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Lions Roar : March 2019
been privileged to draw out in conversa- tion. I’d begin my list with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, his friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and go from there. Buddhist analysis of the human pre- dicament has become a pointer as I seek to navigate this moment we inhabit with clarity, equanimity, and grace. I often share its insights and vocabulary with others, though I am no Buddhist teacher, and I have watched them instantaneously unlock energy and presence. The Buddhist concept of “near ene- mies” to the great virtues is exquisitely helpful in grasping why, as we are del- uged by images of violence and despair, the sorrow and pity that feel like humane responses actually paralyze us and lead us astray from the compassion that would help us remain present. The word metta, loving-kindness, adds psychological acuity to the range of teachings about love that humanity pos- sesses. It richly complements the fresh challenge alive in our midst to make love something muscular, practical, and public. With distinctive pragmatism, it gently points us back to the founda- tional truth modernity tried to forget: that inner life and outer presence in the letting everything arise, allowing discom- fort—these are spiritual and moral mus- cles for the work of being curious about, and gently mistrusting, that exhilarating feeling when suffering hardens into hate- fulness and feels momentarily like power. For we do not know how to sit with, or stand before, the pain, fear, and suffering now in the middle of our life together so that they have a chance to soften. We do not know how to greet them as part of our wholeness and as a potential source of compassion. We have actively taught ourselves and our children to fight for beliefs and identi- ties. This has had an unintended effect of orienting us—and our entire culture— toward what we must resist and overcome. We are skilled at taking refuge in outrage. This too is called “strong.” While there is certainly a place for all of this in a moral life, its intention and effect are radically different from the call- ing of being a warrior in the Buddhist sense. The “humble warrior,” the “fierce bodhisattva”: these seem like contradic- tions in terms, a counterintuitive merger of power and tenderness. Yet this is the only way I know to describe the embod- ied presence of the wisest people I’ve world are intertwined, whether we want that to be true or not. They are compan- ions toward wholeness. What I’m describing here is quiet work, breath to breath to breath, life to life to life. But I don’t think the civiliza- tional potential of Buddhism’s teaching and modeling in the years ahead can be overstated. Other centuries, including the one in which the Buddha was born, have held vast brutality and dangers, yet the challenges before ours may be existential for our species. On the upside of all that vexes us, we are the first generation with the tools to think and act together as a species. This will require us to claim the full intelli- gence, consciousness, and wisdom within our grasp. If in the end we recover the nobility and humility that this moment demands, the beautiful tradition of Bud- dhism that came into the world three mil- lennia ago will have been pivotal. KRISTA TIPPETT is creator and host of On Being, a Peabody Award-winning public radio program about meaning and spirituality. She is the author of Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. For twenty years I struggled fiercely— How many times have I gone down to the Blue Dragon’s cave for you? —XUEDOU IN FORTY YEARS will we be on a spaceship under Elon Musk’s conductor’s baton? What teachings and practices are suitable for those on a spaceship? The notion of a ship as all metal and plastic is like our notion of medita- tion practice as a protection against life. Instead, I would like our spaceship to be full of life, and itself a living being. I would like our meditation practice to be alive in such a way too. For myself, I would like to take with us on the spaceship insects, songbirds, crows, trees, crabs, rats, daisies, and the DNA for wooly mammoths, just in case. And an immense range of bacteria—it’s the little things that count. The spaceship would look very different then; you could get lost in it. Also I’d like to take songs, redwood trees, the way young people run laughing on summer nights and burst into flower, and moonlight falling on the harbor. Oh wait, earth is already a spaceship. Then what if the spaceship itself is alive? Does it have practices of its own and teachings of its own? And what teachings are suitable for such a spaceship? In forty years, the earth itself, beyond our control, and human violence, also beyond our control, will have changed all our assumptions. Even so, what do I want the teachings to be? Most popular meditation methods are based on improving ourselves by pretending we don’t want or do all sorts of things that we actually do want or do. That kind of practice happens in brackets inside our real lives. I wouldn’t bring that approach along with me. I take questions about the future as a way of asking, ‘What do we include on the spaceship?’ Meet the Blue Dragon by John Tarrant LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2019 76