The Road to Awareness
The concept of Awareness, so central to Buddhism, is one that seems hard to define and increasingly difficult to witness being practiced in the breakneck pace of our society. I infer a vast difference between knowledge, merely an acceptance and retaining of fact, and awareness, which in my mind is a connection to, and by extension an appreciation for, every circumstance. Now by appreciation, I certainly do not mean that I am "happy" that every circumstance exists. Quite the contrary. Situations both close to home and across the oceans leave me horrified on an almost daily basis. understanding, that is the difference. I understand that the baby in the Congo, the little girl in Cambodia, the young boy in Palestine and (and this is a far more difficult one) - the criminal in Kingston Penitentiary - are connected to me by our mutual birthright and that therefore every strike against them in the form of hostile aggression or passive ignorance dishonours my humanity. I understand that each time I ignore a vagrant on the street instead of meeting his eyes and saying "Hello", I deplete myself. I know it because I feel it each time I decide to choose blindness or feign deafness. We are all too human and sometimes we simply cannot handle what it means to have senses intact. It is painful and brutal to look at the reality of man's inhumanity to man and the devastation that nature - so long trespassed upon - can wreak in retaliation. For where there is hearing and sight there is responsibility.
What I appreciate is the fact that each of these horrors provides an opportunity for education, compassion and spiritual reincarnation both global and individual. It is not merely the knowing, but the
And so this is the crux of Awareness, which as I sit here typing this is crystallizing in my mind as a triangle - the meeting of knowledge, understanding and responsibility. I can not do nearly as much as I would like to. There is not enough money, influence, time. But there is choice and there is will, and so I choose how I wish to channel Awareness into the fruit of its seed - Compassion. I have my "causes" that I care about no more than I care about others, but which I choose to focus on because they are where I feel that my Awareness, my life experience and my innate abilities and talents can be planted to bear the sweetest fruit. I find the word "causes" very interesting, actually, because they are really more "responses" than anything else. The "causes" are indifference, selfishness, xenophobia, greed, misogyny. The effects are rape, war, theft, pollution, genocide... the list is long. The "responses"? Greenpeace, Amnesty International, V-Day, UNICEF and all of the organizations and individuals trying desperately to respond to the law of cause and effect by practicing Awareness everyday.
As a Catholic it was easier for me to simply pray, do the occasional Samaritanly deed and leave the rest of the onus with God. As a practicing Buddhist there exists no such possibility, and so it has meant changing my entire life and shifting my focus. I have given up a lot, mostly materially, in order to do what I personally need to do to maintain the feeling of connectedness and keep my promises to my own life. It is not always easy. At times I see the window fogging up and I need to turn the wipers on again to see where I'm going. But I stay on the road. I stay on the road. I stay on the road.