Remarks delivered at an Interfaith Inauguration Day Convocation, San Rafael, California, 1/20/2017 .
It is a good time to breathe.
To let our bodies settle into stillness.
To let the swirl of our minds – fears and anxiety and confusion and anger – settle into silence for a little while.
In this silence we appreciate the wonder of just being alive. It is a good time to remember that it is good to be alive.
We can’t get our hands around it, we can’t wrap our minds around it, but it is good. This flow of living is inconceivable and marvelous, and we can touch that, feel that with each breath.
The Buddha entered this silence and stilllness, and what he realized there was interdependence. This is the most basic principle of our Buddhist faith – that all things are deeply connected, that each thing needs each other thing, that each person needs each other person. That each particle of Earth needs each particle of me, and that each particle of me needs each particle of Earth.
There is no separation, no independence. We imagine we are separate, but we aren’t. And since we are not now and never have been even the least bit separate, any actions based on separateness, self-centeredness, inevitably conflict with reality. Conflicting with the interdependent reality of life, these self-centered actions inevitably cause suffering. And so the Buddha taught that the standpoint of separation is suffering, and that the standpoint of interdependence is liberation.
With that in mind, as I look to the Trump presidency and reflect on his many promises and remarks, I join many of us in the wide Buddhist community, throughout our county and state and country and world, in deep concern that he does not intend to lead us closer to this interdependence, to this non-separation, but that he intends instead to deepen and solidify separation.
There is perhaps no better symbol of this than a wall across the border. What could more clearly mark an attempt to harden our separation?
Or scapegoating – “they are the problem.” Those Mexicans. Those Muslims. This too seems a habit of our new president, and it is one I hope that he will find the wisdom to renounce. The interdependent view is not “they are the problem” – the interdependent view is “we need them, they need us.” We are one and the same life. The enlightened question is not “How do we enforce our separation?” but rather “How can we deepen and celebrate our true connnection?”
Signs also point to a Trump administration that will seek more and more to codify into law our illusion of separation from Earth. An administration that will reject the truth of our mutual interdependence with the air and water and land, and act instead from the illusion of separation. It appears they believe that the Earth is out there, separate, and that it is for us, it is ours. But the Earth is not separate, it is not ours, and it is not for us – even a child understands viscerally that we are of it, nourished each moment by the Earth, and that in turn our calling is to nourish and honor it.
So I am here today to stand as a part of the Buddhist community, and to bring and express here my vow, shared widely throughout our Sangha, to resist separation in all its forms – in my own heart, in my community, in my county, state, country, and world. And I am here to express my vow, also shared widely in our Buddhist community, to work tirelessly, and fiercely, and with all the compassion I can muster, to honor and strive to enact in our society the principle of connectedness and radical interdependence.
May all beings come to know their deep connection with all things. May all beings be happy. May all be safe and at peace, free from all suffering and all causes of sufffering.