This is a picture of a valley close to Pharping, in Nepal. A van rented for us in Kathmandu broke down and we were crossing the valley floor in order to pay homage to a great Dzogchen master there, having come from Shechen Monastery in Boudhanath.
Reconciling the teachings of Jesus and the Buddha was not difficult for me for both were consistent in directing followers to be kind, to think of others, to be selfless, to forgive, to have compassion. Finding myself in such an auspicious place was another step in a 40 year process. I arrived at the humble home of Chatral Rinpoche and there on the mantle was a picture of another great teacher, Thomas Merton, a Catholic contemplative. He was a great inspiration for me. A Buddhist and Christian and a path that led to the same place. Two separate rails along a track that at the horizon converge into one truth; peace.
In these increasingly hostile and angry times, are these teachings not only more relevant but important? Isn’t a commitment to kindness and forgiveness more crucial now than ever? Isn’t that our intention and hope? I know for me it is and it can be a great challenge.
Taking a trip to a monastery is easy compared to forgiving someone when I am right and they are clearly in the wrong, but these are the days when extraordinary measures are asked if we are to survive.
I was on an escalator at Target, and at the top, a woman had stopped to text and a group of us trying to get into the store, couldn’t get around her. She had stopped dead center at the top of the escalator and wasn’t moving. So, I said, “Excuse me.” It may have been loud. And she immediately yelled at me saying I was rude. I was rude. I was not the one with the phone in my hand oblivious to any inconvenience to anyone else. I went to the bathroom and while I was washing my hands, she appeared again insisting I was rude to ask her to move. I couldn’t get a word in but was furious and just left.
And then, of course, I was furious with myself.
If I can’t have compassion for this woman in front of me, how can I have compassion for so many others in the world? How can I be a peacemaker? So, I had to find her. And, I did. I apologized. She was crying and said she appreciated that I came to find her and waved me off. A few moments later, she almost ran into me again with her cart, still crying. I said, “That’s it. Come here.” and I held her. I said nothing but held her. She cried and something in her let go.
I’ve thought a lot about this and how to put this into writing.
It could have ended on that escalator, but instead, it ended in an embrace. Two strangers transcending a moment of anger. It’s like the photo above that I took while trying to lug a big sack of barley as an offering. From the monastery there at the top of the hill, I found a different view from the one in the valley. The perspective changes and things appearing so big are now smaller and from that higher view, I can choose how to respond. The top of the escalator can be that shrine. That is the choice I have any moment.
It can be a Holy Instant.
Pilgrimage asks us to go the distance and to take a higher road. What are we willing to do for peace? It won’t always be convenient – that’s for sure. But, in this journey to love, when we unload the weight of hatred, anger, and grief, our arms are unburdened, and we can once again, embrace others.
We can do this. We can love. We can have compassion. No matter how bad it seems “out there,” we can change the world with the most powerful weapon – peace. We are so capable of this. This the the arms deal I wish to make today; that my arms embrace others in love and compassion.
This is what I wish for you today.
I hope you have the chance to say I am sorry to someone today. I hope you have a moment to reconcile something that you have struggled with. I hope you can find peace within your own heart and with someone else. And maybe we can change the world, one instant to the next.