Spreading Joy
in Ten Directions

1 of 3

The left side of the Wheel illustrates the path of joyous participation in the world. From the seeds of compassion come the flowers of awareness and the fruits of engagement. "Ten directions" refers to the eight cardinal compass points, plus up and down. In other words, when someone can act in an unhindered manner on behalf of others, handling inner and outer work gladly, the path is open in all directions. "When I live committed like this, my life is full of joy," declares John Seed.

Engaged Buddhists are demonstrating the spirit of this path in personal, social, and global arenas, and in ways that transcend those distinctions. In the winter of 1993, as war raged in the former Yugoslavia, Fran Peavey was deeply disturbed by the atrocities committed against women. She decided to go to the war-torn country and offer whatever assistance she could, but she did not want to arrive empty-handed. Then she had an idea:

In one of my morning meditations, the idea came to me of making small bundles of sweet-smelling soaps, shampoos, make-up, and scarves for the women in the former Yugoslavia who had been raped or lost their homes. Maybe it could help them remember some of the wonderful things about being a woman that a rape tends to erase. Maybe they could feel the connection of women from other parts of the world who sent those packages. I don't know where that idea came from, because I never use make-up or some of the other items I imagined for those bundles.

In the face of real atrocities, would such a gesture be meaningful? Do "random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" have a place alongside the responses of governments and large organizations? Peavey herself had doubts. She contacted some Yugoslav women and made other inquiries. Eventually, after months of preparation, she and a partner hand-delivered eight thousand gift packages, individually wrapped by women in America and Australia, to victims of the war. When Peavey saw the Yugoslav women receive their packages, her lingering doubts dissolved. "Later, when some of them invited us into their rooms, they might be wearing a new scarf or perfume, and we could see that they were happy." After returning home, she organized further relief efforts, sending medical supplies and helping the women find markets for embroidered bracelets. For Peavey, the gift project became a way to "build bridges and open hearts in a situation full of fear, suspicion, and hatred."

Was Peavey's response meaningful in the face of real atrocities?

Perform some acts of kindness that may seem random. Perform some acts of beauty that may seem senseless.

Further: Perform such acts anonymously (when possible), without claiming credit.