As the ‘fresh wave of violence’ spreads over Bangkok, anyone who is watching the media can’t help but feel a sense of danger, and a sorrow that this beautiful country is in turmoil.
But the headlines are somewhat misleading. For most of us here the only real impact is loss of that precious Skytrain service and some inconvenience travelling around. In terms of danger, you are far more likely to lose your life or get injured on any normal day in a taxi ride, than you are by any violence in Bangkok protests.
Of course there is loss of buisness revenue for the luxury hotels and offices, and although this has a real impact on people’s pockets (one of our own group lost her job already due to the buisness being in the wrong area) it is hard to worry much about these big corporations.
Estimates for the number of protesters varies between 6000 and 20 000. For the most part they have been peaceful enough, camping out on the streets.
That is about as many people as go to Wat Dhammakaya on a Sunday to practise Dhamma.
It is about as many people as go to the main 10 or 15 temples around Bangkok in various dhamma programs, dressed in white and taking precepts. If you look at some of the big groups – Yuwaphut for instance (where we have an event on Saturday) – they have a constant stream of thousands of yogis going to practise dhamma all year round.
These white shirts – as the Thai/Buddhist custom is to dress in white when you go to stay in a monastery – outnumber the reds, yellows, the army and probably the police force combined. Much as the protests grab headlines, there is much more going on that is wholesome, but does not get headlines. Dhamma is greater here than any political movement.
In his book Power vs Force author David R. Hawkins notes there are two different kinds of energy in the world – Force pits one thing against another. Force always has an equal and opposite reaction, and can only move things around – one thing at the expense of another. In political terms we know that there is never any end to politics, or to the management of tax/spending where there are always winners and losers.
Power on the other hand, says Hawkins, has no counterpart reaction. It is like gravity – it moves everything, without any opposite effect. He spends much time demonstrating that a growth in consciousness is a kind of power – if you improve it in any small way, it improves everything.
Thus when asked what people can do to solve the world’s problems, Hawkins is very clear, you stick to your own development and growth.
The Buddha also taught in this way, in the famous story of the acrobats.
There were two acrobats, and the one would balance atop a pole that the other would hold in the air. The younger acrobat told the older one – ‘you watch what I am doing and I will watch what you are doing, so that we can be safe and successful’. The older acrobat was wiser, in Buddhist terms at least, and said ‘no, you watch what you are doing and I will watch what I am doing’.
For those addicted to political strife, and pushing their views out to anyone they can make listen, this is a horrible teaching. Just ignore everything in the world??? The worldly mind will always think in this way.
For a meditator, we turn the attention inwards. By doing so you learn, bit by bit, part by part, about your own motivations, and thoughts. You observe from the angle of a witness, and let wisdom bring a growth in consciousness.
You might only change yourself a little, and it seems insignificant. Yet it is a kind of Power movement, to use Hawkins terms. And power is always stronger than force.
If you think of a mountain. The wind, rain and freeze/thaw is constantly wearing it down. Avalanches, and rain constantly remove material from the top of the mountain and take it to the bottom.
But how do the mountains get up there?
Geologists can measure in fact that many mountains are actually rising up. It may be only 10 mm a year, but that is enough to put a mountain up there. Because the growth operates upon the whole mountain. Erosion only affects the surface, at the pinnacle. It can’t compete with real power. It can’t wear the mountain down faster than the mountain rises, even though the latter only grows by mere millimeters!
Dhamma is like that. At least that is the faith of those who practise.
While political forces grind and battle, the real growth is in the detail. By means of practise, the growth might be invisible. The change might not seem to matter. But growth in Dhamma lifts everything around it.
Ultimately political force will only ever be pitting one side against another without end. If there is to be a real change, it has to come from the base level of each acrobat looking after his own life.