In November, C.A.F.E.229 offered a stage for the virtual world premiere of Karuna, a Tzu Chi USA produced documentary celebrating compassion in action in the arena of international aid. The film took us on a vivid journey from the foothills of the Himalaya in Nepal to Bodh Gaya in India – where the Buddha attained enlightenment – and traced the activities of the non-profit Karuna-Shechen.
As several women shared their stories of lives transformed through the organization’s assistance, we discovered how compassionate aid must intertwine with wisdom. In the view of Karuna-Shechen’s founder, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, who leads the narrative thread in the film, this entails supporting women’s empowerment and advocating voluntary simplicity.
Buddhist Master Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, the co-founder of Karuna-Shechen, also appeared in the film and began by stressing the importance of compassion:
Rinpoche then highlighted, more generally, the importance of getting rid of our negative emotions – which are the principal cause of suffering – cultivating equanimity while dissolving our self-centered tendencies.
Following the screening of the film, Matthieu Ricard, who is also an international best-selling author and prominent speaker worldwide, joined in from France and touched on those themes as well, pointing out the urgency of our adopting a more compassionate and altruistic attitude, given the challenges facing the world today:
Ricard also spoke about our basic need to flourish in life and how good quality human relationships play a part and increase our sense of happiness. In this regard, kindness, altruism, and the transformation of negative qualities are also fundamental:
He then pointed out how “almost unknowingly, we have completely damaged our planet and the fate of future generations. So now, this is a new challenge. Therefore, consideration for future generations has become one of the key points of compassion and altruism.” Moreover, such a state of mind is equally beneficial on the individual level, right now:
In conclusion, Ricard urged us to “be brave and claim that altruism, compassion, and cooperation are what we need most.” While he proposed that society should teach these values in secular ways, in schools, at the same time, as individuals, we also share responsibility for adopting this compassionate stance ourselves:
Quoting Martin Luther King, who said “We came in different vessels; now we are all in the same boat,” Ricard invited us to work together towards a better world.
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