Altruism in Action – by Dan Baker

Many of us feel a moral obligation to take action to make the world a more enlightened place. But what does that mean? How do we do this? How do we “save the world”? There is so much suffering that it threatens to overwhelm us. We struggle to survive, pay the bills and just stay sane as we try to be happy. Some say the world is already “God’s perfect plan” unfolding mysteriously before us, and that all the pain and abuse we face is just karma, purification and magic life lessons. But even if that’s true it is also a fact that pain which has not yet come can be avoided. Maybe rapists and brutal rulers are just people who need to be stopped.

So how do we do this? And how can we trust our own motivations which intend to change the world? Not everyone will agree with our visions of our idea of an ideal world, some for selfish reasons, others for sincerely devout motivations, however misguided. We can trust our works if they are based on altruism, wisdom and compassion, with the combined efforts of the community. We will make mistakes, and that’s ok. We keep each other in the right perspective by offering criticism and self criticism.

First we need to cultivate motivation for our projects. Go out into your neighborhoods and identify suffering people, animals and environments, even plants. Then start by cleaning up your own area, picking plastic and trash out of the soil. Give a beggar some food and water. Even if you are homeless you can take good care of yourself and maybe another houseless neighbor. Set up a space with images to inspire you to make daily acts of altruism for a specific goal. Ask others for help, or join their projects. Then sit down and visualize that problem you mean to address in detail, and how it can be fixed. Choose one person, animal, place or thing, even a plant if you are facing limited means, and resolve to relieve the suffering you found.

Spend some time contemplating others, how much we all depend on others for everything we enjoy and know in our lives. Our food, clothing and everything we use and enjoy come due to the efforts of others- we are all one interdependent world wide community. Even our knowledge, language and skills, all our good qualities, come from the kindness of others.

All beings desire happiness and avoid pain. We all suffer. Everyone has problems, everyone is hurt. To save ourselves and the world, people, plants and animals that we love, we must sometimes forget ourselves and strive to help others. Often others’ difficulties are worse than our own, if only due to perspective, but often in fact as well.

Examine your capacity to help others. Maybe right now your ability to help them is limited by means or by time, but if you reduce your own ignorance, anger, attachment and other faults, and increase your good qualities, such as generosity, fortitude, loving-kindness, compassion, and wisdom, you will be of greater benefit. If you become a full time activist, a real revolutionary, you will be of the greatest possible benefit to all beings. Generate the altruistic intention to become a full time activist in order to benefit all beings effectively. Picture your specific goal- rescuing a stray animal or injured bird, rehabilitating a homeless person (safely, with wisdom and boundaries), cleaning up an area or environment, standing up against tyrants and toxic political ideas- and visualize the details bathed in light, day and night, enriching the minds of yourself and those you would help. Vibrate with objectless compassion!

Allow yourself to be pleased with your altruistic intention, and visualize your future self as your highest potential, surrounded by friends, family , teachers, mentors, neutral acquaintances and even those you dislike, so-called enemies and all beings you don’t know. Everyone becomes their own highest potential, faces turn towards the light. That light shines on you, burning away any so-called “impurities”. The light fills you and all those around you, transforming your bodies and minds.

Let go of all conceptions you have about yourself, particularly and self-denigrating thoughts and the concept of independent existence. Visualize your body as vacuous, a void of emptiness, stillness and peace. Sit with this concept for a few minutes, taking the exercise as a temporary medicinal remedy to selfishness. If it helps, use beads and repeat, “No self, no negative self talk, no independent existence, just peaceful emptiness…”

Then build a fire in your heart, a small sun that radiates the light of wisdom and compassion in all directions, through the entire universe. The light transforms all sentient beings into their highest potential and purifies all polluted environments. Now picture all beings and places as happy, healthy and free. What does this look like, in detail? From your body stretching outward, what does practical liberation look like? Your area, town, region, dipped in compassion, and applied wisdom towards those who oppose compassion. Then expand it.

What skillful means can we deploy to realize this goal? You have transformed all beings and their environments into utopias in your imagination. Why hasn’t this become a reality? Because we sentient beings have bias and prejudice, and lack enough love, compassion and joy. Wishing yourself and others to have these good qualities, contemplate equanimity, love, compassion and joy, for everyone- friends, relatives, strangers, as well as those who you dislike, mistrust, disapprove of, and those who have harmed you in the past.

Repeat to yourself three times, “May all beings have happiness and its causes. May all beings be free of suffering and its causes. May all beings not be separated from sorrowless bliss and equanimity, may all be free of bias, attachment and anger.” We must push ourselves to root out patterns of privilege, racism, and class division from our hearts and minds, and to oppose any old bad habits with new good acts of neighborly love.

