“If you really want to teach somebody something, you have to wait until the person’s ready and then do it. If somebody’s mind is not ready, you shouldn’t try to push your religious ideas onto that person, no matter how strongly you believe in them. It’s like giving a dying person a precious jewel.”Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, CA, 1975
Lama Yeshe was talking about the type of religious extremists to push literature in public spaces during a talk transcribed in his book The Peaceful Stillness of the Silent Mind.
Yeshe says “The mind needs time to absorb any idea.” And I’m wondering — what about political extremists and racists? Do we use the same teaching?
Maybe this is a path for us, for you out there, doing the hard work in your community. Maybe you would feel better and do better work by saving your breath on folks who aren’t ready?
The same day I started writing this post, I moderated a live Q&A for one of the films I work on, The Long Shadow. The film focuses on the history of anti-black racism and the roots of white supremacy in America. Inevitably, questions about how to reach the seemly unreachable starting coming in for the director, Frances Causey.
As a moderator, I usually let Frances do all the talking and focus on making sure everyone’s questions are heard, keeping track of time, and steering us back on topic when needed. This time I couldn’t stop thinking of Lama Yeshe’s teaching. Is sharing anti-racist resources with someone who has deep-seated white supremacist views like giving a dying person a precious jewel?
The idea of not trying to reach them bummed me out, I thought “this situation is different, this is bigger.” Is it?
Frances shared she thinks about 30% of the country is unreachable right now, but not to let that discourage everyone from doing the work. She gave a few examples of organizations partnering with different community groups to get more folks at the table, and hopefully, eventually, the folks who really need to be at the table show up and listen.
We work with a lot of faith-based groups so this does happen from time to time as these congregations are rife with all types. We also always share the short 15-minute version of the film in case it’s a better starting ground for the unconvinced.
I wonder what y’all think. Maybe don’t share your utmost dope vibe and energy with folks unwilling to see the path? Do they deserve these jewels yet?
Share any ideas or resources here if you’d like and I’ll add them to this post if you’re down.