This week I am conducting our annual invitational Advanced Dzogchen week-long retreat here at the Dzogchen Retreat Center outside Austin, Texas. Of course the atmosphere around both the royal wedding and Bin Laden’s demise gives much fodder for prayer and contemplation. While I have been asked to write about those events “from a Buddhist perspective”, I have refrained so far and will probably continue to do so. However, I will venture to say that the rah-rah and rejoicing witnessed in the United States, in response to the terrorist chief’s demise, seems in bad taste. While I am relieved he personally no longer represents a threat to our country, for I’ve long been concerned that he’d never be found and our open wound might never begin the healing process it so desperately needs, celebrating the violent death of even the most dreaded foe is discomforting for me. To rejoice delightedly in the thought and feeling of someone being shot in the head and chest in their bedroom in front of their wife, whoever it is, seems intrinsically wrong.
This past Tuesday the Los Angeles Times reported on His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit to USC and shared his thoughts on Bin Laden’s defeat:
“As a human being, Bin Laden may have deserved compassion and even forgiveness, the Dalai Lama said in answer to a question about the assassination of the Al Qaeda leader. But, he said, ‘Forgiveness doesn’t mean forget what happened. … If something is serious and it is necessary to take counter-measures, you have to take counter-measures.’”
Although I would have been happier to see Bin Laden arrested to stand trial, I recognize the circumstances warranted only one outcome. I try to remind myself that even the pacifist Mahatma Gandhi was not a pushover; moreover, he condoned the most forceful restraint if necessary to protect the greater number. But his timeless wisdom can still be found in the words he left behind:
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it—always.”
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