Again, how can we do this in our daily life, today? By yourself, and with close friends, family and community, go to work immediately on your own area. Identify needs and meet them. Help others take refuge in resources for the hungry and displaced and unhoused- and accept help yourself if you need it. Do what you can and ask for what you need. Invite others to join you, ask for their help in your projects, demand that “authorities” fulfill their obligations if they want to claim that position. Expand and contract your efforts according to your limits. Return to this visualization daily and work on applying these ideas to dilemmas worldwide. Write your ideas, share them and give and accept criticisms. Plug into the internet and keep up with the news, get a sense of your place in this temporary world. Raise your voice on subjects that touch your heart, find like minded allies and take action with love and wisdom and the guiding principles.

Please allow me to give examples of my own. Then please lead by example as soon as you can. You are the hope for the present and future!

I am considered to be a political prisoner by the ACLU and activists all around the world. I am being held against my will for what many consider to be ‘trumped’ up charges (pun intended). I don’t have to identify with the label of ‘convicted felon’; instead I visualize myself as my highest potential, currently a work in progress. I am a yogi, a meditator, a medic and a full time activist. Here in federal prison I see many elderly convicts suffering from preventable ailments and lack of medical care. So I ask my friends for help and built a bag of basic first aid and over the counter medical supplies. Most of the time I just distribute aspirin, ibuprofen and Pepto Bismol type things. I have also helped people who were beat up, providing bandages, antibacterial ointment and so on. It’s not much, but that’s what I can do. Many inmates are very poor, and I get lots of help from friends all over the world, so I try to help others. Soon I would like to refill this bag.

Now let’s expand the scope to my home in Florida. I write essays for anyone who cares to listen to this beggar and street medic. I will be joining activists in Tallahassee to feed and house those in need when I am released. Additionally I will continue to train in emergency medical rescue and basic medical care, and I will continue to treat the homeless population however I can. I want to become an EMT, a Paramedic, a medical assistant and then a nurse. I will also continue to teach yoga and meditation, and to learn from mentors like Thubten Chodron. Much of this essay is directly based in their writing and guidance. All the faults are my own, for example all this self righteous talk. I will be trying to keep up with Eric’s tireless community service in Tallahassee- they are more advanced than I am, as are Desiree, Jack and Hannah.

If we expand our awareness even further to all of Florida we can become aware of the threats being transmitted in interstate commerce by Donald Trump regarding the Mar-a-Lago situation. He is openly calling for his supporters to commit violent acts if he is forced to take responsibility for his many deadly crimes. Due to his reckless, deadly, hate filled rhetoric people have attacked the FBI, killed police, murdered civilians, committed lynchings and hate crimes and even Trump voters themselves have been shot to death by cops, feds and political opponents due to Trump’s words.  

As conscientious human beings we cannot allow this to go on. Trump is willing and able to cause a civil war in 2024 if he does not get his childish way. He tried on January 6th in 2021 and he will try again. Many of his supporters still approve of that event, where they carried the confederate flag into the capitol building, along with swastikas. He has the support of right wing nationalist Christians, most of law enforcement, some of the federal agents, militias and ignorant racists world wide. The best way to prevent this fascist coup is to stop it before it starts. One year from now it will be too late. We will be out of time. How can we do this? With this situation we need more wisdom than compassion, and I will not offer my honest opinion here. Draw your own conclusion. Act on them. As Trump recently said when asked what would happen if he was charged with a crime, “use your imagination”. Failure to do so will result in more suffering at the hands of racist mobs and religious fanatics.

Expanding once more we can look at the example of Florida Governor Ron Desantis callously trafficking humans in interstate commerce when he lied to refugees and had them transported to Martha’s Vineyard, promising the “Amerikkkan dream”- housing, work, food, prosperity and happiness. This is now known as the “Reverse-freedom rides,” a practice he has taken from the KKK, Ron Desantis’ ideological ancestors, allies and inspiration, who are rebranded in Florida as “The League of the South”. The original “reverse-freedom rides” were orchestrated by racist, CIVILIAN white supremacist terrorists. Today’s “Reverse-freedom rides” are a human trafficking conspiracy conducted by ELECTED OFFICIALS who are racist white supremacist terrorists. The feds could make a lot of money by bringing charges against these wealthy people.

Ron Desantis makes me ashamed to be from Florida, and he shames himself and all of Florida and Texas. What skillful means can we take to undo the suffering he has caused? The NAACP and the Unitarian Church have made great efforts to provide for these refugees. Floridians now have a moral obligation to atone for this insult to human dignity. We can go help them directly, demand accountability from those responsible, and make the seemingly useless ritual of voting against Ron Desantis and all his terrorist friends. Remember that the underground railroad was illegal, but now Harriet Tubman is considered a great role model. Refugees are legal. Human trafficking is not.

Now let’s expand the scope again. Nationwide women are losing rights. I am deeply troubled by the regressive path of Amerikkkan medical law and lack of care and bodily autonomy for women here. This is so troubling that I wish I could move to more modern lands. But my attachment to Florida is so strong that I will return to Tallahassee, at least until my probation is over. So I will support women’s rage and acknowledge that a war against women exists, and support their struggle with compassion and wisdom, even in Florida. But I still recommend that women and those who support women’s liberation migrate away from the backwards states who take away women’s rights.

