Photo credit: Colton Sturgeon
This video recording was created at our May 21, 2019 group meditation. Enjoy!
Training 6: Seek Peace and Reconciliation
Training 6: Seek Peace and Reconciliation Enjoy a 30-minute compassion meditation and a talk regarding social justice advocacy. We will speak on the importance of having your means be as skillful as the ends you seek. This class is part of our Creating the Beloved Community free training series. Read these tips to 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 Read and print your own copy of the Beloved Community Pledge here: https://www.boundlessloveproject.org/news/2019/2/26/the-beloved-community-pledge This video was recorded May 21, 2019 at the Boundless Love Project's Group Meditation.Posted by Boundless Love Project on Tuesday, May 21, 2019
VIDEO OPTION: The video starts with a guided meditation, but if you wish to only hear the talk, scroll to minute 34:10. 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!
The following is a transcript of the talk.
Training Six: REMEMBER always that as we create the global beloved community, we seek peace and reconciliation, not dominance and retribution.
“...the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” These words are Audrey Lorde's (1934-1992). She was a black, lesbian, born in New York City in 1934. She is famous for her prose and poetry which frequently address feminist, lesbian, and civil rights issues.
The quote I shared with you was part of a larger speech she delivered at a feminist conference in 1979. Her speech critiqued the dominant form of feminism at the time, which was created by and perpetuated by mostly white, middle-class, and educated women. She pointed out how this form of feminism continued to perpetuate racism, classism, and other prejudices.
Audrey Lorde proposed that to be a feminist, it is not enough to speak out for women's rights. To be a feminist, one must oppose all prejudices. "For the master's tools will never dismember the master's house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”
This talk continues our Creating the Beloved Community series about how to create a global beloved community where all life thrives. In this talk, we look at the sixth training in the voluntarily taken Beloved Community Pledge, which reads: REMEMBER always that as we work to create the global beloved community, we seek peace and reconciliation, not dominance and retribution.
Commitment six reminds us that our means must be as skillful as our ends. If we seek peace, justice, and kindness for all, then we must model this in our work by having our actions be peaceful, just, kind. This is why we commit to using exclusively nonviolent action.
Commitment six also reminds us that we actually seek to help, befriend, and become reconciled with our opponents that we can live together in harmony. We do not seek power to become the new masters and to create new forms of oppression. Instead, we seek to create a new society where there are no masters, and where all life thrives.
These ideas will be examined more in today's talk.
Understanding the Master's Tools
Let's examine Lorde's quote some more. "For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." What are the master's tools? Judgment, cruelty, greed, and falsehood. These tools--these mental states--lie at the root of all prejudice, injustice, and inequality.
Judgmentdevalues the worth, value, and importance of people, beings, and situations. By devaluing life, judgment is inherently false. But when believed, judgment lays the groundwork for cruelty. We can define crueltyas actively trying to demean, harm, injure, or kill others. Once an individual or group is vilified and demonized through the falsehood of judgment, then attacking and killing them may not only seem necessary, but may also be seen as the only "right," "good," and "decent" thing to do.
Of course, all judgmental and cruel thinking is delusional and false. And we'll explain why in a minute. But when you start with a false premise like judgement, it lawfully leads to cruelty and violence. When you couple the judgmental and hateful rhetoric found twitter, Facebook, and partisan news networks, with the US's lax gun laws, it is not surprising that our country has mass shootings on a nearly daily basis.
Judgment, cruelty, and falsehood are three of the master's tools. The final tool is greed, and it works with the other three. Once judgement and falsehood have us divide up the supposedly "good" from the supposedly "bad," Greed enters. Greedcan be defined as a selfish desire to obtain specific circumstances, people, or things. You may have greed for yourself, or greed for your family, or larger tribe. But this greed takes what it wants without concern or regard for those deemed by judgment to be unworthy.
Of these master's tools, it seems that the falsehood of judgment is the root problem that opens the door for cruelty and greed to do more damage. So let's take a minute to get clear on how judgment deceives us.
How Does Judgment Deceive Us?
We examine judgment with the help of some writings from Barbara Deming (1917-1984). She was a twentieth century U.S. citizen who worked as a teacher, play director, journalist and author. She was active in the peace, civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements. She partook in many nonviolent protests and marches. She also engaged in civil disobedience, which led to her get arrested and spend time in jail. Much of her writing is about nonviolent theory based on her own experiences.
Barbara Deming admits in her writings that she is both oppressor and oppressed. Her ability to see and admit her own unskillfulness is the sign of a spiritually mature person.
Can We See Our Own Unskillfulness?
