The day after I was raped, The Dalai Lama came to town.
When I got up the next morning after experiencing such profound and personal random violence, all I could think of was, "I must get to the lecture of the Dalai Lama. He will have some wisdom for me. If I listen to him, I know I can shift. I know it." Following that instinct, I attended the first early morning lecture of The Dalai Lama when he came to Seattle hosted by The Seeds Of Compassion organization.
As I sat down in the lecture hall, I felt rattled, overwhelmed and could not stop my tears from flowing. The more I listened to the Dalai Lama speak and especially when I heard his laugh for the first time in person, I found that my mind, heart and spirit began to calm. I wasn't exactly sure why this was, but I knew I had to hear him speak more. And I proceeded to attend four more lectures over the course of the next four days. I shall never forget his commentary on violence in our world.
When someone asked His Holiness about his monks who had been murdered in the monestaries in Tibet, a very somber expression crossed his face. The person asking the question wanted to know how The Dalai Lama managed to tolerate such violence, especially toward people he loved and cared about. His Holiness The Dalai Lama spoke calmly and with tears in his eyes:
"Well, such violence is hard. Very hard. Such violence is not to be tolerated. There is no question about that. But you asked me how I managed to tolerate it. I didn't. What I did instead was to imagine each of the people who murdered my monks as little tiny babies. I imagined each one of them as little tiny babies that I was actually holding in my arms. As I gazed into their eyes, I tried to imagine each of them as whole and perfect beings, before the difficulty of their family situation or the world got to them, after which there came to be such violence in their minds and hearts.
I imagined that their experience must have been a Violence that would eventually become so great as to allow them to commit murder and other atrocities such as the murders of my monks. In imagining how hard it must have been for these beings, I felt suddenly an overwhemling sense of compassion for thm. These tortured beings, who at one time very early in their lives were born whole and complete and full of innocence without a trace of violence within them. And I found in doing this, that I could not hate them. I could only feel compassion and love for them and the pain in their hearts that would allow them to commit such crimes against a fellow human being, such as my beloved monks."
I sat in my chair feeling as if the Dalai Lama was speaking directly into my own heart. It felt like he was showing me with his own example how I could turn my attention away from the person and the disturbance of violence that I had unexpectedly experienced the night before. He was suggesting that I could instead focus my mind and heart with deep compassion toward this man who had at one time been an innocent baby too, full of hope and love and promise.
I challenged myself to reflect back on the actual moments of horror and violence during the rape itself. I found myself remembering what I was actually thinking. Believe it or not, here is what was going through my mind: "Who taught you this? Who taught you that it was OK to harm a woman like this? What a small, scared, angry man you must be to act in this way. I know you think that you are taking my soul as you hurt me here and now. But my soul and my spirit is mine to give and I do not give it to you here in this moment, no matter what you do to my body."
I realized that even in the midst of the violence itself there was a seed of compassion within me. I discovered that it is also true that despite the violence, we can see ourselves as having an opportunity to grow and evolve, no matter what the other person does or says.
My friends, of course, wanted vengeance and sought all different kinds of ways to express their own outrage at what had happened to me. I could see that their powerlessness to protect me, their friend, and their fierce love for me was so overwhelming it provoked violence within them so profound they wanted to kill this "Very Bad Man." But I begged them all not to meet violence with more violence. I told them what I had learned from the Dalai Lama and they still found it difficult to take in, let alone do. And while I appreciated my friends rising to my defense, I had to focus all my energy on how I was going to forgive and send love and compassion instead of vengeance.
I have tried very hard to practice what the Dalai Lama was suggesting to me that day, what he is asking of all of us, as we face violence in our world. Both the rape experience and the words of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama became great catalysts for my growth and my own personal evolution. I learned that I had the capacity to turn this violence into a moment to moment spiritual practice: to focus my mind and heart towards true Compassion at all times, rather than getting caught up in my own rage and feelings of violation and helplessness when violence anywhere in our world is committed.
To hold true to this practice of Compassion even if I or others are hurt or even killed as a result of violent acts committe isn't easy. But I continue to pratice it as truly challenging as it may be. As I look back now on the rape, it was a gift of both great Violence and humbling Grace. But in the end it was up to me to decide how that gift of teaching through Violence and Grace would be put into action in my own life.
So now, every time this man comes to my mind, I speak a silent prayer, "May he find peace. May I find peace. May All Beings find peace." The thought of him and that violent experience in my life comes and goes. No attachment. No more violence being sent out into the world from my mind or thoughts or heart. Thanks to the wise words of His Holiness The Dalai Lama and my willingness to truly try to Hear what he was saying about how to embrace violence with compassion, my violent experience all became transformed into a prayer on the wind.
Do you have a moment or a person or a difficult experience in your life that still needs some peace and compassion from you? How have words someone said to you helped your heart and soul to mend?