August 1, 2013

Compassion: The Bodhi Tree & Survival of the Kindest. ~ Enver Rahmanov


While many people around the world were celebrating the birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama last month, the man whose immeasurable compassion has touched the world, a few were planting bombs by the holy Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India.

The tree has grown from the seed of the sacred one, under which it is believed Gautama Buddha, reflecting in deep meditation upon the suffering of the world, achieved his awakening. For centuries, the Bodhi tree, like the walls of the nearby Mahabodhi temple, has witnessed peaceful devotion of all who come here from different parts of the Himalayan region and beyond.

Six months ago, I sat under the Bodhi Tree right before the sunrise and was deeply touched by the harmony of azan, a Muslim call for prayer from the nearby masjid, blending with beautiful Pali and Sanskrit chants of monks and nuns, and the unceasing Tibetan mantra invocations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion by pilgrims who prostrated themselves before the tree.

The serenity of this place is indescribable.

Yet, early Sunday morning, July 7, 2013, a series of ten low intensity bombs exploded at the Mahabodhi temple complex badly injuring several people, including two Buddhist monks, one from Burma and another from Tibet[1]. Whatever motive lay behind the bombs, we know that no acts of violence can overcome centuries of compassionate wisdom and no bomb can uproot the seeds of human kindness that the Bodhi tree represents.

Let none through anger or ill-will

Wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother protects with her life

Her child, her only child,

So with a boundless heart

Should one cherish all living beings:

Radiating kindness over the entire world.[2]

These words of the Buddha are meant for all of us, no matter how much we may be under the sway of what Buddhism describes as the ‘three poisons’: ignorance—a fundamental misunderstanding of how things are; greed or attachment; and hatred or aversion.

We are responsible for our own interpretations and actions.

In my understanding, the Buddha’s teachings on causality are not about our actions in the sense of some mechanistic physics of the effect of an action of one object on the other, but about our interconnectedness, in which compassion is absolutely essential for our survival.

Compassion is the source both of inner and external peace—it is fundamental to the continued survival of our species. On the one hand, it constitutes nonviolence in action. On the other, it is the source of all spiritual qualities: of forgiveness, tolerance, and all the virtues.[3]

~ The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama, speaking via live video, appealed to everyone to commit to practicing compassion, non-violence and the education of the heart. To me, one example of such education is Malala Yousafzai, the brave girl from Pakistan, who survived gunshots in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen in 2012 for standing up for her right to education. On her 16th birthday, July 12, 2013, she exemplified a courageous compassion in her powerful speech at the United Nations:

“I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion that I have learnt from Muhammad-the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha.”

People like Malala Yousafzai, the Dalai Lama, and also Nelson Mandela, whose birthday were celebrated with joy, are not inherently exceptional; it is, rather a matter of degree.

The qualities they embody are also a part of us and we can see their reflection in others too, no matter what faith they profess. These figures are the seeds and the trees of our awakening, our human sisters and brothers who remind us of the good faith and compassionate choices available to us. They are the living proof that it is not the survival of the fittest but the survival of the kindest that saves our humanity after all.



[2] Karaniya Metta Sutta. The Buddha’s Words on Loving-Kindness. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.1.08.amar.html (accessed July 11, 2013).

[3] Ethics of Altruism, Introduction. The Dalai Lama Foundation. http://learning.dalailamafoundation.org/101/ethics9e.htm (accessed July 12, 2013).


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Asst Ed: Terri Tremblett/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Enver Rahmanov