Personal reflection on The Dalai Lama as Rodef Shalom by Roberta Wall http://www.steps2peace.com
When I think of the Dalai Lama as a rodef shalom, several experiences I have had with him and read about him pop into my mind at once.
Some years ago, my daughters and I had the blessing of attending the Dalai Lama’s annual Tibetan New Years (Losar) teachings in Dharamsala. Five thousand Tibetan monks and hundreds of lay people from all over the world crowded into the plaza of the Dalai Lama’s temple, sitting knee to knee on the floor for hours a day for up to 15 days.
Several times a day, a bell would ring, and dozens of monks would appear with large steaming hot metal kettles of barley and yak butter tea, and run through the crowd pouring tea for everyone who held out a cup. In their enthusiasm the monks routinely bumped into and stepped on people.
After one of these tea breaks, perhaps,as he sipped his own tea, the DL said, there is no use in studying the Vajrayana- the precious jewel teachings- if we don’t cultivate the awareness and compassion to not step on people. This teaching has stayed with me over the years as a reminded to always wake up,with awareness and compassion and openness, to the humanity of the person right in front of me- to not get so lost in bigger causes and principles that I forget the importance to me of practicing simple kindness and connection to the people closest to me.
During these same teachings, I remember that he told us about a tragedy that had happened in the world. I don’t remember what it was- I just remember that he cried as he told us about it. Remembering this now, and always, I am moved to tears myself, wanting to feel the suffering in the world, to allow myself to feel, to stay connected to the suffering to see it and not turn away as a source of compassion and understanding and of my commitment to dedicate myself to ending suffering in whatever way I know how.
Another time I was in Central Park in NYC with 60,000 people who had come to hear him speak. I remember him Saying, if someone does something harmful to you, it presents you with the opportunity to stop the chain of violence, to stop the negative karma that has set this harm in action. Remembering This has reminded me time and again to stop and self connect so I can return to the values and intentions that I most value, to a place where I have access to inner choice when I hear or see things that are difficult for me.
I heard or read about how whenever the Dalai Lama leaves a hotel he has stayed at, he asks for the opportunity to thank everyone who has served him. One particular time, the entire staff of a large hotel in NYC lined up to see him off, and he went down the line shaking everyone’s hands and thanking them. this also reminds me that people, human beings, are the foundation of our peacemaker work, not abstract principles or “causes.”
Another teaching of his that is so alive to me that I can’t recall if I read it or heard him say it is that he once was asked by a French journalist what he thought of the French Revolution. He thought for a moment and answered, it’s too early to tell. I love and am inspired by this because it helps me not hold my views too tightly, it helps me be humble about my views ,and open always to knowing that my views are limited and incomplete.
I also attended a Tibetan Independence Day march in Dharamsala with him. Thousands of Tibetans marched through Dharamsala carrying flags and calling for independence for Tibet . He spoke about it later. He spoke about how he understood the impatience of young Tibetans with the nonviolence of the older generation. And that he himself , as a monk, maintained an unwavering commitment to nonviolence, even if it meant losing his homeland. And that he understood how that was not a cost others were willing to bear.
His reflections about this touch me deeply. Reminding me that nonviolence is a commitment I make as an individual , and it is not about judging others who don’t take on the same commitment, it is about me living in alignment with the energy and healing it can bring into the world to myself and others.