In search of solutions, I am currently reading around the phenomenon of the Buddhist Warrior; this appears to be an oxymoron of the highest order, yet there are historical examples, such as the Shaolin monks and others.
I shall return to the Shaolin temple in another post, but today wish to look at an interesting article, "The Bodhisattva Warrior: The Way of Compassionate Confrontation" by Brian Muldoon.
Confrontation is not a synonym for violence; "to confront" means to come face-to-face with something or someone. This could be two parties in a dispute but it can also be one's mind confronting reality. The path to truth can thus be measured by confronting the universe. This is really no different to what experimental scientists are doing when testing a hypothesis.
Yet in the spiritual realm there are many who shy away from confronting reality as it may disturb their equipoise. The creation of such a "positive" self-narrative is inherently fragile and is not the adamantine enlightenment being sought. Japanese koan tales are filled with examples where monks feigning tranquility are jolted into a true deeper awareness. That requires both words and actions.
It also requires courage.
(19th C woodcut of 10th C tale). Source
"One reason that there is so much aggressive and destructive confrontation in the world is that there is too little mature, solid and thoughtful confrontation." The opposite of passive acceptance is the idea of "redemptive violence", yet that just continues the cycle of oppression. This means that both stances, of either ignoring or attacking the problems, do not lead to lasting or meaningful resolutions.
The article distinguishes between "hot" and "cold" conflicts, meaning overt and covert situations. I would prefer a metaphor from physics and refer to them as "thermal" and "non-thermal"; there is a subtle but important difference between "cold" and "non-thermal". There is also a subtle etymological difference between "conflict" and "confrontation"; the first means "to strike together", essentially "to fight", whereas the latter means "to come face to face". The two may seem indistinguishable during a heated argument!
Thermal conflicts are easy to see and hence easy for the media to portray: wars, violence and crimes are the staples of news websites. Non-thermal, or cold, conflicts are harder to notice, and are rarely reported. They tend to be behaviours that have become enshrined as either formal laws or social contracts. They are the things you cannot do - and increasingly, things you dare not say - because of the consequences.
Things that were illegal have become legal; even more covert is when they become "obvious" and invisible, and hence unchallenged. "The moral consequences of our choices are diluted until we no longer hear the voice of conscience."
"Confrontation is the way by which we bring cold conflict to the surface and break it down into manageable pieces. As long as conflict can camouflage itself in a bureaucracy or in a hierarchy, resolution is impossible. So it must be called out into the open, challenged, confronted."
To articulate the confrontation before it escalates strikes me as key. It serves the purpose of increasing knowledge about what is really going on and will yield the solutions to the problems. If those solutions are not accepted, then at least it is clear what actions will follow.
Without hatred and without fear.
To fear the confrontation because it might escalate is to show one's cowardice and, ironically, increase the cold conflict that one wishes to stop.
The inner strength and courage needed to initiate a genuine confrontation can be found in various myths and religions as the Warrior Archetype.
That will be the subject of my next post.