In his appeal for nonviolence despite the recent crackdown against his people in Tibet, the Dalai Lama remains one of the world’s leading voices for peace.
Since winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the Dalai Lama has become more than just the exiled spiritual and political leader of Tibetan Buddhists. Regardless of religious affiliation or spiritual background, many in this country and throughout the world also view him as the embodiment of kindness and love.
“He is a symbol of peace and compassion for all people,” said Lori Lindman, of Spokane, a practicing Scientologist who will travel to Seattle today to see the Dalai Lama. “If you look at how he has handled what has happened in Tibet, he is teaching us to be compassionate. He is setting an example to the whole world.”
Lindman, along with several others in the Inland Northwest, is joining more than 150,000 people in Seattle for Seeds of Compassion, an unprecedented gathering that’s part of an initiative to “nurture kindness and compassion in the world, starting with children and all those who touch their lives.”
For five days beginning today, people from throughout the region and beyond will take part in workshops, panel discussions and concerts that organizers say “celebrate and explore the relationships, programs and tools that nurture and empower children, families and communities to be compassionate members of society.” Throughout the event, the Dalai Lama will take part in presentations that also involve scientists, public policy leaders and experts in childhood development.
“I get chills just thinking about it,” Lindman said last week as she prepared for the gathering. “What an honor to be in the same space as the Dalai Lama and all the other spiritual people who will be there. I know it will generate a lot of good will that will spread to others.”
The Seeds of Compassion event happens less than a month after riots erupted in Tibet, which is controlled by China. The demonstrations began peacefully and soon grew to become the largest anti-government protests in the country in almost two decades. But several days later, Chinese troops fired into the crowds. At least 30 and as many as 140 people died, according to various news reports. China’s prime minister then accused the Dalai Lama’s supporters of inciting people toward violence in order to generate public attention in the months before the Olympics in Beijing.
The Dalai Lama, who has called for Tibetan autonomy but not independence, has denied the accusation. “Chinese brothers and sisters – wherever you may be – with deep concern I appeal to you to help dispel the misunderstandings between our two communities,” the Dalai Lama pleaded on his official Web site. “Moreover, I appeal to you to help us find a peaceful, lasting solution to the problem of Tibet through dialogue in the spirit of understanding and accommodation.”
It is this commitment to nonviolence along with the compassion he has shown to those who have hurt his own people that has made the Dalai Lama a beloved and respected figure among Buddhists and others in Spokane.
“The Dalai Lama’s teachings are the Buddha’s teachings and they’ve appealed to people for 2,000 years,” said Lama Inge Sandvoss, of Spokane’s Chagdud Goupa-Padma Ling Buddhist Center. “These teachings – of love, joy, compassion and equanimity – have growing appeal because an understanding of them brings peace.”
The Dalai Lama is undoubtedly the biggest draw at the Seeds of Compassion gathering. But people also are attending the event to find inspiration and to learn ways to support the social and emotional well-being of children by promoting peace and kindness in their everyday lives.
One of the organizations involved in this endeavor is the Spokane-based Circle of Security Project, an early-intervention program that teaches parents how to bond with their children to build “secure attachment,” a relationship in which caregivers provide the support for children to explore their environment. Kent Hoffman, a Spokane psychotherapist and a co-originator of Circle of Security, will lead a workshop on Sunday focusing on infant development, parenting and promoting empathy.
Said Tracy Morgan, a Spokane educator and a volunteer at Seeds of Compassion, “We can guide young people toward a softer, gentler and kinder way of looking at life’s challenges.”
Like Morgan and others who seek hope from the event, Lindman just wants to take another step toward peace – in our homes, our workplaces and our communities, she said.
“Our world is lacking compassion – not because people aren’t compassionate, but because life gets so crazy,” said Lindman, who has been a Scientologist for the past 26 years but has also found solace in the teachings of the Buddha. “With all the stress and turmoil going on in the world, we really need a gathering like this.”