The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Compassion Under Fire
My mother, an English teacher in a secondary school, recently assigned her students an essay entitled ‘What I Would Do With One Million Ringgit’. Most papers came back crammed with dreams of mansions, philanthropy, jet setting and investing. Then came the three papers that made suck in her breath sharply.

If I had a million ringgit, I would build a bomb and kill the Israelis.

Summoning the students, she chastised them and told them to never make such a statement again. Stunned, I asked her if she had explained why this mindset was so utterly wrong. She said there wasn’t any point. She could see from their hard expressions that they would not…could not…believe otherwise.

This incident played in my mind for days and each replay sent me reeling into shock again. Teenagers talking about being part of a senseless war they don’t understand. The supposed leaders of tomorrow nursing a rage and desire to play God. What could be more terrifying?

During my recent stay at an ashram in India, I met an Israeli girl who underwent her country’s compulsory national service. I asked her what it was like and after a pause she said, what she will always remember about her stint was being assigned to the Israeli-Palestinian border, being approached by a seven-year-old boy wearing a bulky jacket, firing shots in the air to scare him away, running for her life as he drew closer and being deafened by the explosion that blew his little body apart.

To practice compassion in our daily lives is challenging enough. What more in a war torn country. But if there’s one thing that can heal the world, it is compassion. Perhaps it’s easy to say this in the soft glow of my table lamp, a million miles away from carnage. Perhaps many people did practice compassion as mortar shells rained down around them, snatching away their nearest and dearest. Perhaps the ugliness just got too much to bear. Perhaps one day those responsible will look back and realise that this horror story would have been neatly sidestepped if one small insignificant decision had been made in the light of compassion. And this is one virtue we need to teach our children.

When the Dalai Lama was asked if he hates the Chinese, he replied, “My quarrel is with the Chinese Communist Party. Not with ordinary Chinese. I still consider the Chinese my brothers and sisters. I do not hate them. I forgive them with no reservations.”

I think of this little speech each time I’m filled with the urge to hit the other person’s cheek instead of giving him my other cheek. It’s tough as hell, but I tell myself that it I keep at it, it can only get easier.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I read from your blog that you took TTC at Sivananda. I'm going to their Madurai ashram at the end of the year. Any travelling tips or advice? Basically it would be my first time travelling alone to India, so, I'm excited and apprehensive at the same time.

10:23 PM  
Blogger starlight said...

you'll have an amazing time! i wish i was doing it all over again. why don't you drop me an email at and we'll chat.

12:35 AM  
Blogger bibliobibuli said...


just reading about that little boy will give me nightmares

and how do you defeat the attitudes of kids like those your mum teaches?

8:42 AM  
Blogger starlight said...

i honestly don't know, biblio. and that's what scares me. how many other children are there living among us who nurse this terrible dream?

10:56 PM  

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