Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My Religion is Kindness

 "A Single Flower"
- in my meditation garden -

A few evenings ago my wife called our cable company to dispute a charge on a recent bill. As they came to the end of their conversation, the cable company representative told my wife: “thank you for being so kind to me.”  

As I see it, that one little response was so full of meaning that I had to take a day or two just to think about it. In fact, my wife and I have had several discussions about that call to the cable company wondering what prompted that “service rep” to be so grateful to a customer as to feel the need to “thank her for her kindness?”  

My guess is that the person who answered that call probably spent her entire day listening to people complaining and yelling at her because the “stupid cable company had screwed up their bill.”   Furthermore, since the service rep had a foreign sounding name and spoke English that was highly accented, my further guess is that many people may have disrespected her because she didn’t sound “American enough.”  So I guess I’m not all that surprised that the woman from the cable company might have been so grateful to a caller who was “civil” with her that she would feel compelled to thank the customer for her kindness.

It all reminds me of one of my favorite “wisdom quotes” attributed to the Greek philosopher, Plato:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle

More often than not, whenever I talk about how we should treat one another as we walk a spiritual path, I usually use the word “love,” we are called to “love” neighbor as we love self. But the more I think about it, that word “love” is kind of slippery and abstract, it has many different meanings and is hard to pin down. It seems to me as if the word “kindness” may be a bit easier to grasp.

Interestingly enough, Buddhists rarely if ever talk about “love;” instead, they teach that compassion is the prized virtue on a spiritual path, and compassion is often translated as the practice of everyday kindness. Any word uttered or deed performed in order to promote the welfare and dignity of another, no matter how big or how small, is an act of kindness.

A simple word of thanks to the waiter who served a meal or to the cashier at the market, a word of encouragement to a co-worker who failed to get an expected promotion, taking a few moments to sit down with a child bewildered by a homework assignment,  calling the cable company and treating the person who answers the call with respect – these are all acts of everyday kindness, so simple and yet so profound.

The Buddha taught:

Drop by drop the water jug is filled.
Likewise the wise man, gathering it little by little,
fills himself with good.

A simple act of everyday kindness may be just a drop in a bucket, but it can change the world, making it a better place in which to live.

I am reminded of something the Dalai Lama once said:

My religion is kindness.

I think that kindness is my religion too.

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