"The cultivation of compassion is no longer a luxury,
it is a necessity if our species is to survive." – The Dalai Lama
Last May, I attended a screening of German Concentration Camp Factual Survey at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. The film was produced by a young Sidney Bernstein, then with the British Ministry of Information. The footage was shot by young American, British and Russian soldiers as they entered the camps after liberation. The images that moved across the screen were of unimaginable horror, depicting in graphic and unvarnished footage the incalculable price of inhumanity and the disconnection from our fellow human beings. In the hours that followed, as I struggled to integrate the profundity of what I had seen, I realized that I was not alone in that struggle, nor was the violence I had witnessed relegated to that one point in history. There is history for which we have no resolution, and there are human beings around the world, and in our own neighborhoods today who are struggling with disconnection and the many forms of violence that arise from it in their own lives. The need to cultivate a response to the pain and suffering of disconnection, and the violence engendered by it is, as the Dalai Lama has said, a necessity, if our species is to survive.
Perhaps one of the most painful things a human being can do is to put another living being out of their hearts, creating separation and positing an "other." When we posit an "other," we cease to see that other as part of the circle of relatedness, circumventing our capacity to relate to this other as a reflection of ourselves. In this way, cycles of suffering and pain can be initiated that reverberate down through family lineages, communities, cultures, civilizations and centuries. Even in cases of profound injury, there is the possibility of holding a human being who has "trespassed against us" in our hearts, with compassion for their suffering, and ours. This suffering, and its cyclic permutations is the root of all injury. Compassion education fosters our capacity to work together on behalf of healing, never losing contact with reverence for the inherent value of a living being. The resolution of conflict and the pain of separation can only happen through a profound healing and repair of our fundamental connectedness, with the awareness of the sacredness of all beings.
There is a profound need for the healing and restoration of our fundamental unity. We must address the questions raised by history, and in our daily lives, and invite ourselves and each other into a deeper experience of connection and compassion in the face of inhumanity and intolerance. Participants will come away with practices that they can continue to cultivate in their daily lives in order to sustain an experience of connection and unity within the circle of life.
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