Sunday, September 17, 2006

The India Influence

The pundits - which in Israel means everyone - have been discussing the successes and failures of the recent war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. There have been those who have pointed out the strategic, military failures. Some have pointed out the ineptitude of military and political leaders. Others have said that there have been shifts in Israeli national thinking that have become the Achilles heel of politicians - keeping them from making the needed drastic military maneuvers that would have assured victory in Lebanon and eradication of Hezbollah.

About twenty years ago, Israelis that had embraced New Age thinking began acting on their spiritual inner-work. They began traveling to India to "get spiritual". My feeling is that these travels reflect an awakening of new influences on Israeli society. Yoga, meditation, Buddhism, and, yes, transcendental drug experiences were opening Israeli eyes to a new way of seeing the world. In 2004 it was reported that the Indian consulate consulate in Tel Aviv issues around 30,000 visa a year and it's estimated that another 20,00 visas to India are issued in Thailand and Nepal. Even in Jerusalem, there are at least two successful "new age" shops that sell crystals, literature, and the like that support this new thinking. Of the friends that I've met in my two years in Jerusalem, many of them have crafted a spiritual practice of Judaism that incorporates aspects of Buddhism and other spiritual traditions. It's not your savta's Judaism!

This new way of thinking may have influenced Israel's foreign policy and military strategy. The recent action in Lebanon and Israelis' reaction to it indicate a shift in the way Israelis see the world.

In his book Five Things We Cannot Change, David Richo examines the idea of retaliation. I think that his writing represents the combination of ideas that many of the New Age Israelis hold:
Retaliation does not balance things, since it harms the soul of the retaliator and creates a more severe imbalance. Socrates noticed this peril and wrote: "It is better to suffer an injustice than to commit one." This is because the body and mind are damaged by injustice from others, but it is our own soul that is damaged by revenge. ... The joy of a good conscience is the highest value for those who want to grow spiritually. With spiritual practice, our attitude toward an aggressor becomes compassion for the suffering dimension in his aggression. This response also serves to quiet him down. In the martial art of aikido, the point is not to harm the opponent but to redirect and transform his or her aggression, ultimately bringing the opponent to the realization that violence does not work.

In an evolved society, animated by spiritual consciousness, the desire for retribution is replaced with a desire for restoration. We want to reconcile, not excommunicate. In such a world - sadly, not this one yet - everyone is accountable and is asked to make amends, but no one is punished, since restoration is how satisfaction is truly made.

Richo gives us this chart (and I can't figure out how to do it in blogger):

Retribution aims at / Restoration moves toward

Punishing the evildoer as evil / Seeking to heal the ignorance of the "evildoer"

Satisfying society's need for revenge / Harmony

Making someone pay / Having someone make amends

Getting even / Caring that a fallen brother or sister find redemption

Getting rid of a disturbing and dangerous presence / Correcting and then reincluding

Guaranteering the safety of society at the cost of causing the aggressor to suffer, with no chance or rehabilitation / Guaranteering the safety of society while being compassionate to the aggressor's pain and helping the person recover his or her humanity

Preserving the historical style of dealing with injustice (an eye for an eye) / Finding and exciting and more humanitarian solution to injustice

Imagining and wishing a murderer in hell for all the evil he perpetrated and for which he will never be forgiven / Imagining a murderer in a Zen monastery, where a strict but wise abbot is pointing to his deeds and teaching him to ask forgiveness until he becomes an enlightened buddha and comes back to help community.

Maintaining the either...or belief in a hell (eternal) or heaven / Generating a belief only in purgatory or rebirth (temporary) and heaven or nirvana.

Making sure the cycle of retaliation continues so that war can be justified / Ending the cycle of retaliation so that war will no longer be an acceptable solution

End of story / Beginning of dialogue

As more and more Israelis have aligned their personal and public policies to the ideals of reconciliation and nonviolence, this has influenced national policy - reflected in the indecision and questioning nature of the conflict with Hezbollah and dealings in the West Bank and Gaza.

The following poem is by Shantideva, an eighth-century Indian Buddhist teacher:

May those whose hell it is
To hate and hurt
Be turned into lovers
Bringing flowers.


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