Engaging Compassion

"Compassion," His Holiness the Dalai Lama teaches, "is the wish for another being to be free from suffering." "Engaging Compassion" invites us into a process of becoming more caring for our neighbor, more committed to the service of others especially those who are suffering, more kind in our everyday actions and thoughts.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, considered by many to be the incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, is a world religious leader who consistently calls all who listen to be our best selves, in whatever religious tradition is our own.

He teaches steadfastly about world peace, living in compassion and engaging in interfaith understanding. He is renowned as a great peacemaker and bridge-builder between cultures and traditions, while calling for human rights for all oppressed people, including those of his own country, Tibet.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama offers a pure, clear voice for the necessity for each of us to engage with compassion in order to build world peace from the local level to the world community. Compassion requires both an open heart to the suffering we actually see and a movement outward into true engagement with the issues that cause suffering.

The Dalai Lama and Louisville

The Dalai Lama met the Trappist monk Thomas Merton at his exiled home at Dharamsala in India in November of 1968. The Dalai Lama was 33 and Merton was 20 years his senior.

“Merton was a robust man, both in the physical sense—he had a bodily frame with big bones—and in the spiritual sense,” recalled the Dalai Lama some 40 years after the encounter

Merton was on his trip to Bangkok to meet with abbots of Catholic monastic orders and to attend an interfaith meeting. He took the opportunity to visit India and met with the Dalai Lama for three times at Dharamsala in India, where the Dalai Lama was in exile since 1959.

Merton wrote in his journal: “The Dalai Lama is most impressive as a person. He is strong and alert, bigger than I expected (for some reason I thought he would be small). A very solid, energetic, generous, and warm person, very capable of trying to handle enormous problems.”

The Dalai Lama and Merton discovered they had many things in common. Merton’s day began at 2.30 a.m., while the Dalai Lama’s begins at 3.30 a.m. Both spent many hours in the morning in contemplative prayer and silence.

Merton recalled that the Dalai Lama was very interested in Western monasticism and asked about the Cistercian life. He asked Merton about the meaning of the monk’s vows. Merton found out that the Tibetan monks around the Dalai Lama complained as the Cistercian monks did—that they had too much work to do and too little time for meditation.

No one would expect that Merton would die just weeks after the visit of an accidental electric shock in Thailand. The Dalai Lama mourned his death, saying, “the world lost a truly spiritual man…I lost a friend.”

I was very moved by the accounts these two spiritual leaders wrote about their encounter. I tried to imagine the emotions that the Dalai Lama had when he stood inside Merton’s cell in Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky some 20 years after their brief encounter.

The Dalai Lama recalls Merton’s visit in the beginning of his book Toward a True Kinship of Faiths. He urges us to leave our comfort zone and be open to the spiritual treasures of humankind. The journey will deepen our own spiritual practices. He writes, “Thomas Merton opened my eyes to the richness and depth of the Christian faith.”

Above excerpt taken from - Kwok Pui Lan's blog http://kwokpuilan.blogspot.com/2011/02/dalai-lama-met-thomas-merton.html

His Holiness The Dalai Lama meeting with Muhammad Ali at Bloomington, IN 2007

Louisville The "Compassionate City"

On Nov. 11, 2011 Mayor Greg Fischer signed the Compassionate City’s Charter, a 10-year process to designate Louisville as a Compassionate City. The first annual city-wide event to enact Mayor Fischer’s commitment to promote compassion was the inspired Give a Day program in April 2012, when more than 90,000 volunteers and acts of compassion were in action across the city in one week. Next year’s Give a Day week will take place April 13-21.

On hearing the news that His Holiness is coming to Louisville Mayor Fischer remarked, "The Dalai Lama’s visit will be a shining moment for the city. I find that people want to talk about compassion, about helping others and unleashing the human potential. The Dalia Lama is such an iconic figure for good and compassion that his visit will be inspiring locally and further evidence globally of what Louisville and its people are capable of."

The host of the event, The Drepung Gomang Institute (DGI), located at 411 N. Hubbards Lane, Louisville, was established in 2001 and in 2008 was designated the official U.S. sister organization of the Drepung Gomang Monastery in Southern India, where currently more than 2,000 Tibetan monks live, work and study at its Monastic University.  Many of these monks have escaped from Tibet because of the oppressive Chinese regime and now call India their adopted home.

One of those monks is Geshe Kalsang Rapgyal, a highly respected Tibetan scholar and the resident director of DGI. He is the visionary behind the Dalai Lama’s visit, and commented “DGI is here to do the service of teaching compassion.  We want to give the greatest service we can to the people of Louisville by inviting the Master of Compassion. He has kindly agreed to come, and this is a great honor."