On Monday, March 30th, Brian Babb was shot and killed by an officer of the Eugene Oregon Police Department. Captain Brian Babb was an Army veteran, having served in Afghanistan. He suffered from PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury). The police have not released details of the shooting or what led up to the incident. It has been verified that Babb was suicidal, owned several weapons, and according to his therapist had fired a shot through the upstairs floor, apparently "to see what it sounded like." It is also verified (note: for those seeking the right or wrong of this situation simply Google "Veteran shot by Eugene police. This will include an essay by Babb's therapist on EPD's response) that he was seeking help, and had been on the phone with his therapist until just prior to the shooting. She reports that he was engaged, which is uncommon for one wanting to take his life, and working with her. She adds that she then heard over the phone the police negotiator announce through a bullhorn: "Brian Babb come out with your hands up." Babb's life did not last but moments after this.
In 2012, Sergeant James Brown died when deputies in the El Paso, Texas jail failed to respond quickly enough to his pleas that he was unable to breath. Sgt. Brown suffered from PTSD related to two combat tours, and reportedly had banged his head against the cell bars. The video of his last minutes is all over the internet currently.
In both of these incidents, it is understandable, based upon our current culture, that the response was what it was. But isn't this the problem- our culture. I was not present at either incident, and did not know anyone involved. I cannot say if the response by the police was disproportionate, appropriate, or inappropriate. What I do know is that our response to just about everything is self-serving, and lacks compassion.
We know that there is suffering in our culture, in our world, not only in men and women like Capt. Babb and Sgt. Brown, but in us all. This is easily demonstrated. There is also a cause to this suffering, and while not so easy to demonstrate, it follows logically. That cause is our unhealthy desire, our craving to change the circumstances of our lives, in the process demeaning what is.
Captain Babb and Sergeant Brown were likely doing the same thing, desperately trying to change what is, the cost added to the horrors of war more than could be paid. Our response to them lacked compassion, and while the reasons for why we respond in this way would require another essay, we could easily say that our culture abhors those who we perceive as different or flawed. We perceive our environment and those in it as threatening-the other, when in fact this misperception is the source of all of our negative emotions, our conflicts and wars-hatred of the other and greed.
America it is time. It is time to view the other as another sentient being, just like you, inseperable from you.
According to Soto monk Reb Anderson: "compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It's not passive--it's not empathy alone--but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and loving kindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness)."
Put yourself in the shoes of Capt. Babb. He was clearly a good soldier, a good man, who lost his way following whatever horror created the brain injury. He was much loved by his family, which included two children. Imagine how you would feel having been a successful being, now seeing nothing but failure and pain.
Imagine yourself as the police officer who fired the fatal shot. No matter how much others' might try to convince you of the justification of your decision, would you not still live out your days in doubt, and yes, in pain.
I have often argued with Rinpoche that there are bad men who do bad things. He continues to insist that all, no matter the circumstances, are just trying to be happy. I have come to respect this opionion as it is Rinpoche who has demonstrated to me that there is cessation to suffering by offering compassion when I would have offered anger.
What is needed is compassion. If we are ever to change our slide into oblivion, we must change our perception of "what is."
"Prajna" is the Sanskrit word often translated as wisdom, and also, at times, as consciousness, insight or discernment. An extension of wisdom is compassion-there cannot be one without the other, or to selflessly act to alleviate suffering "wherever it appears."
My discernment tells me that those possessed by hatred and greed-our leaders, will never change, but they are a small percentage. The rest of us, though clearly intoxicated by their propaganda, have to change if there is to be hope for future generations. Each moment presents an opportunity, an opportunity to see the world for what it is, the other for who he is, his true nature, and to see yourself as you are, your true nature. In truth we are all the same. Cue the Golden Rule.