Inside USD

Defining ‘Compassion Without Borders’

Friday, April 13, 2012

Just the opportunity to be in the presence of the 14th Dalai Lama can put a person in a calm, peaceful mindset, eager to envision a greater, clearer sense of hope.

That sentiment came through again and again among the lucky 13 University of San Diego students who won a recent essay contest and secured a coveted ticket for the Dalai Lama’s sold out April 18 visit to USD’s Jenny Craig Pavilion. To win, students had to write a convincing response to the question, “What does ‘Compassion Without Borders’ mean to you?”

“Compassion Without Borders,” the theme of the Dalai Lama’s historic two-day, three-university tour — he’s also appearing at UC San Diego and San Diego State University — provided co-sponsors Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice and USD’s Office of Public Affairs a chance for students to express their passion for this special opportunity.

Carina Hinton told a story in which she gained important perspective after meeting Biar, a Lost Boy from Sudan and a hospital attendant who tended to Hinton’s ailing sibling. To Hinton, Biar’s patience, caring nature and words showed her that “compassion without borders means recognizing that we all suffer and (should) show kindness no matter how great or small someone’s suffering appears.”

Nathaniel Dunigan’s view included a definition of compassion and the value it possesses: “Compassion springs forth from the raw beauty of the human spirit. If we were forced to offer it, it would become something far different, something much less magnificent. But when it is freely offered from one spirit to another — and graciously accepted in the same way — I believe it gives life its very meaning.”

Jake Holley’s answer was equally impressive. It means, he said, “having the courage to care and take action toward making the world better as a whole, while remaining open to new ideas, without borders or biases within us.”

Natasha Mahapatro’s essay centered on the inspiration she received from Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, and author of the book, Between Two Worlds.

“I knew what compassion meant and how to practice it in my everyday life. Salbi, however, taught me what compassion without borders means,” Mahapatro said. “To her, it meant going to the concentration camps in Bosnia on her own, without being attached to any particular organization to help women survivors of war. It meant creating a now-globally recognized organization that started with almost no budget and few volunteers. It meant never giving up, regardless of how much you feel like you couldn’t do it anymore. It meant saying no to injustice and acting upon it. It meant being an advocate for social change no matter who you were or how much power you had to do so. It meant taking advantage of your opportunities to make a difference. It meant not to be silent.”

These four essay excerpts, along with ones submitted by nine other winning entrants — Sara Feiteira, Natalie Larraga, Ciria Mariscal, Rocío López Ramos, Alyssa Rodriguez, Kierstan Sanvidge, Kara Skarzynski, Alicia Vallejos and Joshua Wheeler  — demonstrates the impact that the Dalai Lama’s upcoming visit is having on USD students.

“I am so incredibly excited and I feel so blessed!” said Mahapatro, upon learning that she’d earned a ticket.

The Dalai Lama’s positive messages and wisdom, which on Wednesday afternoon will come through a talk titled, “Cultivating Peace and Justice,” figures to give the USD audience in the JCP and many more watching it on the USD website the same sense of calm, peace and, most of all, hope.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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