Dharma Teachers in Israel express
Concerns and Raise Questions with Christopher
Part 2 (transcribed, edited and adapted for readership)
Around 90 Minute Exchange. Part One. 45 minutes. Part Two. 45 minutes.
CT. Ulla and I have put together a free, comprehensive programme of mindfulness (linked to 38 short videos) as a free offering to people who must Stay-at-Home in this time of coronavirus. We trust that people will click into our Platform and Youtube (see foot of page). We put in a lot of work, morning and night but once it’s done it’s done. So do consider all the creative waves of offering teachings and practices. Do put out the word. Use supportive programs. Make them available. We also appreciate any support that you can give to our work.
We will send out the Coronavirus e-News this evening (Friday 27 March 2020). This is one way to support people. Put the word out to your friends and family. Make offering free to people. People will benefit from programmes. Once a complete is complete we can more later. Let people know that they can make an offering of a donation and pinpoint where the button is to contribute via PayPal. This is a reminder to get the teachings out to others in this time.
L. You will be happy to know that we are already doing this.
CT. I hear your outreach goes on. There is this word corona. There is this word karuna (meaning compassion in the Buddhist tradition). There is this word coroner (a government official who investigates a death). The three concepts sum up the pandemic. Stop the spread of the virus. Apply compassion. Or many more will face the coroner.
A. I had one meeting this morning with a small group of around 10 people in the Sangha. The mindfulness, meditation classes and Dharma teachings are a great resource. We also really appreciate the opportunity to connect. There is much isolation. I am in isolation myself for two weeks because I came back a week ago from abroad. I am in quarantine. I have not seen a person. I have not touched a person. I feel it in the psyche. I came back from a 20-day retreat abroad. I have another week on my own, then I go back to my family. If you have the opportunity to connect with others, please do so.
CT. There is much kindness merging to defuse anxiety. The British government put out an appeal for volunteers to support the hospitals. More than 500,000 people volunteered within two days. These volunteers help to ensure the running of the NHS (National Health Service. It is often said that the NHS is the nearest equivalent we have to a religion in Britain. The NHS treats everybody from conception to death). The volunteers will give support to the elderly, who cannot get out of their homes, plus work in the hospitals. and do everything the NHS ask of the volunteers.
There is a groundswell of kindness and empathy among human beings. People are willing to take risks to give support to others. This is precious. All of this heartens everybody knowing of these gestures of compassion. We need to know this is taking place. Compassion transcends anxiety and fear. This is part of what we offer, too.
A. We can learn from events worldwide. Such a global issue makes us into one family. What do I infect the other with? What we offer to others travel so quickly. We have the ability to infect each other with positivity. I see this situation as a doorway of opportunity. We need to use this understanding to see how things move so fast through our inter-being. We can send happiness, joy and connection all the time. Let’s just put out the same vibe all the time. I have no idea where all of this will go.
CT. Inspirations and the use of stories give others a sense of support throughout offers of support. Let us be extraordinary mindful and vigilant about not feeding the fear story. This is especially important regarding anxieties about the future. We have enough to deal with today. It takes skill in our communication to address the anxiety coming out of a person. What are the words we use to enable a person to get behind their fears? What is the feeling tone we offer? We do not contribute to worry. We put out a message of empathy and love to all those that we have contact with. If anytime there is a time for skilful speech, this really is important at this time.
I read the other day that if one person transmits the virus to two people, then within a month 400 other people will have contracted the virus. If one person gives two people more worry and anxiety, the net virus will also be up to 400 people. We are addressing two kinds of virus. We address an emotional inner virus and a biological virus.
A. I have an urge to offer a line of poetry if I may. This is exactly what we are talking about. These are a few lines from Hafiz (14th century Iranian poet).
“I caught the happy virus last night
When I was out singing beneath the stars.
It is remarkably contagious –
So kiss me.”
