Buddhism beliefs

True friendships can be formed through a chasm of beliefs

It was the second day Mary was working for our meditation supply company when I asked her if she would like to meditate with my wife and I during work time.

“No, I’m not meditating – I’m a member of the church next door. »The evangelical church next door.

I felt a little chill, generated by my tonsil born and raised in North Carolina. I knew something about evangelicals.

That night I said to my wife, “Honestly, I don’t know how this is going to work. She will have to learn all about Buddha statues, learn the Buddhist names of these things, answer questions about meditation cushions. My wife replied, “Well, she selected work. And she seems to like it. And suddenly it was clear like a meditation bell – Oh I see, the open-minded Buddhist is the closed-minded one around here.

Mary was quite simply the best employee we could imagine: reliable, knowledgeable and caring. And yes, she learned the Buddhist names of everything.

When we meet someone from another tribe, we often put them in a predetermined category in our mind. And there they stay. The truth is, the other person is always more than the walls in this category can hold. Buddhism teaches that we tend to be obsessed with categories and therefore not see the whole image of a person.

Once we have assigned a negative category to someone, we may tend to avoid the person simply based on that. The category can be religion, political beliefs, social status or ethnicity. It could be someone we see as an adversary. If we find ourselves in a conflict, it can be difficult to see beyond the category of “completely mistaken” their more positive characteristics.

The further we move away from people based on the boxes we put them in, the more we isolate ourselves from them. And them from us. This is polarization, and if we don’t verify it, the poles drift and a chasm begins to form.

In his latest book Upheaval, anthropologist Jared Diamond, whose specialty is the collapse of civilizations, calls polarization the most dangerous problem this country faces because, if left unchecked, it could end democracy like us know it. We have a long list of problems in this country, but I think he might be right.

Mary (not her real name) left our company when she left the island, and a few years later I met Mike Ivaska, the pastor of the nearby church. It’s hard to say why, but we love each other. We have different views on a whole host of issues. We believe in very different things. But we also share a lot of things. We are both fathers, ministers, islanders. We’re both curious and most importantly we both love a good joke and we don’t mind aiming ourselves. For a good web man, he has a nasty sense of humor.

Mike’s brother gave him “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haight, which I had read and enjoyed very much. We discussed the things that separate people from each other.

I always look forward to our coffees on the Minglement porch. I learned a lot from Mike – about church administration, the history of politics and evangelism, why Millennials stay away from church services. But maybe what I’ve learned the most is that true friendship can be formed through what seems like a chasm. And if it can for us, it can for others. It gives me a glimmer of hope.

Koshin Cain is the abbot of the Puget Sound Zen Center.