Since the recent mass shooting in a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin, a fairly clear picture of the shooter has emerged. The public record shows us that Wade Michael Page, 40, was involved in white supremacist and other hate groups. He also had lost jobs and been discharged from the military because of a drinking problem. He was killed on Sunday by police.
I've been thinking about Mr. Page in light of the Six Realms. Traditionally, the Six Realms were places into which one is born because of past karma. The more useful way to understand the Six Realms, I think, is as places we create with our own projections. And we aren't always living in the same realm; it changes as we change.
On the Bhavachakra, or Wheel of Life, the Animal Realm and Hell Realm are nearly always portrayed side-by-side. Animal beings (who are not necessarily biological animals) tend to be fearful of change or anything different. The most mild-mannered "foreigner" is perceived by animal beings as a potential dangerous predator. Animal beings tend to retreat to familiar places to be with their "own kind."
And then there is the Hell Realm. Or, I should say, realms. There are countless different Hell Realms. Some are frozen and brutally cold. Others are worlds flame and rivers of molten metal. Some are full of swords and other sharp things that cannot be avoided.
Metaphorically speaking, a frozen realm being might be living a miserable life but feel powerless to leave. He is frozen in his misery. But flaming realm beings often are consumed by anger, and relentless anger is the primary force driving their lives.
It's likely we'll never know why Wade Michael Page chose to target Sikhs. But to do such a thing indicates he was living in a flaming hell realm, angry beyond reason. From what can be pieced together about how he was living his life, it appears the white supremacist "cause" was all he cared about.
I started out talking about the Animal Realm, because that realm is marked by bigotry. An animal being tends to see anyone who is not "his kind," however he defines that, as a threat. It's not that far to walk to a place where violence against the "other" feels justified.
In the Bhavachakra, in each realm there is a bodhisattva ready to help the beings there. Our challenge is to be that bodhisattva whenever the opportunity arises. I'm not saying we should all drop what we're doing and do skinhead outreach. Sometimes just demonstrating that one doesn't have to be angry, or fearful, or greedy, might be enough to help someone who is ready to be helped.
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is sometimes called the bodhisattva of the Hell Realm, although he travels to all of the realms. In Chinese iconography he is dressed as a simple monk with bare feet, signifying that he is ready to go where he is needed. Stay open; strive to be ready.
(Image: FWBO, Creative Commons License)