This past Tuesday, I went to my usual Sangha meeting of the Open Heart Sangha. And the facilitator decided to talk to us about non-judgment. Specifically avoiding feeling superior, feeling inferior or even felling equal to someone. To realize equanimity. Everyone is equal. Everyone is the same in the spirit. So equal to the point that we shouldn’t need the word equal to describe it. It should just be.

Of course that is not the reality, even for monks. But that is what we should strive for nonetheless.

One of the tools that we used is a poem written by my spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh called Call Me By My True Names which is a poem about a refugee girl who was raped out to sea by a pirate and then drowned herself.

Call Me by My True Names

by Thich Nhat Hanh

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second to be a bud on a spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, in order to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river, and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond, and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence, feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks, and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate, and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands, and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people, dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life. My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up, and so the door of my heart can be left open, the door of compassion.


The goal of this is not to see the girl as good and the pirate as bad, but both of them as humans with the same flaws. We don’t know what the pirate’s baggage or upbringing was to make him into a pirate. And rather than hating him or seeing him as the embodiment of evil, we can have compassion for him by realizing that he is the same as us.

And then we can mold this same compassion for use in every day life such as showing compassion for the guy who cuts you off on the road or steals your parking spot.

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