Simple Acts of Kindness

September 21, 2009 Leave a comment

In the September Shambala Sun magazine there is an article written about Huston Smith, the renowned philosopher, now ninety, who introduced Americans in the fifties to “The World’s Religions” through his writing and his teaching. This was territory completely unknown to the culture at the time.

In this article he remembers another famous spiritual adventurer, his friend, Aldous Huxley. He quotes Huxley as saying: “It’s a little embarrassing to have spent one’s entire life pondering the human situation and find oneself in the end with nothing more profound to say than…try to be a little nicer”. When I read this quote I remembered being equally struck by something the Dalai Lama said: kindness is my religion. And, of course, from the Bible, “do unto others what you would like them to do unto you”.

And as is often the case, I sit here on this Sunday morning sort of dumbstruck, as if I’d been given the most complicated of Zen koans, pondering the depth of these words that are so profound, so demanding and so completely, utterly and entirely simple.


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  • Curtis says:

    Marianne, I think part of the reason this seems so simple is that absent all the mentions of our psychological triggers, childhood stuff, social programming, etc., this comes across as a pretty easy task. Come to find out it is quite different. Once we start engaging in the world, we are constantly barraged by forces that threaten to undo us and that seem to want to make us jerks and jockey for position (or totally check out and assume everything is okay, dude). I was reflecting on this recently when observing my triggers and, in my weaker moments, how deeply they can take me to my most elemental fears. It’s hard to operate lucidly from those places. So, yes, let’s all be a little nicer, and understand that this can be the hardest work in the world.

  • marianne hughes says:

    I think it is the so simple/so extremely difficult paradox that is the essence of the koan!

  • Chris Toppin says:

    Thanks for this, Marianne. Because of your blog I reacted with uncharacteristic and authentic kindness, rather than defensive anger, during a recent unpleasant interaction with someone. It wasn’t easy to do and while it didn’t seem to disarm or change the behavior of the other person, it definitely changed the way I felt about myself during and after the fact.

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