Seeds of Compassion?

Seeds of Compassion?

So I went and checked out the "Seeds of Compassion" event website in trying to figure out who they heck they are and what they heck they are trying to do. And the "Who are we" page you'll learn that this program is "a collaboration of the Kirlin Foundation and the Venerable Tenzin Dhonden." Now, if you are like me you are probably wondering what the identities of both. Well you can google them and see. In essence the Kirlin Foundation is a charitable group that seeks to foster "social change" (seemingly of the sort that is typical of those who stay awake at night worrying about the need for "social change") by targeting still developing kids. The "venerable" Tenzin is the "personal emissary of peace to Gyalwa Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama" or in short, a Tibetan Monk who apparently is in the habit of organizing such visits for the DL.

The more I read, the more this seems like a big Buddhist evangelism effort...though couched in terms more palatable because of its lacking such troublesome terms as "God" or "personal moral expectations." Personally I am a little uncomfortable with how much Buddhism is a part of this all and the extent to which the state and city are in bed with it all (FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, TAKE A LOOK AT THE "ORGANIZING COMMITTEE!" which is a bizarre combination of civic/education leaders, activists, public TV , charitable organizations, and a Buddhist monk). Somehow because Buddhism is more easily able to express its teachings in secular sounding terminology it seems to be getting a pass here.

On their "Why" page you can actually find "7 Compassion Practices" which might have come right out of a Buddhist tract and included ritualistic routine (morning and evening etc) and imagination exercises all intended to help grow "seeds of compassion." What stinks here is that how can one be critical of people trying to increase people's compassion? Of course there is nothing at all wrong with compassion...but there is more going on here, a lot more. A good deal of questions to ask. Almost every page and paragraph of this website raises issues that I could address if I had the time. I expect a former Buddhist or someone more knowledgeable about the religion could spend some time surfing their site and find TONS of signatures of Buddhism. It makes the fact that public schools are transporting kids to participate in "SOC" events even more concerning.

“I believe compassion to be one of the few things we can practice that will bring immediate and long-term happiness to our lives. I’m not talking about the short-term gratification of pleasures like sex, drugs or gambling (though I’m not knocking them), but something that will bring true and lasting happiness. The kind that sticks.”

- His Holiness the Dalai Lama

It's fascinating that they give the DL the title "His Holiness" because I wonder if they would do the same for one of my Hierarchs who I am sure could have contributed to the topic of compassion. It's telling that no other religious leaders were invited to speak. But of course, the fact that the DL won't "knock" sex, drugs, or gambling is effectively expressing why he can speak and why Metropolitan KALLISTOS (for instance)cannot. And it's odd really because I know for a fact that traditional Buddhist teaching includes pretty blatant notions of abstinence from things like sex, drugs, alcohol and gambling. Perhaps the DL is toning down these things in order to gain wider acceptance, funding, and book sales. Naw...couldn't be, only Christian religious leaders do that sort of thing.


Anonymous said…
But James, you don't want to go on record as being against compassion, do you?

I'm not surprised that Seattle embraces this kind of thing. I've long thought of Western Washington as the more or less unofficial capital of Neo-Hippyism, and hippyism (neo or not) always thinks of itself as being into Buddhism at some level. Mostly, what attracts our little would-be bohemians to quasi-Buddhism is its non-sectarian and rather non-specific worldview, its pacifism, and its wispy, thoroughly self-referential mysticism. But ask your average neo-hippy Buddhist enthusiast to define (or even spell) asceticism, and wait for the blank stare. If they do know about it, listen to them explain it away.

On the other hand, given the raucous scandal of both Roman Catholicism and denominationalism, and the only slightly less silly jurisdictional logjam in Orthodoxy, it's easy to see why people give up on Christianity. If I hadn't found Orthodoxy (regardless of its warts, because mine are far worse), I'd be an existentialist or dead, or perhaps a dead existentialist.


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