Andersen: Rimpoche: Peace within and without you
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, a Tibetan lama and head of the Shambhala lineage, mounted the stage at Paepcke Auditorium on Friday evening with an aura of divine grace. Shaven head, dressed in flowing robes, his bearing was elevated by his accepted stature as a highly evolved holy man.
His pronouncements on peace stirred the collective conscience of the large audience that hung on his every word. That’s because the Sakyong addressed what Jerry Murdock, who, with his wife, Gina, sponsors the Murdock Mind, Body, Spirit series, identified in his introduction as “the inherent goodness in humanity.”
Through directed meditation, the Sakyong said, inherent goodness can flow within you and without you. Peace, he said, is an individual pursuit that can spread throughout society. Peace is the cessation of fear, aggression and speed, all of which, he said, are intensifying in the world today.
I have long believed in the inherent goodness of humanity and have always thought it resides in my heart. As I listened to the Sakyong, however, it dawned on me that, as a newspaper columnist, my words have not always incited peace.
I could dismiss my responsibility by rationalizing that the role of critic is my job description, but that would mean falling back on an institutional model of journalism in which peaceful musings are a liability. Few newspapers will hire a columnist who espouses nothing but love.
Institutional inertia, the Sakyong said, is a major obstacle to world peace, which he said is possible only through self-examination and self-acceptance. Capitalism, the church, the military industrial complex, education, government, the media — these institutions would seem to require conversion before there’s any chance for universal peace.
“The collective question,” the Sakyong said, “is who are we?” He posed this query half a dozen times, probing the audience to explore self to attain “original peace through a natural state of nonaggression.”
Aggression, he said, is bred from a “selfish, faulted, deep sense of inadequacy” and ultimately from “imperfection.” The Sakyong asked the audience for a “pause to wonder” on our deeper selves. He then led us in a meditation with that intent.
This produced the greatest public silence ever to hush Paepcke Auditorium. In those quiet moments, I again evaluated my role as an opinion writer in a medium dedicated to social responsibility with the sharp edge of contention. I realized that, as a professed lover of peace, the professional role with which I identify must shift — somehow.
If individuals cannot remake themselves as purveyors of peace, the Sakyong said, the widespread assumption that humans are incapable of sustaining peace will never be overcome. The thoughts and actions of each of us must embrace peace holistically by discovering who we are. I’m sure I’m not alone in realizing the enormity of this task.
Rather than giving up on our better selves, the Sakyong said we need to “look at ourselves as fundamentally good.” We must see our worth and dignity, which are reflected in health and the absence of tension and anxiety.
“Meditation can change that,” he said. “Meditation is not an escape. It is being present.” The result can be a mutual sense of magnanimity to all people, which requires a “seed of courage” that “fosters the elements we want to see.”
If we accept that, then it is our role to “take strong principles of kindness and apply them to society,” to “engage them with everyday living” by exhibiting a “balance of power and love.” This is the prescription if we sincerely choose to stem the contagion of violence.
Nature, the Sakyong said, in answer to a question of mine, is experienced in our mental and physical environments. When balance is lacking, flawed human nature becomes “internal deforestation,” a psychic and emotional clear-cut.
“Don’t give up,” he urged. “The need is greater than ever for kindness on a deep level. Don’t give up on human connections.” Ramp up the love.
The Sakyong is the author of “Running With the Mind of Meditation,” “Ruling Your World” and “Turning the Mind Into an Ally.” His website is http://www.sakyong.com.
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays, assuming he is capable of spreading peace rather than discord. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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