Rick Bogle is right when he says that meditation does not make you more compassionate — acts of kindness and forgiveness are more likely to do that. Meditation without action is meaningless. But he is wrong to suggest that the Dalai Lama’s visits to Madison have not made a difference in people’s lives. Just look at how many came out to see him. From 1976, when my wife Penny and I first met His Holiness in India, to now, our life has changed — for the good. With that in mind I’d like to comment on some of Bogle's outrageous accusations.
First, because the Dalai Lama supports Dr. Richard Davidson's primate experiments, Bogle suggests he is not respecting life. Then he accuses him of not being compassionate because he eats meat.
The University of Wisconsin has been actively involved in primate experiments since Harry Harlow opened the Primate Center back in the '60s. The reason that many are disturbed by primate research is that we are so close to monkeys on the evolutionary chain. They look just like us. Yet that research has been invaluable in improving maternal and child care and investigating the root sources of anxiety. Primate trials were critical to Drs. Salk and Sabin’s developing the polio vaccine, which saves millions of lives every year. Is this bad stuff? Most people would agree with me that ethically done, primate research engineered to help mankind is important to do. The key word here is ethical.
Bogle suggests that eating animals is inherently bad. But in fact, even the most strict vegetarian cannot avoid eating animals, i.e., insects. The proof comes from vitamin B12 studies. There is absolutely no source of vitamin B12 in the plant kingdom; it comes from animals. Research of South Indian lifetime vegetarians shows that their B12 comes from insect parts found in grains, flour, legumes and beans. Even a vegan isn’t be immune from animal destruction.
Now on to Bogle’s most outrageous implication — that Tibetan Lamas subjugated the Tibetan people for 800 years. I wonder if Bogle has ever been to Tibet, as I have numerous times. If he had, he would have seen how Tibetans are subjugated by their Chinese overlords, who claim that they “liberated” them. This is classic communist propaganda. Tibetans are quickly becoming a minority in their own country. You need only see the human immolations that are going on in Tibet to see how desperate Tibetans are.
Why is the Dalai Lama so revered? Because he is, in fact, the human embodiment of compassion. And we need that badly. In this fast-paced, hurly burly world of electronic distraction, political gridlock, shootings, bombings, al-Qaida, not to mention the me-first mentality, we thirst for a mentor that we can count on. He’s just that. The Dalai Lama says forgive your enemies (as he does the Chinese) and do acts of kindness as often as you can. He is, as my mom used to say, “the real McCoy.”
Zorba Paster is a Wisconsin Public Radio personality, News3 TV commentator, columnist, doctor, omnivore and amateur Buddhist. He and his wife has been friends of the Dalai Lama since 1976.