Meditation for Newtown, CT

Thich Nhat Hanh

This morning we held a meditation and prayer service at Sacred!Centre on what happened in Newtown on Friday.

After 30 minutes of meditating, we shared what was in our hearts and the intentions that brought us together.  Then evolved a discussion about the subtle and not so subtle violence each of those that were present have felt inside of ourselves.  We made personal reflections on how our judgment of other people or ourselves is actually a way of discharging, vs. transforming, our pain.  How in actuality, judgment not only fails to enlighten, manage or curtail pain but how it is in itself a form of violence and seems to feed fear and grow anger.  We talked about ways we each have experienced our judgmental thoughts as a form of “acting out” aggression.  And also how, as quantum physics shows us, such thoughts energetically really matter–these thoughts have sway.  What spurred all this was a reading on the “Principle of Nonduality” from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book entitled True Love.  And here is what he says:
When our pain comes up it remains for a period of time at the level of the conscious mind, in our “living room.”  After a short stay there, it goes back to its usual habitat, the alaya consciousness, *where it takes the form of a seed; and now it will be a little bit weaker.  It will always be a little bit weaker after being embraced by the energy of mindfulness.  The next time it manifests, we will receive it the same way; we will care for it the same way with the energy of mindfulness, and then it will return to the depths, weaker still.  It loses strength every time it is embraced by the energy of mindfulness, which is really a mother.

 The door is already open; mental formations can flow freely.  And if you practice that for a few weeks, the symptoms of mental illness will disappear.  This is because you are now in a situation where you have good circulation I your psyche.  That is why the Buddha taught us to invite fear into our mindful consciousness and care for it everyday. 

There is no battle between good and evil, positive and negative.  There is only the care given by the big brother to the little brother.  In Buddhist meditation, we observe, we act in a non-dualistic fashion, and thus the waste materials of the conscious mind can always be transformed into flowers of compassion, love, and peace.  Our consciousness is a living thing, something organic in nature.  There are always waste materials and flowers in us.  The gardener who is familiar with organic gardening is constantly on the alert to save the waste materials because he knows how to transform them into compost and then transform that compost into flowers and vegetables.  So be grateful for your pains, be grateful for your suffering–you will need them. 

We have to learn the art of transforming compost into flowers.  Look at a flower:  it is beautiful, it is fragrant, it is pure; but if you look deeply you can already see the compost in the flower.  With meditation, you can see that already.  If you do not meditate, you will have to wait ten days to be able to see that.  If you look deeply at the garbage heap with the eye of a meditator, you can see lettuce, tomatoes and flowers.  That is exactly what the gardener sees when he looks at the garbage heap, and that is why he does not throw away his waste materials.   A little bit of practice is all you need to be able to transform the garbage heap into compost and the compost into flowers…”  –Thich Nhat Hanh

Those of us present this morning agreed that while yes, on one very important and agonizing level, and as all the news stories have echoed, we don’t know what led to the shootings in Newtown, CT, our contemplation on this reading also showed us the imperative of holding this question and avoid fooling ourselves into ineffective and dangerous conclusions based on the usual designation of opposites:  good vs. evil; people vs. monsters; flowers vs. compost.

If we hold Adam Lanza as a 20 year old young man who perpetrated horrific acts (vs. the “gunman,”) this might lead us to wonder and perhaps to one day understand the seeds of those actions.  And to understand the lesser but nevertheless violent seeds we ourselves feed each time we turn someone into an object in our minds through perjoratives and anger/fear.

What we drew as a group from Thich Nhat Hanh’s words and our discussion this morning is there is a galaxy of difference between properly judging Adam Lanza’s actions as unequivocally heinous and unsanctionable, and deciding he was pure evil.  We also agreed there is a great urgency upon the world to be mindful of our thoughts and to not attempt to discard what must be recycled in order to effectively transform harmful energy, the waste material of our mind, back into a Flower.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Gratefully and sorrowfully,
* In Buddhist thought, consciousness is sometimes described as having eight levels.  Alaya is the fundamental consciousness that supports and nourishes the seven others.  It is sometimes called the “storehouse consciousness,” since it contains every kind of seed and its primary function is to preserve all the seeds. –Ed.

3 Responses to Meditation for Newtown, CT

  1. At our sangha in New Haven, CT last night, a wise friend told the story of being out in the ocean waves. She had gone out to far and was so tired, almost expiring. And so she put her legs up! Up to the surface and she floated.

    Tai is my great and dear teacher. I wish him good health and long life, and all my thanks.

  2. Thai also wrote his poem, Call Me by My True Names, which helps us view the killer (and his mother, who is often omitted from lists and discussion) with compassion. For we do not know what we would have done, if we had been in the exact same circumstances. Our place is not to judge, but to send loving caring awareness to all those killed last week, today.

  3. Deidre & sangha,
    I am grateful for your loving kindness towards all suffering beings! I am not always in tune with my Quaker/Buddhist beliefs, so I am uplifted and encouraged when I feel your wonderful concerns.
    Hope you are well Deidre, we think of you and your selfless service in Mt Kisco often (especially when I’m in Starbucks, or see old & still excellent ‘Rifleman’ episodes! Russ B

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