When turning on the television, specifically the news, slandering and anti-Semitism is abound. Social media is a public tug-o-war from one extreme opinion to another, causing group arguments and poorly supplemented assertions. One begins to question what is right, and wonders which side to stand on. One of the more prominent issues is racism. Being raised in Los Angeles, race was not something that I considered could be used to categorize people. I am very fortunate to have had this experience. I have heard stories about kids asking their parents, “Mommy, why is that person another color?” I noticed this: a green person could get upset easily, a blue person could get needy, and an orange person could get angry. In other words, people of any "color" have same kind of worldly passions such as desires, anger, and envy.
What I found, through Buddhism, was that the environment someone was raised in, in addition to the choices they made, was the cause of their behavior, not their appearance. Does this justify one’s negative behavior? No. But it does reveal something fascinating: that all human beings are fundamentally the same from birth. In other words, everyone’s own karma, in this lifetime, anyway, begins as a blank slate.
So if we all start this life in this way, why do we formulate stereotypes and prejudices?
Because of a lack of compassion for others.
We might think we have some compassion, but our compassion is different from the great compassion taught in Buddhism, which is non-discriminatory. Great compassion means to not discriminate against others whatsoever.
So, how is compassion cultivated in Buddhism?
First, compassion stems from an understanding of the Law of Cause and Effect. What one harvests is the result of their own seeds that they planted, in addition to the environment that the seeds that were planted in. Not everyone shares the same experiences and not everyone has been exposed to the same environment. The wisdom of Buddha is awareness that a given person has committed many evil acts in their lifetime, because they were raised in a house of gang members or drug dealers, as an example.
The sands of the shore
May run out
But the seeds that make men thieves
Will never be exhausted.”
-Death poem of Ishikawa Goemon, a notorious thief of old Japan.
The wisdom of Buddha also understands that a given person utilizes the tools at hand in order to pursue their desires, which brings us to the next aspect of compassion: the understanding of the “true self”, or the understanding that, all human beings are made up completely of worldly passions.
Until the image of our true self is revealed, we place our energy and faith in various things. Many people in power do not understand this, or else they would stop pursuing fame, power and money with the same intensity.
Compassion is to feel the pain and suffering of other people. Shakyamuni Buddha, and his teacher, Amida Buddha, took pity on us for our inability to see our true self, which is why they have compassion for all of us human beings, without any discrimination whatsoever.
“Once as Shakyamuni Buddha was resting in the shade of a tree, a group of thirty or so noblemen and their wives were enjoying and a drinking party in a nearby grove. One of the group, a bachelor, had brought with him a woman of loose morals who, when the drunken revelers fell asleep seized the chance to make off with everyone’s valuables. Shocked at the discovery of what had happened, the entire group set off, determined to track her down. When they came upon the Buddha, they asked him whether he had seen a suspicious woman go by. His response brought them quickly to their senses: “I understand the situation, but which is more important? Finding that woman, or finding yourself?”
-From You Were Born for a Reason, page 105
And so, unlike other religions, which exclude and discriminate against people who commit evil, the compassion of Buddha is boundless, extending its reach to all sentient beings with no discrimination. There is no discrimination in true, or great compassion of the Buddha, unlike with humans. We are discriminating all the time; this is better than that, and so fourth. Recently many discriminatory remarks are mentioned in social media or the news, claiming one race is better than another- a notion thought to be extinct. This is a sad reality for now that is caused by a lack of awareness of our true nature.
The more we begin to understand our true self, or the condition of all people, the more our compassion for others grows. We see ourselves in others, and we open our minds to new things, and begin to learn from everyone, not just a select few. A stronger sense of brotherhood is felt when we realize that, at the core, we’re all the same, chasing the same things in life. Maybe if people talked more about the true self, and the Law of Cause and Effect, there would be less division between people from different regions. I wish everyone would seek the opportunity to seek for Dharma, the unchanging truth that brings lasting happiness to one and all.