06 Oct 2006 |
Posted by Lama Surya Das | 0 Comment.
Last week I made my annual pilgrimage to visit the Dalai Lama, having been invited to give a few hour-long lectures before and after his large stadium appearance at my old alma mater, the University at Buffalo. One of the many things he said over the course of those three days in western new York was that prayer and meditation are all good and important, but not enough; we also have to actually do something in the world. He encouraged us all to stand up and speak out more.
I have been thinking a lot lately about nonviolence and the power of timeless wisdom. From my erstwhile Concord neighbor Thoreau to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day, down to contemporary exemplars such as The Dalai Lama of Tibet, Thich Nhat Hanh of Vietnam, Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma and Sulak Sivaraksa of Thailand. Nonviolence is not mere pacifism, but a forceful means towards positive social change. The Dalai Lama himself cautioned us lovers of peace and tolerance last week about what he aptly termed “misplaced forbearance,” citing as an example complacent acceptance and tolerance of things which are in fact intolerable and genuinely need to be challenged and changed. Gandhi’s passive resistance threw off British colonial rule in India. Muhammed Ali’s principled stand as a conscientious objector against the Vietnam War draft cost him his heavyweight title but helped highlight the issues of the time and coalesce public opinion and end that war.
Personally, I am feeling a certain urgency lately in wishing for some good news for a change. How not to become overwhelmed, viewing all the bad news nightly and learning through many different channels of all the major problems we face today? .I see the virtue and efficacy of truth-telling, spiritual activism and sacred warriorship as a form of transforming oneself while transforming the world, working on both outer and inner levels towards positive growth and authentic freedom. We must take our place as responsible stewards of this world and guardians for the future.
Faith, hope, love, routine and community go a long way to keep one going, but what we really need is to fortify and develop our inner strength and sense of altruism to courageously meet the formidable challenges and perils we face today. Moreover, to the extent that we can cultivate some energetic persistence, clarity and wisdom, we shall truly overcome. I think we must join together in this noble effort.
Besides the deadly but somewhat amorphous war on terrorism going on today, there are shooting wars in approximately 42 countries of the world. Every year fifteen million children die of hunger; even here in our wealthy country, one out of every eight children under the age of twelve goes to bed hungry every night—a truly startling statistic. Three quarters of a billion people on this globe live in what is technically defined as “absolute poverty.” Africa is being ravaged by AIDS. The entire planet is endangered by environmental degradation. In an era of oil-fueled war, water wars are also imminent.
What are we going to do about it?
As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”