Monday, 19 October 2015

Subhadramati: A Flock of Wild Geese

Subhadramati
This post by Subhadramati, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order based at the London Buddhist Centre, explores why nonviolence is a cornerstone of Buddhist practice.  This is excerpted from her book Not about Being Good.  

This blog post is part of the Blogging Carnival for Nonviolence.   

Please share this with your networks, and please leave your comments below.  Thanks.   

On our last winter retreat, a woman told me about a moment of realization. She began by saying she’d never been able to understand why Triratna Buddhism emphasizes vegetarianism. She had been adamant that she was not going to become a vegetarian in order to be a ‘good Buddhist’, and of course she could reel off examples of eminent Buddhists who are not vegetarian.  
Not about Being Good

But then, in meditation, she had a spontaneous vision of a flock of wild geese flying overhead. They were so beautiful and so free. It suddenly seemed appalling to diminish such freedom and beauty by shutting those creatures in a cage, then killing them and eating their flesh.
 


Simultaneously she realized that in some way the geese were part of her, and she was part of them. She said, 'I knew that to hurt them would be to hurt myself'. I can still remember the radiance of her expression as she spoke. She had had a glimpse of the deeper truth that the practice of vegetarianism is trying to point to, the truth of the connectedness of all.



It was a concrete experience of the fact that, the more you resonate 


with other living beings as living beings, the more you’ll become unable 


to harm them. It will be more natural to help them, and, in doing so, 


you yourself will realize your humanity more deeply.  


 

However, if, through a lack of this resonance, you negate the lives 


of others, you will negate your own humanity – as do certain of the 


characters in Martin Amis’s, God’s Dice. The hero of the story is Bujak, 


who is endowed with super-human physical strength. He arrives home 


to find his mother, daughter, and granddaughter all brutally murdered – 


and the two murderers still on the premises. He could easily kill them 


but doesn’t. ‘I had no wish to add to what I found’, he says. 





'I saw that they weren’t human beings at all. They had no idea what 


human life was. No idea!  Terrible mutations, a disgrace to their 


human moulding.' 
 
 
Here the murderers, by their violent act, have absolutely negated the 


solidarity of one human being – as a human being – with another. 





They have become, in Bujak’s term, ‘mutations’ – although in human 


form – because they are so destitute of the fellow feeling that is part of 


the nature of being human that they have deprived their fellow human 


beings of the thing that was most precious to them – their very lives. 



 
 
Killing may be the most extreme form of violence. But violence can be 


defined as ‘doing to another person, by whatever means, what he 


does not want us to do to him’.  This means you are violent every time 


you try to assert yourself at the expense of another.  



 

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that being ‘inhuman’ is being 

‘destitute of natural kindness’.  Being truly human then must consist 


in being able to recognize and act from that sense of natural kindness, 


that sense of solidarity between one living being and another. 


That means that every time you breach that solidarity, you are going 


against something that is natural to human nature. You are in fact 


negating your own humanity. In contrast, becoming more deeply 


human means learning to affirm others. You’ll tend to affirm others 


where you have an imaginative identification with them, and you’ll 


tend to negate others where you lack that.

 

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