Thursday, March 26, 2009

Commentary: Sacrifice and Victim

"Religious practice is about atonement."
--C. Joko Beck, Nothing Special

Charlotte Joko Beck writes in her book, Nothing Special, Living Zen, "I listen to many people talk about their lives, I am struck that the first layer we encounter in sitting practice is our feeling of being a victim--our feeling that we have been sacrificed to others' greed, anger, and ignorance, to their lack of knowledge of who they are. '
"Often this victimization comes from our parents. Nobody has two Buddhas for parents. Instead of Buddhas, we have parents for parents: flawed, confused, angry, self-centered--like all of us..." If, in practice, we grow more in awareness of having been sacrificed, we become angry, upset, confused. We feel hurt that we have been used, mistreated, like this by our loved ones...

Firstly to simply become aware of the feeling, the sensations in our body arising in this instance; secondly, we can grow into working with those feelings that have come to the forefront of our awareness, our anger, desire to get even, our feeling of hurting those who have hurt us in like fashion... We can fight back, but there are other avenues we may choose instead, reflecting back a growing awareness of victimization.

Practicing with this perception, we may experience powerful desires, anger, retribution, confusion, withdrawal or coldness. If we continue to ask, "what is this?" something, however painful it first seems, begins to arise into our consciousness. "We begin to see not only how we have been sacrificed, but also how we have sacrificed others. This can be even more painful than our first realization."
It may occur to us that what we have been doing to others, sacrifice, was done to us--especially when we act upon our angry thoughts and try to get even. We then sacrifice others. "As the Bible says, the evil is visited upon generation after generation."

When regrets and sorrows become great, they're a heavy burden to carry, a realization that what we have done, is what others have done before us, comes a desire to lighten the load, for salvation may arise within us.

If we are "committed to healing, we want to atone..." To atone means to be at one, to be in harmony, to make amends. Unable to wipe out the past--we've already committed the deed, we must look to this present moment, to this time now.

In atonement, we embark upon a lifelong process. Out of our self centered spinning, we learn to focus on the now, others around us, reality as it is. We, as humans, will not ever hope to entirely stop sacrificing others or ourselves; we are not too perfect to realize that.

But what we do hope to realize is that we can, and do grow in maturity and recognition of those places and situations which inspire our impulses. Thus it becomes much more important that we recognize not what has been done to us, but what we do to others. There is, as theologian Martin Buber wrote, "the I thou relationship."

Someone must be the first to break the chain in relationships with our friends and intimates.

What does "this have to do with enlightenment and oneness?"
An enlightened person will be the one willing to be the sacrifice, to break the chain.
The willingness to become the sacrifice is basic. Practicing through our lives, growing in awareness, in maturity, we get a free choice, or free will, about what we're going to do.
Even if it's about people with whom we are no longer in co-union (communion). Anger arises, a sinking feeling in the stomach, perhaps. Do they, or we for that matter, need a sacrifice?

Is there some lightness drawing the sense of action forward? What are our intentions? Examine intention carefully, and do not absolutely avoid people who have brought up this anger in you. Are you measuring yourself? Is there a fantasy playing in your mind the moment the person comes into view?
What is necessary in the situation?
Be the best you can be in that moment. Focus upon the necessary and do that.
Victims need not apply.

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