Thursday, September 3, 2009

"It’s my moral principle to come if someone asks me to share sadness."

“My visit here is of a non-political nature,” he [His Holiness the Dalai Lama] said at the airport at the start of his six-day visit. “Actually, I am a Buddhist monk. It’s my moral principle to come if someone asks me to share sadness.” His aides cancelled a speech and a press conference and scaled down a public meeting. The Dalai Lama’s nephew, Khedroob Thondup, said this was a result of heavy pressure from Mr Ma’s National Security Council.
[September 3, 2009 Economist article]
A phrase that appears in many places in traditional Korean Buddhist chanting is "dae jah, dae bi", which literally translates as something like, "great love, great sadness." To me these four words express the heart of the Buddha's teaching on compassion. When others suffer we often try to turn away in order to spare ourselves from being touched by that suffering. But even in our turning away we acknowledge our connectedness to other beings. How is it that the suffering of someone else can hurt me? This is only possible if the separation between one being and another being is less than absolute. Instead of turning away, a Bodhisattva turns toward suffering, and willingly shares in and feels the sadness of the other.

Some might try to play politics with the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan. But really there are no "politics" here. Taiwan is an overwhelmingly Buddhist nation, and the Dalai Lama is not only the world's most famous Buddhist leader, he is also extremely popular in Taiwan, even though his particular "school" of Buddhism is different from that of nearly all Taiwanese Buddhists.

In Tibetan Buddhism the Dalai Lama is considered to be the living embodiment of Compassion, therefore, once he was invited to visit Taiwan he had no choice but to accept -- to come and to "share sadness" with others.