When you are free, you understand freedom. When you are not free, you might understand it more.
I have often experienced up-close situations where people are not free.
His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama explains, “Today, the values of democracy, open society, respect for human rights, and equality are becoming recognized all over the world as universal values.
To my mind there is an intimate connection between democratic values and the fundamental values of human goodness.
Where there is democracy there is a greater possibility for the citizens of the country to express their basic human qualities, and where these basic human qualities prevail, there is also a greater scope for strengthening democracy. Most importantly, democracy is also the most effective basis for ensuring world peace.”
I spent time in Warsaw, Poland during the Solidarity Movement when the country was occupied by Russian communists and a state of war—martial law—was enforced. Curfews restricted movement, shops ran out of food and basics.
Luxury items such as coffee were non-existent. The people I interviewed supported the Solidarity workers who were trying to re-gain control of their country. They wanted freedom.
I did not know how difficult my situation would be, until I arrived. But strangers eased my distress.
According to His Holiness, “We also need to focus on cultivating good human relations, for, regardless of differences in nationality, religious faith, race, or whether people are rich or poor, educated or not, we are all human beings.
When we are facing difficulties, we invariably meet someone, who may be a stranger, who immediately offers us help. We all depend on each other in difficult circumstances, and we do so unconditionally. We do not ask who people are before we offer them help. We help because they are human beings like us.”
When the Russian KGB (State Security Committee) detained me and took me in for questioning, I was terrified.
However, the interrogating officer ended up helping me. He had a fern plant on his tiny window sill. It was struggling to stay alive in the cold and lack of light. I commented on the plant and we struck up a conversation about keeping ferns healthy in the deep of winter.
He was impressed by my Polish which I had learned as a child from my Polish grandmother and soon I was released.
He urged me to take the first available flight out of Poland when air travel resumed. And when he handed back my passport we smiled at each other with loving kindness and respect.
“Peace starts within each one of us,” The Embodiment of the compassion of Avalokiteshvara assures us.
“When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighboring communities and so on. When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.”
Today Poland is a free country.
By Terry Reis Kennedy, Dec 10, 2012, Deccan Herald