This volume grew out of a remarkable Contemplative Seminar on Practices of Compassion held in Hyderabad at the end of January 2016. The event was initiated by Lama Doboom Tulku, organized by World Buddhist Culture Trust and conducted by Professor M. Darrol Bryant. Unlike typical conferences, this event incorporated practices of compassion led by participants from their own spiritual practices. Each day began and ended in silence, the participants sat in silence, danced together, shared spiritual practices and learned from one another. Papers were written and circulated in advance. There was no reading of papers, but only discussion. It proved to be a deeply moving experience of practices of compassion for all the participants.
At the end of the seminar, there was a spontaneous conviction that this experience and exploration of compassion should be shared with a wider audience. There were contributions from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Sikh, Jewish, and other spiritual streams. Later some additional contributions were invited as well.
The volume is a many-leafed flower exhibiting the rich diversity of practices of compassion found in the human family. It is also a testimony to the centrality of silence as the way to compassion. It is the journey within that manifests in actions without. It is not a conceptual journey but a journey of the heart.
M. Darrol Bryant is the founding Director of the Centre for Dialogue & Spirituality in the World's Religions at Renison University College/University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. From 1973 until 2007 he taught at Renison University College and retired as a Distinguished Professor Emeritus.
From 1972 until March 2011 Lama Doboom Tulku worked in various academic, cultural and administrative institutions of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He is currently engaged in inter-religious and cross-cultural activities through art and culture, as the Founder Managing Trustee of World Buddhist Culture Trust
Yanni Maniates (www.insideout journeys.com), MS, is Director of Eco-Ministry, Forum 21; Event coordinator, The Interspiritual Network; Co-editor, The Eco-Activist Newsletter, Editor, 'Steering Toward the Omega Point: Roundtables 2, 3 and 4'; and Curator, Self-Care to Earth-Care.
IN LATE JANUARY 2.o16, sixteen participants gathered in Hyderabad in Telangana, south India. We had come to participate in a Contemplative Seminar on Practices of Compassion. Our host was the Venerable Doboom Tulku, the long-time head of Tibet House in New Delhi, but now the Managing Trustee of the World Buddhist Cultural Trust. We were meeting in the facilities of the Henry Martyn Institute, a centre established in Lahore in the 1940s to engage in dialogue with the Muslim world. The Institute had finally come to settle in Hyderabad following partition. We were a group of scholars, practitioners, and lay persons from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Sikh and other spiritual traditions. Another ten people had sent written contributions but were unable to join us in India.
Hyderabad was long at the heart of the Muslim community in southern India - and it remains so today. It is home to the iconic Charminar, a remarkable masjid from the sixteenth century, and to the nearby Golkonda citadel/fort/palace that was the centre of a vibrant fifteenth century Muslim state. But even earlier there was an important Buddhist centre nearby. Nagarjuna, a second century Buddhist, had established Nagarjunakonda, that became the location of several Buddhist monasteries and universities. It is there that the Venerable Doboom Tulku hopes to establish a Centre. Echoes of this multi-faith history and the centuries' old exchange between Muslims and Hindus permeated our gathering.
We called it a 'contemplative seminar' because we did not want it to be a conventional conference. We felt it was imperative to meet in silence and meditation before we turned to the exchange of words. So each day we began with a half-hour of a spiritual exercise led by the members of our gathering. They decided if we would meet in silent meditation or prayer or movement. We also closed each day with another half-hour of silence and/or a spiritual practice. This proved to have a significant impact on our seminar.
Then, over the five days of our gathering, we turned to discuss the papers that had been written on practices of compassion - not theories, but practices. Notice that we gathered to discuss the papers, not hear them read. We had circulated all the papers to the participants in the months leading up to our gathering in Hyderabad. They were sent out with the reminder that we would not be reading papers, but only discussing papers, sharing our questions and our responses. Prof. Bryant, who had worked with Lama Doboom Tulku and Prof. Anne Klein in shaping this seminar, had insisted on this format. His argument was that endless reading of papers undercut the purpose of our gathering: to engage and learn from one another. While it took some getting used to, we found it to be a useful strategy. It enhanced the vitality and tone of our exchange and dialogue.
