The series of Seeds of Compassion events held in Seattle, April 11-15, brought together 144,000 people at various venues and, via internet, over 70 million viewers worldwide.
With His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the central exemplar and teacher, a phenomenal roster of leaders in childrearing, education, science, business, community action, and spirituality addressed the means and the wisdom of nurturing compassion and compassionate action in children, families, and communities.
For the final event in the series, “Youth and Spiritual Connection Day,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu were joined by a brilliant panel of spiritual leaders from other traditions. (See www.seedsofcompassion.org for a complete list.) Representatives of Seeds of Compassion's Youth Ambassadors program were also part of the panel. Joan Halifax Roshi served as moderator. (All SOC events were recorded and, for a limited time, can be viewed at the Seeds of Compassion website. Also posted is a beautiful slide show compiled from photos from all five days.)
Everyone who participated in this historic gathering received a special lesson from it. Some reflections on Seeds of Compassion follow.
The two dozen or so members of the Youth Ambassadors, ages 12 to 18, began meeting in the fall of 2007 to talk about and practice compassionate action. For two weeks in April they were joined by visiting students from South Africa, Guatemala, and the Tibetan Childrens' Village in Dharamsala, India. Guided by Lori Markowitz of Bridges to Understanding, the Seattle members plan to continuing meeting and to share what they’ve learned with others.
"Before we went to Key Arena I had a fight with my younger brother and I was feeling bad. Then the Dalai Lama talked about when he was a boy, how he wanted to be a boy like us—and how he used to have fights with his brother. I felt like he had read my mind, like that story was just for me! He saw me crying and afterward he blessed me and gave me a hug.
"Through the Youth Ambassadors I've met people I never knew before. I DO NOT want to quit this!"
~Julio Moreno, age 12, Madrona K-8 School
"From this whole experience I learned that everyone's idea of what compassion is, is different, there isn't one definition and there doesn't have to be. The one thing that has truly effected me and given me hope, is that this group of youth who are Youth Ambassadors have come together with the energy to learn about compassion and pass it on.
"This group is so diverse, in every way possible--race, ethnicity, economic class, different schools, different life situations--but we all learned that all of those things don't matter because if we all have compassion then we can appreciate people for who they truly are. We are living proof that it is entirely possible for people who are different to come together to make the world a better place for everyone.
"I believe that in order to spread compassion you need to know what it means to you as an individual. Once you know what it means for you, then you need to walk your talk. Be compassionate, live a compassionate life, do things that are compassionate to inspire other people to do the same."
~Krishni Seasholes, freshman, Garfield High School
"Before attending the event, the idea of compassion to me was no more than knowing that other people suffer in other parts of the earth. And maybe to think once in awhile about how to help others. But rarely did any of my thoughts turn into action. But after attending the whole event, I feel like I have transformed.
"Now I think about compassion in everyday life, from my family to strangers in the street. If the world is filled with just ten percent of really compassionate people, I think they will change the world. I realize the message must be spread not by word but by action. Now, when I see someone in need of help, I won't just think, I will help them. And I hope I will live a compassionate life."
~Ming Yui Lau, senior, Garfield High School
"I've learned how to receive love, to receive gifts, receive hugs. I've been a giving person but I learned about giving other people the opportunity to give."
~Leslie Tran, 8th grade, Denny Middle School
"The truth is deep, originating in our hearts.
"There are obstacles to compassion because we forget. We are distracted by other pressures, destinations, desires, forces and fail to remember the most important aspect of our hearts.
"When we are reminded we shift immediately back. One of the jobs of children is to remind us."
~Daniel Kranzler, Co-Founder, Seeds of Compassion
"One moment I loved was during the Friday morning meeting with HH Dalai Lama and the panel of scientific researchers, The Dalai Lama talked about how his first contact with affection was as a baby with his mother. He talked about the compassion of the womb and the affection of nursing. One panelist spoke about the impact of the womb on the child's personal development and another panelist spoke about the root word of the womb in different languages being the same root word for compassion. The impact of this information has stayed with me. I believe the impact is huge if society in general realizes how early the development of compassion actually begins."
"The Dalai Lama was part of a panel discussing children's concerns and issues. A story was told by each panelist and then they posed a question to the him. He was so present and comfortable in his own skin. He was funny and laughed at his own comments, while just being present. Being in the room with him was very special to me.
"Prior to attending the Seeds event I had already begun training to become a CASA (Court appointed special advocate) or Guardian ad Litem, so the topic of children's welfare was very close to my heart. I am planning a program and campaign to attract others to serve as CASA volunteers advocating for children."
"The moment that still sticks with me a month later is when Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, 'We were created for God. Hey! I'm a God-carrier!' He and HH the Dalai Lama looked into each other's eyes for a long moment, then burst out laughing. This deep yet playful connection carried the day. They were each icons of a religion and carrying the strength and the wisdom needed for such a position, yet they were also just two old men with a playful shtick, and you knew they wanted it that way. The Archbishop followed that moment saying, 'We see in each other an incarnation of goodness. I say to him, 'Your Holiness, try and behave like a holy man!' He laughs.
"The Dalai Lama said there is a 'difference of names but ultimately inside is goodness. Some may have the appearance of evil, but ultimately are goodness. We call this the Buddha seat, Buddha Nature. Different philosophy, different robes.' The Archbishop pointedly lifts his oversized cross from his hot-pink-robed chest."
Contributors: Julie Welch, Heidi Enji Hoogstra. With special thanks to Lori Markowitz and the Seeds of Compassion Youth Ambassadors.