Rinpoche’s full letter reads:
Dear friends, community members, and fellow meditators,
We are living through a time of unprecedented upheaval and suffering. The global pandemic has already disrupted every aspect of our lives. As if this were not challenging enough, those of you in the United States are now witnessing and perhaps even directly experiencing the pain and anguish of communities being torn apart by the suffering of black men, women, and families that has not been truly heard, acknowledged, and addressed.
Our response to suffering is often to meditate. We meditate to see our own blind spots more clearly. We meditate to open our hearts fully to the suffering of others. And we meditate to heal our own wounds so we can truly be of service to others.
But prayers and meditation are not enough, especially in times like this. Meditation must be accompanied by wise, compassionate action.
The Buddha himself lived in a time of tremendous suffering and injustice. The caste system of ancient India was an unjust system that led to great prejudice and violence. This was the same system that gave the Buddha - as a young man - immense power, wealth, and privilege. He was a prince. He had so much to lose and nothing to gain by disrupting the caste system, yet that is exactly what he did.
When the Buddha formed his own community, he upended the age-old traditions of the caste system and allowed people from all walks of life into the sangha. It was not perfect. Women were not afforded the same status as men. But it was a revolution at the time. He did not simply pray for the suffering of the caste system to end. He used the power he had to actively change the systems of his day that were causing so many people to suffer.
Suffering takes many forms. It is true that we suffer individually. Yet the principle of interdependence helps us to see that ignorance and the suffering it creates are not merely individual experiences. They manifest in our families, our communities, and in culture and society, just as much as they live in each one of us individually.
To engage suffering with wisdom and compassion, we must look at these webs of inter-connectedness. We must acknowledge the role we are playing in the greater whole. We must use the power we have to help when we can and to support others when we cannot.
This is the example the Buddha set for us 2,500 years ago. Then, as now, there were no easy answers. Samsara is messy. The only way forward is to do our best. And although we will certainly make mistakes, if we allow ourselves to be guided by wisdom and compassion, our mistakes will lead us closer to a world that no longer values one life more than another.
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche