We love this inspiring story from Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone (p.101-103) concerning a twelve-centuries-old prophecy from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The central doctrine is the radical interdependence of all things. It feels like the prophecy was very accurate and the moment has arrived…
Here is a particular version of the prophecy as it was given to Joanna by her dear friend and teacher Dugu Choegyal Rinpoche…
There comes a time when all life on earth is in danger. At that time great powers have arisen, barbarian powers. And although they waste their wealth in preparations to annihilate one another, they have much in common. Among the things they have in common are weapons of unfathomable destructive power and technologies that lay waste to the world. It is just at this point in our history, when the future of all beings seems to hang by the frailest of threads, that the kingdom of Shambala emerges.
You can’t go there, because it is not a place. It exists in the hearts and minds of the Shambala warriors. You can’t tell whether someone is a Shambala warrior just by looking at her or him, because these warriors wear no uniforms or insignia. They have no banners to identify whose side they are on, no barricades on which to climb to threaten the enemy or behind which to rest and regroup. They don’t even have any home turf. The Shambala warriors have only the terrain of the Barbarian powers to move across and act on.
Now the time is coming when great courage is required of the Shambala warriors – moral and physical courage. That is because they are going right into the heart of the Barbarian powers to dismantle their weapons. They’re going into the pits and citadels where the weapons are made and deployed, they’re going into the corridors of power where the decisions are made. In this way they work to dismantle the weapons in every sense of the word.
The Shambala warriors know these weapons can be dismantled because they are “manomaya”, which means “mind made”. They are made by the human mind and thus can be unmade by the human mind. The dangers facing us are not brought on us by some Satanic deity or some evil extraterrestrial force, or by some unchangeable preordained fate. Rather, these dangers arise out of our relationships and habits, out of our priorities.
“So,” said Choegyal, “now is the time for the Shambala warriors to go into training.” “How do they train?” Joanna asked. “They train in the use of two implements,” he said. Actually, he used the term weapons. “What are they?” Joanna asked, and he held up his hands the way the dancers hold up the ritual objects in the great llama dances of his people. “One,” he said, “is compassion. The other is insight into the radical interdependence of all phenomena.”
You need both. You need compassion because it provides the fuel to move you out to where you need to be and to do what you need to do. It means not being afraid of the suffering of your world, and when you’re not afraid of the world’s pain, then nothing can stop you.
But by itself that implement is very hot; it can burn you out. So you need the other tool, the insight into the radical interconnectivity of all that is. When you have that, then you know that this is not a battle between the good guys and bad guys. Know that the line between good and evil runs through the landscape of every human heart. And you know that we are so interwoven in the web of life that even the smallest acts have repercussions that ripple through the whole web, beyond our capacity to see. But that is kind of cool, even a little abstract. So you also need the heat of the compassion.