Sunday, 20 May 2012

Advocates for peace - the 'Dalai Lama'

"Because we all share this small planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. This is not just a dream, but a necessity. We are dependent on each other in so many ways that we can no longer live in isolated communities and ignore what is happening outside these communities, and we must share the good fortune that we enjoy"  

 - The Dalai Lama

I was thinking about the format of this blog in the early hours of this morning - as you do - the overall shape and development of it, and I decided to have regular postings on people - past and present - who are leading lights in their advocacy for peace and harmony.

People like the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mata Amritanandamayi, Saint Francis of Assisi, Swami Vivekananda - to name just a few.  And even those lesser known individuals, who may not have risen to world prominence as these visionaries have, but who nevertheless work just as tirelessly for this cause.

I thought I should start this section with someone I am familiar with.  The Dalai Lama - see his Bio below - came into my life over 26 years ago.  I wrote about that experience recently in a book I am writing - a travel memoir about my time spent living in India in a Himalayan refugee community, while I researched the roles of Tibetan women.

Here's an extract of my first encounter with the Dalai Lama,

courtesy of Fiu © All rights reserved @ Flickr
'I can't remember why I agreed to go with my mother to see the Dalai Lama at a public talk in Auckland.  I had not heard of him then,  knew nothing about his background, his cause or teachings. But karma, more commonly known as the law of cause and effect, was about to play a part in our lives, connecting us all in a very profound way, the extent of which, none of us at the time, were aware of ....

All I remember of the impressions of that night was an energy, thick and fluid, that filled the auditorium in the Aotea centre with a deep, all-encompassing peace. It was like walking into and through, an unseen but palpable wall of calm.   It raised the fine hairs at the base of my neck, scattered goose bumps over my skin.   As we filed into that hushed auditorium, I knew at that moment that something very special was about to unfold.  The stage was empty. Yet I sensed a powerful presence there.

When the Dalai Lama came onto the stage I, like everyone else in the audience, was captivated. Dressed in simple maroon and yellow monk robes, his smile, spontaneous outbursts of infectious laughter and open compassionate face, gave him a charismatic presence that immediately warmed people to him. Everyone was immersed in his aura and it mattered little that his disjointed, pigeon English made it hard to understand his message.

I did not know then that the Dalai Lama is revered by Tibetans as a living Buddha. And as an enlightened being or Bodhisattva, who has incarnated back, through fourteen life times as Chenrezig, the Buddha of compassion, his sole purpose on earth is to tirelessly dedicate his life, to help alleviate the suffering of humanity.'

BIO: Tenzin Gyatso - the 14th Dalai Lama, is the Buddhist spiritual leader of Tibet, and ever since his exile to India, following the Chinese occupation of his homeland in 1959, he has been a tireless advocate for peace.  His unwavering commitment and peaceful approach to finding a non-violent resolution to the conflict surrounding Tibet, saw him awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

He travels the world highlighting the Tibetan cause, speaking and teaching about Buddhist philosophy, to packed venues where thousands of people come to hear him talk about universal ideals - peace and compassion, tolerance and loving kindness.  

The Dalai Lama is also a strong advocate of the interfaith movement, believing 'all faiths turn to compassion as a guiding principle for living a good life', and has spent many years studying all of the main world religions. 

His interest in this area has taken him on pilgrimage to various holy sites around the world such as the Dome of the Rock, the Wailing Wall, the shrines of Thomas of Aquinas and the Virgin at Fatima.  He has visited temples, mosques, churches, synagogues and gurudwaras, and has met, and continues to actively engage in shared interfaith dialogue and discussion, with many of the main figureheads from these traditions  - see Great Reads in the Pages section for details about his interfaith book.

He writes, "My fellow religious believers, I ask this.  Obey the injunctions of your own faith; travel to the essence of your religious teaching, the fundamental goodness of the human heart.  Here is the space where, despite doctrinal differences, we are all simply human.  If you believe in God, see others as God's children.  If you are nontheist, see all beings as your mother.  When you do this there will be no room for prejudice, intolerance, or exclusivity...Always embrace the common humanity that lies at the heart of us all".

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