Another Kind of Practice Part 2

As midterms were written last week, this week the faculty and students at GMI were on holiday. With my first chance to travel around India I elected to visit Dharamshala, the home of the Dalai Lama. Dharamshala is a northern city with a stunning, mountainous landscape. It is also home to a large Tibetan population, some of whom are monks.

Yesterday, I visited the Dalai Lama Temple. Just outside the temple was a museum chronicling the history of Tibet and the horrific Chinese invasion in 1950. Learning of the physical and religious destruction of the country was astonishing. However, the peaceful reaction of the Tibetan people was just as surprising. They have maintained an anti-violent culture and philosophy despite constant terrorism and devastation inflicted upon them. The Chinese have demolished countless historic monuments, temples and artifacts. They have also condemned Tibetan freedom of religion. 

When appalling acts of violence and tyranny occur all over the world we often ask ourselves, "What can we do to help?" This is of course a noble question and concern. In order for things to change, we have to stand up for the rights of the people who share our world. We have to take action to make a difference. However, sometimes "non-doing", as we refer to it in meditation is the best method with which to inspire peace and co-existence. In monasteries in Dharamshala, monks spend hours practicing meditation. They take time every day to be by themselves, look within and train themselves to control the activity of their minds. By learning to contemplate constructively, they have realized that violence is not the answer. Despite the unimaginable physical and emotional scarring they have endured they feel a responsibility to remain tranquil for the betterment of the world.

Those of us who have not experienced war or invasion on our home country are angrily confused by the fact that events like the Vietnam War or the Chinese invasion of Tibet are even possible. We become understandably frustrated. However, we must realize that in order for us to galvanize a movement towards change or peace we have to be in control of our emotions toward the overwhelming amount of injustice and conflict in our world. Meditation is the best way to practice entering and dwelling in this way of thinking. During meditation, we work on being aware of our emotional reactions and being able to separate our feelings from the personal, relationship and global problems we encounter. It allows us to see these issues objectively and act rationally in response to them. If the monks I met in Dharamshala who have withstood so much pain, fear and oppression are able to take hours out of every day to practice this sense of awareness, the rest of us must be able to find 10 minutes to explore this state of mind.