Buddhism as a philosophy often treads dangerously on two separate paths, the transcendent and the relational. Lose track of one and the other falters, inescapably. The transcendent is the goal, the path, and the suffering that leads us to it; the individual process of looking within, meditating, and coming to see both oneself and the world more clearly. The relational is the world itself, the stuff, just there; now here – the coffee that was outside me an hour ago but which is fueling my writing now; the man above, now gone for over 45 years but whose image and message are with us today and will go on well beyond our own passing.
Dr. King expresses that dimension as eloquently as anyone:
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality . . . Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize the basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality. “
We lose track of this interconnectedness at our peril, as my friend an fellow Patheos blogger Danny Fisher pointed out in a recent post, “No, *Let’s* Worry about Social Security: Or, On Language, Privilege, Responsibility, and Dharma Teaching.”
The other man in the image is, of course, Thich Nhat Hanh, who has expressed this truth in myriad ways himself. And it was in that year, 1967, that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize. This year a movement has begun to help realize that goal and once again nominate Thich Nhat Hanh. They write:
In His Letter to the 1967 Nobel Committee he stated:
“I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of this prize than this gentle monk from Vietnam. He is an Apostle of Peace and Nonviolence ” “His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Find out more here.
Another message that needs to be shared comes from the Southern Poverty Law Center. For, as nice as it would be to see Dr. King’s nomination of Thay come to fruition, it is far more important that the underlying values of both become more clearly our own values. So if you do go over and spend some time and energy promoting Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize, please spend at least as much time supporting local, national, or international programs that work to eradicate poverty.
As with any great figure, Dr. King will be seen from a variety of perspectives. It’s our job to learn to see them all. Here are a few worth reading (more are welcome in the comments section):
- Chris Henrichsen at Approaching Justice (2013) here.
- Hamden Rice on Dr. King’s legacy at DailyKos (2011) here.
- Charles R. Johnson at Shambhala Sun (2005) here.
Be first in love… be first in moral excellence… be first in generosity.