“Living a truly ethical life in which we look to put the needs of others first, and providing for their happiness, has tremendous implications for for our society. If we change internally-disarm ourselves by cutting to the root of our negative emotions-we can literally change the world.”
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama
In the early 1990’s, in Boston, Massachusetts, I met on occasion with a Vietnamese Buddhist sangha. Their temple was near a large, beige-brick housing development, and what had once been a basketball court for the neighboring housing development was now their parking lot. One day their offices were broken into, a computer was stolen, and their temple vandalized. A learner of the Vietnamese sangha was interviewed on television. As he gazed steadily into the camera he simply said, “I am trying to look more deeply, to understand why these people came and stole from us. Yes, I would like our computer back. But mostly, I wish to speak with the thieves, to see if there is something we have done. Perhaps they want their basketball court back.”
His compassionate attitude had an amazing ripple effect on the community. His looking deeply opened a way beyond crime and punishment, beyond violation and retribution. It was amazing to see him speaking like this in the evening news. The leader eventually did talk with the young men who broke into the Vietnamese temple, and the computer was returned. The community did not press criminal charges. Instead, they arranged for the young men to have access to their basketball court part of the time.”
-Kate O’Neill, from Buddhist Women on the Edge.