In our world today, people are suffering from war, terrorism, intolerance, hunger, sickness and oppression. Many of them are fleeing their homes and countries. Likewise, even in our own cities, people face great hardships.
The Buddha once said, “See yourself in others.” As we tell kids in dharma school, “we all are links in the golden chain of life.” We are interconnected and ultimately One. But the Buddha also pointed out it’s hard to see beyond our selfish desires and self-centeredness, blocking our connection to each other.
Guess where I saw this Buddhist teaching nicely explained? In the Christian bible! It’s in the story of the “The Good Samaritan.”
To summarize, a lawyer asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life. Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded by telling this parable: A man walking down from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by robbers, who took his possessions and clothes, beat him and left him to die.
A priest came by, saw the injured man, and continued walking. Another man did the same. A Samaritan, from a race hated by the Jews, saw the hurt man, poured oil and wine on his wounds, bandaged him, and took him by donkey to an inn. He gave the innkeeper money to care for the hurt man and said he would return to pay for any additional expenses.
Jesus asked who had been a neighbor. The lawyer answered the man who showed mercy. Jesus told him, “You go and do likewise.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader, commented on the story and tried to think of reasons why the first two men didn’t stop to help. Perhaps they were in a hurry, or restricted from helping because of some religious law, he said.
Dr. King had driven down that same road and saw it was steep and treacherous. During the days of Jesus, it was known as “Bloody Pass.” Perhaps the men were afraid that robbers were still there, or that maybe the man was faking and was himself a robber. He imagined those two men asking themselves, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”
Dr. King said the Samaritan came by and reversed the question, “If I don’t stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
Flipping one’s perspective is a classic Buddhist technique that can teach us much about ourselves. For example, instead of looking outwardly to satisfy our desires, we are encouraged to look inwards at ourselves. Instead of directing our anger outwardly at other people, we are encouraged to see anger’s source within ourselves.
Many people, communities and even nations are confronting the same challenges posed by this parable. At the international level, countries are wondering if they should welcome refugees. Many of them wonder that if they did, “What will happen to us?” They fear terrorism, crime, overcrowding, and job loss. Consequently some of them shut their borders.
Many people in our world today are in need—the homeless, the poor, the sick, the elderly and all those less fortunate than us. We must ask ourselves, “If I don’t help, what will happen to them.”
Please try to think about and help others, not only during the holidays, but always. Namu Amida Butsu.