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Lions Roar : January 2019
FOR ME, THERE ARE TWO main real- izations that show us that kindness is the only way of being with others that makes sense. First, we must recognize that we are truly one body. When something happens to one of us, it affects everyone else. This is true for all beings, including animals, plants, stones, and stars, as well as our fellow humans. Everything we say, do, and even think, matters. The second teaching is that we are all struggling with something. The Buddha taught that everyone is subject to dukkha, a Pali word that can mean suf- fering, dissatisfaction, discomfort, or simply being out of alignment with the way things are. As John Watson, a nineteenth-century Scottish clergyman who wrote under the name Ian MacLaren, wrote: “Let us be kind to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.” The opposite of kindness is easy to recognize, and we see its effects daily. Unkindness can take the form of cruelty directed outward, such as harsh actions and speech. But it can also be directed inward, such as when we forget to practice self- care. A subtle form of unkindness manifests when we wall ourselves off emotionally as a misguided strategy of self-protection. Sometimes this form of unkindness can take on the guise of “niceness.” The difference between being nice and being kind is related to motivation and intent. Niceness appears as a surface response to suffering, but its roots are shallow. If we’re too intent on smoothing things over or making sure that everyone likes us, we can fail to act in a way that is truly kind. The big problem with being nice is that, very often, the focus is on making things easier for ourselves and improving how people see and treat us. Smiling when we don’t feel happy, trying to use soft words, avoiding conflict because we don’t want anyone to able to offer a little more “ease and comfort” to those who need it most. 1. Realize that kindness is your job. It doesn’t matter how many hours you meditate, sutras you study, or chants you recite, kindness is your true spiritual work, and it depends solely on you. Do you want to live in a kinder world? “Do not neglect your own duties,” Dogen said. 2. Be watchful. Attention is the most concrete expression of love, so watch where you put yours. Do you dwell on your own concerns, or do you pay attention to whatever and whomever appears in front of you? Dogen said, “If you look care- fully with your mind undistracted, naturally the three virtues (wisdom, generosity, and compas- sion) will be fulfilled.” 3. Don’t judge. The instant you label someone as friend or foe, important or unimportant, wor- thy or unworthy, you are lost in your dualistic mind. Remember, there are not two forms of Be Kind to EVERYONE We all share in this brief human life, full of joys and sorrows. Recognize that, says MELISSA MYOZEN BLACKER, and your heart naturally opens. KAREN MAEZEN MILLER is a Zen Buddhist priest at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles. Her books include Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden. kindness. Kindness does not pick and choose. “Keep yourself harmonious and wholehearted,” Dogen said. Then everything you do will be the “work of buddha that benefits sentient beings.” 4. Avoid getting upset. Don’t know what to say to a jerk? Silence is always kinder than a fiery tongue. “Most of all, avoid getting upset or com- plaining,” Dogen said, and your mind will abide in tranquility. 5. Never change your attitude. Do not build up disdain for one person and delight for another. If your attitude wobbles from this to that, Dogen said, “ it is like varying your truth when speaking to different people; then you are not a practitioner of the way.” The art of kindness, like the art of cooking, amounts to one thing. No matter if ingredients are fine or coarse or if people are delightful or difficult, always maintain a deeply sincere and respectful mind. LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2019 54