June 4th is a day with vastly different meanings to me.
The first is trauma. June 4th is when, as an 11 year old growing up in Hong Kong, I watched on live TV the tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square. The ensuing massacre of thousands of peaceful protesters in Beijing. For every year thereafter, June 4th was/is a day when HK people wear black and stand in vast numbers, holding candles to remember the lives extinguished by violence.
In recent years, June 4 has also become a day of extraordinary hope — perhaps the greatest hope.
Today is Dharmachakra Day, a celebration of the first teachings given by Buddha 2,500 years ago, also known as "the turning of the wheel of Dharma." As the inspired Kadampa blogger Luna Kadampa has reminded me in recent days, Buddha's teachings went on to upend the caste system in India.
June 4th is also the birthday of my great teacher and guide in life, Geshe Keslang Gyatso Rinpoche.
In the light of the trauma arising in the US right now, the horrific killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the systematic injustice that has been happening for centuries and is so vividly revealing itself during this pandemic, I wanted to sit for a moment and write about my teacher.
Because we all need to see good examples right now.
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is a humble Tibetan monk who escaped from Tibet and the brutal violent crackdown there, and spent the first half of his life in meditation retreat in India. There, he realized for himself the enlightened teachings of Buddha.
He arrived in the north of England in 1977, in his 40s, invited to teach in the Lake District. In the 43 years since, the span of my own lifetime, he has written 23 books, inspired the appearance of 1,200 meditation centers globally, and taught the route out of suffering to modern people.
I've seen him teach in person, and he's an extraordinary being to observe. He's the kindest, most humble and joyful person I've ever come across. That kindness radiates and illuminates every Kadampa teacher I've met or heard ever since.
June 4th has become a day where I now, to be perfectly frank with you all, sit and cry at the kindness of this human being. How much he's changed my life and changed my heart. He's taught me to see the vast potential for peace that exists in the heart of every single living being, and to know I own that potential too.
This insight gives us tremendous power, as we set about releasing our own mind from suffering. To use every moment of our daily lives to practice the six perfections, to practice giving love, giving fearlessness to others by protecting them. To practice carving the actual route to permanent freedom. And to make sure that pathway is one paved by the intention to free all our kind mothers.
I am sitting here, writing this, crying again, just to say thank you to my teacher and all the teachers out there who are teaching the way of peace, reconciliation, non-violence and love. And to remind myself to keep practicing, even when things become so hard.
How when things become hard, we can sit down, and tune into an ocean of peace that lies within our own heart. And with mindfulness and effort, we can allow that peace to grow. Until it connects us to the peace that is the nature of reality. And how we can rise up from our meditation cushion everyday, and walk into the world as living embodiments of peace. Those examples that the world so desperately needs us to become.
Photo credits, top-bottom: Simon Mikaj, Nicole Baster, Tharpa, and Hari Nandakumar Thanks to Unsplash.