There was a great question in the comments about ISIL, and their stated goal of wiping out everyone they disagreed with. I started answering the question, but my answer got longer and longer, and went on about cause and effect, and interconnectedness, so finally I decided to just give it its own post!
According to German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer, who spent ten days embedded with ISIL in Mosul, the view he kept hearing was that ISIL wants to “conquer the world”, and that all who do not believe in the group’s interpretation of the Quran will be killed. Todenhöfer was struck by the ISIL fighters’ belief that “all religions who agree with democracy have to die”, and by their “incredible enthusiasm” – including enthusiasm for killing “hundreds of millions” of people”
Can you comment on this, please?
Play stupid games, win stupid prizes? Sigh. Karma, or cause and effect, exists. It’s like living in a small box – what we put out into the air around us is what we’re going to breathe in. If someone wants to swim in death and murder, they’re going to meet up with lots of death and murder. If they like hanging out with con artists and murderers, they stand a good chance of being swindled, robbed, or murdered. If they want to run out and fight people who like to fight and play with guns, that’s who they’re going to meet. And, as I’ll mention in a bit, it’s as if they are accumulating more and more heavy karma, such that after a while they can barely even take a step. And sometimes, it’s like the universe itself says, “Enough!” And their games come to an end.
Of course, it’s not always that simple, but there is definitely something about the people of an area and what sort of behavior they’ll put up with. If you look at all of the vicious dictatorships throughout history, most of them lasted a long time when they stayed in their home lands, but once they tried to invade other areas, they began to falter. So there is also definitely is an element of “like gathers with like.” Another good reason to hang out with kind and wise people!
Ultimately, this idea that other people are different from me, that they’re disconnected from me, that their suffering has no connection with me is a manifestation of fundamental ignorance. They really don’t understand that everything is one connected whole, and so their actions reflect that, and it’s as if the results of their actions are more painful in proportion to the level of their ignorance. This is why, in Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s translation of the Heart Sutra, the opening paragraph has the phrase, “inherently all life shares the same body, the same mind, the same live, works together as one, and freely gives and receives whatever is needed. They ceaselessly manifest and change, but because they don’t know this, they walk the path of suffering.”
The answer to what we have to do is in there: Let go of this separate I, keep letting go of that, value other’s lives and efforts, share what we can, accept help when we need it, give others and ourselves room to change and become better, and know that even someone behaving badly is not always going to be like that. They too are in the process of change and growing. (Though along the way, we might need to protect ourselves from their ignorance. Running away when someone wants to stab you is also wisdom.)