved community may be the purpose behind all existence. If that is the case, we may want to explore this topic of the beloved community a little more.
Therefore, in this article, we will discuss what the beloved community is, how understanding it benefit us, and what we can do individually to embody the beloved community in ourselves and help create it wherever we go and whatever we do. We start by looking at the history of the beloved community.
What is the Beloved Community?
The term was first coined by philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce (1855-1916) and popularized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968). The beloved community describes a global vision of humans cooperating together in sharing the earth's abundance so that all people thrive.
People of the beloved community recognize the intrinsic worth of all people. Prejudice, cruelty, and greed are replaced with an all-inclusive spirit of friendship and goodwill. Because members of the beloved community prioritize love, kindness, compassion, peace, and service, societal ills such as homelessness, hunger, war, violence, poverty, and prejudice have been skillfully addressed and no longer exist.
More recently, the animal protection and environmental movements have successfully made the case to broaden the scope of the beloved community to include every animal and all other life forms as well. (To clarify, we use the term life form to refer to both animate life forms such as trees, plants, insects, soil bacteria, and so forth, as well as to so-called “inanimate” life forms such as lakes, rivers, sky, soil, climate, clouds, mountains, prairies, and so forth.)
Thus, to beloved community members, all life forms are viewed as intrinsically worthy, valuable, and important. In this way, our spirit of friendship and goodwill extends boundlessly to include everyone and everything. Nothing is excluded. The result means that in addition to a human society free of violence and exploitation, we live in a world where the land, air, and water is clean, healthy, and life-supporting; and where wildlife and domesticated animals have the conditions required by their nature to thrive as a species and as individuals.
Is the Beloved Community Too Recent a Concept for Wisdom Traditions to Actually Embrace?
Given that Josiah Royce and Martin Luther King, Jr are from the 19th and 20th centuries, and that the environmental and animal protection movements are similarly recent, this beloved community idea may seem relatively new. However, wisdom traditions have pointed to this idea since their inception. They may not have called the beloved community by the same name, or even have given a name for the idea, but it was there all along.
In the Judeo-Islamic-Christian traditions, after the Creator made all things, the Creator proclaimed them to be "very good." By this proclamation the Creator tells us that all life is inherently valuable, worthy, and deserving of our love, care, and protection.
In Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Shintoism, and various indigenous wisdom traditions, there exists the understanding that all life is one. Another way they express this is by saying that all life is interdependent and interconnected with each other. This means that the health and wellbeing of the collective whole of life is inextricably tied to the health and wellbeing of the individual and vice-versa. Only to the degree that all life around us thrives, will we truly thrive as well. Thus we do our best to provide for the needs of all life so that all life is healthy, peaceful, happy. Whether described as being "all one" or as "interdependent and interconnected," these words point to the same conclusion that we must appreciate, respect, honor, and care for all forms of life.
Thus, although the phase "beloved community" is a rather recent invention, all wisdom traditions have referenced this idea of unconditionally respecting all life. More importantly, they have been giving us techniques to help us create and achieve the beloved community on earth.
The way back to this all-inclusive oneness is by shedding our judgmental, greedy mental conditioning, and living from our inner boundless and unconditional love. When we do this, we see the world through the eyes of unconditional love; or as the Judeo-Islamic-Christian traditions might say, we see the world through God's eyes. The core of every wisdom tradition's teachings includes instructions on how to view the world this way; free of judgment, hatred, envy, and greed. Understanding the beloved community helps us view the world in this way as well.
How Does Understanding the Beloved Community Benefit Us?
Understanding and contemplating the beloved community benefits us in many ways. It help us develop wisdom, it provides us a clear direction in our daily life, it reminds us that only loving means can create loving ends, and it instructs us to love ourselves and all life unconditionally. Let's unpack each of these benefits a little more.
1. Contemplating the Beloved Community Gives Us Wisdom
Contemplating the beloved community is a wonderful, heart-opening, and mind-expanding exercise. Gently imagine a world where all life thrives. What does a world where all life thrives look like? In the beloved community, how do we relate to our thoughts, emotions, bodies, and actions? In the beloved community, how do people relate to one another? In the beloved community, how do we relate to nonhuman animals? In the beloved community, how do we relate to all other life forms?
