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Feb 23
Scene and Heard
Shambhala Meets A Royal

Acharya Han de Wit wtih Princess Beatrix

Acharya Han de Wit wtih Princess Beatrix

Acharya Han de Wit presents The Shambhala Principle to Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands

by Acharya Han de Wit, Amsterdam

The inter-religious conference In Vrijheid Verbonden, instituted in 2005 by the Dutch Queen Beatrix celebrates and commemorates that in 1579 the Declaration of the United Provinces of Netherlands was signed and the freedom of religion was proclaimed.

This year representatives of the 5 major religions were specifically asked to present their view on society. Acharya Han de Wit was asked to present the Buddhist view. About 200 participants of all kinds of religious denominations attended, as well as the former queen, now Princess Beatrix. Also, a booklet was prepared for King Willem Alexander, entitled Religies dromen voor ons land, which contained 5 short statements on society. The Buddhist statement was written by Han (see below).

The Princess received this booklet on behalf of the King. At the reception Han de Wit and his wife Ineke were introduced to the Princess, at which occasion Han offered the Princess a copy of The Shambhala Principle by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche (see picture).

A Buddhist View on Society
(Translated from the Dutch, and published in Religies dromen voor ons land upon the occasion of 200 years of the Kingdom in the Netherlands.)

From the time of the Buddha himself, his followers have contemplated how to create an enlightened society, and some of them attempted to actually create such a society. Well known, even in the West, is the society created by the Indian emperor Ashoka of the Maurya dynasty in the third century BC. This society reflected enlightened principles similar to those of another society particularly legendary in the Asian and Indian worlds — the kingdom of Shambhala. The first king, Suchandra, was said to be a student of the Buddha. The key societal task of these rulers was to keep the enlightened principles alive.

What kind of principles were these? They were principles of the heart. Such principles are not based on a social theory or political ideology, but on a deeply personal and equally universal human experience; the personal experience that fundamentally, basically, we are benevolent, good-natured beings. We long to make the best of our lives and of our social relationships, in our family, and up through all the aspects of society at large. We have a deep longing that it goes well with us, with those close to us, and in fact with the whole world. In the language of Shambhala Buddhism, the experience of this longing is called the experience of basic goodness. This experience is of all times and all cultures; it is the fundament of our humanity. In Mahayana Buddhism it is said that all human beings possess Buddha nature and experience it at times. It is the vitality of ourselves and of each culture.

But what will a society start to look like if it shaped by distrust and doubt toward the benevolent nature of its members? Does it have a future? Trust binds, distrust disbands society. Distrust here leaves no room for the fact that we human beings do have this deep longing, even though we might feel it only feebly at times. In the intimate space of our mind we know, almost secretly, that we mean well. But even then we soon think that it is probably different for other people; and they must think that about us! Otherwise, where does all this misery, aggression, heartlessness and cruelty we see around us, come from? If the devil does not exist, then mustn’t it be that devilish forces roam in human beings themselves? It sounds so logical.

Nevertheless, we do feel this deep longing in ourselves. Isn’t the sorrow, the anger that we often feel when we see suffering and injustice around us the indisputable proof that this longing resides in us? And isn’t it even present when, out of frustration and anger we do all kinds of stupid, possibly even cruel things? After all, if this longing would not be part of our being, then seeing the suffering and injustice around us would not affect us. But it is just the other way around: when this deep longing is fulfilled we feel good. It makes us, in the most profound sense of the word happy, we are at our best; we experience our basic goodness. Conversely, when this deep longing cannot be fulfilled, we experience sadness and frustration, which is experiencing our basic goodness in another way.

What does this all imply about working with our society in our time? Just like king Suchandra looked for elements and qualities in his society that would support its flourishing as an enlightened society, in that same manner we can look for those aspects of our society that resonate with our experience of basic goodness. What those aspects are, we have to assess for each situation anew. There is no external formula for this. We can act, speak, work, organize or do whatever it is we do in society based on our experience of basic goodness. For that, we must cultivate the experience of basic goodness and learn to trust it. We do this neither from a sense of duty, nor from fear of punishment or retaliation — let alone out of some preconceived ideology. We do this based on our personal experience, understanding that acting upon our basic goodness uplifts and humanizes our society. In that way we bring about a more enlightened way of living together — in our family, with our friends, at our work and in society at large.

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4 responses to “ Shambhala Meets A Royal ”
  1. That is wonderful news

  2. Arelly Sanchez
    Feb 28, 2014

    Dank je wel.

  3. Excellently done–makes me proud!

  4. Linda V. Lewis
    Feb 24, 2014

    Wonderful! Bravo Han!

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