Thursday, October 18, 2012
Compassion in a Global Society
The Dalai Lama's message of compassion in a global society, in a secular world outside of religion, is one of his most enduring teachings. He began his talk with a definition of "global." Most of us might think he would talk about man's inhumanity to man, the horrors of war, injustice toward women and minorities. And most of us might ask ourselves how we can be compassionate in such a vast world.
The message was much more immediate. The Dalai Lama defined "global" as anything outside of our own self, meaning that when we work to be more compassionate ourselves, we can influence the person next to us. We may not be able to change something happening on the other side of the world, but we can be responsible for our own thoughts. While different religions may pray to different "bosses" (his term), he would rather we think of all human beings as our brothers and sisters, to be open to the oneness of humanity itself.
This was driven home recently when a friend lamented that people preferred to be ignorant than to better themselves through reading and education. When I asked what she could do to show compassion to even one individual, she said that individual had to get his nose out of his cell phone and read. Never did I hear her talk about something she could do to help that individual. To do so would have meant she, too, might have to change her behavior.
The Dalai Lama has long been an advocate of meditation and prayer, even when there is no guarantee that our prayers will be answered. He talks eloquently about how materialism doesn't bring inner peace, but thoughts of greed, mistrust, violence, jealousy. None of these help us to be happy; rather, they go a long way to ensuring we will be unhappy.
He talks about how trust is the basis of friendship. I can attest to this from a personal anecdote. Recently, I found out a friend lied about something inconsequential. I called him on it, since we were on the phone when he trapped himself. I now wonder how many times he lied about things that were of consequence. Our relationship may never be the same. Only he can repair it by being truthful going forward.
The Dalai Lama teaches that all great religions are built on compassion and trust. Regardless of your religious traditions, he stresses that his brand of secularism must not disrespect other's religions, but we must respect those who do not believe as we do. Those who harbor negative thoughts deny themselves a sense of inner peace and rest, of loneliness.
I left his presentation with one thought, something his translator said during his introduction. He told a story about being denied access to the Dalai Lama that morning. He'd left his badge at home and the Secret Service wouldn't let him in. In following the Dalai Lama's teaching, he asked himself if this was the time to laugh. Don't get mad. Weigh the message and laugh. He laughed. Most of us who left the pavilion did so lighter of heart and more willing to laugh in the face of adversity.
Now, if he would only turn his attention to compassion in poliitics.