Many of us, who do not love ourselves unconditionally, cannot acknowledge our own unskillfulness. To admit our unskillfulness to ourselves often leads our mind to judge ourselves harshly. And when we believe that judgment, we suffer accordingly. Self-judgment is very painful. For many of us who lack a mindfulness practice, we don't realize that we could just choose to not believe this self-judgment. In that case, there are only two options: suffer the pain of self-judgment, or enjoy the relative peace of denial. When faced with these two options, we often choose to peacefully bury our heads in the sand.
It starts innocently enough with the belief that "we are a good person." This thought activates the "confirmation bias" of the mind. This means that the mind then looks for evidence to support this belief's conclusion, while ignoring or downplaying any and all evidence to the contrary. Thus, the mind looks to see what is good and skillful in ourselves.
In those instances when we cause harm to others, the mind spins numerous false stories to justify that harm. These stories of blame and judgment help keep us from seeing and admitting the harm that we cause. As a result, our unskillful actions and behaviors remain unconscious and unaddressed. We unintentionally harm others, and we remain blissfully unaware of it.
To liberate ourselves from these blinders, we need to love ourselves enough to know that we are still valuable, important, and worthy, even when we harm others. Those behaviors are not who we are. They are the falsehoods working through us. We desire to live in a way that allows all life to thrive, but to do this, we must honestly and mindfully assess what judgmental thoughts we believe.
When I was in high school, I was a closeted gay man who suffered harm by the cultural judgments against gay people. At the same time, I perpetuated those cultural prejudices through the jokes I said, the put-downs I used, and other actions that my ego hoped would help remove suspicions that I was gay.
I was both the oppressor and the oppressed. When we can love ourselves unconditionally, we can also honestly evaluate the many ways in which we cause harm as a helpful way to purge ourselves of our prejudices, judgements, and cruelty.
I encourage you all to lovingly be open to seeing the many ways that you harm other people, beings, and life forms. I also encourage you to do this with a lot of love and compassion for yourself. You are unconditionally worthy, valuable, and important. If you can only love yourself when you are good, that is conditional love. You need to love yourself even when you are unskillful and even when you harm others. This may seems paradoxical, but it is the only way to progress further on the path.
How Is Judgment False?
Barbara Deming admitted being both oppressor and oppressed because she saw this dynamic in all people. Jesus expressed this as "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and remind us all to be humble, patient, and kind, when he said, "Let those who are without sin cast the first stone." This truth, seen by wisdom teachers throughout the ages, gave her an insight:
...how can one any longer make neat distinctions between oppressors and oppressed? Won't it often happen that we would have to name the very same person both an oppressed person and an oppressor? Yes, it will very often happen. Life is precisely that complicated. And to pretend that it isn't that complicated doesn't help. We need rescue from neat distinctions that are illusions....
Deming says we need to be rescued from our "illusions," or what we call "falsehoods." The illusion we need rescuing from is judgment. Judgment defines people, beings, life forms, and situations by their perceived worst aspects. By simplifying reality in this way, judgment ignores the inherent worth and value, and the important role and services which that being or situation provides.
That is how judgment lies to us. It doesn't tell us the full truth. It masks the reality that all life forms and all situations are of value.
In our interdependent cosmos, the health and wellbeing of one depends upon the health and wellbeing of all. If human judgment deems water to be " unimportant" and as a result, we allow industries to pollute our lakes and rivers, this harms all of the wildlife, trees, and humans who use and depend on that water.
Thus, when we see falsehood arise in the mind, we best see its falsehood and not touch it. But of course, we have all been conditioned to pick up and use the master's tools.
The Master's Tools Perpetuate Violence
When we look at any conflict, be it a war between nations, a revolution, or a social justice movement, we will often see the master's tools at use on all sides.
Judgment and cruelty argue, "the means justify the ends." But our lawful reality shows us that the means determines the ends. If we follow the yellow brick road, we end up in OZ. Just as if you use judgment, cruelty, falsehood, and greed, you will get more judgment, cruelty, falsehood and greed. That's how it works.
The French Revolution
In 1789, France was ruled by the wealthy and extravagant, King Lois XVI, while peasants suffered due to droughts, decades of poor crop harvests, cattle disease, and heavy taxation. The peasants, tired of being exploited and living in squalor, revolted.
They overthrew the monarchy, and through much turbulent infighting a faction arose that took control and implemented a reign of terror. During this time, over 17,000 people were beheaded. Often for nothing more than being suspected enemies of the revolution.
This is one of the countless historical examples of how when social reform is created using the master's tools, the oppressed often become the oppressor. We have neither dismantled the master's house, nor have not brought about genuine change.
