Vain self-contentment is the great trap for people who engage spiritual practice seriously. It’s also quite challenging to recognize the attitude when you’re wallowing in it.
In our day when there are fierce societal conflicts around immigration, abortion, poverty, good government, refugees, guns, etc. religious and spiritual practitioners are no more exempt from rage, arrogance, closed-mindedness, and pusillanimity than the rest of the population.
In itself, anger can be a help or a hindrance; it can be virtuous or vicious. But it’s difficult, more difficult than we imagine, to bring good out of anger. It’s possible, but tough.
Those who stoke their own anger and the anger of others — if they’re sincere in pursuing whatever it is they think is good — should regard anger with reverence and care, not with the casual flippancy we see around us today.
It’s disappointing to witness a Catholic priest suggest that those who oppose the US president and his government might be better off dead; it’s unsettling to know that a prominent Buddhist teacher has suggested that anyone who supports the president is part of a public “sh*tshow”.
You may be familiar with the expression, “The exception proves the rule.” Exceptio regulam probat. Here, the meaning of “prove” is not justify, confirm, or support. Instead, probare means to test, to try, to challenge, to explore critically. Unusual and unforeseen circumstances are a test of one’s character and convictions. To a spiritual practitioner, the current crisis in American society is a test of good will, positive intention, clear understanding, and compassionate action.
Too many “spiritual” people — wherever they stand on the political spectrum — are coming up wanting with regard to good will, positive intention, clear understanding, and compassionate action. It’s quite likely that both you and I are among them.
This means our daunting task is to move from anger toward good will, positive intention, clear understanding, and compassionate action. Hopefully we’ll accomplish this together.
January 31, 2017