The renowned spiritual leader and socially engaged Buddhist Venerable Bhikkhu Sanghasena has launched an initiative to declare a Year of Compassion, calling for the “vaccine of compassion” to spread around the globe as a means to transform the way people and societies relate to each other and to the world. The revered monk marked the launch of the project with a letter to UN secretary-general António Guterres requesting that the United Nations formally recognize 2021 as the Year of Compassion.
Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena is the spiritual director of the non-profit Mahabodhi International Meditation Center (MIMC) in Leh, Ladakh. He is also the founder of the Mahakaruna Foundation, the Save the Himalayas Foundation, and a spiritual advisor to the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).*
“Although the various COVID-19 vaccines will ease much of the immediate suffering faced by mankind, on a deeper level humanity continues to suffer; the sorrow of mankind will not decrease and the dissatisfaction will not cease,” Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena told Buddhistdoor Global. “This pandemic has the potential to unite the world and it is time for us now to cherish and foster our shared values, strengths, and cultures; to recollect what it truly means to be human—our shared humanity and our interrelatedness with each other and the environment that surrounds and sustains us—is perhaps the most urgent and pressing need of our time.”
“Universal and unconditional compassion must go beyond the illusory boundaries of nationality, religion, and other such manmade concepts,” he said. “From the eyes of compassion, every living and non-living being is the same. Compassion brings people together, it binds individuals, and gives a higher sense of meaning to one’s life. Hence mahakaruṇā—Great Compassion—is the only transformative way to seek a genuinely happy, peaceful, and harmonious world for all to live in peace and thrive.”
The revered monk also marked the launch of the peace initiative with the establishment of the Canadian office of the New Delhi-headquartered Mahakaruna Foundation on 7 January.
“The Mahakaruna Foundation is a non-profit trust originated to bring individuals from all walks of life to serve humanity through the practice of great compassion. At present the Mahakaruna Foundation India and newly launched Mahakaruna Foundation Canada, in collaboration with Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre, have launched a worldwide movement of compassion-in-action, declaring 2021 the Year of Compassion through introducing the ‘vaccine of mahakaruṇā,’” Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena said.
“It is the right time to create one global family, one humanity, and one world through compassion-in-action,” the monk explained. “It is therefore time for us to take the vaccine of compassion this year in order to evade the multiple manifestations of suffering caused by racism, separatism, political games, egotism, and religious fanaticism, and so on.”
Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena founded the MIMC in Leh, the joint capital of Ladakh, in 1986. He has since become an exemplar of socially engaged Buddhism, launching numerous projects, events, and initiatives, among them providing educational opportunities and refuge for underprivileged children, empowerment and literacy programs for women and other socially disadvantaged groups, healthcare for the sick and needy, and a care home for the aged and destitute. The MIMC has evolved into an expanding campus that has become the hub for a multitude of socio-cultural and community programs to share the Dharma through spiritual and community outreach.
“The greatest tragedy for humanity is that world leaders are using war to stop war!” Bhikkhu Sanghasena emphasized. “They are using violence to bring non-violence! It is absurd. How it is possible? How can fire extinguish fire? It will only worsened the situation. There are many who are adamant that the key to attaining the goal of world peace lies in technological progress, sound legal structures, sophisticated financial systems, and material abundance. Others emphasis violent measures, relying on military might as a means to secure world order. The fact is that peace can never be achieved through war; violence cannot bring non-violence; darkness cannot dispel darkness. Light alone can dispel darkness; hatred can be overcome by love alone. Mere economic progress will not fulfill the inner human urge for peace.
“We humbly invite Buddhistdoor Global readers to become a part of the worldwide movement of compassion-in-action in your respective countries and regions. Be a part of the movement, please post a compassionate act, tag us, and use the hashtag #vaccineofcompassion.”
* Sacred Offerings of Compassion and Relief: Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena, the Silent Reformer (Buddhistdoor Global)