Each of these questions can be fruitfully contemplated for a lifetime and still have more to teach us. At times, the specific answers to these questions may not always be clear. But asking these questions helps bring into focus what we know about the beloved community, as well as what we do not know.
When we contemplate the beloved community, our consciences may clearly show us that in the beloved community humans will not engage in acts of prejudice, greed, violence, war, or environmental destruction. These are helpful insights that will help us both embody and create the beloved community today.
We use this wisdom to move closer to the destination. For example, through mindfulness practice we work to eliminate the prejudice, greed, and violence within ourselves, we make changes to live more sustainably, and work in our communities to eliminate violence, war, and environmental destruction. As we take these steps, we advance along the path. As we advance along the path we are given more wisdom and insights that will allow us to clearly see the next steps to take.
There is no need to worry if you can't perfectly imagine all of the specifics of the beloved community in your mind. For example: What forms of government will exist in a world free of prejudice, greed, violence, and war? What will a climate-friendly and environmentally sustainable society look like? Will we still have cars and computers? Getting tight around a specific vision (the delusion of clinging or greed) is both unhelpful and unnecessary. Better to simply apply the wisdom revealed to you in your own life, and be open to other insights gained while walking the path.
2. The Beloved Community Gives us Direction in the Here and Now
The beloved community is our collective destination. We all want to be safe, peaceful, and happy, and the beloved community is what the world looks like when we, all beings, and life forms are safe, peaceful, and happy. As with any journey, knowing our destination helps us better navigate getting there.
Yet the destination is not as important as the step we take right now. Does this step we take embody the beloved community? Does this step move the world closer towards becoming the beloved community, or further away from it? In this way, understanding the beloved community provides us direction.
For example, we can ask ourselves, "In a world where all life thrives, how would parents raise their children? Would parents shame, berate, or use corporal punishment on their children to get them to behave? Are these means loving, kind, and compassionate?"
When we ask ourselves these question, our conscience may respond, "No. These actions do not seem compatible with the beloved community." Upon reflection, they seem at odds to a world where all life is valued and cherished, so we renounce these actions in thought, word, and deed.
Returning to the original question, we ask ourselves again, "In a world where all life thrives, how would parents raise their children?"
Through further open-minded investigation, we seek kind, compassionate ways to raise our children and we discover many options to choose from:
• We can model skillfulness for our kids. When we live a loving, compassionate, gentle, and kind life, our kids see, experience, and learn what these qualities look like, how they work, and the power they contain.
• We can praise our kids whenever we see their skillful efforts. We can be on the lookout for all of the good, wonderful, and wholesome qualities in our kids, and shower our appreciation on them when we see those qualities in action.
• We can lovingly confront our kids when they harm others. When our kids harm themselves or someone else, we can have a heart-to-heart conversation with them. We can let them know we will always love them. We can ask them questions, and listen deeply to their answers for comprehension and understanding. We can kindly and nonjudgmentally share with them how their choices impact ourselves and those around them. We can respond in these and infinitely more loving and kind ways to help our children not only feel loved, seen, and important, but also to help them cultivate empathy, compassion, and skillfulness.
When we reflect on these approaches, they seem compatible with the beloved community. Thus we implement, support, and nurture these and other kind child-raising strategies within our families.
To summarize, when we see the beloved community as our final destination, we can effectively evaluate our thoughts, words, and deeds in the here and now. We can ask of each thought word and deed, "is this kind, loving, and compassionate? Would this exist in a beloved community? If not, what would be a more kind, loving, and compassionate alternative?" By patiently and lovingly evaluating our actions, and substituting skillful acts for unskillful ones, we will embody the beloved community more and more in our own thoughts, words, and deeds.
3. The Beloved Community Teaches Us That Our Means Must Equal Our Ends
One of the distinguishing features and central tenants of the beloved community is that our means must be as loving and kind as the ends we seek. Only loving, compassionate, and kind means can create loving, compassionate, and kind ends.
This makes sense when we consider that the road we take determines our destination. If we are in Burnsville and we get on Interstate-35W going north, we will reach Minneapolis. If instead we follow Interstate-35E north, we will arrive in Saint Paul. The road we take determines our destination.
If we want to arrive at the beloved community, we must take the road of peace, love, compassion, and truth. If instead, we take the road of judgment, greed, violence, and falsehood, that will not lead us to the beloved community. Such a road will lead us to a destination where there will be even more judgment, greed, violence, and falsehood.
