I was happy to be able to see the 14th Dalai Lama speak on “Human Approaches to World Peace” yesterday (October 22nd, 2010) and thought I would relay some of his message in the context of other work I recently have been reading. His fundamental message was one of love and compassion and struggle for peace through an unrelenting commitment to change. He emphasized the need to be pro-active to produce change. It is not sufficient to say “Oh well, that is just the way things have always been” … It is exactly that passive attitude that hinders change and progress. It is too easy to play the victim or rely solely on aspirations and wishful thinking.
“The world today is torn between two currents of ideas, one fixed in its past and the other aspiring to the future. And because they are both lacking in strength and will, the ideas of yesterday will be vanquished forever.” Khalil Gibran excerpt from The New Age.
The Dalai Lama emphasized that one of the world’s main problems is that “we are raising a generation of passive bystanders.”
I was reminded of Khalil Gibran’s saying from Youth and Hope “I saw man conceal his cowardice beneath the mantle of patience, call laziness tolerance, and fear, courtesy.”
He also emphasized the need for awareness and education to promote change. It is the Youth of today that will become the Leaders of tomorrow!! Sometimes we need reminding that we do, even as Youth, have that strength capable of producing change. We just sometimes need reminding like in the excerpt below who describes the “man of the future” as a “colossus with muscular arms”.
“At present time two masters inhabit this world: one commands and makes himself obeyed, even if he is a decrepit old man who is dying by the day. And the other remains silent, conforms to law and order and awaits quietly the arrival of justice, even though he is a colossus with muscular arms who, confident in his existence, knows his own strength and believes in his own values.” Khalil Gibran excerpt from The New Age.
Another poem that nicely exemplifies the need to be proactive in producing change is Khalil Gibran’s poem I am Not a Moderate.
I Am Not Moderate
The extremist can equally well descend into the depths of life as he can rise up towards its heights.
The man who is moderate in his faith is the same as the man who is torn by his fear of being punished and his desire to be rewarded. And when he follows the procession of believers, he limps as he walks; and as soon as he kneels down in order to pray, his thought rises up to deride him.
The moderate suitor cannot drink from the cup of love while delighting in the freshness of its honey, not the fire of its gall. He is content to moisten his lips on a tepid and adulterated beverage drained by stupidity from the marshes of cowardice.
The man who enjoys neither hostility to evil nor support of what is good, will not know how to destroy what evil in him nor safeguard what is good. He limits himself to watching his life go by at the edge of the sea, like a shell, hard in appearance but soft in its inner substance, not knowing when the tide is coming in and going out.
The man who is moderate in his search for liberty will see nothing of it beyond his footprints in the hills and valleys. For liberty is like life, it does not linger along its way to allow the disabled to catch up with it.
Moderates never stop saying: Temperance, a cardinal virtue.
And my soul asks: How could the monkey have become a man or the pygmy a giant by remaining moderate!
And I have heard these monkeys and pygmies say: Virtue stands in the middle.
So my soul moved away from them, replying: Feeble creatures, how could grasp the truth of all things while you keep your eyes fixed on the navel of their happy medium? Would all things then have neither tail nor head?
And I heard those with cracked skulls repeat morning and evening: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
And my soul, livid with anger, cried out: Those stupid people do not deserve to receive even a wing, if they do not use their feet as they run after ten birds.
Trying to catch a flock of birds: is this not our daily task, the purpose of life, much more than life itself?
I love him who was crucified by the moderates. When he bent his head and closed his eyes, certain among them said, as though comforted: At last this dangerous extremist is no more. Ah, if they knew that at that moment his victorious spirit was soaring over the nations and spreading out from generations to generations.
And I love those who have been sacrificed by fire, executed by the guillotine for a thought that invaded their heads and inflamed their hearts.
I love you. O extremists, you who are nourished by unfathomable ardors. Each time I raise my glass, it is your blood and your tears that I am drinking.
And each time I look through my window at the sky, it is your face that I see.
And when a storm rises, it is your singing and your praises that I hear.
Unlike what some may think Khalil Gibran is not giving cause to radical extremist views or support. Instead, I believe he is emphasizing the need to be proactive, not just sit around and hope things will change but to be a part of that change. I don’t believe in using excessive force/wars to create change. In fact, the Dalai Lama emphasized the need for Reason/Dialogue to address world conflicts. He showed that human beings are more docile/gentle by nature. We do not have fangs like tigers was one of his sayings. He believes that human beings are good/or at least have the ability of showing compassion by nature. So we should be able to express our discontent and produce change by communicating with one another. Its not by blowing up villages that problems will be solved but by being in tune with others need. We must take others interests in consideration as well. When trying to find solutions to conflicts through Dialogue, we must remember/consider the other as a brothers/sisters and keep in mind their fundamental rights to happiness and well being as well without being greedy. He pointed out the gap between the rich and the poor living in the same city, who theoretically should have access to the same resources, as being morally wrong. Emphasizing the wrongness of greed. He stressed the importance of being open-minded and sincere in our actions. Self-centered attitudes will only lead to more fear, anxiety and result in alienation (less social interaction), which ultimately leads to the individual’s destruction and I believe these findings may even be extrapolated to a country/nation who only acts out of self-interest imposing their views/demands on other countries.
The Dalai Lama stressed the importance of remembering the fundamentals:
- We are all human beings aspiring to find happiness
- We should sustain or help sustain ours and others happiness
- The Oneness of humanity, the invisible bond that links us to one others
By acknowledging these truths we should show “warm-heartedness”, compassion to others and through that compassion forgiveness, tolerance and support for the well-being of others. He also expressed his concern for individuals who detach themselves from others… only to fall into depression and unhappiness. The importance of sustaining a link with others was also emphasized but his message was not limited to communities or nations but to humanity.
What is it to be a good citizen?
It is to acknowledge the other person’s right before asserting your own, but always to be conscious of your own.
It is to create the useful and the beautiful with your own hands, and to admire what others have created in love and with faith.
Excerpt from The Treasured Writings of Khalil Gibran