Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Buddhist Happy Birthday Wish

After freedom from animosity, the next step in the metta practice is the wish for freedom from oppression. I see oppression as the flip side of animosity, the victim to animosity's perpetrator, so this wish completes a full cycle, the yin and yang, if you will, of human relationship. Neither quality is particularly attractive when we watch it in action, whether in ourselves or others; but they complement each other to absolute perfection. The practice has me first wish myself freedom from animosity, then from oppression; then, from those closest to me out in ever-widening circles, to wish the same for others.

Animosity is the harboring of ill will toward others; oppression, to be the target of others' ill will. There seems to be plenty of both to go around in America today. I am concerned, as you may have surmised from yesterday's entry--and from many similar entries in the past--about how to square my respect for the dharma and my desire to follow its principles with my sense of responsibility for political engagement. While the dharma, in my understanding, teaches respect and tolerance for the views of others, it does not requite one to be a doormat. It's a difficult balance, though, and I find myself often on an uncomfortable knife-edge between intellectual opprobrium and the commitment to compassion.

Today is President Obama's fiftieth birthday. It's an appropriate moment to send him metta. He already seems remarkably free from animosity, and needs no help from me in this regard. So for this man whom I genuinely like and for whose unenviable predicament I feel genuine sympathy, my birthday wish is freedom from oppression, where he can use all the help he can get.

As Marilyn Monroe sang, in that quavering little-girl voice, Happy Birthday, Mr. President; Happy Birthday to you.

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