His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be coming to Louisville this April for a series of lectures during the 2017 Festival of Faiths.
He couldn’t have returned at a better time.
America needs a good dose of compassion right now as we try and heal from this vitriolic election. Hate and anger bounce from the airwaves spewed by representatives of both political parties. Insults and blame thrive online. And disgusting acts of violence rise from the rhetoric.
Divisiveness seems to reign supreme in 2016.
Through both his teachings and his actions, the Dalai Lama can offer a different perspective on this current chaos.
Better yet, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to benefit from his instruction. Many other Western religions advocate for nonviolence, empathy and loving kindness the same as this Eastern faith. These teachings, then, won’t be foreign. Atheists and agnostics have also discovered benefits to Buddhism’s peaceful practices.
In fact, the Dalai Lama advocates for interfaith study to strengthen your own spiritual upbringing. No hard sale to join. No pressure.
“It’s much, much better to keep your own faith rather than change faith,” said the Dalai Lama in a 2007 interview. “That way we can promote genuine harmony among the different major traditions on the basis of mutual respect.”
Here is a leader without a nation, a spiritual man who has survived China conquering his homeland, a refugee embraced by a border nation. Tibetan culture continues to be targeted for eradication. His people under occupation suffer. Yet His Holiness remains compassionate toward those who wish him and his community harm.
Couldn’t we use some of that in America right now?
His Holiness goes even further. The best teacher of tolerance might surprise you. It’s — wait for it — your enemy, he says. Through mindfulness of thoughts, words and actions, we can choose how we respond to difficult circumstances.
And, above all, be kind to others, even those with whom you disagree.
Yep, that includes those folks online as well as in person.
A particular story the Tibetan oftentimes tells exemplifies this belief. It involves a monk who spent roughly 17 years in a Chinese prison.
“Once, when we were chatting about his experiences, he told me that there had been dangerous moments during his imprisonment,” the Dalai Lama said, this time at a 2013 talk in New Orleans. “I thought he meant threats to his life, but he said, ‘No, there were times when there was a danger of my losing compassion for my Chinese captors’.”
To endure so much sorrow and still show kindness for the opposition is a remarkable feat. Even more amazing is the Dalai Lama’s ability to find common ground with those who come from different backgrounds, beliefs and experiences.
He does this by embracing interconnectedness, a principle that “your interest is my interest.” All beings share a fundamental connection, according to Buddhist doctrine. A desire to end suffering is foremost among these.
Concern for others goes a long way in helping with this. So do reason and patience.
“The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes,” His Holiness said in a message on his website. “Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter.”
So when your blood begins to boil over a political post, take a deep breath, empathize and try to be kind.
Who knows? A new kind of happiness might just be right around the corner.
— Amanda Hillard Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.