Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kindness, the Precepts and Skillful Means

     "My religion is kindness".  That's what the Dalai Lama says.  When we give that statement some thought we can wonder why the Dalai Lama considers kindness to b so powerful,  what kindness is and how do we embody it.  The three Pure Precepts urge kindness in their vast ways.
The ten Grave Precepts each point to a different aspect of living kindness.  Skillful means are the myriad ways in which we implement these guidelines.  And "skillful means" is just another way of saying kindness.
      It's good to put the idea of kindness and the idea of skillfulness together because to be kind is to be skillful.  Maybe we think of kindness a a kind of attitude, a kind of generalized good will.  There is something of that but there also needs to be intelligence at work, the wisdom of the moment.  And the skill that comes from practice, from acting as best we can and then assessing our actions as best we can.  Kindness is a wise and friendly habit.
     Kindness implies a gentleness, a caring for the other person or group or situation in which you are acting.  Compassion is a great and lofty word.  We aspire to enacting compassion but it is a bit daunting.  Kindness is a humble word for a great practice.  We can think of people we know who are kind.  They can be our models.  They are all around us.  Kindness is a root human characteristic.  It can be covered over with all kinds of inattention and self-involvement but it is there in us waiting to be offered.
     We know kindness when it is done to us.  If we are attentive we know the warm flash of gratitude, maybe the lifting of a heaviness we had not even known was there.  We feel seen in the moment of kindness.  For that moment we are valued  and attended to, we are not isolated.  We feel kindly in return.
     Kindness is done in matters large and small.  It does not denigrate anyone or anything.  Skillful means are applied in the discourse among great nations and is the cheerful distracting of a child from a mud puddle.  In either case there is the need for respect and caring.  There is the need for  awareness of what is going on and the nature of the players in the action.
     To act with kindness is to be who we truly are.

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