About twenty or so years ago, I used to attend a Southern Baptist church on the South Side of Chicago. The first time I went there, I was a little surprised to find that I was the only white person in attendance. But more importantly, I was immediately welcomed with open arms by the entire congregation. Everyone there, including the Pastor, made me feel as though I was a long-lost friend. The people, the service, the energy, were just so wonderful. And I continued to attend this church for some time. Even getting involved in obtaining a new computer system for the church. I had really found a Christian home, and was very happy and excited about this.
As I got closer to the head Pastor, we started having more personal discussions. And one day I said to him “I am always so amazed at what a phenomenal group of people you have managed to gather together here at your Church. Each one is so kind and loving and warm, it’s just unbelievable to me.”
The Pastor paused for a moment, and said “I have to be honest with you David. I wish that were true. Unfortunately, most of these folks are only like this one day a week. Come Monday, most are back to their cheating, drinking, gambling, lying and drugs.” I was more than aghast at this revelation! How could these people seem so wonderful and wholesome and Sunday, and come Monday be such sinners?
Finding myself greatly disheartened, I soon after departed the Church. Deeply saddened by reality, and the loss of what I thought I had found.
But now I am a Buddhist, and there is no such thing as a Sinner in the Buddhist practice. And I don’t go to Church on Sunday, I now go to Meditation service on Saturday. And I spend each Saturday with a group of the most loving and kind people who I have ever known. Warm, welcoming, compassionate, and extremely friendly. These people are so different than those Christians at the Baptist church, aren’t they?
Absolutely not! These people at the Temple, and those people at the Church, are all human beings. Just people. And a greater awakening, is that I too am just people. Each of us doing our best to be better human beings. Trying to cultivate our best qualities, and develop kindness, love and compassion for our fellow beings. And shame on me for judging those wonderful folks at the Baptist Church. I am no better than any of them, nor am I better in any way than any of the folks who attend the Temple.
How easily, I have come to see, that we make judgements of others. That I make judgements on others!
This ego that fuels my ignorance seems always on tap to condemn or ridicule the actions of others. One might think that I am the Lord, having such discernment that I can set the standards by which all other people should live their lives.
But here again is where the Buddha’s teachings and this practice offer an antidote for this behavior. We each have to begin by gaining some clear awareness. Because without any clarity, most of us will never see our deluded and selfish nature. We just continue on a path of feeding this angry monster, and continue to suffer the disappointments and separation that we have created for ourselves.
And in my humble opinion, I just don’t see that as what Jesus or Buddha were trying to teach us.
Love, loving-kindness and friendliness, compassion, equanimity, acceptance and virtue. Those are a few of the wholesome traits that they encouraged us to understand and live.
And today is another opportunity to discover this, to love and accept our neighbor.
In closing, I deeply thank that Baptist congregation, and its Pastor. What they gave me was 100% genuine and unconditional, with no expectation. It was I who lacked wisdom and virtue.
In addition, I wish to thank my sangha (community) at the Temple. For they too offer me this loving acceptance, and without expectation or conditions.
May I now have the virtue and wisdom to fully comprehend and appreciate this gift, and finally begin to drop the ego and expectations.
May you be well, happy and peaceful.