I am following my story of Native empathy --the word empathy itself is never used Native documents, so sad was the Native experience-- with the introduction self-preservation and spiritual protection concepts in Buddhism, better known as martial arts.
The self-preservation ideas, I
believe, are a form of selfishness or group-oriented selfishness, where the
practice of meditation and the commitment to an ascetic life to escape
suffering may exclude not just suffering but your family and community as
well. The Buddha, or course, left his family to create Buddhism.
In the Buddha's form of this selfishness, we see the establishment of democracy in spirituality, and we also see rebellion. In comparison, the Midewiwin medicine society was not just a rebellion against White colonialism, but against the Chiefs who were cooperating with the French; it was also an internal spiritual struggle as well as a resistance to invasion. Equality was not so much a concern for the Midewiwin, as was finding people who would be able to carry on the spirit-- and they specifically mention new and young people in their prophecies who can carry on the Midewiwin spirit to its final develop: the creation of peace all over North America.
Buddhism is freeness in every respect; the Buddha was a rebel. The Buddha's purpose was to create for the Indian people a democratic alternative to Hinduism. Simply put, in Hinduism the benefits of life are a product of the wheel of life; only in death and rebirth could one's status in life be improved. Improvement in status only comes at the time of rebirth, and attempts to better life in the here and now would be met with some form of damnation where life after rebirth would be worse than it is in the present life. The Buddha concentrated on creating democracy for humanity around him by helping people identify their beneficial deeds and goodness in living as their status in life. The Buddha created for humanity equity in goodness; good thoughts and deeds would be rewarded in future lives as in the present one. The concept of empathy had not been designed yet, that leap would have to wait for our time, but compassion was certainly understood, and as we know compassionate feelings create health.
Adaptations of Buddhism reveal the Buddha's revolution in full form: liberation for the inner-self from all the suffering and distractions of life. Buddhism was born in a culture of self-sacrifice in all its manifestations; in his birth culture, suicide was a common form of self-sacrifice so that parents could release resources to their children. Yet within Buddhism is a selfishness that promotes both the survival of the physical self and the spirit. As the Buddhist influence traveled away from the Buddha's birth-place in India as far east as it could to Japan, this selfish component to benefit spiritual and self-survival reached its final manifestation in Japan's brilliant pacifist swordsman, the Samurai Munenori. In no other pacifist religion is the concept of lethal force for personal survival considered morally acceptable; yet in the Buddhism of the warrior pacifists the use of force --or more accurately, the redirection of force back towards a malefactor-- is the tactic of spiritual survival, as well as the continuation of life. Self-sacrifice for these warriors was more reality based in its meaning than it is in the classical texts of the Buddha's immediate followers.
Western psychology profoundly discourages self-defense; Aaron Beck in his book on hatred and resolving its problems links self-defense against hatred with the very paranoia that creates hatred. His hate for self-preservation is so extreme that he locks himself hopelessly in a circuitous quandary; he may actually be actually describing the quandary that could eventually kill us all-- our inability of self-preservation in the face of the apparently unstoppable destructive forces, such as the destructive forces of an economic machine created by a small but controlling faction of humanity that is effectively altering the earth's weather patterns. (Beck)
As an example of a Western spiritual psychology we have the non-violent school of communication created by Marshall Rosenberg, a follower of the critically innovative therapist Carl Rogers. One does not even have to look far into Rosenberg's writings to find that the possibility of self-preservation through force is, to him, the worst of sins; it is evident in the title of his philosophy. In non-violent communication, he instructs his people to move into the minds of the people with whom they may have conflict; in that way they can discover the problem and resolve it at its root. The unfortunate reality he seems to ignore is that malicious people usually exist in your sphere only to take from you your resources and your hard work, and hurt you in the process if they have to. In cases where that is happening, genuine attempts at making peace through and outreach invariably result damaging or lethal results. Predatory malefactors very often twist meanings in a social context to take through trickery what they could not take with violence; Rosenberg stands as an ideal vehicle for this kind of trickery. This form of trickery is a process that is quickly becoming a standard in our economic environment of globalism for annexation; the results are invariably forced poverty, and therefore an unending extension of conflict. More often than not, there is some third party forcing the capitulation with some facsimile of a Rosenberg standing by preaching peace at exactly the wrong moment --for a good salary. Applying Goleman's high road / low road model to globalism, we can see modern day colonialists practice the low road tactics of corruption and bribery while social scientists hired for the event justify globalist actions through the high road trickery of the twisting of meaning. Anybody defending themselves is violent, according to many social scientists. Buddhism with its singular selfish component offers an alternative, a middle path between the violence of war and the empathy of peace, to assure the preservation of spirituality.
