Friday, December 4, 2009

bell hooks on Radical Love & Buddhism

When I knew how to love the doors of my heart opened wide before the wind
Reality was calling out for revolution.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in the poem “The Fruit of Awareness Is Ripe”

I came across a great piece by bell hooks on Shambhala Sun, entitled Toward a Worldwide Culture of Love. hooks' touches on the emergence of the discussion of love within Buddhism, particularly from Thich Nhat Hanh. This love is not fluffy, romantic love. It is transformative and revolutionary love--so similar to that which Freire speaks of.
When lecturing on ending domination around the world, listening to the despair and hopelessness, I asked individuals who were hopeful to talk about what force in their life pushed them to make a profound transformation, moving them from a will to dominate toward a will to be compassionate. The stories I heard were all about love. That sense of love as a transformative power was also present in the narratives of individuals working to create loving personal relationships. Writing about metta, “love” or “loving-kindness,” as the first of the brahmaviharas, the heavenly abodes, Sharon Salzberg reminds us in her insightful book Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness that “In cultivating love, we remember one of the most powerful truths the Buddha taught … that the forces in the mind that bring suffering are able to temporarily hold down the positive forces such as love or wisdom, but they can never destroy them.… Love can uproot fear or anger or guilt, because it is a greater power. Love can go anywhere. Nothing can obstruct it.” Clearly, at the end of the nineties an awakening of heart was taking place in our nation, our concern with the issue of love evident in the growing body of literature on the subject.

Because of the awareness that love and domination cannot coexist, there is a collective call for everyone to place learning how to love on their emotional and/or spiritual agenda. We have witnessed the way in which movements for justice that denounce dominator culture, yet have an underlying commitment to corrupt uses of power, do not really create fundamental changes in our societal structure. When radical activists have not made a core break with dominator thinking (imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy), there is no union of theory and practice, and real change is not sustained. That’s why cultivating the mind of love is so crucial. When love is the ground of our being, a love ethic shapes our participation in politics.

To work for peace and justice we begin with the individual practice of love, because it is there that we can experience firsthand love’s transformative power. Attending to the damaging impact of abuse in many of our childhoods helps us cultivate the mind of love. Abuse is always about lovelessness, and if we grow into our adult years without knowing how to love, how then can we create social movements that will end domination, exploitation, and oppression? John Welwood shares the insight in Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships that many of us carry a “wound of the heart” that emerged in childhood conditioning, creating “a disconnection from the loving openness that is our nature.” He explains: “This universal wound shows up in the body as emptiness, anxiety, trauma, or depression, and in relationships as the mood of unlove.… On the collective level, this deep wound in the human psyche leads to a world wracked by struggle, stress, and dissension.… The greatest ills on the planet—war, poverty, economic injustice, ecological degradation—all stem from our inability to trust one another, honor differences, engage in respectful dialogue, and reach mutual understanding.” Welwood links individual failure to learn how to love in childhood with larger social ills; however, even those who are fortunate to love and be loved in childhood grow to maturity in a culture of domination that devalues love.
Continue here!