This shrine of His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was a collaboration between myself and my beloved husband, Marcus. He painted the figure, and I really love how he captured the Dalai Lama's beautiful smile. I lined this simple shrine with a nubbly woven pink silk and painted the halo with the Buddhist symbol for world peace, lotus flowers, and my favorite quote from my favorite living saint - "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."
Marcus and I have been talking about compassion in relation to the debate over President Obama's health care reform proposals. I am struck especially by two arguments that seem particularly wrong headed and, if followed to their logical conclusion, inhuman.
The first is: "it costs too much." Now I ask you, what should we be spending our collective monies on? What is more valuable, more priceless, than good health? Ask any person who has had their life curtailed by a chronic condition or any parent who helplessly watches their child suffer. Ask a terminally ill person with goals, dreams, and people they want to stick around for. Ask them what good health is worth. Good health is the basis for living the lives we want to live and we should be putting our money into ensuring that everyone's health needs are met. As a matter of fact, along with good food and shelter for everyone I can't think of a more important thing to spend our tax dollars on. I hear "my children will be paying for this!" Yeah? So will mine. And I'm glad they will be paying for something so worthwhile. I find this argument especially ironic in the face of the two wars the United States is currently involved in, needless wars that cost billions of dollars and the lives and health of countless people. We will be paying for that mess for a generations. And yet people argue that good health care for everyone is too expensive? Even worse, that good health care for everyone isn't worth the expense?
The second argument I have been hearing is the worry that "illegal" immigrants will benefit from public option health care. I say, I wish they would. Because a person in need is a person in need, regardless of, well, of anything. A person in need of medical care being denied for any reason at all is a cruel and terrible thing. It goes against the basic tenant of all major religions, and of anyone who is a decent human being: compassion. And compassion in practice is the care of the sick, the poor, and anyone unable to help themselves.
I leave you with these quotes on the subject of compassion from the Dalai Lama himself:
"Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival."
"I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed."
"As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery… we have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness."
If the Dalai Lama's wisdom were to enter the United States Senate we would have a completely reformed health care system and a public option in a heart beat.