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Peace Among Friends

[caption id="attachment_3324" align="alignright" width="200"]Blog by Associate Matt Branstetter, OPA Blog by Associate Matt Branstetter, OPA[/caption] This January I had the great privilege of being a guest at Tashi Kyil Monastic Institute outside of Dehradun, India. I have been interested in Buddhist teaching and practice for a couple of decades. However, outside of books by Chogyam Trungpa and the Dalai Lama, I had had little contact with the Tibetans. My experience at Tashi Kyil was a deeply moving lesson in sincerity and hospitality. This was not a place where strange and exotic yogic practices were undertaken. Their teachings and practices were simple and profound. They were centered in the heart. They were based on two principles: loving-kindness and non-attachment. It was interesting how these work together. From one perspective they may seem mutually exclusive. However, as I would experience firsthand, the presence of guests provides a precious opportunity to bring these two values into a kind of seamless expression. The best way I could explain the feeling of meeting and staying with these monks is to say that I had gone to India to meet some dear old friends or family members with whom I had shared many common experiences. We had suffered and laughed together and now after some years we were experiencing a kind of re-union. The only difference was (at least in this life!) we had never met. Regardless of this seemingly irrelevant fact, the intense way in which we were sharing in one another’s presence seemed absolutely natural. Non-attachment, as understood by the Tibetans, has nothing to do with some vacuous expression or vacant look in the eye. It does not mean withdrawing or giving less of oneself to people. On the contrary, it means meeting and sharing and getting a real feeling for those common characteristics that reside at the core of every human being. Non-attachment is the practice of recognizing this deep core human quality and affinity, not just in a few human beings who are in our vicinity or ‘on our side’ but in every human person. buddhistsAs has so often been the case, when I apply these insights from the East to the Christian tradition in which I was born, I am reminded of the boundless spiritual fertility of inter-religious exchange. What do we mean when we talk of seeing Christ in the other? Does it mean superimposing on the other whatever culturally biased image of Jesus strikes our fancy? Does it mean that we are somehow looking through the other to some abstract principle, some eternally abiding Form that lies beyond the limitations of a fragile, impermanent exterior? Or are we inspired by this very fragility and impermanence not to waste another second on the myriad ways we human beings divide ourselves from one another? Are we inspired to let these divisions fall away and encounter in the other person, in the most personal way imaginable, the face of our long lost friend?

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