Zen Buddhist Monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh, speaks with Oprah about the energy of compassion vs. the energy of anger, and the benefits maintaining a state of mindfulness brings to the world.
Hanh really makes some excellent points that are hard to argue with. Hanh notes that anger causes us to act in irrational ways, and rarely produces the end results we want to achieve. Compassion is a much more powerful energy when it comes to effecting positive change in our lives, as well in the lives of others around us. Within a state of compassion, rational decision making based on understanding becomes possible.
Maintaining a state of compassion for those who would do us unjustifiable harm is something Christ advocated, the Buddha advocated, Gandhi advocated, Laozi advocated, Mother Theresa advocated, etc.. Indeed, the list of compassionate agents of change is long and illustrious. Clearly this is easier said than done, which is where “mindfulness” and meditation come into play.
Being “present” in the here and now, not thinking about what will happen in the future or about what has transpired in the past, reminds us that our “being-ness,” our conscious awareness, exists outside of past and future. All negative emotions stem from our contemplation of the past and future. When contemplation of the past and future are set aside for the moment, negative emotional states become impossible to maintain.
When we are present in the moment, compassion in the face of aggression becomes possible. People who act out violently to impose their will upon others are doing so out of a disturbed mental state. They should be thought of the same way we think of people who have cancer. They have an illness of the mind that needs to be treated therapeutically.
We don’t use violence to treat physical diseases, and likewise, we should not use violence to treat mental illness. Vengeance does not cure disturbed mental states, nor does violence. Unfortunately, the vast bulk of humanity exists in a perpetually disturbed mental state because the vast bulk of humanity is absorbed in the either the past or the future. Fear dominates the masses, which is at the root cause of virtually all of humanity’s problems.
Recently Adam Kokesh was convicted of having drugs and guns in his house, for which he faces 15 years in prison. What got him into trouble was a lot of rage and anger that had built up over the perceived injustices in the world around him. We can see that in the conflicted messages that he espoused.
It is a cognitive dissonance to simultaneously espouse non-violent peaceful resistance, while at the same time racking a shotgun down the street from the Capitol. It is a cognitive dissonance to praise Gandhi’s peaceful protests while also praising the violent acts of Jerad and Amanda Miller, who recently killed two police officers, a civilian and themselves in a Las Vegas public shooting. Recognizing cognitive dissonance when it arises becomes much easier when we set aside dwelling on the past and future.
Fear caused Adam to act out, in the same way fear caused violent sociopathic bureaucrats to act out against Adam, and for the same underlying reasons. Both the bureaucrats and Adam had their minds firmly embedded in a future of their own mental creation. Imagine the state of sheer terror that bureaucrats have to be living in to cause them to act the way they do. They fear for their jobs, they fear for their future, they fear for the lives of their kids, they are terrified of being displaced, of change in general. They have a white-knuckle grip on the past and plow through life terrified of what the future will bring, completely self-absorbed, never contemplating the wider consequences of their actions.
Logic and reason stem from the present moment. It is impossible for a human to make or absorb rational arguments when they are in a state of fear (over the future) or regret (over the past). The key to unlocking minds is getting them to shut up for more than a minute. Had Adam sat in the street like Gandhi and meditated in protest, instead of racking a shotgun, I have to wonder if more statists would be second guessing their ideology.