A Dharma Glimpse by Greg Cundiff
I entered the military a conservative. Not a fire breathing conservative but a my family are all liberals kind of conservative. An act of rebellion conservative. Not a fire breathing conservative, but conservative none the less. I left the military a fire breathing liberal. And I knew everything worth knowing. I was more liberal than my family by a long shot.
This newfound world view worked out quite nicely. Nicely, as long as I surrounded myself with people who thought and talked like me. My friends in San Diego were all lefties. My church was mostly lefty. My partner even pretended to be a lefty so I might find him more appealing. Oh everything was right in my world. I had a neatly defined sense of us and them.
Boy did all that change when I moved back to Baltimore. Yes, Maryland is a blue state – but trust me it has never been all that blue deep down. Thems started popping up all over the place. I even learned that my family wasn’t as lefty as I had always painted them.
One afternoon in a senior literature seminar a classmate looked at me after I had made a comment about something, I don’t remember what, said, “you sound like a Buddhist.” I could tell by his tone that it wasn’t a put-down. The only thing was, I had no idea what he meant.
By and by I started reading about Buddhism. I thought of myself as a Buddhist. I even put it in my Veterans record. Still a lot of us and them. The more I listened, the notion of us and them started to slip. Not perfectly, but slip it did. How many times does the Dalai Lama or Thich Nhat Hahn have to say that everyone wants to have happiness and avoid pain until it starts to seep in. I don’t know. But if you listen. And I do mean listen. It does start to sink in.
One Sunday morning I was chatting with one of the farmers at work. This was a person that I had a lot of fun being around. In the middle of a conversation about something to do with farms he mentioned that he was a big supporter of the then current governor. And yes he said, that means that I’m a Republican – I guess you hate me now. I can remember a time when I would have. At that moment I didn’t feel any hatred or dislike toward him. Of course I don’t, I told him. Everyone seeks happiness and wishes to avoid pain. Yes it sounds nice. Listen to it, really listen. Think about it some. Compare the idea to how you live your life. After a while and probably when you least expect it, compassion sinks in. Not complete compassion, but enough for now.
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