Bright Aisles, Dark Alleys

“Having abandoned the taking of life, refraining from the taking of life, we dwell without violence, with the knife laid down —scrupulous, full of mercy— trembling with compassion for all sentient beings.”  ―Buddha Shakyamuni

13239064_779624735470337_8971857363285702138_nWhen people think of Buddhist monks, if they think of us at all, they imagine that we dwell in clouds of incense, smiling serenely, unperturbed, meditating on nothing. But, as you just read, we are not called to drift placidly in emptiness, but to “tremble with compassion for all sentient beings”.

I thought that the mention of ‘trembling’ was just a rhetorical device, until late one night, returning with my Teacher from visiting with refugees, when we passed by a dark alley and heard the cries of fear and pain of a youth who was being beaten by a group of men.

Without hesitation, my Teacher approached the men, and smiling broadly, asked them if it would not be much more ‘fun’ to beat up two Buddhist monks instead of one young man. I was not smiling broadly. I was not smiling at all. You see, Buddhist monks vow not to resort to violence, even to defend ourselves. We do not fight. We were going to get pummeled.

Surprisingly, the beating stopped, the men laughed nervously, uttered some choice profanities, and left. Perhaps they imagined we were Shaolin monks, ready to rain our secret Kung Fu moves on them…

After making sure that the young man was safe and in the care of emergency responders, I asked my Teacher if he had known that we would not come to harm. He responded that he did not, but at the very least, we could have taken some of the blows, and not all would have fallen on that one young man. And then he told me soberly that it was our duty, when confronted with suffering, to get in the way, to stand between those who would do harm and those who would be hurt.

I am here tonight not to speak in lofty platitudes, but to get in the way. Not all abuse happens in dark alleys. Much unspeakable cruelty takes place in the brightly lit aisles where we purchase the flesh of animals, their eggs, their milk, their skin, their wool, their feathers, and their fur. Those brightly lit aisles conceal the horrible darkness where animals are confined, enslaved, tortured, and slaughtered for our pleasure. I will not share with you the gory details, but the awful truth is there for you to see, as plain as day.

What makes some beings worthy of compassion, while others seem to merit only our disdain? Is it intelligence? Is it the ability to speak? Is it the actions we perform? No. Are we not called to feel compassion for the dull, the dumb, the infirm, and the disabled? Beings are worthy of compassion because they are sentient —they suffer, they feel pain.

To desire only to reduce the suffering of human beings is nothing but extended selfishness. Are we not called by all the Holy Ones, the Prophets, and the Teachers of all faiths to care for all, even for the least among us?  Did Jesus Christ not say: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me”?

I come to you not to judge you, but to implore you to look upon ALL our fellow sentient beings, human and non-human, with compassion. If we cannot prevent the cruelty they suffer, at least let harm not be inflicted for our pleasure, paid with our money, and executed in our name.

We cannot speak sincerely of compassion while confining, abusing, and slaughtering our fellow sentient beings. Compassion begins in our shopping carts, in our closets, in our kitchens, on our plates.

If I have made you uncomfortable, I apologize. I am not here to fight, but to get in the way. I humbly stand before you, as the Buddha instructed, trembling with compassion –for you and for all beings. May all attain the union of wisdom and compassion!

om mani peme hum

About Tashi Nyima

I am a Dharma student, and aspire to be a companion on the path. I trust that these texts can offer a general approach and basic tools for practicing the Buddha's way to enlightenment. ||| Soy un estudiante del Dharma, y aspiro a ser un compañero en el sendero. Espero que estos textos ofrezcan a algunos un mapa general y herramientas básicas para la práctica del sendero a la iluminación que nos ofrece el Buda.
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23 Responses to Bright Aisles, Dark Alleys

  1. dharma pen says:

    Thank you for sharing with us how to get in the way…

  2. paulfarma says:

    Thank you. PKL

    Great Middle Way 於 2014年11月21日 (週五) 11:56 PM 寫道﹕

    #yiv3192693742 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv3192693742 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv3192693742 a.yiv3192693742primaryactionlink:link, #yiv3192693742 a.yiv3192693742primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv3192693742 a.yiv3192693742primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv3192693742 a.yiv3192693742primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv3192693742 | Tashi Nyima posted: “―a brief address by Tashi Nyima to the Richardson Interfaith Alliance (TX) during the Thanksgiving ObservanceThere is a quote in tonight’s program that reads: “Having abandoned the taking of life, refraining from the taking of life, we dwell without v” | |

  3. David Simon says:

    Reblogged this on MEATONOMIC$ and commented:
    Buddha taught compassion for all sentient beings. So I was a little disappointed a few years ago when, after I checked out the services at a local Buddhist church, members gathered to eat cheese and other non-vegan food. When I asked one of them about Buddha’s teachings, he agreed, then said, “but we believe in cutting ourselves a little slack .”

    Nevertheless, there are plenty of Buddhists who do believe in compassion for all sentient beings, not just for those of their own species. Tashi Nyima, whose words are reposted below, is one of these and his recent Thanksgiving talk is quite moving.

