May 19, 2010
   Posted in News Flash
Published By Tashi

 
 

A blessing from His Holiness the Dalai Lamaby Eboo Patel [The Washington Post]


Twelve
years ago, I went to see the Dalai Lama with the small seeds of a big
dream: a movement of young people from different traditions building
bridges of interfaith understanding through service. Last week, I had
the chance to thank His Holiness personally for speaking encouraging
words to a 22-year-old kid with a head full of radical spangles.

The Dalai Lama was in Bloomington,
Ind., giving a teaching on the Buddhist Heart Sutra. He took time out
to meet with a small group of Muslim and interfaith leaders to launch a
new book — and a new dialogue — called Common Ground Between Islam and Buddhism.

Muslims have lived in Tibet for four
centuries, His Holiness recounted, in full peace and solidarity with
their Buddhist neighbors. The Dalai Lama told a story of one of the
earliest memories he had with a Muslim, the local watch-repairer. “I
was a restless child,” the Dalai Lama said, that priceless smile
playing upon his lips, “so I would always break my watch.” The Muslim
watch-repairer would come and fix the watch, and lovingly admonish the
young Dalai Lama to play more gently. At this point the Dalai Lama
broke out in full laughter — a Muslim telling a Buddhist to be more
gentle, that is a story the world should hear more often!

And then the Dalai Lama got serious.
He spoke of his sadness that the image of Islam is all violence. This
was not his experience with Muslims or his understanding of their faith
and he was especially concerned about the isolation this image was
causing.

Several times His Holiness spoke of
the importance of “coming together”, emphasizing that when people
interact positively with each other they learn how similar they are,
and when they are separated the gap is often filled by hostility.

The Buddhist-Muslim dialogue affirms
how faith communities can come together on shared values while
disagreeing vehemently on key matters of theology. Indeed, the
theological core of Islam is belief in one God, while Buddhists don’t
believe in God at all. His Holiness is, of course, well aware of this
fundamental difference, but his eye is always trained on the
similarities. He writes in his forward to Common Ground: “My
Muslim friends have explained to me that since God is characterized as
compassionate and merciful, faithful Muslims are actually offering
complete submission to the ideal of universal compassion … Such a
practice is clearly a way of purifying the mind and seems to parallel
what the Buddha himself said about the importance of actually living
your life in a compassionate, ethical way.”

The Dalai Lama goes on to widen the
circle beyond Muslims and Buddhists, and call us collectively to act on
what he sees as the chief value in all of our traditions: “Clearly,
compassion lies at the heart of the teachings of both Islam and
Buddhism, as it also lies at the heart of other great religious
traditions … The time has certainly come for followers of the world’s
great religions to work together to create a more compassionate and
peaceful world.”

The Dalai Lama led the group in
Bloomington in a short meditation, and as I was focused in on my breath
and silently chanting the name of God in Arabic, I thought back to my
first audience with His Holiness. I was experimenting with Buddhism
back then, trying to figure out who I was and what I hoped to
contribute to the world. I was eager to explain the Interfaith Youth Core
to His Holiness during that first audience, but the Dalai Lama insisted
on asking me questions about my own religious path first. I stammered
that I didn’t know. He prodded gently, asking if I was a Muslim. I said
my ancestors were. He spoke back then in Dharamsalla as he did last
week in Bloomington, about his friendships with Muslims and his
admiration for Islam. “Be a good Muslim,” he told me. Only then did he
allow the discussion to turn to the Interfaith Youth Core.

In my short statement to His Holiness
in Bloomington, I thanked him from the bottom of my heart: “It was you,
a Buddhist monk, who showed me my path and affirmed my purpose. The
dream I shared with you 12 years ago, we are building it.”

I told him the network of interfaith leaders is growing. I asked him to pray for us.

Eboo
Patel will be on a panel about interfaith cooperation with His Holiness
the Dalai Lama this Sunday at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York
City.
–The above article is reproduced from The Washington Post

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