Thus, when conflicts or injustices arise, beloved community members respond to them lovingly, peacefully, creatively, and nonviolently. Beloved community members address the needs of all involved: those harmed, those who perpetrate the harm, and the needs of the local and global community. Through valuing all life, and addressing the needs of all life, healing and reconciliation can be achieved nonviolently.
Many of us have not been taught the ways of loving and peaceful social change. There is not enough time in this article to outline the strategy of nonviolent social change. However, let me just say that to those of us called to be social reformers, we must study and learn the ways of nonviolence. Thankfully, there are many historical and present day nonviolent social reformers who we can learn from. The better we understand the power of nonviolent action and how it works, the more effectively we can wield nonviolence to create a more loving, just, and sustainable world.
4. The Beloved Community Instructs Us to Love Ourselves Unconditionally
Given that our end goal is a world where all life thrives. Given that our means must be as pure as the ends we seek. It follows that qualities such as forgiveness, compassion, kindness, respect, sustainability, understanding, nonviolence, peace, joy, and wisdom are prized.
However, there will be times when we evaluate our behaviors with these values and we fall short. Say we enjoy sharing racist, sexist, or homophobic jokes. These jokes have been the source of much personal amusement, but now we see how they perpetuate prejudices and harm others. Thus, we renounce them and patiently do our best to stop saying them, while also doing what we can to make amends for the harm we've caused by saying these jokes.
But there are other times where we do something unskillful that cannot so easily be reformed. Take for example the issue of climate change. Given what we know, climate change is human caused and threatens the safety and health of our communities, future generations, and all other life on the planet.
When we imagine the beloved community, we may envision a world where we don't use fossil fuels to create energy or fuel our transportation. Yet here we are in a culture that is largely dependent on the use of fossil fuels for both energy production and transportation. Given the systemic nature of the problem, it can be nearly impossible to eliminate our personal use of fossil fuels.
With issues like climate change, where the problems are systemic, it is vital that we advocate for appropriate policies and collective actions at all levels of government (international, national, state, and local), and at the places where we work, worship, study, and live. These policies and actions would seek to shift our culture as quickly as possible to use 100% renewable energy, eat a climate-friendly plant-based diet, be more energy efficient, and use fewer resources. Systemic harms need systemic solutions.
That said, noncooperation with harm is an important way to create systemic change. Thus, when I use fossil fuels, I know it is not ideal. Given what I know about our climate crisis, I see using fossil fuels as unskillful. However, it is impossible for me to avoid using fossil fuels because of the systemic nature of the problem and my personal conditioning and circumstances.
In such a situation, it is important that I see my unskillful acts as unskillful, rather than justify them, or minimize them, which can lead to the delusion of apathy and even greater unskillfulness and harm.
In addition, when I recognize my unskillful actions as unskillful, it is equally important that I do this lovingly without judging myself as a bad person for using fossil fuels. My unskillfulness, does not in any way take away my inherent worth, value, and importance, and the same is true for the unskillfulness of everyone. The beloved community calls us all to relate to ourselves and all life with unconditional love, compassion, kindness, and forgiveness.
Walking the tightrope of unconditional love while we do unskillful things is a very tricky balancing act. Our unskillfulness cannot lead us to mentally or emotionally beat ourselves up, condemn ourselves, or devalue ourselves in any way. That will cause us to fall off the tightrope of unconditional love in one direction. Nor can we mistake our unconditional love as a license to be unskillful and apathetic towards the harm we cause. That will cause us to fall off of the tightrope of unconditional love in the other direction.
We have not been conditioned to walk this tightrope of unconditional love, yet the beloved community calls us to do the best we can. Through effort and practice, we get better and better at walking that tightrope and staying connected to the wisdom of our inner love.
By contemplating the beloved community, we gain wisdom, we gain clear direction in the here and now for how to be more skillful, we see the need to keep our means as honorable as the ends we seek, and we start to see ourselves and all of the world with unconditional love. By understanding and working to create the beloved community, we too, can share in these benefits.
So how do we create the beloved community?
How Do We Create the Beloved Community?
Josiah Royce and Dr. King believed that global beloved community will be made a reality when a critical mass of people embody an unconditionally peaceful, loving, and nonviolent life.
