The Garden: Intention and Practice

At this moment in human history, the unrestrained extraction and burning of fossil fuels has brought us, in the industrialized nations, to the point where we are contaminating and pillaging the Earth to such an extreme that we are endangering all life on this planet. Nothing could be further from the intention and practice of dharma.

-Ven. Santussika Bhikkhuni, “Dharma in Action”

To put this in plainer terms, as I heard a time or two growing up:  The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  And, we certainly seem to be in the middle of a lot of hell on Earth right now.

I hear on the radio of what is now beyond count:  ethnic, sectarian, racial and religious wars, bombings going on in the Middle East and Africa among largely Muslim populations, the Religion of Peace.  There is anything but peace, and our own political leaders are beginning their talks of our next war.

Immediately, my thoughts turned to what non-Christians during the early, middle and late Medieval period must have said about Christians–all of the wars in the name of Jesus, forced baptisms at sword point, individuals and communities drowned to death or burned but always tortured for keeping the Old Faith rather than convert.  This is the religion of Unconditional Love.  To this day, there is a shortage of Unconditional Love among Christians who fight over whether to allow LGBTQ people into their churches or into their ministries. One of the largest and oldest Christian churches in this country is on the verge of schism over this very issue. Others have already split.  Unconditional Love, indeed.

No religious group is exempt from this all too easy hypocrisy:  not practicing the faith’s core intentions.  Stories of Unitarian Universalists who are unwelcoming and intolerant of one another over the other’s theism or atheism, or any other number of differences are not uncommon.  The Buddhist teacher quoted above knows that his own Buddhism with an ancient tradition of practicing compassion has itself engaged in infighting that has caused much suffering.

After hearing the news reports, I found myself wondering:  what’s left?  Is there much hope for this world? After reflecting in silence for a while, it occurred to me that I grieve over what I fear may be lost, and those things I fear lost are, in fact, the best intentions of human wisdom and human faith:  peace, unconditional love, respect, and compassion.  Those are my intentions.  How, then, today, shall I take up their practice, again?

The Garden of this world, if it is to have human beings in it, requires human beings who will practice again and again, or even just try to practice, their best intentions.  What does that look like for you and me, today?

Bob Patrick

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