Based on our experience of the oneness of life, we form clubs. So in politics there is a liberal club, a conservative club, a neoconservative club. There are all kinds of clubs. For our clubs we build fences to protect us. We invite certain people in and we ridicule others. We can look at that liberal group. They know they’ve got the answers. They know who doesn’t have the answers. So they know who to invite, exclude, and to stay away from. And there is the conservative club. They know the answers; they know who to invite to their parties. We all have these clubs in different spheres of life, and there are many, many spheres that we create. These are the clubs in which we want to play, or dance, or we want to practice. And that has been going on for a long, long time.
In the world of spirituality or religion we have the Christian club, the Jewish club, Buddhist, Islam and Native American clubs. There are lots of clubs. Even within a particular club like Christianity we have Catholic and Protestant clubs. These clubs can get very violent. Such violence is happening even now in all the religions.
All of us create clubs of people we feel comfortable with and we deal in different ways with those we don’t feel comfortable with. The most common way is to deny them. We never invite them to our parties or our house, in fact if we see them on the streets we look or walk away. Another way to deal with people we don’t like is to put them into prisons, or we beat them up or we lynch them as we used to do in America with black people. Hitler came up with the ultimate idea: Kill everybody that you think is different or other.
Many Buddhist centers were created as clubs that excluded the poor. How many people can leave their spouse and kids and go to a Zen center to do a retreat? In the early days of Buddhism in the United States, many left their homes and jobs. Many families broke up because of the demands of the monastic model. When my children were young, I was meditating instead of spending time with them.
When you come from the interconnectedness of life, who is this “they?” Who is the one who knows the right thing? It is like the fingers saying to the foot “I know the right way to do this.” The foot says, “No, I know the right way! You do this!” And the tongue says, “I know the right way! You do it this way. But if you realize the oneness of this body, then fingers do certain things, and the toes, the ears do other things. When I am ready to die, the ears do not say, “I am going to heaven and the rest of you are going to hell.” That doesn’t make sense. That silliness creates a lot of suffering. At the very least, it makes us tired and lacking energy.
Another way of living is to recognize who we exclude and invite them in. I’m a Democrat. I’ve never voted Republican. I will talk with Republicans and invite them to my house. I can’t get angry at people outside my club. I don’t like their viewpoint, but I’m not going to be angry at the person for having it. In conflict resolution work, whatever faction you don’t invite to the table, that’s where the process will break down- Achilles Heel.
Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest working with LA gangs says in his book Tattoos on the Heart, “When we can see a community where the outcast is valued and appreciated will we abandon the values that seek to exclude.”
Comment by Alex Turner:
Very instructive on the issue of clubs is Milan Kundera’s “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting”. He describes a social form he calls “the circle dance” in which those inside face each other but exclude the outside world, and this leads to violence, the horrors of overzealous socialism etc. For this reason I find it very significant a key part of the art of painting the Zen circle is to be sure *not* to close the circle. A club must breathe to be alive. This relates to Rousseau on fences being the origin of the social contract, and that most basic form of discrimination, the cell wall, along with its internal complement, the model of self. All’s fine so long as it’s open, and it can’t be open to all things because many things are poison (except of course from the perspective of the absolute), but it must breathe.
my two cents anyway.