The men and women moved slowly past the prostrate women in her eighties. She repeated a modified sun salutation and prayer for peace several times in the aisle, even as a dozen or so latecomers passed her as they made their way to their seats. And then the woman stood up, hands pressed together in a sign of peace and compassion and returned to her seat using her cane for assistance.
All this time, the room remained rather hushed with four thousands hearts and minds fixated on the stage, awaiting the words from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This woman was physically doing what so many of us longed to do. We longed to match the peace and compassion of this global religious figure in action. Instead most of us just sat in awe of his demeanor and superb eloquence.
Listening to the Dalai Lama was a spiritually transformative experience for me, but it was not because of what he embodied: compassion, peace, and humility. It was, at least for me, the mandate to practice compassion always.
ALWAYS?! That is quite a demanding task when we consider the political and religious tensions strangling the work of building cooperative relationships among diverse communities in the United States. As a public theologian and an aspiring religious leader, I pause to consider how can we or whether it is ultimately necessary to find compassion and love for all life.
When I am lost, I look to my religious tradition for guidance. The 2nd Unitarian Universalist Principle is to promote justice, equity, and compassion in our human relations. Our 1st Principle also affirms that all people have inherent worth and dignity. These basic principles are found within many religious traditions. Regardless of tradition, we are called to foster right relationships with our fellow brothers and sisters. So, how do we as Unitarian Universalists, or how do Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and the rest, find compassion and love when it is neither likely to be returned nor appreciated from the person it is given to. There is no perfect way of accomplishing this, but what is clearly evident is that it is a process.
Like all processes and journeys it is most easily traversed in company. So, if there is one suggestion I have regarding learning compassion for others is for all of us to do this work together. The Dalai Lama learns compassion through engaging with others. Yes, personal reflection and meditation is inherent in the process, but it is in these interactions that the theory meets practice. Finally, we must not give up. There are going to be times of frustration and anger, which will push us to close off from certain parts of the world. However, to me, I am learning that I cannot snip out parts of humanity because they are members of my family that I must not forsake. I seek a world where compassion reigns and rains down washing over all people. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has helped me continue this journey towards peace, starting in the innermost spaces of my heart.
(photo from Wikipedia Commons, by Luca Galuzzi)
Hello! My name is Nicolas Cable and this fall I will enter my second year of he Master of Divinity program at Chicago Theological Seminary. I am a Unitarian Universalist, interfaith leader, and socially engaged citizen. I seek ordination as a congregational ministry and hope my ministry can be a progressive light of justice and peace in the world.