Although I take refuge in the true Pure Land way,
It is hard to have a true and sincere mind.
This self is false and insincere;
I completely lack a pure mind.
Hymns of the Dharma -Ages; 94, CWS p. 421
Recently, we have been hearing a lot about many forms of prejudice, particularly racism in the news. When we see and hear and read so much about it in the media, many people seem to wonder how others could think and act the way they do. However, we all need to remember that before we point fingers at others, we need to look at ourselves first. The problem with prejudice is not just a problem for others. It can be found in our community and in our selves. Apparently, there have been situations where people have refused to talk to perfectly capable people at funeral homes because they were not Japanese. This can be considered a form of racism as well.
I have probably mentioned this before, but I still vividly remember what one of my English teachers said in high school, “I am bigoted against bigots!” This led to a great discussion, but the point was that we all have prejudices. It is only natural, from past experiences and other factors to have some form of preconception. Those prejudices and preconceptions are part of our karma, that which makes us who we are. We only need to be careful that we do not let that karma prevent us from getting to the truth or learning from the situation or the other person.
I have certain prejudices. I admit that I have a prejudice against people who have “comb overs.” I am not trying to make a political statement of any kind here. It is just a matter of wondering how much a person, who is deliberately trying to deceive themselves and others, can be trusted. They may be telling the truth, but a person with a “comb over” will have a bigger job of convincing me than would someone else. I will try to listen, but there will be a doubt on my part that will need to be overridden, before I can give them my total trust.
This is the distinction that we need to make. We can have our prejudices and preconceptions, but we should not let them become obstacles in getting to the truth of an issue or situation. Due to our past experiences, real and imagined, things that we have read or been told, we will enter into situations with preconceptions. This is only natural and is part of the karma that we have accumulated throughout our lives. We need make sure that the karma does not lead us into further darkness or ignorance. We need to keep that karma or prejudice from preventing us from getting to the truth or gaining a greater understanding of the situation that may exist in an encounter. We need to break through the bonds of our karma to be liberated so that we can come to see the truth in a situation.
That constant quest for truth is what we need to pursue. To be able to do so requires us to acknowledge our own reality. We need to see how we really are. We need to see our preconceptions and prejudices. By acknowledging those aspects of our reality, we will be better able to work beyond those prejudices and preconceptions that might prevent us from getting to know the other person or learning from the situation; to get to the truth of the matter.
We cannot escape our karma, but we can gain release from those bonds by acknowledging that it is there. We will be open to the workings of the great compassion that will liberate us from that karma.