  4. Peter Schreiner says:

    Reblogged this on Crows Head Soup.

  5. Reblogged this on Tania Marie's Blog and commented:
    Tashi Nyima gave a moving Thanksgiving talk, which you can find below. The story he shares reminds me of the story of a black teen, Keshia Thomas, who threw herself in front of a white man and KKK member to protect him from an angry mob back in 1996 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, simply because she knew it was the right thing to do – to be kind to another human being.

    But many Buddhists believe in compassion for ALL sentient beings, not just for those of their own species, which Tashi Nyima addresses in his talk.

    I’m not a Buddhist and I don’t believe this belief and way of life has anything to do with a form of religion. I know many non-Buddhists who simply believe in universal compassion. For me, it is an extension of my very being, breath of life, and spirituality and I don’t know any other way to be.

    I had my own journey to get to where I am today and I honor the individual journeys everyone has, as it all has its divine order and is perfect every step of the way. And yet things are increasingly changing and more and more people are realizing that there is more than one way of being to choose from and this happens because others start to offer new perspectives to soulfully explore through their experiences they’ve discovered and because others have decided to “get in the way” simply to demonstrate there are other options and we don’t have to follow the mob consciousness.

    We all have the right and freedom to choose our own reality and we are each unique. The more we realize the power of our sovereign free will and connect with the authenticity of who we are, despite what others think, the more we start discovering the nature of our personal humanity and what reflects this natural rhythm exclusively.

    I believe educating ourselves, becoming fully and consciously aware of more than our comfort zones, being curious and open, and really searching within for the truth of who you are, are key to living an empowered, compassionate life.

    Tashi Nyima is one man who is “getting in the way”, as he puts it, “trembling with compassion.”

  6. Thank you for addressing the call to the “in-betweens” so eloquently. Many Blessings! ~ Gerean/The Animal Spirits

  7. Tashi, I appreciate and value what you wrote here and will share…. I keep coming back, though, to the horrible treatment of temple elephants in India, Sri Lanka, and other Asian countries … and the mass murders of animals for various holidays & festivals in Nepal … the kidnapping and skinning and selling of animals in bushmeat trade in Asia ….and of course, the poaching of elephants and rhinos for tusks and horns for false medicines…. would truly appreciate your response on this.

    • Tashi Nyima says:

      All cruelty to sentient beings is deplorable; none can be justified, for any reason. So-called ‘religious’ animal sacrifice and exploitation are the very superstitions that the Buddha Shakyamuni exposed and condemned in the India of His day. Sadly, such barbarity in the name of religion continues today. However, it pales in comparison to an animal farming industry that enslaves, tortures, and slaughters 70 billion plus land animals and over 1 trillion sea animals every single year.

      • Yes, I would agree. But I would think that those in the commercial / traditional farming industry have less allegiance to a religion as officials in the high temples of India and areas where they treat beloved animals with such horrific practices and death….

  8. Reblogged this on There's an Elephant in the Room blog and commented:
    ‘If we cannot prevent the cruelty they suffer, at least let harm not be inflicted for our pleasure, paid with our money, and executed in our name.

    We cannot speak sincerely of compassion while confining, abusing, and slaughtering our fellow sentient beings. Compassion begins in our shopping carts, in our closets, in our kitchens, on our plates.’

  9. Shannon says:

    Well said. My sentiments entirely. I am floored, however, that this address was in Texas on Thanksgiving no less. Some days I feel I am the only Texan who feels as I do. Thank you for showing me that I’m not!

  10. cushpigsmum says:

    Reblogged this on iliketowritewhatithink and commented:
    I am also one dedicated to ‘getting in the way’. I am not brave and would not like to be hurt but if I saw someone beating up a dog, I would intervene. Wouldn’t you? So why not get in the way of other animals being beaten up and slaughtered, by being vegan? We can block the funding channel and so, get in the way of profitability for the violent industries which exploit other sentient creatures and lie to us about what they do, refuse to show the horrors and keep us in thrall to their myth of how happy the animals are to be abused, tortured and murdered. Go vegan. Get in the way of violence.

  11. Pingback: Vegan Holy Grail! Chocolate Cake, an FAQ | DirtNKids

  12. What a wonderful and inspirational speech.

  13. This was so powerful and I had to keep myself from crying, as I am on my lunch break at work. I feel lonely every day, but people like you give me strength and I know I, and the innocent animals, are not alone. Thank you for such a beautiful message. I find myself judging others – and openly – for knowing, agreeing, but continuing to commission daily violence and bringing it into their homes. I have friends that have done activist work for years for the environment, equality, freedom but, to my dismay, they just can’t or won’t make the connection. Thank you for reminding even those of us who have made the connection that we are here for compassion, and that we must keep it in our hearts and minds when encouraging others to do the same. Bless you and all those you touch.

  14. 2buddhaornot2buddha says:

    Reblogged this on Rise Like A Lotus and commented:
    This is one of the most beautiful and inspiring talks I’ve heard in a while. I couldn’t help but share it! Please take the time to read, and then check out the original post and blog as well!

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