Solidarity and Retreat

Working to halt today’s intertwined social, ecological, and spiritual crises is a pressing task requiring more than ad-hoc activism. It requires a deep praxis flowing from a strong and healthy inner self. The famous ancient axiom “know thyself” has become crucial in a modern global society that barrages us with fragmented information that contributes to the construction of our similarly broken identities.

In Solitude and Compassion: The Path to the Heart of the Gospel, which consists of 20 chapters divided into three parts, Gus Gordon writes that “One of the fundamental dynamics we discover in human existence is the interplay and sometimes tension between solitude and solidarity.” He argues that both the Buddha’s and Jesus’ teachings foster a healthy balance between our inner self and concern for others. Through this comparative method, Gordon releases the powerful message of both teachers and the traditions their teachings spawned.

The Buddha taught that humanity’s life purpose was to find enlightenment through a lifetime of serious meditation, study, and solitude. Enlightened individuals understand clearly that all beings are interconnected in an impermanent universe. Thus, Gordon maintains that for Buddhists, “The spiritual path … begins with a period of retreat from the social world, like a wounded deer looking for a solitary, peaceful spot to heal her wounds.” This period is necessary for a Buddhist to develop the spiritual maturity required to effectively and positively impact the world.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2010
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