Slaughter of the innocents

_64778224_64778223There is a dreadful poignancy to the mass killing of school children and their teachers, two millennia after the slaughter of the innocents – the Biblical massacre that took place in Egypt following the birth of Christ.

It is tempting to ask if humanity has made any progress, and to question human nature. We ask ourselves what can be done to prevent such tragedies from happening again. President Obama, in his heartfelt address, spoke of this: “As a country, we have been through this too many times . . . We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” he said.

As members of a global community, it seems important for Shambhalians to see this in an even broader context. This horror is the latest in a series of mass killings that have taken place in countries around the world, many of them deliberately targeting children and young people.

For a community exploring the principle of basic goodness, these are vital moments. We are forced to examine our own understanding when we are confronted by extreme cruelty like this. What does it mean to speak of enlightened society against a backdrop of mass murder? What is the basis on which to accommodate, understand and feel sadness for the cruelty of beings?

In his recently published Treatise on Enlightened Society, the Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche, directly addresses this question. I am posting it here for the benefit of anyone who wishes to use it as a starting point for their own contemplation and for their discussions with others. You are warmly welcome to post your heartfelt responses on this site as we reflect on this together worldwide.

“At times of great challenge, just when people need to be able to care for each other and the planet, they fall into fear and aggression. In that state, the vision and intelligence needed to solve the crises become buried deep within humanity’s consciousness . . .

“However, if that society mutually experiences the innate goodness of beings, its conduct reflects that point of view. Because of the backdrop of this greater understanding, even if beings behave with aggression or foolishness, that behavior is considered to be an irregularity and an anomaly; it is not considered to be their nature at the core. In this light, enlightened society will always face such challenges and obstacles; it is not a state of utopia. However, even in the midst of great suffering and challenge, enlightened society stays open and awake to basic goodness. If the message of basic goodness is fearlessly proclaimed, and if human relationships reflect this message, kind and virtuous conduct spreads throughout the society. Then, even when situations become difficult, our conduct improves.”

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About Richard Reoch

Richard Reoch was appointed by the Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche, as the President of Shambhala in 2002 -- a position he holds to this day. He heads the Government of Shambhala and chairs the highest governing body of the mandala, the Kalapa Council. Prior to his position in Shambhala, he was the global media chief of the human rights organization, Amnesty International, and continues as a trustee of the Rainforest Foundation and Chair of the International Working Group on Sri Lanka, a network of diplomats and major agencies devoted to peace making.