Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman —
Embracing Our Enemies and Our Suffering

Two legendary Buddhist teachers shine a light on the lofty ideal of loving your enemies and bring it down to Earth. How can that be realistic, and what do we have to do inside ourselves to make it more possible? In a conversation filled with laughter and friendship, Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman share much practical wisdom on how we relate to that which makes us feel embattled from without, and from within.

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is a meditation teacher and the cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. She is the co-author of Love Your Enemies. Her other books include Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation and Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace.

is professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University. He’s also the president of the Tibet House U.S. He is the co-author of Love Your Enemies. His other books include Infinite Life: Awakening to Bliss Within and Inner Revolution.

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Rosanne Cash's comparison of a live performance to a Buddhist monk's wiping away of a sand mandala reminded us of this fantastic two-minute, time-lapse video.

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What a wonderful program. Excited to join the online teaching on Facebook! Thank you all three for reminding us what is important & powerful in life.

On Being, lovingkindness, compassion, friendliness mindfulness, mental health

The TM organization (Transcendental Meditation) staged a week-long meditation with 7000 people together in about 1984. I was there in Fairfield, Iowa. Pretty interesting stuff happened. THey also, back in 1979 or so, sent hundreds of volunteers to surround war zones and meditate all day every day, for 30 days. They sent social scientists to study the effects. Apparently the acts of violence decreased, the economy improved, and hospital admissions dropped. We had a similar effect in prisons when teaching TM there, as I did in San Quentin, in the 1980's. Even non-meditators seemed to change their behavior.

Great post about your community's work. Would love more info on the study. Could you share a link to the data & findings?

It was a beautiful program! The interviews on this site seem endlessly inspiring. What a treasure is On Being.

However, I'm also laughing at Krista's characterization of Sharon and Bob as "legendary Buddhist teachers!" This may be a coherent compliment in the West. However, in the East it is very humorous! A kind of oxymoron..... legendary Buddhist!

In this spirit, what do you get when you cross a Zen Buddhist and a Jehovah's Witness?

Someone who rings your doorbell for no apparent reason! : -))

The linking power of humor! The inspirational power of humor! The just plain POWER of humor! It MUST be a KEY component in all of this. When I picture "God," this being is always ready to laugh. We can be so pitiful, but I am also sure we make this being laugh (our salvation hand in hand with forgiveness and reconciliation).

one of my favorite radio show, thank you for "being"

I think it's no coincidence that my cat woke me up early and I turned this program on. I needed to hear it. I've been angry since I was laid off from my job several months ago at the hand of the workplace bully. As a result of the layoff, I'm having to move from a town I love back to a city I'm not too fond of - the disappointment, sadness & anger is making me exhausted & not a fun person to hang around with.
Thank you for opening my mind & my eyes to what I'm doing to myself. I've ordered your latest book and look forward to opening my heart.

Bless you...

Thanks to daylights savings time I caught your show and I am so glad I did. It was wonderful and timely for my current experiences. Looking forward to next week

Delightful - thought-provoking show this morning (KUT-austin) and a PODCAST so my 89 year aunt later can enjoy and we can discuss. To continue fueling our spiritual and mental growth with the gift of time is quite special and we BOTH thank you for it. Trite, but true, the lovely clique: "KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK", please. With gratitude, Simone

I truly enjoyed today's program.

I do not subscribe to Facebook (literally and otherwise) , and hope there is another way for me to participate
in the upcoming online teaching. It is also of concern to me that Facebook and Twitter participation is often necessary
to experience public media programming.

Thank you for your programming and hearing this.

Roy Zuckerman/NYC

Invoking Facebook or Twitter frustrates me also. When I try to understand rather than judge this hurdle, I return to the idea that reaching any worthy goal requires effort.

Yet again, this week's show with Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman reminds me of the little I know and practice and simultaneously the great hope and potential for anyone's life, including --- thankfully --- mine.
Around the 50th minute of the unedited version, there was a dialogue on the reality of vast interrelationships. I immediately thought that Christians this weekend are celebrating All Saints Day this weekend and homilies are rich with this important perspective, focusing on the "communion of saints". Today's definition of this concept is more expansive than the past and can encompass all the dead and the living members of all the various communities in which we reside. Often as I recite the Lord's Prayer and reach the phrase "give us this day our daily bread", I try to pause and equate the day's bread with all the people responsible for some single task I will do, thanking God for them all. It is but one small exercise to moderate my ego and help me realize the dependencies in my life.
Thank you for providing so much positive energy this day.

I do believe that "the pain and sufferings" will be always with us for ever, The physical pain and emotional sufferings. We need to use our coping skills by utilizing available resources and support systemsms. The Spiritual Support just-in-time. God's presence is with us for ever to overcome our pain and sufferings. Thank you.