Now when we move from the immediacy of the living encounter that is a contemplative seminar to a volume containing the written contributions, we lose all the moments of insight, the immediate yeas and nays of discussion, the dynamics of dialogue, and the wonder of shared silence. We simply have to ask the reader to imagine everything that is happening in the give and take of discussion.
In the volume you now hold in your hands, we have put the papers into categories, largely by tradition. But here we will introduce you to what you will read by introducing the papers in the order in which they were discussed in Hyderabad. And we will also mention the periods of silence and meditation that framed each day. This may give the reader a more lively portrayal of how things unfolded for the participants in Hyderabad.
We began in the late afternoon of 27 January 2016 with `Mangalacharan' or 'Verses of Auspiciousness' by Swami Chidananda, Ven. Olande Ananda Thera, and Mohammed Fayyazuddin. We were then welcomed by the Venerable Doboom Tulku and Rev. Packiam Samuel, the Director of the Henry Martyn Institute. Professor M. Darrol Bryant outlined the schedule of papers to be discussed and the meditative sessions for the coming days.
Yanni Maniates then led us in our first contemplative/meditative session. It was deeply moving and a different way to begin our encounter with one another.
The following morning, we met in our second contemplative session. It was led by Swami Chidananda and drew upon Hindu spiritual practices.
We began our discussion by turning to a fascinating paper by Yanni Maniates entitled 'May You Be Free from Suffering, May You Be At Peace. . . ,' Director of Eco-Ministry and Event Coordinator for the Interspiritual Network, he has been a spiritual teacher for more than thirty years. Here, Maniates shares with the reader his experience of what he calls 'the Embrace'. It is, he continues, this 'unitive experience' that awakens us to compassion for ourselves, others, and the earth. It also grounds our quest to free ourselves and others from suffering and the quest for peace. Its emphasis on transformative experience rather than theory struck an important first note for our discussion.
It was followed by two papers by Shiv Talwar, an engineer who is also the founder of the Spiritual Heritage Education Network (SHEN) in Canada, entitled 'Breathe Deeply for Health, Wellness, and Compassion: A Summary' and 'Breathe Deeply for Health, Wellness and Compassion'. Darrol Bryant has known Shiv for decades and has seen the growth of SHEN. It hosts an annual conference that brings together a global cast of spiritual teachers from diverse traditions, sciences, and professions. Here, Shiv explores the physiology of meditation, arguing that it is 'deep breathing' that 'opens our minds to higher emotions of selfless love and compassion'. It was another angle of vision on the meditative experience.
We also drew some links between Talwar's contributions and a contribution by Brenden Ozawa-de Silva entitled 'Compassion at the Core.' Brendan is a Professor of Psychology at Life University in Georgia in the USA. He has been involved in a decade-long programme that has developed a science based Cognitively Based Compassion Training (CBCT). This is a programme that draws on Tibetan Buddhist traditions but employs them in a non-religious way. It has been successfully tested with different groups. Brenden says that he has learned that 'self-centeredness is the single source of all our woe...' and that this programmed 'shifts our understanding of who we are as human beings'. It also includes some material on recent scientific research on meditation.
In our second session that morning, we considered the contribution of Zuleikha on 'Awareness, Art and Service'. Zuleikha is an international performer and educator who explores 'ancient spiritual and movement technologies of the sacred'. Some of us would call her a dancer, but she quickly allowed us to see how she combines movement and spirituality in ways that both educate and heal. Rather than taking about her contribution, she performed it. It was very moving, and she also shared with use some of her practices for making a more compassionate world.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
for saving your wish list, viewing past orders, receiving discounts, and lots more...
Email a Friend