CT. Beautiful. That’s what we need. We face two viruses. One is the biological virus. One is in the state of mind. We must work with both. We need to develop a happy virus to replace the anxious virus. The political system of left, right and centre has no relevance. Right wing Western governments are giving out bucketloads of money to the poor, unemployed, low income and self-employed. The far left could only have dreamed of this kind of support to people in need.
The whole political structure is sinking. Politicians are far more polite towards each other. There is more genuine communication between the politicians. They usually hate each other. The politicians are talking together about what they need to do to arrest this coronavirus.
Y.This hasn’t happened yet in the Middle East.
CT. Wait a bit. It might. I thought one of you might say that. (laughing)
L. I met Lubna the other day in a demonstration (Lubna is a friend, a Palestinian non-violent activist, journalist, dedicated mindfulness and insight meditator. She is an important voice to remind Tovana of the suffering of the Palestinians and the importance of their support for peace and justice). Lubna said the Palestinians are making jokes about the quarantine of Israelis in their homes to help stop the virus. She said, “We remind Israel that we, Palestinians, are experts in being shut in under quarantine (for decades).)
Y. That’s true.
A. The strong people in society are those who went through self-isolation already. These are people who went through very difficult times. They know how the process goes and can teach us a lot. This can include beggars on the street. Strong people are immune to this virus of fearful and angry states of mind. They lived through difficult circumstances. There are prisoners who have been released from prison after 10 years and have come out without any hate towards others. They have managed to come out without anxiety. This kind of person has been in quarantine for a long time.
I think of Palestinians I’ve met. They have been through horrible things. They have not come out with any hatred in their hearts. They understand the not-self teaching. They do not put the blame on anyone else. They do not blame a person in the army or the head of a government. They have a constant understanding of what is happening. There is the wish to explore the phenomenon of what still takes place and change it. They have been put in very difficult situations and have come out strong. Many people look for contact with such strong people, who know how to deal with social isolation.
CT. It is worthwhile listen to you. You reflect what we are discussing. We need to find the Palestinians and Israelis, who have that inner strength born of experience of solitude, silence and social isolation. Out of such quarantine, people have emerged with a quiet non-reactive authority in their being. Sometimes, we have the privilege of meeting such people. That person has a voice. We, who already have a voice, can invite such strong people to share their experience How did they work with their social isolation? How did they get through without fear and blame?
Prisoners in the UK are now banged up (locked in their cells) for 23 hours per day. There is social isolation of the prison. There is now a social isolation of each prisoner in the cell as well. That can be very stressful and difficult for prisoners, criminal or political. We need people with inner strength. Yesterday I spoke on the phone to an ex-prisoner. He was in jail in the UK for 27 years. He does not carry the blame around, despite his long interment in prison from the age of 27.
As a result, he has access from time to time with judges, lawyers, barristers and solicitors. He is a trusted voice. He speaks with clarity on legal, social and political issues. He tells me about his conversations with such people and the judiciary’s approach to major issues of our time. He has found his voice in the years since his release from prison. Please keep your good eyes and ears open to people with inner strength. Those with inner strength are incredibly important to support those who suffer.
G. We’ve been talking a lot about working with the stressful. I am thinking about the people who do not enjoy our privileges. The asylum seekers in Israel do not have access to the social welfare system. The Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank experience much insecurity, as well as the Palestinian Authority. There is a fear of the virus spreading in their community. What is our approach to address the needs of asylum seekers and the Palestinians?
CT. I look at the situation in two ways. We must give support to individuals, groups and the organizations. We must meet with such people. We give support to political activists, who connect with marginalised, oppressed and fearful people. We have the empathy and kindness to connect with people, who need our support. The exploration of the inter-personal matters. If we connect with the Palestinians, the Palestinians can connect with us. We can make bridges to support asylum seekers and develop links with the people of Palestine. In the second way, we also address the institution, especially the political and financial institution, banks and education. Dharma teachings and practices have a definite strength in the first area – the meetings with others in need. There is still long way to go, of course.
