From the Dalai Lama and his peers
It was an event to remember and reflect upon. This April, the Dalai Lama arrived in Vancouver to host a series of speeches and participate in a weekend retreat sponsored by the Multi-Faith Action Society.
One of the highlights of the weekend was a round table discussion involving the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Professor Shirin Ebadi, and Dr. Joanne Archibald. The dialogue was moderated by Bishop Michael Ingham.
At both of these events, and many others, world leaders and humble seekers alike offered a profound message. I’m sure that each person who heard that message, whether it was live or through the media, heard it through their own filter. It’s what I heard during my experience that I would like to talk about today and perhaps for the next few columns.
What I witnessed was a group of seemingly widely diversified people whose differences were marked often by their dress, certainly by their rituals and their beliefs but who gathered in such a feeling of brotherhood, good humour and peace. They respected the differences and yet saw beyond those differences a sense of commonality and human bond that was far stronger and more compelling.
I came away with a deep sense of hope that this was possible in our daily lives and, if that was true, it was surely possible on a larger scale. I came away feeling a deep sense of responsibility to live as objectively as possible, and to see my world with compassion and tolerance. And I came away with a deep sense of gratitude; gratitude to be living at a time and place where such a gathering could occur. Rabbi Shalomi pointed out that 20 years ago this meeting would not have happened and there are many places on the planet where it would still be impossible.
Each of these representatives spoke of their oppressors with compassion and forgiveness. To our North American minds this may at first seem weak and even foolhardy. However, behind their tolerance and compassion was a clear expression of strength and unbelievable courage. All of them have taken great personal risk by speaking out against intolerance and injustice since this is often done in the face of hostile governments. Many who spoke have faced imprisonment and attempts on their lives because of what they believe. Still, they are unwavering in their commitment to making this world a better place.
There are many reasons to consider the lessons spoken of by these great thinkers. A continuous theme discussed was the desperate need our planet earth has for love and attention. It was a truly holistic path which they outlined. There are no areas of our lives that are exempt from this call to live compassionately. We cannot be committed environmentalists and at the same time feel hatred for our parents. We cannot be gentle loving parents and all the while abuse the planet. We cannot be compassionate, understanding partners while raging behind the wheel of our car.
How do we bring our lives into balance? How do we live congruent, compassionate lives? I guess we start with that intent. We each want to be better individually and for our individual worlds to be a better place. As we become more aware of our responsibility in every moment, we can witness transformation happening. Someone once said, “How you are anywhere is how you are everywhere.” So let’s just commit to a gentle, more compassionate heart, anywhere and everywhere.