Monday, December 14, 2009

The Enemy of the Soul

Growing up on many animated and live-action films, I was part of a great tribal mind that there is always a battle waged between good and evil. There is always a hero on one side, and a villain on the other. The hero must kill the villain, lest the enemy wreaks more havoc. Evil must be fought by all means, by hook or by crook. This Armageddon has been a common pattern virtually on all fantasy and science fiction stories, an essential theme that makes any story interesting since conflict is the main ingredient that propels action, and the hero's triumph over the villain is the most anticipated victory. Until two years ago, while I dreamed of writing my own epic, I have become aware that this theme is no more than a prosaic fictional depiction of what is truly happening in the world that we still keep hidden and, worst, unnoticed. We have always separated ourselves from others. In a moment of conflict, we always see ourselves, our families, or our friends as the righteous ones. We have failed to see through the perspective of our enemies, since we squarely box them in as evil. Thus, the battle begins. We instigate these attacks that produce endless avenging. We perpetrate the concept of enemy in star-studded soap operas and expensively budgeted films with cutting-edge special effects. We enjoy the sight of actors and actresses arguing, shouting, cursing, hitting, punching, kicking, shooting, mutilating, killing each other. And we emulate this - unfortunately, subconsciously - as a normal, easiest way to deal with our enemies. And our world becomes the witness, where millions are being killed just because they are heretics or black sheep, heathens or unbelievers. We have drafted laws that severely punish the criminals, and condemn the terrorists. With this kind of mentality, we have let fear to control our lives. We have learned to defend ourselves, believing that anytime we will be attacked. We fight over the pettiest of things and the worst global issues. After all, we have thought that crushing our enemies is the only better way to gain justice than making them as friends.

Our enemies are a colorful band of hated people: in-laws, spouses, partners, kids, siblings, relatives, former friends, colleagues and co-workers, old flames and schoolmates, neighbors next door, politicians of another party, strangers on the bus, restaurant crews or government officials. We only see them as people who give us the bad day. We believe that our enemies are people who do not understand things with common sense, who deserve to be condemned and hated. We breed ill-will towards them in an increasing scale: from irritation, annoyance and anger, to rage, hatred and wrath. These emotions are like small sparks that have ignited into damaging wildfire, flaring up our hearts to just make one move that will end our enemies into ashes. And even if we win, the empty core of ourselves is still wondering for that fulfillment. We have never been empty before. We are burned in the same hell where we cast our enemies off.

But why is it that the more we win battles against enemies, there is still more unrest outside as much as inside? Is there any way to end this viciousness, to stop acting like wild reptiles, and to become human beings again? The answer: yes, there is. It is about time to make a conscious shift of how we understand the word enemy.

We can begin asking ourselves this question: who is our enemy? If you still have a particular person in mind, who pushes your buttons, gets on your nerves from time to time, and blame him or her for your unhappiness, then you have to start deeper self-examination. The enemy of the soul is not someone who disagrees with you, even those who are different from the way you become and do things. The enemy of the soul is not the one who wins or loses the battle. The enemy of the soul is not the one who is an evil villain. The enemy is a concept of how you see your self. The words "enemy" and "soul" and the thousand of meanings and experiences behind them cannot co-exist, simply because the former is non-existent; only the latter is true. You don't have an enemy. The enemy you only see is yourself. However you see others an enemy, that is how you precisely see yourself. When you find your enemy horrible, that is how you mirror yourself with him or her. When you inflict injury on your enemy, it is the injury that you inflict on yourself. Whenever you wound any enemy, you cannot avoid but wound yourself. As we realize the truth of our interconnectedness, we will see our enemies in a different way. This is beautifully written in a poem by Hafiz, a 14th century Sufi poet (translated by Daniel Ladinsky):

I have come to the world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands
even at the height of
the arc of their rage

because we have finally realized
that there is just one flesh
we can wound.

This poem brings us to a fresh perspective: there is no enemy. Christ taught us to Love our enemies not because there are enemies to Love but because we have believed that we have an enemy, an enemy that resides in our consciousness, and we must begin to reconcile with it. Christ addressed us this teaching in simplest terms that we all can understand. When we begin to forgive, we continue to empower ourselves with Loving energies. We begin to bring the energy of Love back to our awareness. We begin to acknowledge the illusion that eats the very core of our existence: as you face your mirror, the face that appears is the face of a nonexistent enemy. That face is your tangible soul, the being of Love from which God has manifest. Once we see ourselves as we are, we allow more energy to forgive, accept, understand, acknowledge our souls. This process leads us to the Suchness of our humanity and divinity, of recognizing our innate worth. We deliberately stop our struggling effort to commit violence towards ourselves and others. In his book, Healing the Heart of Conflict, Marc Gopin quotes a very succinct rabbinic adage: "Who is a true hero? He who can make an enemy into a friend." It condones the act of surrendering not as weakness, but a recognition that giving up the fight with an enemy is to allow inner and outer peace to flourish. Such a wisdom is worth equal to a thousand different teachings.

While facing our enemies, both ourselves and others, we are now reminded not to judge, vilify, condemn, because our lack of knowledge about the other disarms us of possible attack, and calls for more understanding. As we begin to understand, we enrich the possibility of friendship instead of enmity, and make the best of our intrinsic symbiotic connection with our fellow human beings, ending the savage impact of our the predatory and parasitic minds.

As you read this, crimes, wars and killings are still ongoing in different parts of the world. The enemy of the soul is still strong in the minds of the many, and is out of our control. But we can do something. We have to begin within ourselves, befriending the enemy within. The real freedom is not to expunge what we hate on ourselves, but to embrace the wholeness of our being. For our enemies, as we conveniently call them, remind us the great wisdom that what we hate in them is what we hate on ourselves. And hatred, echoing what the Buddha said, "...never ceases through hatred in this world. Through Love alone they cease. This is the eternal Law." Loving ourselves is the best way to deal with our enemies. We can now Love our enemies with the same intensity of how we Love ourselves. We can finally reconcile that as we have awakened with Love, the word enemy will never be the same again.


Claire Madarang said...

Amen to this! =)

And Hafiz really summed it all up so well - there is only one flesh we can wound. All we have to do is recognize our connection and oneness with all beings so we will no longer have any desire to hurt another - sounds simple but not easy. But I trust we will get there one day. =)

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