They say that good will always overcome an act of evil. Certainly in the Boston Marathon bombings, the horror of the events gave rise to many acts of selflessness and heroism where people did not run away in fear, but instead ran toward those who were hurt and injured to be of help. In times of distress the boundary between the self and the faceless strangers and unknown others, disappears. What is left is only common humanity. The bond that unites us all as human beings.
Indeed, it is ironic that the best in human nature often manifests itself in moments of tragedy. Senseless violence may bring us to despair at the depth of cruelty that our species can sink to, but can also lift our hope that when push comes to shove, ultimately the human heart is a noble one — our impulse is to extend a helping hand.
This reminds me of a recent conversation I had with the 17th Karmapa, an important spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism, currently residing in Dharamsala, India, not far from where the Dalai Lama lives.
The Karmapa is a young man with the physique of a healthy 28-year-old, though in his eyes lurks a wisdom that reflects the over 900-years-old lineage that he has inherited.
The young Karmapa believes that the human heart is noble. He has written a book with the same title: A profound insight into the workings of the human mind, where we go wrong in our quest for peace and happiness and what we should do to change ourselves. According to him, there is something wrong with the way we live our lives. We equate the pursuit of happiness with the pursuit of wealth, and we judge those who are rich as having greater value than those who are poor.
Moreover, we forget in our selfishness that humans are interdependent. We depend on each other for everything, as we also depend on the planet: the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the homes we live in and even the air we breathe, is the result of somebody else’s efforts or nature’s gifts.
For someone who was raised in a nomadic family and then who escaped Tibet at the age of 14 to seek refuge in India and carry out his works as the Karmapa,
His Holiness seems to be greatly aware of the problems of the 21st century. A century of increasing consumerism, waste, environmental destructions, instant communication and increasing dependence on technology. And yet each one of us has the capacity to change the world for the better, by changing ourselves because humans are equipped with a noble heart.
When it comes to human nature, however, my impulse is to view it with a lens of cynicism. Human beings for the most part are narrow-minded, envious, suspicious, not to mention selfish and greedy. We are creatures that take greater pleasure in wallowing in self-pity, harboring hatred and resentment and in viewing the world with a jaundiced eye, than in indulging in touchy-feely emotions or celebrating the milk of human kindness. Except perhaps in those rare moments of need.
Before the interview with the Karmapa, some interested Indian security personnel wanted me to show the questions I would be asking His Holiness.
“Only on, love,” I said. “And why is it that we still live in a world full of conflicts?”
He took my piece of paper with my barely legible scrawls on it and had it photocopied. Then I went through the X-ray machine and was told to leave my mobile phone and my iPad.
By this time, I was wondering, was this an exercise to protect His Holiness, as a show of love, or to actually restrict his contact with the outside world, as a show of fear? In any case, I failed to see the workings of a noble heart in this entire proceeding.
It seems that while the heart is noble, in our actions we are more often governed by our head. Which is rational, calculating and inclined to further self-interest. Desi Anwar is a senior anchor at Metro TV and can be reached at desianwar.com or dailyavocado.net.