||Volume 19, Number 2, October 2006
Dalai Lama lives his values
An opportunity was missed at the Vancouver public talks with the Dalai Lama on September 8 and 9. Absent from public discussion was a contextualization of his message of compassion in relation to his own life as a refugee, and as the leader of a nation and a people in crisis. This omission was particularly disturbing in the dialogue with high school students.
The brief biography presented by the organizers of the event included the date and place of the Dalai Lama’s birth, his move to Lhasa at age four, and then skipped ahead 67 years with the comment, "and now he lives in India." There was no mention that his move to India was an escape over the Himalayas on foot, fleeing the brutal invasion and occupation of his country by the Chinese government. Nor was it mentioned that over one million Tibetans have died due to the occupation, including many of the Dalai Lama’s own friends and family. The youth were not told of the ongoing suppression of religion, the marginalization of Tibetan people, or the destruction of the environment in Tibet. They were not told that each year the Dalai Lama meets three to four thousand new escapees from Tibet, most of whom are children, monks, and nuns seeking an education in which they will have freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of religion.
In the years since the invasion and occupation, some Tibetan youth have appealed strongly to the Dalai Lama to change his stance and condone armed resistance against the Chinese government. He heard and understood their desire to help their country, but he has remained steadfast in his conviction that a non-violent, compassionate, and truthful approach is the only path to sustainable peace. Throughout his life, as leader of a people and a nation in crisis, the Dalai Lama has been forced to examine deeply the potential benefits of aggression, revenge, and retribution, yet still he maintains his commitment to non-violence in personal relationships and in international relations.
Contextualizing the Dalai Lama’s message not just as words spoken, but as lived convictions, strengthened by his long struggle for the basic rights of Tibetan people, makes his message substantially richer, rather than simply academic banter. His struggle with implementing his values has been very real, personal, and human. Adults regularly tell youth to be kind, compassionate, honest, and fair, but rarely do youth hear that message from someone who truly and profoundly walks the talk.
Not afraid to offer support
I’m moved to respond to Carollyne Sinclair’s article, "It takes a whole village," Teacher, September 2006, mostly from the memories it has stirred, the shared concern, and to share this story that illustrates society has perhaps not changed in the ways we would hope.
I grew up in White Rock, and your story brought to mind the story of a childhood friend and school mate who lost his life jumping from the pier at about age 16. As I recall the news on this story, he was jumping with friends and just did not resurface after a jump. His friends thought he had played a joke on them and, in what I’m guessing was disbelief about what may have happened, didn’t even alert authorities. What happened was discovered when the tide went out and his body was found.
How very sad it is that he died this way, just not fully understanding the danger, as the water had, in this case, just become too shallow. There were likely adults around on the warm afternoon that this had been. Adults who may have had more experience to draw from and could have shared concern and care. This story is more than 20 years old, and I am no longer living in White Rock, so I am sad to hear in your story that there are still children taking a risk and jumping from the pier.
At the same time, thank you for sharing your story, as it touched me and reminded me to not be afraid to live from my values and reach out in any situation where I see a need to gently offer my support and care as you did.