A dear friend of mine is currently visiting Sri Lanka, and writing regularly about the experience on his Blog. In a most recent post, he discusses the extreme poverty of most people in that country and his observations of how they deal with that.
I am very aware of witnessing something very similar myself on a trip that I took many years ago to the Ukraine. It was life changing for me, as it sounds like it may be for my friend as well. We are so well-off in this country, that most of us have no idea of how hard life can be. The day-to-day struggle of merely finding food for yourself and Family is beyond comprehension for most of us. And few of us give much thought to having safe shelter to lay our head at night and be protected from the elements. But in many other places, life is so much harder than anything we know or understand. And unless you experience it first hand, I’m not sure that any number of words can describe it adequately.
It’s a feeling that comes from all of your senses being fully inundated, being washed over with compassion, shock, awe, sadness, joy, innocence, fear, love and joy.
The question I ask myself, is what difference does this make when I or anyone else returns back to the Unites States. How quickly can we forget those images, feelings and lessons? And while I can say that personally, my experience left a permanent imprint on me, it is more of a faint memory now. Now I see this experience more universally because of my practice. I see that struggle and difficulty come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. None of us are immune to physical pain, emotional hardship, loss, and of course the eventuality of death. In this, there is a deep core connection that we all share regardless of what part of the World we come from. And strangely enough, I have found throughout my life, that those whom possess the least in material form, seem to be the happiest and wealthiest in living joyfully. It would appear that our wealth and possessions are actually a primary cause of us to lose touch with that which is far greater – the present moment. This present moment that is rich with everything life encompasses.
The difference in how these experiences and exposure affect us is ultimately culminated in how we live our lives each moment. Asking ourselves “how can I be kinder and more loving to myself, how can I be of service to others, how do I accept this gift of breath with full awareness and joy?”. And in doing so, can you see that everything changes instantly? As Bhante Sujatha always teaches, “breathe in lovingly, breathe out lovingly”. So simple yet so profound.
I believe that with a deeper understanding of this we can begin to see that there is truly no third World, only this World. Our love and compassion can reach across the sea as easily as it does the dinner table. It’s up to each and every one of us, each and every moment. And may it all begin with me.
Peace be with you.
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.”
~ His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama