August 10, 2011

20 Years, 20 Teachings: A Sangha by Another Name by Charles Johnson

If you haven't yet downloaded 20 Years, 20 Teachings: The Tricycle 20th Anniversary E-Book there's still time. It's free for Supporting and Sustaining Members. Already a member? Get your free e-book here.

In his contribution to our 20th anniversary e-book, "A Sangha by Another Name," Charles Johnson writes about the religious vision of Martin Luther King Jr.:

By the mid-1950s, as the Beats looked toward Zen, so did a few black musicians and poets; and of course by then the Civil Rights Movement was underway, led magnificently by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who took Mahatma Gandhi as his inspiration. After a pilgrimage to India in 1958, where he visited ashrams and sought to learn more about nonviolence not simply as a political strategy but as a way of life, King came back to America determined to set aside one day a week for meditation and fasting. In the 1960s, he nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize the outstanding Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. King was, at bottom, a Baptist minister, yes, but one whose vision of the social gospel at its best complements the expansive, Mahayana bodhisattva ideal of laboring for the liberation of all sentient beings (“Strangely enough,” he said, “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be”). His dream of the “beloved community” is a sangha by another name, for King believed that “it really boils down to this: that all of life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

Read the whole article here.

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karladiane's picture

Dr. Johnson's essay in the lovely e-book is so beautiful. I currently live in Atlanta Georgia, very close to the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a national park, and a wonderful place to visit if you find yourself in Atlanta.

I greatly appreciate Dr. Johnson's belief that Dr. King was a living icon of the bodhisattva ideal, which I believe in my heart of hearts. I think that this is particularly evident in his "Mountaintop" speech, which was delivered very shortly before his assassination, where he talks about "developing a kind of dangerous unselfishness", and where his love and fearlessness are abundantly clear.

Thank you so much for including Dr. Johnson's essay in the wonderful anniversary e-book.


Sam Mowe's picture

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. And I agree, Dr. King was clearly a bodhisattva.

I've been to the MLK museum there in Atlanta before. Great place. Will have to make another pilgrimage there soon.