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Lions Roar : March 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2008 79 Available online unfetteredmind.org In its quietly relentless way, this pithy and unorthodox commentary to the Heart Sutra leaves you with nowhere to stand but right here. — Stephen Batchelor, author of Buddhism Without Beliefs — from Ken McLeod’s new commentary An Arrow to the Heart This non-traditional commentary on the Heart Sutra takes you right into the emptiness of experience through a delightfully irreverent combination of wit, irony, poetry, and prose. Step into the jaws of experience AnArrowtotheHeartACOMMENTARYONTHEHEARTSUTRABYKENMCLEOD vision of the world. He seemed to intuit that even the Internet, the mass media, the power of the image in our new world or- der, could all be used not just for the transmission of trivia, as most of us saw, but for the transmission of something useful and enduring and previously very hard to communicate quickly. He saw that Tibet could become a part of the global family, as surely as that family could become a part of Tibet. He also found himself thrown into the middle of global chal- lenges that far exceeded the fractious Tibetan divisions and ne- gotiations with warlike neighbors faced by previous Dalai La- mas. Foreign troops were holding hostage ninety-eight percent of his people, while the other two percent were recent refugees, with few resources and no papers. Critics questioned the use of his image in an ad campaign for Apple computers. Some Tibetan monks looked askance at his wish to do away with some of the formalism and orthodoxy of old, and open up Tibet to a wider modern world. Some foreigners wondered why he couldn’t be as radical as various freelance Buddhist teachers. The young among his people asked him to be more confron- tational toward China—effectively, to forswear the nonviolence that was one of his central monastic vows. Others no doubt wished that he’d never been obliged to enter politics at all. He worked tirelessly to try to bring democracy to his people, only to be told by his people that they’d much rather leave power in his strikingly capable and seasoned hands. One Tibetan group accused him of not treating their practice as fairly as another; all kinds of people with all kinds of motives approached him at every stop and asked for his blessing and guidance. We often need, it seems, to turn to the image of the Dalai Lama when we wish to get away from the clamor of the world, to still ourselves, to guide our minds with a vision of clarity and poise. So often the man we see pictured on the cover of books or whom we evoke in our mind’s eye has his eyes closed, sits in a circle of light, and never has reason to stir at all. But as I began to put thirty years of conversations with him into a book, it occurred to me that what makes the Dalai Lama so inspiring and rare is perhaps the fact that his eyes are always open, metaphorically, that he’s had to bring hope and warmth to places that are shadowed and live amidst cen- turies of darkness, and that he is constantly on the move, exter- nally, while profoundly motionless and rooted beneath all that. Spirituality is all very well for the hermit in his cave, His Holi- ness has sometimes said; the hermit’s inner life is to some extent taken care of. But where spirituality may be most imperative is in the gritty, unrelenting clamor of the here and now. I thought about His Holiness in Washington and New York recently, as I sat in my quiet home in rural Japan, awaiting his visit here a few weeks later, and I felt that all the stories of his compassion, his laughter, his shining charm, told only one part of the story. The real thing he is sharing with us is that those qualities never exist in a vacuum, and that light can best be understood in the context of all that threatens to obscure it. ♦ Centered at the Summit continued from page 51 MAR 78-107.indd 79 MAR 78-107.indd 79 12/19/07 2:43:19 PM 12/19/07 2:43:19 PM