“Love and justice are not two. Without inner change, there can be no outer change; without collective change, no change matters." ~angel Kyodo Williams, 2018
“Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.” ~MLK Jr., 1960
“Love spontaneously gives itself in endless gifts. But those gifts lose their fullest significance if through them we do not reach that love, which is the giver.” ~Bhagavad Gita, circa 400 BC
I’m in the mental process of stringing together texts that span the course of 2500 years. First I am in awe of the idea that mystics, poets, seers, and prophets often know something before it is KNOWN. I’m speaking of a kind of interior knowing, one that often may not have data or theorems to back it up at the time but alights again and again along the arc of human existence. Second, such teachings are as relevant 2500 years ago as they are today, as evidenced by the quotes above.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna’s prodigy, Arjuna watches - heartbroken - as a fierce battle unfolds before him. It plays out on the land between families and friends, and he does not know where to step in. I imagine Krishna, god of love, tenderness, and compassion placing one of his four, blue-black hands on Arjuna’s shoulder, saying almost sympathetically, “Oh dear one...the real battle is within. Look there first.” Well shoot, Krishna, why you gotta make it so hard!? Nevertheless Arjuna enters the path of interiority and learns that unbridled devotion to Krishna without “right action” is no love at all. He must learn to act on behalf of this love. Krishna is not neutral on this, claiming to be born from age to age whenever unrighteousness is out of balance with righteousness. The etymology of righteous comes from the Old English riht (just) + wis (wise, way) = the just way. Jesus walked this Way too. Let’s suppose for a minute that Krishna is an avatar, one that can appear in different forms whenever human kind needs a little nudge toward love. His voice is echoed throughout history. A single page does not allow near enough room to note the number of times we’ve needed such nudging! But alas, the universe is patient. Note the 14 billion year epoch of unfolding, and she is not yet finished!
We are given another drop of wisdom in the form of Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolence is a form of justice, the peaceful means of bringing about change. It is the ultimate act of love, one that I surmise cannot be genuinely expressed until the love within mirrors the love without. Much of our current extrapolation of MLK’s message is focused only on the interracial holding of hands in an illustration of his Dream. He did not, however, mince words when it came to the path necessary to be able to emerge hand in hand. He demanded our attention to imbalances between blacks and whites when it came to economics, schooling, laws, resources, and social standing. No, like Jesus, he was not murdered because he asked us to hold hands with one another. He was murdered because he asked us to take a hard look at how we were loving one another, and the powers that be did not like being shaken up in such a way.
Still, 60 years later, Zen Master angel Kyodo Williams urges us to examine the inseparable knot between love and justice. If I am told I am loved with hardened eyes or by the slick mouth of an abuser, my notions of love are disoriented and disrupted. This kind of love is greedy, harmful...left wanting. Yet hundreds of thousands of children are told daily as the hand comes down upon them, “I only do this because I love you.” If I say I want racial harmony but do not work on behalf of full equity, my words mean little. You can see how love devoid of justice, synonymous with righteous or the just way, can feel flimsy. It’s the hardest, easiest thing, Love, because it requires really looking with an eye toward wisdom. To truly love ourselves is to love others fully; to love One is to love All. For “As above, so below; as within, so without” pertains to the notion that the outside world is a reflection of our inner world. So folks, let us listen to the avatars of wisdom and bend toward Just Love.