The more traditional, and humbling, Hindu influences in Buddhism are felt strongest closest to Buddhism's birthplace in India. As one moves radially away from India along the ancient Asian trade routes, Buddhism's dependence on moral writings such as the Hindu Vedic declines, and its revolutionary nature and liberating freeness becomes more effective in transforming people's lives. When we reach the end of the ancient Asian trade route in Japan, we find a level of freeness in Buddhism that actually empowered a family of pacifist swordsmen to end the divisive and destructive madness of the Shogunate warlord era. The swordsman Munenori, and his Yagyu family, transformed violence into peace with an audacious communication strategy in the battle field. The tactic they practiced is called the no-sword technique. Simply described, the pacifist swordsman would approach an opponent and throw his sword to the ground. As the opponent wondered what was going on, the pacifist swordsman would move to take the opponent’s sword. A sort-of dance would then happen, as the pacifist swordsman empathically communicated with his opponent that they are not, in their souls, enemies. Munenori recruited most of his opponents to his cause with his family’s pacifist strategy. Munenori secured an influential position in the ruling house and set about successfully converting the warrior skills of the Samurai into a form martial arts that are a combination of Buddhist philosophy and self-defense. The martial arts eventually transformed into international sports. They even popularized with the warriors artistic practices such as the flower arranging and the tea ceremony. It is interesting to note that, in their pacification, the swordsmen were never required to give up their weapons.
The tea ceremony, as a component of Samurai Buddhist culture, uses the deliberately random abstractions in a teacup's glazes as a focus to draw the tea ceremony's participants together in a natural empathy, a community of knowledge which is an extension of Buddhist meditation. The homes in which the ceremony is practiced are built in balance with nature; nature's random beauty is brought into the home by the gardeners and builders, even though these homes were often built as small fortresses. Through nature, swordsmen and other Buddhists, achieve levels of peace and serenity. From above looking down at a tea ceremony, one sees the empathic tribal link with nature almost as a diagram. Yet the refined practice of the ceremony has brought the link far ahead of the roughness and insecurities of tribal life, the terror of war, even the unfairness of the food web of nature as animals experience it. Such is the genius of the Buddhism in its final manifestation: Zen.
Japan's journey of peace towards enlightenment ended for Japan in the 1850s with the arrival of globalism in the form of American warships intent on opening Japan to global trade. Most interesting to US capital at the time were the whales swimming in the Sea of Japan for rendering into lighting oil, as kerosene had not quite been invented yet. The arrival of the US warships had many ill effects, ranging from the introduction of whale killing to Japan, which persists today, to the beginnings of militarization that resulted finally in the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese military, bringing the US into the Second World War.
Fortunately, the Buddhist ceremonies and art practices thrive as do other manifestations of Japanese cultural empathy; Japan's beautifully dressed women--unquestionably the most elegant in the world-- derive their full body make-up arts and precisely hung robes of brilliant cloth from Japan's tribal prehistory.
During the Buddhist period in Japan, America, in contrast, had been taking the low moral road; it had recently helped addict China to Indian opium as America's fast Baltimore-built schooners easily sailed past the only challenge to opium smuggling there was after the defeat of the Chinese army: the pirates of the China seas. Even before early globalism washed upon Japanese shores, the liberal approach of the ruling pacifist swordsmen’s' families had allowed the introduction of the classic Confucianism religion from China that promoted the concept of submissive fealty where the Buddhists had practiced healthy respect. Confucianism had been permitted to settle and expand, and the Confucianist philosophies of fealty and control were assisting the Japanese militarists with the formation of the globalist plans that brought Asia into the Second World War. The Chinese Confucianist philosophy of fealty, with its absence of ideas of self-survival, permitted the building of a huge army; China's influence within Japan would be felt by the Chinese people as a military invasion and a horrific occupation; during this period, the teachings of the Buddha had no influence in Japan. The superficial peace of fealty and loyalty brought to Japan through Confucianism translated into genocide, whereas local and immediate of resistance through Buddhist self-defense had in a previous era brought centuries of peace to Japan.
Discussed here are two interesting cultures with empathic roots in nature: a world religion carefully crafted from its inception by all its participants --Buddhism; and one born from cauldron of sadistic inhumanity and the diseases spread by global expansion --the Midewiwin. Despite their differences, common to them both is resource of nature for finding knowledge, attachment, and compassion. Both help link the philosophy of peace with a psychology of self-survival in way we often today describe as self-actualization. Empathy, like self-actualization, is a new concept and came too late to be embraced by either Buddhism or the Midewiwin. Empathy and self-actualization together help define natural life's always positive energies of growth; this energy is the basis for both these spiritualities. Empathy at its various levels requires high levels of thought, and from nature these spiritualists find higher thought. In nature there is knowledge that is compassionate: a universal community of knowledge from which all life draws sustenance, both physical and emotional.