How can we foster peace and understanding, compassion and well-being for humans and for all beings?
We know this is possible individually. In our practice and teaching of mindfulness, loving-kindness, compassion, forgiveness and other trainings of the heart, we have seen the benefits. These are the same practices that you may have learned in classes and retreats, and you know how transformative they can be.
But can their understandings be spread in a positive and secular way to benefit people worldwide? Neuroscientists describe how positive epigenetic and brain changes can happen in even 8 hours of loving-kindness training. And developmental psychologists report our inborn compassion: research shows how even tiny infants respond to the real-time distress cries of other babies, but not to recordings of their own cries! They can tell when the distress is from others. We need to support the natural compassion in our children from the first.
Educators point to studies of the profound benefits wherever Social and Emotional Learning is woven into the lives of schools, teachers and parents …and how it has now spread to 10,000 school systems.
Still, we all know it is not enough. The world is awash with weapons and we need to de-militarize the world, to learn to solve our conflicts in a sane way. Divisiveness and ignorance are still widespread and climate change and environmental destruction are upon us.
We consider how to solve these problems with a positive spirit and altruistic intentions. Yet none of us has the full answer. We might not know exactly how to make these changes become truly global. But we do know which direction to follow—that of compassion for all. And in reflecting together we find ourselves learning strategies, science and practices from each other, the collective embodying more wisdom than anyone alone can know.
Like the mountain peaks there is a shining beauty born in each child, a fundamental dignity and goodness in the human spirit, sometimes called true nature. This is our human birthright and our task is to see this in everyone we meet. We know that suffering is not the end of the story. It is the Buddha’s First Noble Truth, but this is followed by the Truth of the Causes of Suffering and the Path to the End of Suffering. We can follow this path by developing virtue and understanding, a clear, quiet mind and a loving heart. Then we can plant seeds of goodness in our families, our communities and the world that so needs it.
Humanity can flourish. The very human troubles we face are a call to compassion and wisdom. And they are a call to action.
Photo: Recently I had the delight of paragliding in India at the edge of the Himalayas.