upper room daily devotions

Monday, April 21, 2008

Reflection on "Seeds of Compassion" with the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu

While the rest of the United States awaited Pope Benedict XVI, Seattle braced itself for a week long event called "Seeds of Compassion." Organized to highlight the importance of teaching compassion to children, over the course of five days teachers, lecturers, workshops, and presentations of all kinds invited the entire city to explore the power of compassion. His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke in several venues and on Tuesday for the concluding panel he was joined by several prominent religious leaders from various religious traditions. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was one of the people who took the stage with the Dalai Lama along with Sister Joan Chittister, Rob Bell, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Rabbi David Rosen, and others.

I was fortunate to attend the closing event on Tuesday (along with 9,999 lucky souls!). My church had 65 tickets and we spent the whole day listening as the panel discussed compassion, interfaith dialogue and respect, hope in the midst of despair and destruction, and the inviolability of the self. This event not only helped us remember that children need to learn about compassion; it also reminded adults that compassion is possible in a world too often characterized by war and injustice. The panelists spoke from their own contexts and told us about real acts of daily compassion that make the world wonderful and rich.

Archbishop Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama played around on stage like 4 year old boys. It was really pretty wonderful - humanizing and personalizing. At one point Archbishop Tutu told the Dalai Lama to behave and to "act like a holy man" should. All of the speakers were joyful while very aware of the pain that exists in the world. We prayed for the Dalai Lama and for the people of Tibet as well as for those everywhere who struggle for justice and liberation. The energies of the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu made everyone on stage seem a little brighter. They both give off feeling of love that is deeply rooted in histories of pain. They have found the ability to rest in the present - fully and wholly in the present - and see the divine, even when it isn't pretty or easy. I'm sure that I won't ever have the words to express how this has affected me.

The Seattle Symphony and chorus provided music throughout the lunch break. Those six hundred people brought "Ode to Joy" alive for all of us.

I was also fortunate to attend a dinner on Thursday evening at which Desmond Tutu spoke. I will always remember how humbled I was to shake his hand and to break bread with him.

If you would like to watch the events from that week, you can find them online at the Seeds of Compassion website.

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