Leaving the Master's Tools Alone
So what are we to do? First, we leave the master's tools alone. Due to our impersonal conditioning, the master's tools will arise in our awareness. Judgmental and cruel thoughts will arise. Feelings of hatred, anger, fear, or wanting will arise. We can't stop these things from happening. We don't have control over these things. They will happen and it does us no good to fight, resist, or try to stop them from happening, as this just let's judgment in through the back door.
Thus, we welcome these thoughts, mental states, and emotions. They are merely impersonal arisings and objects of our awareness. No big deal. When they arise, we let them arise. We can't stop them from arising. At the same time, we mindfully notice them, see them as the master's tools, and out of love for all life, choose to not pick them up.
This means, we watch them objectively, with a sense of peace and ease. We don't see any truth in them. We don't engage with the thought. We simply let the thought or emotion move through and return to the nothingness from which it came. By not engaging, believing, or reacting to these thoughts and emotions, we don't "pick them up."
What is the Master's House?
OK, so we see the tools, and we don't use them. Great! But the master's house is still standing.
In Lorde's analogy, the master's house represents the systemic injustices that arise in our culture due to long-term use of the master's tools. When our culture, laws, and institutions privilege some of us, at the expense of others of us, we cannot all thrive. Such inequalities may have been intentional or unintentional. Either way, they need to be addressed and they need to be dismantled.
But how can we do this without the use of the master's tools? Enter love and nonviolence.
The Tools of Love
By not touching the master's tools, what remains are the tools of love. These are: wisdom, kindness, peace, compassion, joy, sacrifice, courage, resolve, curiosity, openness, play, exploration, generosity, patience, skillfulness, renunciation, service, nonviolence, and others. With these tools, operating out of love for all life, we can kindly and gently dismantle the master's house and use the same parts to rebuild a beloved community, where all life thrives.
As has been said, the means determines the ends. Our means need to be as skillful as the ends we seek. If we seek love, peace, and justice, then the means we use to obtain them need to be equally loving, peaceful, and just.
When we drop the master's tools, and pick up the tools of love, we no longer relate to our opponents with ill-will, vengeance, and retribution. Instead, we relate to them with compassion. We see how they are lost in delusion and suffering. Out of concern for their wellbeing, we show them love, to help them heal and come out of their own fear, prejudices, and delusions of judgment.
In this way of relating, we relate with kindness to everyone: ourselves, those harmed, those doing the harming, any and all onlookers, and all beings and all life forms. It's a beautiful way to see the world. It's also a terribly effective way to create lasting change.
Nonviolence: A Powerful Force for Change
Unfortunately, much of our conditioning that we absorb from our experiences, our history lessons, and the wider culture via books, movies, music, and so on promote the ideas that "might makes right" and the "ends justify the means. "
Few of us have been taught how to wield love and compassion nonviolently to bring about social change. Therefore, commitment six encourages us to study and learn the ways of peace and nonviolence. Conflicts arise at every level of our society: within ourselves, our families, our communities, our nation, and between nations. How do we respond to conflict, violence, and injustice lovingly in all of these situations so as to bring about healing, reconciliation, and harmony?
Within ourselves, we learn to mindfully allow judgmental and cruel thoughts and angry, vengeful feelings to arise without taking them personally, without believing them, without trying to avoid them, and without becoming entangled in them. In this way, our love heals our inner world.
But as we interact with others, there are three categories of activity that we can use to apply pressure nonviolently: persuasion, noncooperation, and intervention.
Persuasion is about revealing actions that are unskillful and making a case for why change is necessary and beneficial. Persuasion includes negotiations, petitions, letter writing, speeches, protests, marches, lobbying, and so on.
An example of persuasion would be the student-led March for Our Lives that occurred in March of 2018 in Washington, DC. An estimated 1.2 to 2 million people attended the march, making it one of the largest protests in US history. The march was organized by survivors of the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglass High School, where two months prior a fellow classmate used an assault rifle to kill 17 of their classmates.
Through banners, signs, and powerful speeches, protesters made their case and called for universal background checks for all gun purchases, raising the federal age of gun ownership to 21, re-enacting a federal ban on assault weapons, closing the gunshow loophole, and banning the sale of high capacity magazines and bump stocks.
Many of the speakers echoed the sentiments of the March's mission statement which read:
Not one more. We cannot allow one more child to be shot at school. We cannot allow one more teacher to make a choice to jump in front of a firing assault rifle to save the lives of students. We cannot allow one more family to wait for a call or text that never comes. Our schools are unsafe. Our children and teachers are dying. We must make it our top priority to save these lives.
Have these advocates been successful? Yes and no. Not all of their demands have been met yet, but many changes have happened in state laws and they had an impact on the last elections in November. Just as the use of violence does not guarantee any results, the use of nonviolence does not guarantee results. However, loving nonviolent action does not make things worse, and it keeps the door open to peace, reconciliation, and lasting change.
