REFLECTIONS ON A HOT AUGUST NIGHT
God loves Donald Trump. Does that mean I have to?
A god who does not love god’s own creation is a false god.
A people who worship such a false god wander false paths.
Eleven years ago this week, in August 2011, I came out of a 50-day coma, and for about ten days after, I think I had Buddha-mind. I saw Dick Cheney on television one night. He was out of power by then, but even so just the sight of him in the past made my hair catch fire.
But that night, I saw the broken man he really was, including his snarls and all his heart attacks, and I felt concern and sympathy for him. I prayed for Dick Cheney.
My inner voice said, “Thomas, you must not pray for this demon.”
And my post-coma voice said, “If not him, who?” What skill or virtue is there in my praying for the redemption of those friends already redeemed?
Maybe Jesus himself didn’t understand the full consequences of his teaching:” Love your enemy. Do good to those that persecute you.” Does that include Judas?
Certainly the apostles didn’t forgive Judas, even though he had lived among them for several years. None of them made an effort to understand or forgive him.
Yet if Judas had not set up the arrest, then there would have been no trial, crucifixion, resurrection. For believers, there would have been no Salvation.
Jesus! Bad enough I had to pray for Dick Cheney, but now I must accept DJT as my brother? No!
Within a few days of my Cheney encounter, I “recovered” from my magnanimous Buddha-consciousness to face bills and job issues that had piled up. I had to, to continue to survive in the swirl of blather and bollocks that the world forces on us.
But I do know the reality exists, as real as the lost domain we glimpsed as children, before the fog of familiarity and the cataracts of complacency overtook us.
Achieving Buddha-mind or Christ-consciousness (and they are the same) is tricky business for adults. We have to navigate thru thickets of laws and raw emotions, and accumulated layers of traditions and customs.
Maybe best left to children to guide us. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them.”
* * * *
And this reflection on this August night slips back to another August night 55 years ago when, along with a fellow shipmate, I visited a Buddhist monastery just outside the port city of Qui Nhon, South VN, in August 1967.
As we shared tea, the Abbot reached across the table and clasped my hand with frightening intensity and said, “The Christ and the Buddha teach the same. All men are brothers.”
As a Christian raised to be suspicious of all pagans, his action confounded me.
Then a few minutes later the entire monastery compound was shaken with a massive release of machine gun fire from a hovering US helicopter. I immediately thought ‘we’ had seen VC activity in the area. No, the Abbot told me, the US Army inflicts this on Buddhist communities all over VN every night to punish them for not actively supporting “the American war in Vietnam.”
Then, with tears in his eyes the Abbot grasped my hand again, and again said, with even greater intensity, as if to burn the message into my hands, my eyes, my mind. “The Christ and the Buddha teach the same. All men are brothers.” Then he led us out by a safe passage through the compound.
As my mate and I walked back thru Qui Nhon to our ship that night we noted there were very few young men in the town. Most of the people we passed were women and children. As we found out six months later, the young men were in the hills preparing for a massive assault on US forces all over SVN the following January, Tet ‘68.
This Abbot was part of a new movement in Buddhism then, called ‘engaged Buddhism.’ One of the founders, Thích Nhất Hạnh (who died last January at age 95), was a peace activist since the earliest days of that war, who said, “When bombs begin to fall on people, you cannot stay in the meditation hall all of the time.” In 1966, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. had nominated TNH for the Nobel Peace Prize.
I still have no idea how to put these reflections together into a coherent worldview as the clock rolls over to September first. But I did find this book helpful when I read it years ago: “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” by Thích Nhất Hạnh, Penguin Publishing, 1997.
Newswire photo of a building in Qui Nhon after the Tet offensive, January 1968
© 2022, Thomas Mahon