Let’s expand our awareness again, across the continent and the world. All over this country and the world people are facing deadly floods and a lack of drinking water. We can travel to these places to help rebuild, rescue people and distribute drinking water and filters. I cannot, being in prison, but, if even one person reading this travels to help even one person in need, I’ll feel that our lives have purpose and we have made good merits. We can also address the causes of man made disaster and climate change, and work to protect the environment, offset our own carbon footprint and so on. Basic things, like recycling, not using fossil fuels, and being vegetarian or vegan have a measurable, personal influence to help our world heal. We can return to harmony with nature instead of living selfishly.

We can also see lots of suffering in the Ukraine with he invasion of Russia, and with the threat of China invading Taiwan, and the U.$. vowing to cause a world war over these issues. We can encourage world leaders not to go to war by protesting, going on strikes and organizing to oppose all wars. This includes the threat of civil war here. This country is so unstable that it cannot afford to go to war with a huge army like China’s, who is in alliance with Russia against the Amerikkkan government. U.$. soldiers would be divided on several fronts- India, who is their ally, with a billion soldier army to match China’s, Taiwan and Ukraine and the North American continent. We must exhaust ourselves to prevent these wars before they start. I believe that Russia is playing a long game in the Ukraine, advancing and withdrawing to exhaust the Ukrainian people and their sponsors. Russia and China and their allies want to start a world war so that they can establish world dominance. The best thing for the U.$. government to do is to refuse to take the bait. We can encourage them to obey the will of the working people by going on strike. The railway strikes have the potential to cripple capitalist power. Nurses, infrastructure workers, transportation, shipping- if these and other sectors strike against world war then there will be no war. We can also reach out to Chinese and Russian people online and in our lives and talk about these things. No one suffers as much as the workers, soldiers and the poor during wars like this. Only the wealthy stand to profit from these wars.

We’ll close with a few practical exercises. Imagine infinite space, picturing our solar system, our world, the entire milky way galaxy and beyond- all known things. Cultivate altruism, abandon envy and rejoice in all the goodness in the world! Let your faith in humanity be restored! Seek out good news and deep space media. Encourage yourself and other activists. I send you all my strength, courage and love (with healthy boundaries)! Spread good news, ask others to collaborate with your altruistic projects, and share inspiring ideas. Ask others for inspiration. Consider offering all your energy, skill, practice, compassion and joy to a project, person, plant, animal or place of your choosing. Examine yourself for attachment, aversion, and ignorance towards friends, enemies, strangers, your body, wealth and decadence. Return to the exercise of shining light from your heart, and let it dissolve all these ideas, filling you with inspiration to transform your body, speech and mind, if necessary.

Offer criticisms and self criticisms. I offer the self criticisms that I have been speaking harshly, cursing, been lazy and unfocused, reading novels instead of educational material. I have also been cranky and rude and distrustful when it was not appropriate. Sometimes I have been a “thirsty prison guy,” and base, and insecure, so I offer all these self criticisms and vow to push myself to do the work to change for the better. I even caught an unconsciously racist, sexist thought in my mind this morning, regarding an unwanted male opinion of a black woman’s hair style, a female cop’s straightened situation. It’s 2022, no one cares what (white) men think (about black women’s hair). I will make better efforts to finish the educational material people have been kind enough to send me, and to uproot the seeds of racism in my mind. It’s difficult in prison. I’m surrounded by sexist, bigoted and racist people.

Finally, if you still lack motivation, please consider impermanence and inevitable death. Everything is temporary and we are all going to die one day, sooner that later. What can we do before we face inevitable death? Let this alarming thought fuel all your good works. What are your dreams and goals? What have you done today to work towards realizing these? I believe there are 86,400 seconds in each day. These moments are slipping by. How are you using your seconds before they run out? Personally I try to do yoga daily, and exercise, catch up with people and events, meditate, study and write. I also try to help someone. Consider that there are people who will oppose your good projects and “friends” who will distract you. Also know that one day, our bright, warm sun will also reach the end of its life cycle. What can we do to work towards contributing to the exploration of the known and unknown galaxy? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? How will our descendants remember you? Did you contribute to truth, love, joy, compassion and quality of life? Did you help the children of the future inherit liberation and a long life exploring the stars? I hope so!

While writing this a neighbor of mine in here came up and gave me a spontaneous hug. That was very much appreciated. He said he tries to hug one person every day, someone who might need a hug. May all beings be happy and free!

Dan Baker 25765-509

FCI Memphis

PO Box 34550

Memphis, TN 38184

Published by mongoosedistro

"Contains material solely for the purpose of achieving breakdown of prison through disruption" -Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice mailroom

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