An Open Letter to The Dalai Lama
four years ago, you sent a message of gratitude and encouragement
to the people of Shandaken and Phoenicia for protecting our
natural environment. That message of caring, of your interest
in the future of our mountains and valleys, was conveyed through
this newspaper and was widely appreciated. On behalf of all
of us we welcome you back, on the first of what we hope will
be many teaching visits to the Menla Mountain Retreat and to
Throughout our lives most of us have known of you and the struggles
of the Tibetan people, oppressed in their own land or in exile.
This is something we understand deeply from within our own history
and traditions. Like people everywhere, we’ve been moved
by the compassion you’ve voiced, even toward those who’ve
waged cultural genocide against your people. In demonstrating
such empathy and in your lifelong work in conflict resolution,
human rights, and on behalf of our global environment, you have
shown by example that moral authority is real, is earned, and
has the power to change our world.
In these years since you first reached out to Shandaken, Tibet
House’s teaching center in the Pantherkill valley has
become an integral part of our community, joining Zen Mountain
Monastery in Mt. Tremper and Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (KTD)
in Woodstock as global centers of their teaching lineages. Amongst
many other things our community is now, it is also one of the
major centers of spiritual practice and religious learning in
the world. Like Lindisfarne in Ireland or Mt. Athos in Greece,
such places have a long history of providing a beacon of light
and hope that’s endured through our civilization’s
Perhaps such times are coming again, perhaps not. Or perhaps
on the other side of them, as you’ve suggested, is a future
too different from the present for us to easily visualize. Regardless,
we think it fitting that our well-protected mountains are now
home to such an abundance of teaching and learning. Like the
wildlife or the quiet of our unbroken forests, it’s part
of what makes this the sacred land most every one of us knows
it to be.
A few of us, to be sure, have difficulty fully accepting the
positive dimension of this abundance. Partly perhaps, it’s
because some people’s sense of place or their relationship
to the land reflects personal interests more focused on the
mundane. Others may be troubled that some traditions new to
these mountains are unfamiliar. And a few perhaps, have difficulty
hearing the central message of Buddhism: that life - as we all
can see - is suffering, but the end of suffering is within our
own hearts. Our purpose in life is to search there for the attainment
of our own happiness, through the fullest possible awareness
of ourselves and the world around us.
The clarity of this message, for those who haven’t considered
it of late, is often strikingly simple and forthright. And sometimes
people are surprised that it neither conflicts with nor excludes
other ways of understanding ourselves and our role here, nor
what our own religious traditions have taught us.
As a newspaper we have two jobs: to report what’s happening
and what’s not as best we can, and to share with our readers
what we see as important about those things. That’s what
we do on this editorial page, and it isn’t always about
governance or politics. Sometimes it’s literally about
the quality of life, which certainly seems to reflect the quality
of our thoughts and insights. More than anything and as much
as our actions, that’s what defines any community. When
a newspaper fails to engage that, if it fails to ask its readers
to reflect on those things and act accordingly, then it fails
to serve those it intends to.
We believe in our neighbors, our readers, the friends we know
already and those we don’t. And we believe our community
of belief here is strong enough and secure enough to accept
with an open heart the wisdom that joins us, whatever color
We are not always perfect neighbors here in these mountains.
We struggle even amongst ourselves to define what is just and
fair to all, we project onto others what we dislike in ourselves
and suffer the embarrassments all people do, when we realize
we’re doing the right thing for the wrong reason or the
wrong thing for the right one. Still, with the grace and forgiveness
of those who love us, we try, and in that trying and sometimes
despite ourselves, we grow in wisdom and acceptance and humor.
So having said all this, we make the offer to you again: Welcome
to the open heart of the Catskill High Peaks. Join us. Share
what we have to share: our floods and our sorrows, our music
and our children and our joy, the moon rising over Tremper or
High Point Mountain, and the clear flowing waters entrusted
to our watchfulness.
You have told us that with your passing the world will be entering
an age very different than the one we’re living through.
We have no knowledge of what will be, only the aspiration to
help make the sacred dimension of our lives and our time here
as central to our communal life as it is to our private ones.
We hope your time amongst us will be gratifying, and that what
we still need to learn to live together in harmony, you’ll
help us learn.