“A central question confronting spiritual life today is how we can best respond to the tremendous conflicts and uncertainties of these times. The war on terror, the seemingly intractable violence of the Middle East, poverty and disease, racism, the degradation of the environment, and the problems in our own personal lives, all call us to ask: What is the source of this great mass of suffering? What are the forces in the world that drive intolerance, violence and injustice? Is it possible to hold differences of view in a larger context of unity rather than in conflict and hostility?
For instance religious views; rather than take religious views and teachings to be ultimate statements of absolute truth, they might be better understood as skillful means to liberate the mind. Instead of pitting one view against another, we might let go of rigid attachment to any view, and ask the very pragmatic question, “Is this teaching leading my heart and mind to greater wisdom and peace, to greater kindness and compassion? Or does it lead to more divisiveness, to more selfishness, to more violence?”
Most importantly, we need to acknowledge that these feelings are arising. In this regard, it is mindfulness that can bring the gift of compassion, both for ourselves and others. Through mindfulness, our hearts become spacious enough to hold the painful emotions, to feel the suffering of them, and to let them go. But it takes practice to open to the difficult emotions that we’re aware of and to illuminate those that are hidden. We often live in denial. It’s not always easy to open to our shadow side. And even when we are aware (of our “shadow side”), we can get caught in justifying these feelings to ourselves: “I should hate these people—look at what they did.” From justifying these feelings of hatred and emnity (which is quite different than being mindful of them), there can come a strong feeling of self-righteousness. We forget that the feelings and emotions we have are all conditioned responses, arising out of the particular conditions of our lives. Other people in the same situation might feel very different things. Although at times it may be hard to believe, our feelings are not necessarily the reflection of some ultimate truth. Self-righteousness about our feelings and view is the shadow side of commitment. We sometimes confuse this self-justification with the feeling of passionate dedication. Feelings of hatred, emnity, fear, self-righteousness, greed, envy and jealousy all do arise at different times. Our challenge is to see them all with mindfulness, understanding that these states themselves are the cause of suffering and that no action we take based on them will lead to our desired result—peace in ourselves and peace in the world.”