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Jul 08
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Manifesting Great Eastern Kindness

A chance encounter becomes an opportunity for compassion and generosity

by Janet Pal

It’s Saturday morning, June 10. I’m on my way to the Toronto Shambhala Centre. A man is walking towards me.

Oh please let him walk past me. I’m in a hurry. I have a talk to give today and I have to practice.

“Can you help me? I’m so hungry. I came here for a better life. No one will help me.”

His face was only inches from mine, close enough that I could feel his breath, and the heat from his body, or maybe it was my own.

“Please can you help me? I’m so hungry” he said again, tremulously.

The pain in his voice pierced the layers of my self-absorption, and I felt those layers drop away, leaving my own tremulous heart exposed to the already muggy morning air.

“I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time. Where are you from?” I said as I reached into my bag and pulled out some coins.

“Israel,” he said, in the way only a native Israeli can. “I came here for a better life. I’m hungry. Can you help me?”

My eyes filled with tears as I took his outstretched hand in both of mine and pressed the coins into it.

“Thank you, dear,” he said. “Thank you for seeing me. I love you.”

“I love you, too, I responded gently. “Be well.”

Thank you for seeing me. The words reverberated against my eardrums as I made my way upstairs and let myself into the still empty Shambhala Centre.

As I set about preparing tea and coffee for the morning, my thoughts drifted to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s 2017 Shambhala Day Address, which began with the words “Can you see me?” and continued with, among other things, “Can you hear me?”

The evening of the Address I asked my own teacher, Shastri Nick Kranz, if all Shambhalians were feeling as uplifted and inspired as I was, adding that “I just have no idea where to start. We should have a conversation about this. And not just us. We should include other people.”

We have begun that conversation at the Toronto Centre, which we have called “Manifesting Great Eastern Kindness,” and will continue it throughout this year. After our first gathering in April where Nick helped several of us to unpack some of the themes raised in the Sakyong’s Shambhala Day Address, I found myself coming back to those words: “Can you see me? Can you hear me?” They felt like some kind of call to action to me, and I said as much to the group. Nick replied that he thought I might really be onto something.

My thoughts came back to the Shambhala Centre where I was gathering for the weekend with nine other fearless and gentle warriors who had been invited to participate in Course Leader Training. The Japanese kanji for listening that Shastri Jil Amadio had shared with us the day before as we discussed deep listening–it took on new meaning that morning.

According to the Kanji, listening involves not only the ears but the eyes, the undivided attention, and the heart. Tears flowed freely as I began to fill the water bowls on the Rigden Shrine, an offering in themselves as I made a silent vow to continue to see and hear with my heart, letting it be touched, deeply, in nowness.

Janet Pal lives in Toronto, Canada with her partner and their dog, and likes to go for long walks in the early morning, taking photos of things that inspire her and touch her heart, like trees and sunrises. She is a member of the Toronto Shambhala Centre, where she is honored to serve as Shambhala Guide, Dorje Kasung, and now Course Leader. She hopes to be as brave as she was on the morning of her story, this time about flying to Vermont this summer for Enlightened Society Assembly.

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1 response to “ Manifesting Great Eastern Kindness ”
  1. The conversations I refer to, led by Shastri Kranz, aren’t at the Toronto Centre, they are actually held online, via Zoom, and the second one in the series happens tomorrow, July 9 with a recording available if you are unable to attend live. Please feel free to email me at [email protected] for further info!

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