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Bodhisattvas in Hell Video Reflections

Last post 12-19-2007, 8:27 PM by ambosuno. 8 replies.
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  •  12-10-2007, 4:51 PM 33531

    • annapizelo is not online. Last active: 03-02-2009, 12:44 AM annapizelo
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    Bodhisattvas in Hell Video Reflections

    Last night I watched Ken's "Bodhisattvas in Hell" video and was touched by the heavy experiences the woman had, and her need to assess the benevolence that occurs within diverse worldviews in challenging settings, like Tanzania, working with orphans. I have been grappling with social and cultural constructs in "unhealthy" settings as well. I have worked with homeless populations and in a variety of social work settings that have left me facing the urgency to confront how truly impacted we can be psychologically, biologically, and spiritually by immersing ourselves within certain profoundly insane contexts.

    I appreciated the honesty of this woman, and how authentic she was in her desire to come to a deeper understanding of her incredibly painful experiences. My experiences as a social worker parallels her experience in many ways. I guess it's the fact that this kind of work requires constant introspection and re-evaluation. I tend to envision a fresh, healthy being being slowly lowered into a dark city, prepared for the onslaught of psychological, emotional, and cultural terror with one goal in mind: to shed some light before the darkness saturates their healthy being. But sometimes, if not more often than not, we become saturated and must remove ourselves and return to wholeness. This is the tension I find, the beauty, love, and light we can fill our being with when we have the freedom to create the atmosphere that is conducive to such experiences and realizations, and then the other reality, the social and cultural contexts, the group constructions, the horror of unhealthy systems that we must mitigate and contend with somehow. The systems are huge, tangible beasts that we must find a way to transmute into the beautiful visions we have when we sit at home in our quiet solitude meditating. The challenge is, which will transmute first, us or the system? And to which degree are we transmuting, to the unhealthy system or to our visions? Which one is most susceptible?

    After working with hundreds of homeless families and children, and within unhealthy agencies, I have discovered a gem. So often I had offered "stuff", "things", vouchers, food, housing, and more often than not the stuff laid to waste as un-utilized, forgotten artifacts. I realized, after so much work that seemed to be in vain, that it's not about the STUFF, the material things, our offerings. What we do for people isn't about our desperation to make things visibly and measurably better. It's the trajectory of the love that we are giving, it's the process of creation, it's an act that builds an energy that trasmutes with persistance, like water, can eventually create canyons or change rock formations. It's our energy and our intentions that are the true substance of our giving, not the things. The hurt, the pain, the ugliness is not necessarily that children don't have blankets, or, that people are hungry, it's the intentions and acts behind it that is the formidable presence. As Mother Theresa put it, she wanted to ensure that people died knowing that someone did love them, she didn't say, so that they had warm socks or that they ate breakfast. Does anyone dig what I'm saying here? We are change agents if we recognize that what we do that is the most substantial cannot be seen or measured. Our work in scary and dark terrain is something that is about keeping our light on in the darkest and most terrifying landscapes. This work is the work of the soul-this is what creates change, and it takes persistence and absolute faith because in this work, there are no road signs, guideposts, or measurable outcomes. There is only the light and how relentless the dark is when we are crawling our way back to ourselves.
    This is that and so are you.
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  •  12-10-2007, 6:20 PM 33535 in reply to 33531

    Re: Bodhisattvas in Hell Video Reflections

    Hi annapizelo, I dig what you are saying, and I acknowledge you and people like yourself who do the work you do.  I can only speak from my own experience regarding living in poor conditions and surrounded by drugs and gangs.  I had the good fortune of meeting some people back in the 80's who were in the business of getting people to see themself , and how they were putting themself together was a funtion of the choices we were making moment to moment., I personly believe the most transformative shift  that took place for me is they got us to see ourself as already whole and complete , and that alot of our past behaviour was rooted in getting STUFF, thus there was a payoff  for the dysfunctional behaviour, and that we had a choice  to live from and come from the whole complete person that we really are or we can choose to stay with those past based beliefs that kept us small and disempowered. So I agree with what your saying that it is the intention and the energy of the sharing that calls forth transformation , and not the material stuff,  cause as you know we are all spiritual beings and it is the soul work that touches our spirit, not the goodies,  [BUT I still dig the goodies I am just not attached to them ]  CAN YOU DIG IT....?
    Bill Kilburg,
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  •  12-10-2007, 9:12 PM 33553 in reply to 33535

    • MariaMontenegro is not online. Last active: 08-11-2008, 10:27 PM MariaMontenegro
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    Re: Bodhisattvas in Hell Video Reflections

    Dear Annapizelo and Bill,

    I watched the same video yesterday and was trying to figure out how to start a thread in relationship to it. Thank you. Indeed, that woman's testimony was extremely moving, heartwrenching.

