Nearly fifteen years ago I preached a sermon called, “On Being a Buddhist Baptist”. I got the idea from Tina Turner who was the first person I ever heard say she was a Buddhist Baptist.

Tina Turner’s Baptist upbringing was important to her, but it was Buddhist teaching that saved her life. It’s a well known fact that she was battered by her husband. Things had gotten so bad that when she went on stage she covered the bruises on her body with makeup.

In 1974 she hired a secretary for the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. It turned out the secretary was Buddhist. She taught Tina the Buddhist chant, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. As Tina practiced this chant, her anger gradually morphed into strength. Living in the mud and muck of her life, she developed the clarity, strength and determination to change her life. Buddhist compassion coupled with Baptist soul liberty makes a formidable team.

But Tina Turner’s not the only well known Buddhist Baptist. How about Martin Luther King?

Did you know that in 1967 Martin Luther King Jr. nominated the unknown Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, for the Nobel Prize for Peace? If Martin Luther King were with us today, and you were to say, “Dr. King, it seems to me you are sort of a Baptist Buddhist,” I suspect he would smile and say thank you for the compliment.

A basic Buddhist teaching is “dependent origination.” Dependent origination is the idea that everything that is in the universe is dependent on everything else. Each part of life is dependent upon the other parts of life. Your well being and my well being are intimately connected with everyone else’s. Every action, word, deed and thought, no matter how slight or inconsequential it may seem, has an implication not only for ourselves for others and even the whole planet.

Without ever using the words “dependent origination” Martin Luther King talked about dependent origination as being the ground of life. “All life is interrelated”, he said. “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Looking around the world we see unimaginable suffering on a large scale. We see acts of cruelty and oppression –we see children orphaned and starving—war and injustice—seen from a certain perspective most people in this world are suffering terribly. And they are.

Human beings are hard wired to want to make a difference for other human beings.

But get real.

It’s good and wonderful for us to do everything we can but it’s not good or wonderful for us to be motivated by a savior complex. Nobody can fix everything.

But everyone can bring some healing to the world.

We’re all familiar with phrase: “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”

This phrase evidently originated with a woman named Anne Herbert, who had been turning it around in her mind for a while, and one day wrote it down on a paper place-mat in a restaurant. A man sitting nearby said, “that’s wonderful”, and copied it down on his own place-mat. The phrase has since spread to bumper stickers, bill boards and is so well known that it has become cliché, a little cheesy and even the brunt of some pretty funny jokes.

What’s astonishing is that what began as a simple sentence on a paper place-mat in a restaurant has become internationally known. Is this an example of interdependence?


But maybe it’s also a reminder that we all need and want kindness. Kindness is primal. Kindness is powerful.

Maybe making a difference in the world is as simply as practicing random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. Could it be this simple? As we change ourselves, as we soften, as we practice within ourselves, could it be the world becomes a kinder place?

What if the way to make a difference is not about signing a petition, joining in a march or insisting on a particular piece of legislation. What if the most important thing is the willingness to practice kindness in our thoughts, words and deeds? What if kindness not only changes us, but the world in which we live?

Do you want to want to be a part of changing global consciousness? Practice regular and random acts of kindness and senseless beauty. This sounds simple. But it’s not easy.

With every thought, ask yourself “Is this a kind thought”. With every word, ask yourself, “Is this a kind word?” And with every deed, “Is this a kind action I am about to take”?

It is a good thing to work on issues, but every problem, every issue is really a symptom and not the cause. The only thing powerful enough to create a new world is a new Spirit. We solve one problem and here comes another—Underneath all our humanly created problems is a lack of kindness.

Most of the suffering in our world is caused by a lack of kindness. So, do you want to make a difference in the world? Try a little kindness, every day and in every way. And when you try a little kindness remember dependent origination—remember we are all interdependent and interrelated—remember whatever you do right here has an impact over there.

A little kindness goes a long way.