“Ehipassiko! Ehipassiko! Ehipassiko!” This is the Buddha’s invitation to us: “Come and see for yourself.”
On Dec. 14, a young man walked into an elementary school in Connecticut, opened fire, and killed twenty children and six adults. Having already killed his mother, he turned a weapon on himself and ended his own life.
Is this what we are supposed to see for ourselves? Are we supposed to see the horror that one human can inflict on innocent children? Yes. That and much more.
Come and see for yourselves how Adam Lanza and I are not different. Fear, anger, and misunderstanding of reality exist in every human. Come and see for yourselves how you and I are not different. Like you, I will get sick and age and die. Come and see for yourselves the true nature of reality. Go beyond your own feelings. See beyond the feelings of others. What lies below, inside, behind those feelings?
By investigating our own experience thoroughly and honestly, we come to see how it differs from others’ experience only in the details. When we fully accept our own experience, our own fears and disappointments, our own triumphs and pleasures, our own capacity for love and for hatred, we become capable of accepting the experience of all beings—past, present, and future, for it is not fundamentally different from ours. Having accepted, we come to understand. The more thorough our understanding becomes, the more firmly our actions are grounded in compassion and wisdom rather than emotion and reactivity.
This coming-and-seeing does not happen quickly or easily, and it does not happen through analytic investigation or reading books. It happens when we take the time to sit with the gates to our minds wide open, with hearts like the earth, ready to absorb whatever falls upon them without judgment and without resistance. When we can offer this great gift of love to ourselves—the gift of complete and unqualified acceptance of our own experience, we can offer it to the world. To Adam Lanza. To Nancy Lanza. To all twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. To all their families. To all their friends. To all those who witnessed the tragedy. To all those who have lost loved ones to violence. To all those who will lose loved ones to violence. To all those who will commit acts of violence.
The great 8th century Buddhist monk, Shantideva, whose works the current Dalai Lama often cites, wrote:
Cruel beings are (everywhere) just as is space:
It can't possibly come that I'll have destroyed them (all).
But if I've destroyed this mind of anger alone,
It's the same as my having destroyed all those foes.
Where could I possibly find the leather
To cover with leather the whole surface of the earth?
But with leather just on the soles of my shoes,
It's the same as having covered the entire earth's surface.
Come and see for yourself the truth and wisdom of these words. Sit quietly with these words in your heart as you watch your in-breaths and out-breaths. Walk mindfully around the block with attention gently focused on your steps as these words sink into the heart more deeply with each step. Experience and understand for yourself. The world desperately needs your wisdom and your compassion. There is no time to waste. Ehipassiko!