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Lions Roar : January 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2007 13 YOU KNOW, I have the answer to the world’s prob- lems (or at least most of them). So do you. The answer is so close to us. If only we knew what to do with it. Think of someone you really love. Someone whose happiness you rejoice in, someone whose suffer- ing you cannot bear. Someone you put first, before yourself, instinctively and without hesitation. Per- haps your child, perhaps your lover, perhaps a parent or friend. I think all of us have felt this way toward someone in our lives. Now think what your life would be like—and what kind of person you would be—if you felt this way about more people, perhaps even all people. And think what this world would be like if all of us felt this way about each other. That would be an enlightened world. The Dalai Lama calls this “unbiased compassion,” and it was his constant theme during his teachings in Vancouver, which I had the privilege to attend to write this issue’s cover story on teaching compas- sion in the schools. Whether he was talking to stu- dents, experts, or a public audience of thousands, he preached this unbiased compassion as the only hope in a crowded, interdependent, and dangerous world. The question is how to get there—how to extend that love we all have in our hearts further and fur- ther—but I don’t think even the Dalai Lama has an easy answer to that. It was interesting to watch His Holiness interact with a variety of audiences and consider the basis of his ap- peal. My guess is that if you took a poll of the world’s population, you’d find that the Dalai Lama is the most positively and least negatively viewed public figure in the world. He may be the best-liked person on the planet. And indeed he is a very appealing public figure. He is humorous, even playful. He is humble and contin- ually referring to his own ordinariness (particularly effective because people don’t think he’s ordinary at all). He is an unapologetic advocate of the Third World, his political analysis is honest and balanced, and he is unsparing in his criticism of the world’s powers. Basically, he’s pretty left wing, but because he’s the Dalai Lama he gets away with it. And on top of all that he’s a monk, and therefore seen to be above the sins and temptations of power. But I don’t think his appeal lies in any of that. I think it lies not his person but in his message, and in its uncompromising nature. History is made by the principled, the uncompromis- ing. We remember the Mandelas, Gandhis, and Kings, not the advocates of halfway measures and accommoda- tion between the ancien regime and the spirit of revolu- tion. And I do think the Dalai Lama is a revolutionary, whose call to see all humanity as our brothers and sisters, without distinctions of race, class, nationality, or gender, sweeps away the conventional politics of identity and separation. People want to hear this message and hear it undiluted. We know in our hearts it is the world’s best hope, and we know, because we have felt it in our hearts, that this love is the full realization of our humanity. Will this revolution succeed? It’s true that reli- gious and moral leaders have preached this kind of love since history began. But what was before an as- piration or a personal goal may now be an historical necessity. So how do we get there? The Dalai Lama seems to place his faith in reason, making him perhaps unique among religious leaders. As you’ll read in my story, his slogan is “Brains grow love,” and he seems convinced that if only people un- derstood the benefits of compassion and the drawbacks of selfishness, their hearts would turn toward love. My own experience is that it is more important to touch our hearts directly, to touch the love that is our true nature, yet is covered up. This is the province not of reason but of spirituality and meditation. I do feel the kind of selfless love I described at the beginning, toward my young daughter, Pearl (with me in the pho- tograph above). I would gladly give her my happiness and take on her suffering, and I’m sure you too feel that way about someone you love dearly. But I look at all the people around me on the street, and I wonder why I can’t feel the same way toward them. I know I should, I know all the reasons, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. To take that love we all feel and extend and expand it: I think the path there lies beyond words— it is a mysterious process—but I am thankful to the Dalai Lama for posing to us this challenge. Whether the future of this world will be a heaven or a hell—or a future at all—will depend on how we respond. –M E LVIN MCLEOD Editorial: Love Without Limits