Life is But a Dream…

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.

The travails of the Tibetan people under Chinese rule are explored in the 2020 book, Eat the Buddha, by Barbara Demick. Covering the period of the 1930s to the present, we learn of of the destruction of Tibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhism and its monasteries, along with the murder and detention of countless people. Their suffering is reminiscent of what the American Indians experienced during the destructive westward expansion of the European invaders.

Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, is central to the story. An anathema to the Chinese leadership, he has lived in exile since 1959, ceaselessly traveling the world with a message of peace and non-violence. Ever-smiling, compassionate, he refuses anger and violence in the face of the destructive cruelty done to his people and his country. 

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Let’s say the boat is our body and our life is the stream. What are we to? Float passively? Flailing around bashing heads with our oars? Row in a gentle manner, says the song. Life isn’t a boat race or a war at sea,, but a uni-directional journey of peace and purpose.

The Dalai Lama is an active pacifist. He never stops rowing. He never stops advocating for his people, while teaching us the ways of peace. We can contrast his approach with those who approach injustice with anger and violence. There are no easy answers, but in my way of seeing the world, violence inclines to violence while kindness inclines to kindness. 

Row gently and merrily. Picture the Dalai Lama’s smile. He laughs often. Being perpetually outraged is corrosive to our body and soul. Live lightly. Be merry. Row gently. 

As the song says, life is but a dream. On the day when we truly awaken, this life-dream will fade into nothingness.. For now, with gentleness, row your boat down the stream. Trust in the flow. Pay kind attention to the dream of waking life, as well as to the dreams of slumber. All are one and the same.


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