There is the second area – the questioning of the institution and its ideology. We must inquire into these institutions and the ideological impact on people and their environment. This includes those who have a different background and cultural heritage. We need to bring a Dharma perspective to these institutions. The Dharma perspective is very simple: What causes the arising of suffering? What is the resolution of this suffering? That is the underlying principle of the Dharma.
We need to find our voice in institutional life. This requires political analysis. much research and cooperation to see where the problems are and an investigation into the causes of the suffering. Then we can find the resolution. That Dharma voice does go out but it needs much more momentum. This approach finds its voice, such as the demonstrations in Jerusalem. There is a growing sense in the Sangha of empowerment to challenge abusive authority.
We support wise authority. Such actions and voices give support to the Palestinians, asylum seekers and the neglected citizens within Israel. We are at the kindergarten level of what it means to challenge major institutions. I sent out a comprehensive email around two weeks ago to Tovana to widen the vision and connect with the Palestinian community. A great deal of cooperation is needed.
L. Israel, Palestine and the rest of the world are dealing with the unknown. All of us. It is vital to be connected at this time and know each other. It is not just about the coronavirus. The whole world is going to change. We simply do not know how it is going to look like. I do not want to go into the future. I do not engage in speculation. It is important to incline the mind to what is beneficial and opening. It is what you all know. We are talking as if everything will stay the same. The global situation might be much bigger than we think it is. Authorities may point to when the coronavirus might end and what will happen. Perhaps things will change completely.
CT. You make an important point. Since I got back from India a month ago, I have engaged in primary reflections on present to the future. There is a major ‘don’t know’ to face. It is a tragedy if we make the anxious mind replace the don’t know. It is equally unhealthy to stay with not knowing as well. The system we live under will want us to get back as to how it was before the outbreak of the coronavirus at the start of the year. The system will want to revert back to the old. The government will increase the taxation and try to get the old economic political system to restart and continue.
My view is ‘screw the system.’ It is rotten. Its basic ideology is rotten. The system must go. The system is destroying life on Earth. I may abide with a calmness towards the future and choose to be calm with the unknown. I take a strong exception to this position. To hell with the political left, right and centre. It is old and outdated. Such politics have no relevance.
There are major changes which are necessary. An authentic and relevant political economic system is about connectedness with people, animals and the environment. The new politics/economics expresses a political way of living and being in this world.
For example, I wrote in my essay (Mindfulness of the Coronavirus. What was. What is. What might be) that if supermarkets are not willing to sell healthy, organic food, then the government must close the supermarkets down. Let the local grocers in our high streets sell healthy and organic food.
Governments must stop selling arms, stop selling weapons of destruction and give poor countries the tools for construction.
The British army trains to take out life. Today, the same army is in the UK working with the government and NHS to save lives from the virus.
We say YES to change.
We say NO to just abiding in the unknown about the future.
We say YES to a new political/economic/social way of life.
We say YES to showing the way forward based on our global inter-connectedness.
We have a chance to bring about a fundamental change in humanity on this earth.
We will have to work very hard to ensure that there is a break with the old.
This chance, this opportunity does not come around very often on this earth.
We have one opportunity at this point in time.
L. Can we quote you on that?
A. We all wish to support Christopher.
CT. Thank you. Keep me up to date.
L. Lubna sends her love.
CT. Thank you. Lots of love to you all.
For Your Interest:
Mindfulness of Coronvirus
A Free Online Mindfulness Course with 38 short videos in times of Stay-at-Home.
Our Course offers a wide range of mindfulness practices and reflections to support you in the challenging days, weeks and months ahead. There are two ways to join the Course (click on the link):
- Our MTC Online Platform (https://mtc.thinkific.com/)
- Youtube – Dharma Channel Christopher Titmuss (link to Youtube) or cllick