In Brattleboro, Vermont, CYMD coincided with the town’s annual “Strolling of the Heifers,” a celebration of the town’s cows and rural life. Cheryl Wilfong quips, “Meditators had a chance to hear some ï¿½dhar-moo,’ enhance the Buddhist-bovine connection, and meditate on the Zen koan of Mu.”
Vincent Cangiango reports from New Haven that about forty people and one dog took part in “a beautifully simple gathering: a teacher sitting under a small tree and a small group of people listening to dharma talks and practicing meditation. It was a great opportunity for people to meet teachers and others who are interested in Buddhism and meditation.” In Philadelphia, Scott McBride’s lovingkindness meditation “moved outward from silent participants, through the car horns, marketplace, city streets, and into all the universe.” Attendees sang “Songs of Milarepa,” learned mudras—symbolic hand gestures—and practiced a Tibetan yogic exercise called “drawing back the bow.” “Next year it will be bigger, but it won’t be any better,” commented one participant.
CYMD in the Middle
From Houston Lynda Caine-Barret writes, “This event marked a new beginning for Buddhists in the Bayou City. It initiated a drive to contact as many sanghas as possible to establish an intrafaith fellowship; we’ve only just begun to meet and greet each other.” Traditionally a conservative Christian enclave,Bradley, Michigan hosted ninety attendees at its second CYMD, quadrupling last year’s attendance. “Sitting with such a large group was a moving experience,” writes Gabe Konrad. “It was a marvelous day, imbued with kindness and openness. Spirits were rejuvenated, and minds were changed.”
His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama offers words of encouragement to participants of the 2002 Change Your Mind Day—themed this year “Now More Than Ever.”
Technology seems able to address many of our problems. But as the terrible events of September 11 have demonstrated, it is how we use that technology, with what motivation and with what understanding of the needs of our fellow human beings and the environment in which we all live that matters. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon made clear that when people allow their human intelligence to be led by negative emotions like hatred, even technology that was intended to help could be used to do great harm.
Hatred thrives on the idea that others are not like us. Yet, fundamentally, human beings are all the same. We all want happiness and do not want suffering. This idea of the basic sameness of human beings is as simple as it is true. Nevertheless, many people find it difficult not only to believe in the equality and basic sameness of all people, but also to behave accordingly.
Often it is the differences between us that we emphasize. If someone is different from us, we easily fall into thinking that he or she is somehow inferior or bad in some way. We either attempt to change them and their behavior to fit in with our values and way of life, or we simply oppose or pick a fight with them. However much we praise diversity in theory, we often oppose it firmly in actual practice. Our inability to embrace diversity is one of the major causes of conflicts in our world, both at the local and international levels.
We seem unable to reconcile the manifest diversity of human society with the fact that at root we all remain the same human beings, sharing the same fundamental needs and aspirations, the same basic difficulties and limitations.
Everyone wishes to live in peace, but we are often confused about how it can be achieved. From a strictly practical perspective, we find that on occasions violence indeed appears useful. We can solve a problem quickly with force. However, such success is often at the expense of the rights and welfare of others. As a result, even though one problem has been solved, the seed of another has been planted.
We cannot distinguish violence from nonviolence by external factors alone. If our motivation is negative, the action it produces is, in the deepest sense, violent, even though it may appear to be smooth and gentle. Conversely, if our motivation is sincere and positive but the circumstances require harsh behavior, essentially we are practicing nonviolence.
The essential qualities we need are compassion and forgiveness. These are the qualities that form the basis of human survival. I believe religion reflects that fundamental nature of our minds. Religion actually strengthens and increases the positive aspects of our nature. But it is compassion rather than religion that is important to us. Therefore, in sending my greetings to everyone participating in Change Your Mind Day, it is far-reaching compassion that I urge you to cultivate—now more than ever. ▼
June 7, 2002
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