Only heard the last 15 minutes, but loved everything I heard. How can I find out more about the 30 days of love your enemies?

I found the Love Your Enemies Facebook page! - www.facebook.com/LoveYrEnemies -.

Heard this on radio NPR this A.M. Thought you might find it interesting.

We interdependent human creatures depend on the happiness of others.

It started 3 yrs ago when I forgave a Nigerian scammer and embraced the fact that I fell in love with someone who didn't even exist. That opened a world of possibilities. Then about 3 weeks ago I listened to your old show on marriage's future and embraced my heart's desire again to a huge awakening. Today you published that awakening. Deep calls to deep, Krista! The question was before: do we have a connection of coincidence? Now it is: Who do I intend to hear from next? Krista will put them on the show! Thanks for the profound and the simple. EVERY WEEK!

Can someone please share the facebook page that was mentioned at the very end?

I was surprised that neither Thurman nor Salzberg brought up the most logical method in Buddhism to "love our enemies." If we have had innumerable lifetimes and have experienced all realms of suffering, at one point all sentient beings were once my mother, hence: [In the Exchange of Self and Others within Lama Chopa)]
"My mothers,, all these pitiful beings
Have looked after me so often with kindness
So by these thoughts, just like a loving mother for her suffering son,
Please bless me to develop natural compassion . . . ..

Krista, you quote Bob as saying, "It is highly rational for us to love our enemies." That made me think about how intention figures in to loving one's enemies. Why are we doing it? Because it's rational, in the sense that it will ultimately benefit us or the "enemy?" And, given the Buddhist ontology—non-self, non-substantiality, transience of all phenomena--what's the difference?

I found the meditation Thurman shared to be very useful, would there be a source for ordering these sort of guided meditations?

As I grow spiritualy,I realize religon is used by some to put labels on people,in terms that have nothing to do with the spirit. A judgement of how someone should grow,live and love. It might take someone an entire lifetime to realize they do not know what they believe.The awareness of humility,love and respect for others is a step in the right direction.To continue on this path is the way to grow spiritualy.

I found this On Being broadcast very interesting. I've never studied Buddhism and so I found the ideas of how to deal with ones anger very fascinating. I have to admit that I hold on to my anger all the time instead of talking about it or just letting it go. I can say that when my wife and I get in to an argument, I sometimes bring up things that have happened in the past. I have a hard time letting those old things that have bothered me go. Perhaps if I studied Buddhism a little more, I'd be able to let things go a little easier.

I know from experience just how much people time people can spend being angry at others. Thankfully, my wife has pointed this out to me, and I have been working on it. I realize now that getting angry should not be my first response and that it can be a wasted emotion. Anger is something that can get in ones way of what they want. In this way, we can be our own worst enemy.

Thank you, Krista Tippet, from the bottom of my heart for being who you are and for bringing to us the most amazing human beings to your programs and sharing light with us. Thank you. You enrich our lives :)

As a Vieteran--a veteran of the Vietnam War, I've spent a long time trying to come to grips with the idea and practice of embracing the enemy. Even with intent and effort, it is not easy.
Along my crooked trail, in an effort to find some kind of peace of mind and comfort in the foibles and folly from my youthful naivete, I have met the enemy and found forgiveness and a grace I had not expected.
The Vietnamese, for lots of different reasons, have been able to forgive us for our transgressions. I suspect that stems partly from their "winning" the war, but more importantly, it is a result of their Buddhist attitudes and philosophy. One only has to visit their country to feel this.
Even as the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of US involvement looms,(no political discussion here, about when we got involved--it does go back further than that) with attendant revisionism rampant, that war never ended. We have yet to embrace the enemy or forgiven ourselves for that vulgar episode in our history.
Toward that,I've made a documentary about American Veterans who have taken that brave and forgiving effort by putting healing into motion with their work.

Same Same But Different has only screened three times so far, the first to a full house in Hanoi last Spring.

You can watch it here.

password: HoChiMinh

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All Blessings,
Deryle Perryman
Albuquerque

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This episode (which is excellent, thanks!) showed up briefly on iTunes (iPhone 5 IOS 8.1.2, Apple's podcast app) and the disappeared: both the unedited version and the produced show.

I've learned to be skeptical of anyone who tells me to "embrace" stuff. The language of new age "mindfulness" is becoming as banal as any Medieval doctrine.