The next category of nonviolent strategies is noncooperation. Nonviolent noncooperation is about withdrawing our support from those practices that do harm. Alternately, it is about withdrawing our support of those who are doing the harm. Noncooperation works because of the interdependent nature of life. Often times those who rule over us, depend on our cooperation and support to make steady progress on their own goals.
Noncooperation can manifest in countless creative and powerful ways. Here are a few examples:
Around 1600 CE, the women of the Iroquois nation threatened to boycott sex and having babies until their voices were represented and included in their decisions about war and peace.
In April of this year, the Oklahoma and Kentucky teachers went on strike until they received better wages and working conditions. Tens of thousands of teachers refused to work and marched at protests and picket lines causing schools to closed throughout both states.
Millions of people around the world have adopted a vegan diet as a way to not cooperate with factory farming and the animal suffering and environmental destruction it causes.
Noncooperation can include social, economic, labor, and political boycotts. Using our creativity and imagination, we can create countless ways to not cooperate with those systems and individuals that inflict harm.
The third category of nonviolent strategies is nonviolent intervention. This covers any sort of activity that directly stops the harm, rescues or protects the victims from abuse, or disrupts those systems and individuals inflicting the harm. Like noncooperation, nonviolent interventions can arise in countless ways.
In 1844, a US farmer lit a candle in her widow to signal she was a part of the Underground Railroad. Later that night, she provided a black woman and her child, who were running away from a plantation, a warm meal and a safe night's sleep.
Starting in 1997, Julia Butterfly Hill spent over 700 days living in a 1,500 year old redwood to prevent the Pacific Lumber Company from cutting it down. She only came down, when the company agreed to protect the tree and the surrounding forest.
Nonviolence often involves sacrifice, inconvenience, work, and effort, but it has the force and power necessary to resist the master's tools, and create lasting change and deep healing on all sides.
Transform Systems Peacefully
Learning the ways of nonviolence empowers us to lovingly reform ourselves and others who engage in violence and injustice. By serving as examples, we help lovingly reform our own communities, societies, and nations.
Unskillful acts do not happen in a vacuum. Systemic inequalities, unwise laws, and collective prejudices often encourage or enable people to act unskillfully. Thus we nonviolently reform ourselves and our communities to better ensure that all people, beings, and life forms get their needs met so they can thrive, making them less likely to behave unskillfully.
To emphasize the creativity and ingenuity of love, I want to share with you another story of social reform.
Love is Creative and Connecting
In 1913, Elizabeth Booth lobbied the Illinois legislature for women's suffrage. At the start of her efforts, she met with the leader of the opposition within the legislature where she respectfully introduced herself and had a friendly discussion.
With kindness she stated how she knew him to be a gentleman who kept his promises. And although he would vote against her bill, she asked him to promise her he would not attack her campaign. Charmed and impressed by her professionalism, sincerity, and courage, he gave her his promise.
Throughout the campaign, Booth maintained friendly contact with him. He not only kept his word, but at times, offered her excellent professional advice.
On the day of the vote, Booth noticed that seven legislators who pledged to vote for the bill were missing. From the gallery, she fluttered a note asking for help down to her friendly adversary on the floor. He read the note and retrieved the seven legislators in time for them to cast the deciding votes that gained women the right to vote in Illinois.
If Booth had not seen the good in her adversary, she never would have developed a relationship with him, and asked for his help, and women would not have won the right to vote in Illinois that year.
Judgement sees everything as black and white, while the wisdom of love sees shades and spectrums. Judgement sees solidity and permanence where it does not exist, while the wisdom of love sees constant change and complexity. Judgement cares for those labeled “good,” and ignores the needs of those labeled “bad,” while the wisdom of love cares about the wellbeing of everyone affected. This is why love sees opportunity where judgment cannot.
All of this is why we have training six: REMEMBER always that as we peacefully create the global beloved community, we seek peace and reconciliation, not dominance and retribution. This training reminds us of some important truths: Our means must be as skillful as our ends. This means we use exclusively nonviolent means to achieve our ends. We seek to help, not harm our adversaries. We seek to befriend and reconcile with our opponents that we may all live together harmoniously.
This is how we put down the master's tools of judgment, cruelty, greed, and falsehood and use the tools of love and nonviolence to kindly dismantle the master's house of systemic injustice. Love and nonviolence is how we create genuine and lasting change.
• Consider signing the Beloved Community Pledge to commit yourself to helping create a global beloved community.
• Consider listening to the full Create the Beloved Community series to have a deeper understanding of the Beloved Community Pledge, mindfulness, and the how to’s of following this pledge with ease and joy.