Strength through Compassion

On a rainy day in June 2015, the Dalai Lama celebrated his 80th birthday while attending Glastonbury festival in Somerset. During the festival he joined Patti Smith during her Pyramid stage performance. To honour him ahead of his 80th birthday, she dedicated a special birthday poem to him before leading a chorus of thousands in singing ‘Happy Birthday’.

Later, the Dalai Lama gave a talk to hundreds of festival goers who had gathered at the ‘Stone Circle’ to hear him speak. His talk was entitled, “Strength Through Compassion”. He reminded the festival goers that it was good to see so many people enjoying themselves and expressing joyfulness but to remember: “In this very moment, in some parts of the world, like Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and some other places – they’re killing human to human being. Unthinkable. And the worst thing [is that] conflict, killing each other, in the name of their faith.”

One of the main themes the Dalai Lama talked about was his desire to see people work towards having a shared vision of humanity and interdependence; learning to build trust, friendship and community. Reminding us, that we as human beings are social animals and that our actions can have an effect on the world we live in.

Hearing his words I was reminded how often I am confronted by the huge amount of suffering and pain that exists in the world and it can all seem so overwhelming. In recent years I have found it helpful to hold the perspective that there will always be some suffering in the world and no matter how hard I try, I cannot alleviate it all.

Does this mean that we should then give up? Not at all, but instead come into relationship with our own suffering and that of others in a different way. I am reminded of the saying, ‘Think globally, act locally’. This means that we try to hold a larger perspective of the world and humanity whilst seeing that our small acts of kindness and compassion towards our family, friends and community all have an effect on the world we live in. We can have trust and confidence that like a small stone dropped into a pond, our acts of kindness and love can ripple out touching many peoples lives and creating a kinder, more loving world in which to live.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” Dalai Lama