Skepticism is a wonderful thing. I value it. I treasure it. I rely upon it. I was raised on it and thrived. I will never give it up. It is the best gift my mother and grandmother gave me. That being said, one must also value, treasure and rely upon truth when you come across it. One of my most trusted guides to Truth is humor. Does whatever I am examining stand the test of humor? Can one stand in the midst of whatever belief or presence is being examined, and laugh from the gut, with not only appreciation, but camaraderie? If the answer is a resounding "Yes!" then I will replace my initial skepticism with trust. It's the best I've come up with so far.

You do a good job of interviewing guests and following up with questions. But you went too far with this leading question, which you can tell by guest responses, they were in the awkward position of trying to respond without making you look stupid. Please be careful with your over the top leading questions.

MS. TIPPETT: Let me ask you this. Here in the 21st century, 13 years in, so many people in the west — I mean, this is so interesting 'cause I know the two of you were among the groups of people who in the 60s and 70s really kind of imported Buddhism in eastern religions to the west for the first time. And now at this point, it really feels to me like there's this, you know, this critical mass of people exploring meditation, taking up meditation, yoga. You know, just I think even in the last five years, it's on every corner.

I know obviously, there's a real variety in the quality of all of that, you know. But there it is. It's there and so many people are finding something in it. I just want to ask the two of you about, let's say, one of the most kind of counter-cultural pieces of the ethos of that and it's this kind of mystical idea that you can get in an ordinary yoga class or an ordinary meditation session in some inner city that, when you sit there and do this inward work of breathing and planting yourself in something, that infinite goodness or dedicating your hour of yoga to other people, right, that somehow that act, that what looks like a private act, does send something out into the world, does have an effect on the world.

I think that's a pretty mysterious idea that a lot of people are just kind of taking in now and taking in seriously. So I'm curious about how you would — how you understand that. Does that make sense?MS. TIPPETT: Let me ask you this. Here in the 21st century, 13 years in, so many people in the west — I mean, this is so interesting 'cause I know the two of you were among the groups of people who in the 60s and 70s really kind of imported Buddhism in eastern religions to the west for the first time. And now at this point, it really feels to me like there's this, you know, this critical mass of people exploring meditation, taking up meditation, yoga. You know, just I think even in the last five years, it's on every corner.

I know obviously, there's a real variety in the quality of all of that, you know. But there it is. It's there and so many people are finding something in it. I just want to ask the two of you about, let's say, one of the most kind of counter-cultural pieces of the ethos of that and it's this kind of mystical idea that you can get in an ordinary yoga class or an ordinary meditation session in some inner city that, when you sit there and do this inward work of breathing and planting yourself in something, that infinite goodness or dedicating your hour of yoga to other people, right, that somehow that act, that what looks like a private act, does send something out into the world, does have an effect on the world.

I think that's a pretty mysterious idea that a lot of people are just kind of taking in now and taking in seriously. So I'm curious about how you would — how you understand that. Does that make sense?

My answer: No. It does not make sense.

Thanks,

Loyal listener.

Ron Larson
Danbury, WI.

I listened to this while I cleaned the barn this morning. Wow. I mean just wow. I came up Sharon Salzberg's writing through a reference from Martha Beck and was very much helped by how she opened up what it means to bless your enemies. This practice has saved my sanity. My mother in law and I had a very difficult relationship, so much so that I would obsess about her all the time. I think it was Sharon's writing that reminded me about wishing someone well, and about how that wishing can turn bad stuff around to good, that got me practicing it with my mother in law. The Buddhist mantra of wishing someone good health etc was too complicated so I asked God to bless her, even when I didn't feel like it. It was an act of the will. There was no point in my rehashing the feelings. I knew what they were. I did this multiple times a day for twenty years. We even stopped speaking to her for five years. (This is not how I wanted it to go.) But, but when she got ready to die, she asked me to be one of her powers that be--attorney, health care, executor. And I wanted to do this. And there was deep healing and reconciliation between us. Here's a link to a This I Believe I wrote: http://thisibelieve.org/essay/34817/

Your show reminded me that this work, this blessing work, is important and powerful. And it reminded me to work on that being kind to myself stuff as well. I have to listen again. It as so very, very rich.

This is the problem we must solve in order to move forward in all other areas on this planet. This is a central tenet of the ACTUAL Christian message.

Wonderful show. Relevant for Buddhists, Christians and atheists alike. Very impactful, full of positive teachings and love.

Thanks, what a terrific podcast to being the new year with a lot to think about! Love is not about being a doormat. Anger can be used productively and positively if channeled correctly. Evil as a pained response to a painful situation.

I wrote a short essay after hearing this excellent interview. The essay involves chickens.

Thank you, Krista Tippett, for teasing out such wonderful insights and teachings from Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman. Now I know why people find Sharon Salzberg to be a wise and helpful teacher.