In truth, it’s awfully hard for me to connect with Dr. Martin Luther King. After all, I was only three years old at the time of his “I Have a Dream” speech. But because I have several African-American friends, I can understand some level of racism by simply witnessing what they’ve endured.
Today, being a fifty-three year old Buddhist, I remember reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s perspective of Dr. Martin Luther King:
“The moment I met Martin Luther King, Jr., I knew I was in the presence of a holy person. Not just his good work, but his very being was a source of great inspiration for me … On the altar in my hermitage in France are images of Buddha and Jesus, and every time I light incense, I touch both of them as my spiritual ancestors … When you touch someone who authentically represents a tradition, you not only touch his or her tradition, you also touch your own . . . When those who represent a spiritual tradition embody the essence of their tradition, just the way they walk, sit, and smile speaks volumes about the tradition.”
There have been times in my life when I have offended all sides of one issue or another. I have gone beyond meditation to campaign for internal dialogue of peace between colleagues and clients. I have walked in the aftermath of tsunamis,’ earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. And I wish I could say I always lived and breathed in the core principles of Buddhism, but I have yet to live each and every moment in complete awareness of the present moment and the abandonment of worldly thoughts.
By walking across this small planet; having encountered and losing the greatest live of my life, I reflected on Martin Luther King’s humble and devout lifestyle. Of all I’ve read, I know Dr. King struggled with his role for many years. Many of his friends were killed. Yet they live on with him. Of course the words and choices were Martin’s. Yet his very words and life remain among us in many forms. His very being, as well as many unknown martyrs, continue with us today. Their spirits live because we live.
Still, my greatest fear is that our nation is becoming a nation of silent onlookers. In the face of hate, we shrug. In the face of brutality, we pass by. And in the face of mass murder, we simply accept. We must not remain silent. America is not merely black American, but all of America.
With that, I end with King’s words:
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality . . . Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning; you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured; this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize the basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality. “
Dr. Martin Luther King was very Christian, very Buddhist. Why can’t we all?