“We are the heirs of our own actions.” said the Buddha and so also is our own relevance as people, as humans as sentient beings. In a world where antagonism dominates over harmony, where people prey then rather pray, we see an exception, an exception of a kind that seeks to walk unto the path as we were all suppose to do so, not as members of a group or a religion or a community but as people, as beings in this world, which is neither yours or neither mine but is rather ours. Karma Dondub Dennis Barbion from Belgium emerges as one such exception who since past decade or so has been an exception, has led an exceptional life and has personified the values of compassion, kindness and charity. For many of us spend most of our time thinking what we could get, what we can achieve, what we can possess, what we can personify, but we rarely think selflesssly about what we could give, what we could contribute what giving would mean. Dennis Barbion’s life story (whose Tibetan name is Karma Dondub), if summarised in a word or so, could be that “compassion is about giving” one may say that accruing a value to compassion would yield a materialist conception of compassion, which has greater non material relevance, yet if “compassion as giving” would help usher into a more humane world, which again seems quite evident when we seek to understand Dennis and his work, then one would dwell into the endorsement of values of empowerment and emancipation. As someone who closely witnessed the tragedy of life, Dennis’s tryst with compassion and rather if one would dare to call, ‘’radicle compassion’” began with the loss of a very close family member, with whom he was so very close, connected with, that bearing the loss of the child, the passing away of his four year old nephew had a life changing impact on Dennis.
He met with a conundrum of ideas within him, spiritual and philosophical deliberation that led him towards the path of spirituality-buddhism and compassion. Moving forward from the unfortuante loss of his nephew, Dennis focussed his energies and attention on the cause of personal spiritual empowerment, he found his hermit in the teachings of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, he sought liberation in Dhamma, he sought empowerment in compassion. Albeit to be compassionate, to be spiritual, to be kind are virtues that many possess, many that we come across resonate these values, but what differentiates between a believer, a practitioner and an initiator is the involvement, association and the propagation of these ethos and ideas. Dennis’s association with spirituality wasn’t merely about a personal need or a personal greed but was rather a concern, a plea for the emancipation of his fellow beings.
Thus at a very early convergence, Dennis understood and acted upon the belief that compassion, charity, activism were not merely ideas that were to be praised, looked upto but rather were beliefs and ideas that were to be acted upon! His life till now is a story of selfless service and acts as a charter of inspiration for anyone who believes that another world is possible, a world where people are united as living beings, where the concern within has an iota of space for the fellow beings where the world itself is a result of fraternity over materiality or utilitarian ethos. What emerges very clearly when one talks to Dennis is that in him one finds a rare nobility that stands strong against the tide of heightened greed and the lust for power.
Since 2008 he has been associated with the Tibetan refugees in India, his work has primarily focussed on empowerment of Tibetan people across several different settlements in South Asia.
At The Arachneed Journal, I have been a witness to Dennis’s dedication and integrity towards his work where his successive trips to India have made a real genuine impact in the lives of the Tibetan people whom he has helped in his own way at different points of time. His work and his commitment stands out as having a certain compassionately emphatic appeal where compassion dominates over aggression. By emphatic compassion one would refer to his undying faith in service, charity and learning as the means for karmic empowerment. While it’s one thing to be an activist and to be concerned, the nature of individual activism is determined by the nature of the person itself, Dennis’s activism is focussed more on accepting the present as a reality and moving forward to realistically changing the state of nature. In Belgium he has remained as a pillar of support for the Tibetans. On several occasions he has taken to the streets to struggle for the cause of the Tibetan people inside Tibet, lately one of his major accomplishment was to raise the issue of the status of new Tibetan refugees coming to India and then migrating to other countries and how the policy of certain nations and large supra national organizations greatly contributed to annihilation of certain several political rights of Tibetan refugees. His long time association with them has won him friends, family members, admirers and fans. His work speaks of his concern for the most needy and the underprivileged.
Thus while the present era is marked by the rise of China as a major stake holder in world politics, in such a scenario an individual like Dennis has still given a hope to the Tibetan people, of a tomorrow, where the world would be a much freer space. As the age old argument goes, in terms of what actually is freedom? What it means to be free? Does freedom have merely political and social consequences or is it a more economical entity?
Dennis’s work has sought to bridge this gap between these two contesting notions of freedom. On one hand one finds Dennis as an activist who has devoted much of his life towards the preservation of the basic human rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people, everywhere in the world, and on the other as a philanthropist who is conscious about the right of the needy and the hungry people for whom freedom has a rather different relevance.
Since 2014 Dennis has focussed on conducting large scale India Rice Charities, he has devoted his energies and has sought to make his mention towards a world where there is enough food for all, where hunger is eliminated, not just through giving rice, which he already has been giving, but rather also by motivating and inspiring people to give and share to those who need it, those who are needy and desperate for help and motivation. Through his rice charity one could well say that nearly 2000 or more families have been benefitted.
Recollecting from my own personal experience, as someone who distributed the rice on the ground, representing Dennis, I am reminded of the scenes at the rice distribution events, where one realizes that even in this day and age, a kilogram of rice makes an impact on people’s lives. The things, basic needs that we take so very much for granted, is still scarce for so many people that we come across. Dennis’s initiative forces us to rethink on the reality that surrounds us, it questions the notion of completeness and contentment that we harbor and cherish, it evokes and inspires to understand our duty as fellow human beings in a world which as stated earlier, is neither yours, neither mine but is ours.
Today when philanthropy and activism is at times characterised by high headedness and sky high egoes, Dennis’s conduct as a person and as an activist speaks volumes about his integrity toward his mantra which is Compassion, Charity and Activism. His actions speak of the fact that activism in the current day be modelled on the context where at the core lies compassion and kindness. After all, activism as the word suggests, emerges from the word action and the action determines karma, thus activism is not just a vocation or a hobby but rather a commitment and manifestation of the divine soul, within.
As things stand, Dennis and his work stands out for the high standards of integrity that he sets for himself and for the trust he holds from the people. When so ever he raises funds, 100% of these funds go to the projects, the needy and the most affected people, not a penny from these funds is used as a means for personal gain or profit or for that matter not even for personal expenses. The funds received are well secured through his commitment to transparency and truthfulness.
He has made six trips to India till now and all of his trips are self funded, from what he earns through his part time job in Belgium. His belief has always been about not me but us. This policy speaks of a larger imperative which is that in Dennis one fails to find the pretension of an activist who considers activism, social work and philanthropy as a favor that he or she has extended to the cause that they care about. Dennis rather considers and views activism as a noble duty, he views activism as something which is indigenous to his inner self, and that is also his message that charity, compassion and activism are not alien to anyone, it is within us and not beyond our reach and we realise it so if we care to converse with the self within.
It is this dialog with the self, deliberation with the ever expanding reality within that has been the prime factor responsible for Dennis’s philanthropic journey. His dialog with the self takes place through meditation, albeit also through the grim reality which he accepts not as being stagnant but as something open to change, through concerted efforts and hard work. Years have proved that people like Dennis, with such a strong sense of purpose towards the larger world are rare, but through what Dennis actions indicate, his efforts speak, that we would possibly live in a future where such individuals, inspired by such action would be much more than just being rare!
Arnav Anjaria is the Editor-In-Chief of The Arachneed Journal.
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