    When I was in college I worked at a homeless shelter in Northampton, MA. I quickly realized there that I was not adequately equipped to be of service because of the degree to which I was profoundly discouraged by similar situations, only this was not Tanzania but the relatively privileged USA.

    Later during intensive Buddhist training under my late teacher, I went through a phase of wanting to become involved in prison work. I will never forget my teacher's reaction when I blithely mentioned my intentions: Do you have the power? he asked.  Instantly I was directed back to myself and my level; how would I sustain the strength required not to be devastated by the brutal realities of the inmates? Was I firmly enough grounded in Witness? Certainly not.

    There is an amazing account in China Galland's book The Bonds Between Women, Journey to Fierce Compassion, that helped me to come to terms with how to balance the desire to do social activism on a large or small scale with inner work.

    Ken's suggestions to that bodhisattva lady were incredible, though I may have added that the sharp line we tend to draw in determining the nature of beneficence, and the expectations that it breeds in us when we wish that others would appreciate our efforts, are important for us to carefully investigate. Not to have expectations is difficult. I think possibly the only thing that can dislodge expectations is Witness awareness, developed and sustained over time.

    As long as there are any conditions whatsoever other than radical acceptance in relation to our service, work, or any action we do to "help", in fact, we are likely to be forced back upon ourselves through similar experiences.

    Another very helpful book is Help: The Original Human Dilemma, by Garret Keizer, who also was forced to come to terms with what it means to help. The book starts off with a description of a homeless woman he spent years trying to help (he was a pastor at the time). The woman eventually committed suicide, throwing the author into an existential inquiry into the the nature and complexity of helping. We have a lot of assumptions about helping that we haven't looked at.

    It's also important to consider, from another perspective, why those blankets may have disappeared; were they stolen? Were they sold to feed someone? We can't know. What we can know is that once a gift has been offered it is totally no longer ours; if we are afftected when something happens to it; have we given it away? If something happens to it maybe we are being called to investigate how and what we are giving, and whether that giving is the highest expression of giving in the context we find ourselves in. As Annapizelo says, it's the force of the love and attention. The care.

    If we are affected because of the enormity of the insanity and meanness that occurs, we need the wisdom of the Witness that Ken describes, which  absolutely protects against burnout. People like Mother Teresa, who said, Love until it hurts, undoubtedly saw this kind of situation on a daily basis; that's why her mission's operations required a certain kind of streamlining that pared things down almost exclusively to service. Ammachi is another example of seemingly inexhaustible energy. How does she do it? She is utterly uninvested. She expects nothing. It would be impossible for her to continue hugging millions of people with impeccable equanimity if she self-identified with their condition or with those tied up in expectation or a need to change things somehow; instead, she is self-identified with that Witness, sees things as perfect and out of seeing things as always already fine, she then acts.



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  •  12-10-2007, 9:50 PM 33556 in reply to 33553

    • annapizelo is not online. Last active: 03-02-2009, 12:44 AM annapizelo
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    Re: Bodhisattvas in Hell Video Reflections

    Wow, thank you for those book suggestions Maria Montenegro! I am going to check them out. I loved what you were saying about your teacher asking if you had the "power." I know that often times I am aware that I don't. It's an important thing to kindly self-evaluate. I agree with what you were saying about the Witness. Being in this place enables us to direct our power... "Utterly uninvested". Yes. So many paradoxes such little time.
    This is that and so are you.
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  •  12-10-2007, 10:01 PM 33557 in reply to 33535

    • annapizelo is not online. Last active: 03-02-2009, 12:44 AM annapizelo
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    Re: Bodhisattvas in Hell Video Reflections

    Greetings nothingness:

    I totally dig what you are saying. I acknowledge people like you, too, who do the REAL work. What you were saying about people put themselves together as a function of the choices they were making is one thing, and I also think it's important to know that people put themselves together as a function from what they know, they are accessing a knowledge base that they have been familiarized with. I think we are deeply impacted by those and the environment around us; nonetheless, we are individuals with the power to seek other ways of being in the world. It takes a courageous and persistent spirit to test the boundaries of what we've grown up with and been surrounded by. I think that one of the mightiest characteristics in people are those who can redirect their lives out of minimal options/resources while being amongst those who do not believe in such possibilities. You are an explorer of the unknown when you do that. Explorers are guided by....hmmm...something great!
    This is that and so are you.
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  •  12-12-2007, 9:08 PM 33727 in reply to 33553

