It has become almost second-nature to talk about division today. The over-riding narrative is that of conflict and tribalism, where people identify with one group or another and assume that their own group is 'right' and the other group is 'wrong' - on everything.
Of course none of this is new, and while in some areas we have seen progress over the years the rhetoric of 'us' and 'other' has been with us from the dawn of mankind - indeed some see this tribalism as an evolutionary trait.
But we should see it as it is, as part of our delusion. The view that we can partition the world into 'me', 'us' and 'other' only occurs because of our wilful refusal to believe that we all share the human experience. History tells us that if we follow this road it leads to to accepting the de-humanization of whoever is the 'other,' and to catastrophic results. We all know this - yet the huge trap is to say "yes, that's exactly what they are doing!" - which is in itself reinforcing the us/them delusion.
It is right to work for a more loving, accepting and inclusive society, but we must me sure that in our words and actions we are not just perpetuating dehumanizing division. As the old Sting song says rhetorically, "I hope the Russians love their children too."
In the Pāli writings there is a lovely short sutta about a King who asks his wife "is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?"
She replies "No, great king. There is no one dearer to me than myself. And what about you, great king? Is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?"
The King agrees saying "there is is no one dearer to me than myself."
The King then contemplates this exchange - and it is worth us contemplating this too. We would agree that we are the most dear to ourselves - but what do we take away from that? Some focus only on that and choose to act selfishly. Others, like the king, realize that the same is true for all beings, whoever they are. The king shares this realization with the Buddha who exclaims:
Searching all directions
with your awareness,
you find no one dearer
In the same way, others
are thickly dear to themselves.
So you shouldn’t hurt others
if you love yourself.
This is a great time for us all to meditate on this. We are all dear to ourselves, we all love our children, we all wish to be well, happy and free from suffering. In these things there is no 'other,' only 'us.'
I have linked below a fully guided 30-minute meditation on the story of The King (Rājan Sutta). A few of us have committed to press 'play' at 7pm PT on Sunday 22nd November - you can of course listen at any time, but you are welcome to join with us then.
If the player below doesn't work for you please click here instead.
Rājan Sutta Translated from the Pāli by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu, retrieved from