Dahlia Lama – a mythical creature of flowering wisdom

Written by Sven Eberlein

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.

Last Sunday Deb and I took our annual trip to the dahlia garden in SF’s Golden Gate Park. There is something magical about it, something that takes me out of my head and into my heart. When I get into that space I am reminded of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, who despite being exiled and struggling against fierce opposition from the Chinese government continues to speak from a place of love and compassion.

Times are turbulent, and sometimes it seems like we’re on a permanent bad news cycle that acts as a negative feedback loop. However, in my own activism I’ve found that there needs to be a balance between recognizing what’s not working and being the change I wish to see. Making time to see the beauty in this world and listening to heartfelt words of wisdom gives me strength to continue my work for social, environmental and economic justice.

Thus my tribute to this mythical creature of flowering wisdom, Dahlia Lama.


There has been so much talk about religion, what it means, whose holy book said what and when, and why and where we should or shouldn’t build our temples of worship. I think the most likely place we’ll ever find God is in our heart.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.


and it is my impression that the more we understand God the less we need words to describe her…

Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.


So I try to stay focused on what I can do.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.


…and stay away from that which is impossible.

If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.


It all starts from within…

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.


…and then spreads its wings

It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act. There are two aspects to action. One is to overcome the distortions and afflictions of your own mind, that is, in terms of calming and eventually dispelling anger. This is action out of compassion. The other is more social, more public. When something needs to be done in the world to rectify the wrongs, if one is really concerned with benefiting others, one needs to be engaged, involved.


On an airplane, the instructions in case of emergency are clear: put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. As we’re becoming more aware of how interconnected we are on this planet we see that we all breathe the same air.

Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.


But sometimes that’s easier said than done. So when things get frustrating and difficult, I try to remind myself…

In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.


That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for what we believe in. The opposite, the more tuned in we are to ourselves the more engaged we become in the world.

If there is love, there is hope to have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, real peace. If the love within your mind is lost, if you continue to see other beings as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education you have, no matter how much material progress is made, only suffering and confusion will ensue.


It’s tempting to think that what you do doesn’t matter because the system is rigged or a few powerful politicians or corporations control everything or whatever other outside force is keeping us down. It’s also tempting to think that small steps don’t matter, even if they’re in the right direction. But it’s many small steps by many people taken over a long period of time that create one giant leap, so I’ve got to make sure I keep taking my small steps and help others to take their small steps too…

Sometimes we feel that one individual’s action is very insignificant. Then we think, of course, that effects should come from channeling or from a unifying movement. But the movement of the society, community or group of people means joining individuals. Society means a collection of individuals, so that initiative must come from individuals. Unless each individual develops a sense of responsibility, the whole community cannot move. So therefore, it is very essential that we should not feel that individual effort is meaningless – you should not feel that way. We should make an effort.


Our time here is precious and short. What we give is in the end what we receive.

We are all here on this planet, as it were, as tourists. None of us can live here forever. The longest we might live is a hundred years. So while we are here we should try to have a good heart and to make something positive and useful of our lives. Whether we live just a few years or a whole century, it would be truly regrettable and sad if we were to spend that time aggravating the problems that afflict other people, animals, and the environment. The most important thing is to be a good human being.


All else follows.


all quotes by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet
Dahlia photos mostly by Debra Baida, and a couple of the less striking ones by me.

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Sven Eberlein

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