The recorded acts of violence against Asians and Pacific Islanders continues to rise. There are many videos documenting these horrific acts. Acts that have resulted in fear, injury and death. When we view these acts we are outraged and demand justice.
In our history as people, there is no lack of examples of people dehumanizing and discarding the life of others. When we see a specific act of violence it’s hard to think of the long history of violence we have all been involved in. It is hard to think of ourselves as somehow contributing to these acts. But we have been and we will continue to be unless we change ourselves and how we respond.
We know as Buddhists there is cause for current conditions. Yet the turmoil and chaos seems so deeply embedded in the world that a resolution feels impossible. Forces far greater than my comprehension collide and spill into streets and communities. How do we untangle what has plagued us for thousands of years?
Stop AAPI Hate, Black Lives Matter, AIM, Stonewall, Selma, WRA, Tulsa Race Massacre, 40 acres and a mule, Trail of Tears, Wounded Knee, Manifest Destiny, Lili’oukalani the list of atrocities we have visited upon one another is endless. Throughout the world, throughout history, on every continent, we have caused great harm to one another. The Killing Fields of Cambodia, Apartheid in South Africa, Holocaust in Europe. These are examples from just the past two centuries. In 2019 there were 19,000 homicides in the United States.
Since before Shakyamuni Buddha we have caused and experienced difficulties. His enlightenment is a response to the very difficulties we are immersed in today.
Putting this in too large a context can diminish the power of this moment. Putting it in a larger context can remind us that we will find ourselves here again if we do not change our response.
We are who we are. We are the product of countless interactions with not just my life but with life that precedes me. What we learn about ourselves will influence how we respond. We can look at all the insults of lives and choose how to respond. We can respond with measured and equal reaction. Or I can think about, reflect on how my action will result in deepening the behavior I am responding to. If I respond differently, I might change the cycle.
We must respond with compassion. We may feel anger and pain but our response must be rooted in compassion. Compassion that comes from our interdependency with all life.
Compassion must be the base of our response.