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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."

Musician shares spiritual teachings

November 13, 2007

By J.M. Lawrence  |  November 10, 2007

Lying in a hospital bed in India last winter after a deadly car 
crash, Tibetan composer Nawang Khechog requested a pillow and began 
to chant.

Hollywood actor Richard Gere, his friend, had paid for a private 
medical flight to bring the injured former monk to New Delhi after a 
truck crashed into Khechog's taxi in eastern India, killing the 
Grammy-nominated composer's niece and injuring his son.

"The hospital would not give me any painkiller," said Khechog, who 
suffered a brain injury. "I put the pillow behind me, and I sat up 
straight. I start to meditate."

Khechog, 53, who is scheduled to perform a concert tonight at Kripalu 
Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, said he summoned the healing 
power of Tibetan medicine.

"You take all suffering of sentient beings upon yourself," he said in 
his first US interview since the Feb. 17 accident. "You visualize 
that and then you give out all suffering. I became like someone else. 
No pain. Just sitting there very quiet and still."

Khechog has fully recovered and returned to teaching workshops on 
nurturing compassion and kindness. His teachings, combined with his 
music for meditation, are based on bedrocks of Tibetan Buddhism, 
though Khechog said his teachings are not religious.

"It's a spiritual teaching, a universal tool," he said. "Anybody can 
utilize it."

This weekend he is holding a three-day course titled "Awakening 
Kindness to Create a Culture of Love" at Kripalu with author Sharon 
Salzberg, cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre.

According to Salzberg and Khechog, compassion and kindness are 
deceptively simple concepts, yet essential to achieve peace and 
happiness.

"Love and compassion is the ultimate answer to violence, war, and 
hatred, whether on an individual level, or community level, or 
international level," said Khechog, whose family escaped into the 
mountains when China invaded Tibet in 1959.

Khechog said that humans use only 5 to 10 percent of their ability to 
experience love and compassion.

"I feel we really should invest money to research is there any tool 
or way to make people more loving and compassionate," he said.

Khechog teaches his students through a combination of meditation, 
walking, and circle dance.

"You don't have to be Buddhist, or Christian or Muslim or Hindu or 
anything," he said. "It is a human value. You can utilize these tools 
to become more loving toward yourself and others."

Human kindness is like butter in whole milk, he said. "In the milk, 
there is a butter. But we need to churn it to manifest the butter. In 
the same way in our heart and mind there is love and compassion. We 
need to churn it."

Khechog firmly believes that kindness is contagious, spreading from 
individuals to their families, from families to communities, and 
eventually from nation to nation.

In September, the world watched the Burmese military brutalizing 
hundreds of Buddhist monks engaged in peaceful protest. In October, 
Chinese police beat Tibetan monks as they whitewashed a monastery in 
honor of the Dalai Lama. International focus on those events and on 
the plight of Tibetans will eventually bring change, Khechog said.

"There will be a time, not too long, that something good is coming in 
Burma," said Khechog, who was a monk for 11 years. "The awareness of 
what's happening there is really growing more."

He lived in the Himalayas for several years studying under Gen Yeshe 
Topden, a hermit who also has taught Gere. It was Gere who encouraged 
Khechog to move to America. Khechog now lives in Boulder, Colo., with 
his second wife, Tsering Khechog, 72.

Nawang Khechog's music, which was used in the soundtrack for the 
movie "Seven Years in Tibet" starring Brad Pitt, reportedly comforts 
prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest 
in Rangoon 17 years after Burma's military junta prevented her from 
taking her post as elected prime minister.

South Korean filmmakers recently finished filming Khechog's 
performances and workshops in India, San Francisco, and Paris for a 
documentary about his life slated to air next year in the United 
States via satellite.

Khechog said he experienced one of the most moving experiences of his 
life last month when he played his flute for Congress and President 
Bush as they gave the United States Congressional Gold Medal to the 
Dalai Lama.

"They did not say anything bad to China . . . but they all said, 
'Look, this man of universal peace, he's not asking for Tibetan 
independence. He's asking for autonomy, so Tibet can preserve its 
religious tradition and culture.' It was so powerful to see the 
center of that power in that rotunda, everyone speaking with one 
voice," he said.
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