Thoughts about compassion.
Here in Ithaca we have had the great pleasure of hosting His Holiness the Dali Lama of Tibet for two days this week. There is a small but well established community of Tibetans here at the local Monastery and a publishing company, Snowlion Publications, that specializes in books on Tibetan subjects and Buddhism. His Holiness came to Ithaca to bless the site of the new Namgyal Monastery that is being built just outside of town in Danby. Tuesday he came to the museum where I work to bless the beautiful sand mandala constructed by the monks in his honor, and to attend a private luncheon.
Afterwards he moved on to Barton Hall on the Cornell Campus where he gave a talk on “A Human Approach to World Peace”. Then Wednesday he spoke at the State Theatre at a ceremony of “Prayers for World Peace”, then at Ithaca College where he delivered “Eight Verses on Training the Mind”. I was only privileged to witness his arrival at the museum. Everything else was by invitation or sold out for about the last year. There was an amazing flurry of police and secret service and FBI with his entourage that was like something out of Hollywood and an incredible seriousness among all those planning and setting up for his appearances. I am aware of his stature as a dignitary, yet in the midst of it all, he was humble and human and welcoming to every soul.
I had the good fortune to meet him more closely several years ago when he came to Ithaca and gave a private audience to a group of people at Wisdom’s Goldenrod near Watkins Glen, NY. And we are so fortunate that in our isolated upstate fingerlakes area, the monks of Namgyal have chosen this place as a center of study among all the other places in the world where they might settle. I have always felt as though this area is one of those spots where great spiritual energy exists, much like areas of the Southwest, Sante Fe, Sedona, or spiritual sites like Stonehenge or the Andes of Peru. When I sit on the shore down at the bottom of our road where the stream empties into the lake and look back at the level ground of the Camp Barton Boyscout Camp I visualize an encampment of Native Americans and think about the ceremonies that might have taken place in our own back yard looking down at the falls below. There is great energy here. And the spirits of human existence stretching back for centuries.
With the Dali Lama’s visit we are all reminded that compassion and caring for others, non-violence, and tolerance should be foremost among our daily endeavors, yet they seem so hard to find amidst a world of war, and fear, and hatred, and intolerance. We are all human beings, seeking to live our lives in happiness and peace. Yet we treat each other with suspicion and disregard and disrespect. We cannot seem to learn that one’s beliefs should not be a barrier to the acceptance that all people are entitled to their own beliefs, that we should not force ours onto someone else, nor persecute or criticize them for their own. We must look to and support those who come at the world with honest and compassionate hearts and live our own lives as examples of what we want from others. Peace seems so far out of reach.
Let us all bring peace to those around us everyday and catch ourselves when we stray from this path, in hopes that we can send a wave of compassion around the world, instead of fear and hate and injustice and war.
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