Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bodhisattvas in an election year - Case Three

Free speech is a practice principle - the free speech of all beings.

"Free speech as a practice principle" is not about exercising "my" free speech - what I want to say and what I see as true; asserting that is easy.

What do you do when others say what you do not agree with, even what you find offensive and wrong?

Do you allow and accept free speech for others?

We all can practice with this. What do we believe and say (even just to ourselves) when we hear or read others saying what we do not agree with? Or when issues are stated and framed in ways that highlight what we do not want highlighted, when the framing disregards what we think important? Do we react? Do we believe things about them, construct narratives? Do we notice these reactions and beliefs, practice in the midst of their arising?

The Diamond Sutra states, “No one can be called a Bodhisattva who creates the perception of a self, a being , a life or a soul.” (adapted from Red Pine’s translation).  In commenting on this, the Sixth Ancestor Huineng says “To employ  these four perceptions is to be a being. Not to employ them is to be a Buddha. When they (and we all can be “they”) are deluded, Buddhas become beings. When they are awake, beings become Buddhas.” Huineng also states, “non-abiding is to not be attached to characteristics of  dharmas (phenomena of form and mind).”

An example of free speech as a practice opportunity is in the fight between the Obama administration and some religious organizations over the power of the government to require these religious organizations  and their insurance plans to include contraception and the morning-after pill, which some oppose based on religious principles, religious conscience and precepts. 

There are those who see this issue as an imposition and infringement on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion. There are others who argue that the federal government has  (or should have) the power to assure that all will receive needed health care, and that the power to force insurance companies to provide this in the form of contraception for women (which has medical benefits in many ways) is within the purview of the government. And there are those who argue that there is an individual right to healthcare, including contraception, and the government can force employers to provide this.

How is it when others frame it in ways that you do not like, in ways you even find dishonest and offensive? How do you frame the issues involved? 

Do you allow free speech - that is, are you free of reactions to the speech of others? 

Do you liberate all beings - not creating and not holding the perception of a self, a being , a life or a soul?

Do you allow your mind speech, mind comments,  to arise and pass?

Do you notice your reactions to them,  and practice with these?

There are many areas of our life that we can clarify in the light of this free speech practice.

Clarifying so, may all innumerable beings be awake, be the Buddhas they are.

(c) 2012 Elihu Genmyo Smith