Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day and of course I wanted to take a moment to speak about this great man. There will be no shortage of news articles, specials and some will even rush to the theater to see Selma, which was recently released. I myself wrote another post last year which I would suggest taking a good look at, seeing as it was my most popular post to date (click here ). Today I want to briefly talk about what I see as the strongest attribute of this great man, namely loving kindness.
Loving kindness, or Metta in Pali, is about friendship, non violence, and kindness motivated by love. By using the Metta Sutra and practicing loving kindness meditations it can open up wisdom, and warmth for one’s self and your fellow man. Loving kindness was clearly a part of MLK’s general being, and one everyone seems to reference when speaking about this great leader. One of the hardest parts of loving kindness is feeling love towards a difficult person just as much as a neutral person or even a good friend. It can be looked upon as weak to show your enemy kindness but the enemy part is more so where I want to look at.
What makes a person your enemy? I can say it’s easy, a terrorist is my enemy, a murderer is my enemy, I mean the basic actions of those who have decided that humanity was theirs to destroy and own. But what about the gossip that is destroying your name just to rise up, or even for the hell of it. What about the guy who probably is nice and caring but is in survival mode; who has always felt stepping on the hand held for him is the best and only way to make it to the next day or the better opportunity? Is that my enemy as well?
I am a person that gives people the benefit of the doubt, knowing through conversations and past experiences that the person using me for all the things I do for them isn’t using me because it’s me. I used to take it personal, thinking I was the only one valued only as far as how much I could spend on them, drive them around, or supply them with things I shouldn’t be using myself. I perverted loving kindness because I wasn’t first being kind to myself, and it is true that you have to love yourself before you can be a force of good and loving kindness for others.
This doesn’t mean you are perfect. Like MLK, I’m human and that means failure is going to occur. I’m going to go down the wrong path many times, attempt the wrong style of assistance trying to guide another from the darkness I was trapped in, but the difference between those that make a statement and those that fade into the background is right diligence and right intentions. I have a renewed determination to reach my goals and continue to be the loving person I am. I plan to be the best Buddhist I can be, and recognize the world isn’t Buddhist and is hurting. As people hurt they can’t reach the full loving nature in themselves. As one comes up around hurting individuals it makes staying huddled around your Buddhist nature that much more difficult. It’s not to say elements around you will purposefully try to take you outside of yourself but the nature of people’s current soul is hurting so it’s not personal. To have a slight guard up isn’t the worst thing to do, but a shield does mean you can delivery enough of your heart and kindness to begin recovering a hurting spirit in another, without being hurt by that spirit in return.
MLK was a great man who saw other Buddhist leaders as having a message to lead us all out of the darkness we have been creating. He nominated the amazing Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh for a Nobel Peace Prize and of course we are aware of his admiration for Gandhi and his nonviolence protest in South Africa. MLK was not a Buddhist but Buddhist principles are available to all people regardless of their faith. At its core Buddhism is the Golden Rule and found at the core of all beliefs, and I see Buddhism as the answer for anyone with a question. These answers as easy, basic and plain but require more often than not something most aren’t ready for. To be Buddhist is to be an anarchist, to be island, and to be sure of yourself. It’s having a target at times on yourself because you know something and are showing the world a way to be they might not be use to. Loving kindness is dangerous in this day and age but as a collective we can change that.
MLK, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and many more all showed us loving kindness and the dangers of the world not ready for it but it didn’t deter them and it shouldn’t deter us. It is the way to free this world of hurt and pain; and the way to greatness. Can you see the greatness in these leaders? Now it’s your turn.