Many who were active in the nonviolent civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s created pockets of the beloved community in the communities where they lived, worked, and worshiped. Those pockets of the beloved community positively influenced the broader community and the lives of all who lived within those communities. We can do the same today.
That said, the goal of embodying a philosophy of boundless peace, love, and nonviolence for all people, all beings, and all life forms can best be viewed as a journey, rather than a destination. It is not a final goal you reach, but a worthy journey we take, even if we never reach the destination. Therefore, the Boundless Love Project has created a Beloved Community Pledge that we invite you to take. By keeping its commitments, you will walk the path to embody the beloved community and help create the beloved community on earth.
The Beloved Community Pledge
Our pledge has been copied word-for-word, or heavily based on, the pledge that nonviolent civil rights protesters used in Birmingham, Alabama during the 1950s and 60s. By using their pledge as a template for our own, we seek to honor, appreciate, and celebrate the wisdom, courage, sacrifice, love, and noble objectives of the civil rights movement.
Before sharing the pledge, we want to emphasize that the meaning behind the pledge’s words are more important than the actual words themselves. Thus, individually and organizationally, we may feel free to change, adapt, and alter the pledge’s words if doing so, helps us better communicate their fundamental meaning to ourselves.
Here is the pledge in its entirety:
The Boundless Love Project’s Beloved Community Pledge
To help peacefully create a global beloved community where all life thrives, I pledge to:
1. TRUST and OBEY my conscience as the highest authority.
(As a side note: For those of you who consider the God of your understanding to be your highest authority, remember that the God of your understanding resides within you and all life, and that your conscience is the voice of God speaking directly to you. Feel free to substitute the word “conscience” with “inner divinity” or whatever word or phrase makes you feel more comfortable with this first commitment.)
2. MEDITATE daily for the benefit and welfare of all people, all beings, and all life forms.
3. CONTEMPLATE, STUDY, and LEARN the ways of love on a daily basis.
4. RECOGNIZE the inherent worth and value in all life and TREAT both friend and foe with courtesy, dignity, and respect.
5. WALK and TALK in the manner of love, for love is our most authentic and fundamental nature.
6. REMEMBER always that as we work to peacefully create a global beloved community, we seek peace and reconciliation, not dominance and retribution.
7. REFRAIN from the violence of heart, mind, tongue, and fist.
8. SACRIFICE personal wants and desires for the benefit and welfare of all life.
9. SEEK to lovingly perform regular acts of service for others.
10. ENDEAVOR to maintain good mental, emotional, and bodily health.
I recognize that adopting and embodying these worthy commitments is a journey and not a destination. Thus, whenever I break these commitments, I will FORGIVE myself, RECOMMIT to them, and PERSIST in following them for as long as it takes to embody them fully and create the global beloved community within myself and the world around me.
Unpacking The Pledge
Each of the ten pledge commitments are short and simple to make them easy to review, and easy to memorize. Of course, each simple sentence attempts to convey a lot of information. Thus, in an upcoming article, we will go over these commitments in greater depth to unpack what each one means more fully.
For now, know that by living by these ten commitments, you will effectively deepen your mindfulness practice; live with more skill, love, and wisdom; and better embody the beloved community. The more you embody the beloved community, the more you will help to create it wherever you go and whatever you do.
In this article, we defined the global beloved community as a world where all life is valued and allowed to thrive. Although the specific phrase "beloved community" is from the 19th century, the idea it conveys has been embedded in all wisdom traditions, which offer us teachings to help us embody and create the global beloved community.
Understanding, contemplating, and seeking to create the beloved community on earth benefits us in many ways. It helps us gain insights, guides us to live more skillfully, reminds us that "only loving means can create loving ends," and encourages us to be unconditionally loving and forgiving to ourselves and all life.
To help our supporters create the beloved community, the Boundless Love Project has created the Beloved Community Pledge based on the pledge civil rights protesters signed before engaging in protests and acts of civil disobedience. This pledge is a list of ten commitments we ask supporters to voluntarily take that will help them in their effort to create the beloved community in themselves and the world around them. In a future article, we will go over those commitments in more details.
Until then, contemplate what the beloved community means to you. What would the world look like if all life was valued and allowed to thrive? And more importantly, how can you embody the beloved community of your imagination right here and now?a