December 21, 2012
Let me share with you an open secret: To save one child is to save a world. The educators who unhesitatingly gave their lives during the tragic events at Newtown, Connecticut, last Friday knew this. They can inspire us to think globally and act locally, beginning with ourselves and each other. What can we, can I, give?
“This is our first task, caring for our children,” President Obama reminded the nation on Sunday night. “It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.”
Likewise, the Buddha reminds us that “Hatred does not cease through by hatred, but only by loving-kindness and compassion”—wishing others well, and being moved to empathize and act accordingly. Kindness and unselfish good deeds are the rent we pay for together inhabiting this endangered earth.
In the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, the significant need for guardianship and altruistic service comes into mind with great force. How to be bodhisattva leaders and responsible stewards of the world, genuine elders and guides, to protect the most vulnerable among us? Where, when, and how to meaningfully address the roots of violence and mental illness, both individually and collectively?
Personally, I’m not sure that weapons control alone can entirely solve the problem, even should it come into legislative being. If we don’t learn to disarm the heart and nurture empathetic feelings of interconnection, cultivating inner peace and harmony, then external peace and harmony will always continue to elude us. As you are, so your children shall be. Let this be one lesson we never forget. If we wish to feel safe, we need to create a climate of safety for one another, and for our children in the future.
The tragic events at Newtown are a rare and terrible gift. In breaking our hearts, in shocking us out of complacency and routine preoccupations, they may also give rise to openheartedness and vital opportunity. For suffering can give rise to understanding and even greater wisdom; this can be the pearl beyond price, the product of the inner vicissitudes and irritation of a hard-shelled yet internally soft oyster.
I think it’s crucial now, in our time of grief, that we collectively reflect and recognize this as a defining moment in which we can transform ourselves. Let us act now to help enable a sane future to be realistically possible. We must. For the benefit of all the children.
We’re all children of a higher power, if you like to look at it that way—including animals and all living things. Buddhists believe that all beings are innately endowed with the luminous Buddha-nature, and that life is precious, sacred, a miracle. I try to handle it with prayer. Therefore, I pray to lift up all children into the peace and light of better lives and safer, more secure futures, free from fear, harm, anxiety, and want. I wholeheartedly pray to be(come) the Bodhisattva of Children.
Lama Surya Das is the American founder of the Dzogchen Foundation, a lay practice center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In addition to twice completing the traditional three-year Vajrayana meditation retreat, he is also the author of several books.