Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hostility toward others actually inflicts
injury upon ourselves.
Here is Nelson Mandela’s inspiring story
about the moment when he was set free--and
the author’s personal lesson about
liberation from the prison of anger, given
by her mother, a survivor of the Holocaust.

When Nelson Mandela was released after
decades of political imprisonment, he
described his walk past his prison
guards into life as a free man. Upon
seeing the guards, anger flared for a
moment in his mind. At that moment, he
made a choice. He realized that these
people had imprisoned him for over
twenty years and that becoming angry
with them would simply delay his freedom
further. He was not going to give
the guards one more day of his life by
becoming a prisoner of anger. Leaving
prison behind, he walked into life
ahead, a truly free man. This is
the way to be wisely selfish. If we
care for ourselves and want to be free,
we will protect ourselves from
the consuming flames of our anger.
When I was thirteen, I relied on
angry outbursts to release the tension
mounting within. One day, I came home
from school fuming over an interaction
with a teacher. Looking for a place to
vent, I sought out my mother. I began
raging about my day at school.

“I hate my teacher! I hate her!” I shouted.
Until this moment, my mother had
remained silent. Then, looking at
me across the infinite expanse of
the human heart, she spoke.
“If you hate someone, it is your own
life you destroy.” I was stopped.
Her words, in a moment, disarmed me.
My indignant world turned inside out.
If hate were ever just, I knew no one
who was more entitled to it than my
mother. She had watched her life go up
in Nazi smoke. Auschwitz. Just uttering
this one word is enough to deliver me
to unfathomable depths of human hatred
and anguish.
The Holocaust, a conflagration, destroyed
a world. That world lived in my mother,
and now she was giving me the golden elixir
of her passage into darkness.

Many years later, I became involved in
Buddhist practice and first heard about
an unbroken lineage of teachers comprising
a “living tradition.” The uninterrupted
flow of realization from one human being
to another via body, breath, and heart is
what makes a teaching transmission “alive.”
This was the secret power in my mother’s
message. It was alive. She was passing on
her living truth.

a Adapted from A Call to Compassion, by Aura Glaser

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