Spiritual Activism: Compassion in Action
Lately I’m taken back to the 60’s when protest marches were common place as they are now. I remember the angry arms, fists raised in the air, and loud voices over megaphones blasting out about injustices. There are so many similarities in the demonstrations taking place today.
In light of the contemporary social justice movement that is really gaining strength this year, I have been re-examining the idea of the spiritual activism. I think of Martin Luther King and his non-violent protests that brought out the masses and lobbied for transformation and civil rights reform. I also think of Mother Teresa, that little body of fierce compassion and conviction who swayed the conscience of the powerful to support her causes. We can look to both of these beautiful beings for inspiration – two humans who strove for enlightenment, embraced compassion for their fellow beings, and pledged their lives to work towards their convictions. One human can inspire others and start a movement for peace, freedom and equality.
Spiritual activism is not about religion. It is about being willing to participate in creating change with the spirit of compassion, love, appreciation for the interconnectedness of all beings, and the determination to stand on conviction.
Buddhists hold sacred the tenets of compassion, mercy, altruism, and loving kindness, among others. In some Tibetan Buddhist traditions, practitioners will meditate on the female deity Tara, to develop these qualities. This practice maintains that Tara can remove obstacles that get in the way of personal growth and the cultivation of activism – and that everyone can achieve enlightenment.
Tara is said to have been born from the tears of the Hindu Lord of Compassion, Avalokitesvara, who dedicated his existence to rescuing all humans from suffering. But eons ago the Earth was going through a very challenging epoch where people behaved terribly toward one another. Just as this great being rescued one person, another would fall. He became frustrated and began banging his head against a wall from the futility of his efforts. However, since he was blessed by the Buddha, instead of wounds or bruises, two large eyes emerged on the back of his head. From those eyes tears began to fall… and from the tears emerged Green Tara and White Tara.
Green Tara pledged to remove obstacles from the path of humans so they could walk the path to enlightenment with greater ease. White Tara vowed to help humans by increasing their fortunes and extending their lives. Together they help Avalokitesvara, making it easier for us humans to receive blessings and to achieve enlightenment.
These deities model for us the meaning of compassion and spiritual activism. They have the altruistic mindset of service, not done for personal fame or aggrandizement, but offered because they care about the human condition. They want us to live better lives so that in turn we can become enlightened spiritual activists working for the betterment of humanity. The Taras stay focused on the positive and proactive, focused on what they can do to help us to overcome obstacles, especially our negativity, so we can create a better world for all.
The Taras also understand that all beings are interconnected. When one human achieves enlightenment and can live more in a spirit of compassion, then they have a positive influence on those they come into contact with, raising the vibrations of people around them. This model helps us to consider how as one of us becomes more compassionate and caring, we can demonstrate to others the power of compassion and the importance of standing up for our convictions.
One thing that I feel it is important to note is that each Tara have their specific assigned tasks. They do not take on everything, like so many of us humans try to do. They choose selectively where to put their efforts, rather than being all over the board. We can also use wisdom and discernment when we select a cause to fight for. When we focus we can apply 100% of our efforts and thus have a chance to make a difference. When we splinter and apply our efforts among multiple causes, which are all very important, we dilute our effort, and end up making minimal impact.
At this moment of turmoil in the world, we can take time to reflect on the lessons from Green and White Tara. It is possible to become a spiritual activist, to take a stand and make a difference. We can allow these role models to remind us to come to our activism with an altruistic and compassionate heart. Remember to focus on the positive. We can stand for what we are ‘for,’ not what we are ‘against,’ and the mindset can stay positive.
All of us are interconnected. What we do and how we do it has an impact on those around us. Your bad mood can dampen the mood of others. When you are full of joy, it radiates to those around you, lifting their moods. Finally, choose what you commit to with wisdom and discernment. Remember it is always better to under-commit and over-deliver than to over-commit than under-deliver.
If you, and I, can commit to these gems of wisdom, then we will have a chance to change the world – together!
This article was inspired by a blog posted in 2015 on http://fiercelove.wordpress.com