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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Dalai Lama urges crowd to exercise the compassion all possess

April 23, 2008

by Kami Cross and Kacie Cross
Yakima Herald-Republic - Yakima, WA, USA
April 22, 2008

SEATTLE -- We were almost deafened by the sound of thousands of students
as they rose to their feet to cheer for a small, elderly man who was
hardly visible from our nosebleed seats in the KeyArena.

What was all the noise about?

This elderly man was His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama.

When we were first approached about attending the Seeds of Compassion
Conference in Seattle on April 14, our excitement was about missing an
entire day of school. At that point, we didn't understand how great an
honor this was.

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was the head of state and the
spiritual leader of Tibet until escaping into exile in 1959. Since then,
he's received numerous awards for his message of peace, nonviolence,
inter-religious understanding and universal responsibility.

We were under the impression we would be listening to the Dalai Lama
speak his message of compassion for the entire, hour-long program.
However, this was not the case.

We ended up being exposed to multiple performers and speakers, all
pushing the message of compassion in an anecdotal way. Among them were a
Seattle elementary school choir, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, a poet and
spoken-word artist, a Native American storyteller and a group of youth

The Dalai Lama had approximately 20 minutes to convey his feelings on
the spreading of compassion worldwide.

While we were getting excited, he slowly approached the microphone.

He began his speech by thanking the presenters and expressing his
disorientation from all the excitement. Then he quickly gathered his
thoughts and went on to express his desire for compassion.

Although at times it was difficult to understand him, the Dalai Lama
made several very clear points.

The first was that compassion is biological. It starts in the home as we
grow, then can be spread throughout other areas of life.

Another focus of his talk was that many people tie religion with
compassion and believe that to be compassionate you must first have a
belief system. However, the Dalai Lama contradicted this by saying
compassion comes first. He said the deep awareness of the suffering of
others, coupled with the wish to relieve it, does not come from
believing in a "higher being," but from the heart. It is an emotion we
all possess and must look within to find.

While we have been taught compassion our entire lives, it was surprising
to find that someone of such high standing believed it starts where we
learned it:in our home.

And his belief that compassion is not at all tied to religion helped us
realize there is no excuse for people to have no compassion.

Whether or not you have a belief system, compassion is a kindness that
comes from the heart, an organ all humans have and can use.

* Kami Cross and Kacie Cross attend Eisenhower High School.
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