    Re: Bodhisattvas in Hell Video Reflections

    Very good distintions, and insights Maria. I just finished watching the video, very touching,. Thanks Annapizelo for bringing it to our attention. What you have both  brought forth to my attention is a level of service that is of a major league catagory [ forgive my sports metaphor]  that trully transcends whatever I have ever had to encounter.  For myself I still grapple with the person who chooses not to wake up and wants to sponge off the system, and will put on all kinds of acts and excuses why they are where they are in life, and the trully needy who need that hand up. I thank you both for sharing your knowledge and contributing to our growth in these matteres.


    Bill Kilburg,
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  •  12-19-2007, 1:33 AM 34269 in reply to 33727

    • annapizelo is not online. Last active: 03-02-2009, 12:44 AM annapizelo
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    Re: Bodhisattvas in Hell Video Reflections

    I understand what you are saying here Nothingness. In regards to people who "sponge off the system," I ask if it is the fact that some are at a level of poverty in a different way. Is sponging off the system something they find as an easy way out? Or, is it a different level of crisis for them? Some are trying so hard to change their state of affairs in regards to basic needs, while others are learning how to negotiate through a system that does serve, but it serves minimally. What I am trying to clearly ask is, do the people who we may perceive as "sponging", are they at a different stage in their consciousness? Some may have discovered a way to "survive", but have they discovered a way to live? There's material poverty, and then, there is poverty of experience or mind. Can some have things, but not realize beyond this reality of survival mode into something more liberating? I find that within social work or any other kind of work, there are people who've discovered ways of surviving, but are trapped, for whatever reason, into this mode of operation. They may not realize the possibilities that lay dormant within their awareness. They may not realize the potential they have, which is another form of poverty. Many have not healed from their past as well. They are stuck in a routine of coping because this is what they know how to do. They don't realize that healing is possible and that their energy is exhausted on simply being because they are working with an injured energy body. They are, as Ken Wilber put it, "limping along."
    This is that and so are you.
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  •  12-19-2007, 1:55 AM 34272 in reply to 33553

    • annapizelo is not online. Last active: 03-02-2009, 12:44 AM annapizelo
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    Re: Bodhisattvas in Hell Video Reflections

    In regards to Maria and Nothingness's writings, I must quote one of my favorites, Paulo Freire. Please forgive the randomness. This is from his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. He taught illiterate, Brazilian peasants, and he wrote:

    "The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both. any attempt to 'soften' the power of the oppressor in deference to the weakness of the oppressed almost always manifests itself in the form of false generosity; indeed, the attempt never goes beyond this."

    I love this quote and live by it as a social worker and educator. When I read this, I know that it is up to the "oppressed," those in poverty, to find the power to create change. They must act upon the world as a creative force. There is no such thing as "helping" someone if their "occupation is their liberation" as Paulo once wrote. It is not a social worker's occupation, they are side by side in the struggle, cheering people on, rooting for them, but not doing the work to change their lives, that is up to them, and the task can be mighty for many. Those who have found themselves confronting injustice are the source of liberation for not only themselves, but also for the oppressors. Read Paulo Freire, he is awesome.
    This is that and so are you.
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  •  12-19-2007, 8:27 PM 34341 in reply to 34269

    Re: Bodhisattvas in Hell Video Reflections

    AnnaP, NothingN, and MariaM - I've appreciated this thread's inquiry and commenting. I think/feel that in some ways I am deficient in lower quadrant collective relating and I wouldn't be surprised to know that I veer my attention away from these difficulties, when I'm not in work mode and its presented to me face to face.

    To pull out one appreciated piece from each of your posts:
    Nothingness, I appreciate the point of the limited potency of material "goodies", and yet their pleasant allure and in some ways satisfaction-inducuction - temporary and limited though the pleasure and ease be.

    Anna, I'm appreciating your emphasis on some realities about poverty and energy expenditure in trying to survive and satisfy some basic needs. This seems to lie just below each of our present graced conditions, a hair's breadth of fortune away.

    Maria, I too liked you highlighting the comment/question of your teacher about realities of helping others.

    I bow deeply to social workers who endeavor to or happen to keep a larger vison than the ponderous lethargic momentum of most systems induce, to work and not become a casualty oneself. ambo

    Ambo Suno
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