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Lions Roar : January 2018
But our heart doesn’t want to have a boundary around it. We don’t want to eliminate anyone from our love. When we think of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, and other revered and respected figures, we see that this is the secret of their power to help the world. Van Jones: In terms of specific practices we can do, there are all kinds of things conspiring now to make fear and division greater. Social media is one of them. Algorithm-enhanced tribalism is very, very dangerous, because when you don’t understand where the other person is coming from, you just see these nasty, snarky, one-sided tweets. So your view of them becomes more exaggeratedly negative, and you’re more scared and stupid with every click and swipe. I decided I didn’t want to be victimized by that. So as a practice, I went and searched for every right wing, conserva- tive, white nationalist I could find and followed them all. Now my Instagram feed doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy, but maybe you just have to get your warm and fuzzies someplace else. I have a better understanding of where my opponents are coming from, and that informs my approach. I just think there’s a kind of practical fight here. It really is the case that Donald Trump wants to deport millions of people, that Muslims and Jewish people are being harassed in almost unheard of numbers. At the same time, if you are a white, Christian male in the red states millions of liberals need to hear nothing more to not like you. There are real threats out here. That’s the reason we need these great practices. They give us a North Star to get through these periods better, not bitter. A lot of people these days are debating the usefulness of anger. It can fuel protest and resistance to injustice, but it can also cause more division and hate. Is anger useful now or not? Lama Tsomo: There’s a principle in Tibetan Buddhism I’ve found really helpful—the difference between anger and wrath. Anger is somebody saying something insulting and you wanting to punch them. Wrath is something quite different. In the New Testament there’s the story about Jesus driving the merchants from the temple. His actions were fierce and appeared angry, but they were actually coming from love and compassion. In Tibetan Buddhism, we contemplate some fero- cious archetypal figures that are realized beings. You wouldn’t want to meet any of them in a dark alley. We contemplate them so that we can feel compassion in a ferocious form. Power without love is destructive. Love without power is, well, powerless. What is the right relationship between love and power? Lama Tsomo: Human beings are brilliant animals, and we can find all kinds of creative ways to manifest either wonderful or terrible things. Love combined with insightful wisdom is very powerful, but just having intelligence without the motivation of love and compassion creates things like the atom bomb. As Starhawk pointed out, there is power over, power with, and power within. If we cultivate all three of these types of power with love and compassion, then something positive that affects the whole society gets to happen. On the inner level, this can happen because, as many great religious figures and scientists say, we’re all absolutely connected. The late physicist David Bohm said that at the quantum physics level, there’s no difference between inside and outside your skin. That begins to blow apart our sense of boundaries. It shows us that the true nature of things is that we’re all connected. Bohm was saying that if we act according to how things really are, it’s probably going to go better. We’re going to be happier and we’re going to produce happiness around us. Any- time you’re off in your understanding of how things are, you’re going to cause suffering for yourself and for others. That ripples out into society in all kinds of ways. Van Jones: One of the great powers that Nelson Mandela had over his enemies was that he actually had a vision of South Africa in which the Xhosa, the Zulu, the Afrikaners, and others all had a place of honour, dignity, and respect. If I have any quarrel with the present progressive movement it is that there sometimes seems to be too little space for our opposite numbers to be free too, and for them to feel dignity and respect. Speaking to a woman, a person of color, LGBT—or speaking to an immigrant or a Muslim—it seems unfair to say to them, “You have to get free, and you also have to free the people who are holding you down.” It is unfair, and it is unjust. But it is absolutely necessary. If we don’t, from the start, make it clear that our intention is for everyone to be free, then we just get on a seesaw. We’re up for a while, and then we’re down for a while. We just saw that from Obama to Trump. What has yet to be rediscovered, in the U.S. context, is a third way out—one that allows your love for your own group to be so profound that it requires you to find a way to feel and demonstrate love for your so-called opponent. What is the role of spirituality in political life. Can there be deep change, the kind the world needs, without spiritual practice at the root of it? Lama Tsomo: We humans are herd animals. It seems that every great religion has figured that out. There are churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues, and in Buddhism there is sangha. Anytime we want to change our habits, we’ve had far better suc- cess doing it in groups than all alone. So there’s something to be said for that. ➢ page 80 LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2018 70