The Buddha wisely recommended a relaxed, calm body and a non-harming frame of mind for meditation. The Buddha said he found this path of gentle practice through reflecting on a delightful memory of safety and ease from his childhood.
Additionally, truly liberating meditation develops best when a meditator is ready to embrace at least an exploratory commitment to harmlessness and nonviolence, not just on the meditation cushion, but in daily life as well.
At first when I was learning to meditate, I embraced the Buddha’s approach with great difficulty. You see, I was raised in a family and neighborhood that suffered from generations of violence. I was exposed to violence in my cradle.
Consequently, by the time I was a very young child, I’d learned to tolerate, celebrate, and even practice violence. By the time I was in first-grade I’d internalized the violence from my surroundings. Therefore, I relished violent sports, used threats and acts of violence to ‘handle’ problems and conflicts, and endorsed it as a way to ‘settle scores’ between nations in the broader world. For me, violence was a normal, unavoidable, even laudable part of life.
The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members. ~Mahatma Gandhi
Unfortunately, I think I learned to embrace violence in more or less the same way most children do in America. Most would agree, I think, that violence is normalized among children through a kind of social osmosis.
Not surprisingly, one of the challenges I faced when I decided to take up meditation was simply learning to relax. Next, I had to learn to be gentle and patient with myself. It’s taken many years to learn to sit calmly with my own violence induced anxiety and reactivity.
Yet wonderfully, the Buddha’s Way is all about releasing the habits that spring from the ‘internal culture” of violence. The Buddha’s practice has helped me see that violence, aggression, pushing, and being hard on myself or others is never appropriate. These tactics and strategies never lead to real solutions.
As a small boy, the Buddha-to-be sat one day in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree.
There he felt completely relaxed, unburdened and at ease. In that calm, still, and refreshing place he simply found himself in a naturally arising, peaceful meditation. Through reflecting on this memory, the Buddha realized that harshness and pushing are unnecessary, even harmful. Rather, he discovered that using the ordinary pleasure that arises from a relaxed body and calm heart is the way to make progress in meditation.
We are fortunate that the Buddha had this recollection, right? Yet, would he have had it had he been raised in a punishing and violent home? Fortunately, he knew safety and ease in his childhood.
We are also fortunate that he could feel and see the negative consequences of violence. Even before his awakening he was not numbed out to the effects of violence. Most people raised in a violent culture or home would likely have been. Yet, he was deeply affected by human suffering and especially by the dis-ease of violence. His fear of violence motivated his spiritual journey.
After his awakening we know the Buddha stressed that violence only breads anger and more violence.
See yourself in others.
Then whom can you hurt?
What harm can you do? ~The Buddha
Children and adults who’ve been raised in violence are often used to harming themselves and thinking nothing of it. Therefore, people like us must first learn that to truly see ourselves is to see someone worthy of safety and ease. We need to know we’re lovely, precious, valuable enough to be free from harm. Only then is it safe to ask us to see ourselves in others.
More Buddhas, Less Violence Against Children.
He who seeks happiness
By hurting those who seek happiness
Will never find happiness. ~the Buddha
I’m sure we agree that children are among those who seek happiness. And it is because of this recognition that the news from Wales last week was so encouraging. You see, Wales is preparing to join 51 other countries in banning spanking, smacking, or otherwise hitting children. Wales has become wise. It would like to find happiness!
Here’s a link to the list of countries from the UN Tribune that have banned the corporal punishment of children: untribune.com/the-51-countries-that-have-banned-corporal-punishment
To me this news is evidence that, despite the nasty things said and done in politics these days, nastiness that can’t be unrelated to the growing superabundance of violent talk, if not action, all around us, there’s still a humanizing and civilizing current of love in the world for us to connect with, cultivate and celebrate. This living current of love and compassion is the same one the Buddha explored and celebrated.
Wales would like to find happiness by protecting its children.
Here’s what Huw Irranca-Davies, the Welch minister for children and social care had to say about the coming changes:
“We all want to give our children the best start in life. As a parent of three boys myself, I know being a parent can sometimes be a challenging experience.”
“Our knowledge of what children need to grow and thrive has developed considerably over the last 20 years. We now know that physical punishment can have negative long-term impacts on a child’s life chances and we also know it is an ineffective punishment.”
Irranca-Davies added: “We want parents in Wales to be confident in managing their children’s behavior without feeling they must resort to physical punishment. If there is any potential risk of harm to a child then it is our obligation as a government to take action. Legislation was introduced many years ago to stop physical punishment in schools and childcare settings – now is the time to ensure it is no longer acceptable anywhere.”
Here’s a link to the Guardian and the entire story: theguardian.com/politics/2018/jan/09/wales-ban-parents-carers-smacking-children
We now know that physical punishment can have negative long-term impacts on a child’s life chances and we also know it is an ineffective punishment ~ Irranca-Davies
And the Buddha taught that our happiness requires that we abandon forms of thought, speech, and action that do not lead to our long-term welfare and happiness.
If we hope to reduce and eventually eliminate violence from the world, if we live our lives for the sake of all beings, we can first learn to abandon pushing, stress, and harshness in our meditation practice. Then we might start to make the world more violence free by committing to make the habitable world safe for children. If we did that, I think the world would be much safer place for adults, too.
Here’s a wonderful website that promotes a global end to the corporal punishment of children: http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org
This link seems low-budget, but seems to have great resources on ending violence against children in the USA: endhittingusa.org
And please don’t miss this wonderful 3-minute video. Listen to the delightful Camila explain why spanking even the “defiant” child is harmful: youtube.com/watch?v=iYH4tDRfsJg
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I hope you have a wonderful week!