The rolling laughter filled the great hall: Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama nearly falling out of the chairs in exuberant exchange at the front table. The interfaith crowd took it all in with amazement. The setting was a breakfast convened in conjunction with the Seeds of Compassion Conference in Seattle (April 11-15, 2008), at Saint Mark Cathedral’s Bloedel Hall.
I had the honor and challenge of assembling a list of 250 people to be invited to attend what was to be an extraordinary experience. There was no agenda, no program to be debated. Yes, the two luminaries were embodiments of “seeds of compassion.” Seeds of justice, seeds of integrity, seeds of solidarity as well.
The seed that was planted in each of us that day was joy. Joy at life, joy in relationship, joy in the struggle, joy in encounter, joy in the surprise and wonder of it all. Their spirits soared as they shared not only profound words, but the essence of themselves in the gathering. They had seen it all: discrimination, hatred, death threats, oppressive systems, exile. Yet, their exchange with one another was a breath of life and life in abundance, spread throughout the room. Their spiritual groundedness – and earthiness – spoke to our souls. Their message was where joy lives, there lies hope: for change, for the world, for us. Living in freedom, we can help sow the seeds of freedom in whatever situation we face, as they did, confronting the evils of apartheid or the suffering of persistent exile.
For those of us privileged to be present that day, we witnessed the power of joy. Our lives were touched in a way that happens when we first glimpse lightning. We were invited to our own processes of transformation, the fruit of which is compassion. Thanks be to the Divine Source for their lives and may Archbishop Tutu rest in power, a power that helped bring about reconciliation in South Africa. (For further reflection, see their book, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, 2016).
Photo: His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu during the Seeds of Compassion Interfaith Dialogue held in Seattle, Washington, USA on April 15, 2008. Photo by Tomas/Seeds of Compassion