Friday, December 13, 2019

Compassionate Living




Compassionate Living

Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.
Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, as quoted in Words Of Wisdom: Selected Quotes by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (2001) edited by Margaret Gee, p. 71.

The Dalai Lama’s An Appeal to the World is a moving primer of his message for the 21st century. In an interview with television journalist Franz Alt, His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed both the inward and outward paths of peace, war, climate change, materialism, meditation, universal ethics, and even neuroscience.

His Holiness discussed six principles: 1) nonviolence—of which he has become a symbol to free Tibet; 2) tolerance—he envisions no peace unless there is peace among religions; 3) each religion’s uniqueness; 4) the meaning of religion today—the Dalai Lama sees a religious person as one who collaborates in preserving the earth; 5) patience—His Holiness saw himself working on this virtue; and 6) death and rebirth—he has no clue what will happen.

Still the Dalai Lama presents the world with a “childlike faith” in political miracles saying, “One day we will cooperate well with China.” He pins his greatest hope on China’s young people, and the 400 million who are Buddhists. His Holiness viewed the 65 years of Chinese Communism as an enormous spiritual void, as compared with 1,300 years of Tibetan Buddhism.

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong is also most pertinent for the 21st century too. Armstrong uses the Golden Rule as the foundation of her discourse on what it means to live compassionately. She envisions twelve steps, but thought that such an approach to one’s life could take a life time. In the introductory remarks to the text readers are introduced to the major faith traditions and their concepts based on compassion.

Later Armstrong weaves these steps carefully by explaining what people ought to do to benefit from them. At each step readers are presented with a discussion about how to use each teaching. These compassionate goals are carefully calibrated, and based on the major religions. Although every goal could stand alone, Armstrong though was able to integrate each affirmation with an explanation.

This book as a true gift was able to relate each topic to the contemporary issues of the day. Armstrong recognized all of us have problems with which we are struggling. She explained further how important it was for us to transcend the thinking about ourselves and tribe. She wrote that people should reach out to the good and bad aspects of life alike. We should treat others the way we would like to be treated. This dictum should also include our enemies that are suffering just like us.

Armstrong’s work was formulated like that of the Twelve Steps Program for Alcohol Anonymous. Her vision of compassion grew out of her TED talk in 2008 on compassion for which she won a $100,000 prize. This achievement led her to focus her thinking as a religious historian and interfaith advocate in the promulgation of the Golden Rule and compassionate living in the world.

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