Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Whole World in a Single Smile

Photo credit: aldrin_muya.
School started for me last week. It feels good to be back. Even when I was a kid, I always looked forward to returning to school at the end of the summer. Although I would never have admitted it then.

On the first day I met a young man with a warm, eager smile. We began talking and through our conversation I learned that not only was he new to our school, but to this country as well. When I asked him where he was from, he said, "Palestine."

I paused, awestruck. I have taught plenty of students who hailed from foreign countries--Pakistan, India, Russia--but never one from the war torn Golan Heights.

Instantly I felt all of the pain and sorrow from that area of the world. When I asked him how life was in Palestine, he said, "Not good."

My heart ached for this young man and the horror that he and his family must have witnessed and endured. Hua-yen Buddhism teaches us that the entire universe is contained inside of a single atom. This radical perspective validates and honors all phenomena. I suppose that was what I was feeling--all of humanity's violence present in this young man.

And yet he had the happiest smile. There was so much warmth and optimism and kindness that it filled my heart with hope.

This reminded me that we also contain all of the hope and wonder and joy of the universe as well. It's amazing how powerful of a teacher a simple smile can be.

May we all awaken together and learn to live in harmony together.

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