At the end of almost every class I have taught for the past 17 years, I have recited the following phrase:
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu : May all beings be happy and free, and may my life (thoughts, words & actions) contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom.
You probably don’t know this, but I always take a moment right before I say these words to make sure I am really ready to say them, and not “just saying” them. I make sure I’m not “just saying” them because then they become just fluffy pretty words. Devoid of meaning, they become saccharine and vapid – an artificial layer of niceness that I have no interest in participating or perpetuating.
If I don’t feel a depth of connection to the meaning of these words, I’d rather not say them at all.
I have been saying them, full heartedly, thousands of times, for years. I do mean it when I say it.
Which has made the past week a little tricky. “May all beings be happy and free. May all beings be happy and free”. Even the ones I don’t like. Even the ones I hate. Even the ones I don’t want to have the power they have anymore.
It’s easy to say you believe in something when circumstances are easy. But true belief shows itself when the circumstances are not so easy. When you feel challenged and must decide what it is you truly stand up for.
There is a story that my meditation teachers tells. It’s a story about two warriors on a battlefield. It is the dharma, or duty, of both to fight. One warrior is kind, truthful and fights for the freedom of others. The other is malicious, evil and seeks only to destroy. They come head to head on the battlefield and after a great fight, the evil warrior falls and the righteous warrior stands above him. He draws his sword to make the final blow, because he knows it is his duty. As he is about to strike, the fallen, evil soldier spits in his face. The righteous warrior pauses, and then sheaths his sword. Shocked, the evil warrior asks, “Why didn’t you kill me?” The righteous warrior answers, “As you know, it was my duty to kill you. However, when you spit in my face I was overcome with rage. I knew in that moment I would not be killing you out of a sense of duty, but out of spite. I could not do it”.
This story has helped me navigate the terrain of mixed emotions many times over the years. It doesn’t say we should be weak in our pursuit of peace and justice. On the contrary, that is for most of us (hopefully) part of our dharma. But the story also makes a distinction between duty and revengeful thinking. If we are someone who believes violence begets more violence, and hate begets more hate, we have to stand by those values even when it appears we have the upper hand. We can’t recite the words “May all beings be happy and free” and only mean it half the time, or worse, for only some people (sound familiar?).
At the very least, consider the alchemy that transpires when you practice yoga. Or meditate, Or sing, or dance, or laugh. There is a tangible change for the positive in your whole being. You can feel the change, the charge, in the atmosphere within and without you. It’s palpable. So wouldn’t it be true that a tangible charge would be created through wishing ill of others? Within and without you?
Does wishing peace and happiness for others magically travel throughout the universe and change everything for the positive? Does practicing joy, loving kindness and equanimity transform harmful people into better ones? Probably not. But lord knows the world does not need more spiteful thinking. Clear, compassionate thinking, and wise, justice seaking action? Yes. There is a difference.
I hope you are well. I hope you are happy. I hope that my life contributes to your happiness and freedom.