When the Dalai Lama says, “My religion is kindness,” he is saying much the same thing. More fundamental even than meditation for Buddhists is the sense that all life is sacred, and all life in one. That is the doctrine that underlies nonviolence. If all life is related, then we avoid harming others as much as we avoid harming ourselves. Thich Naht Hanh calls this connection “interbeing.” Shunryu Suzuki Roshi said, “When you feel the oneness of everything, you naturally don’t want to harm anything.”
This is the Golden Rule spoken as a Buddhist. To practice ahimsa is to follow Buddhist values, whether you call yourself a Buddhist or not. Meditation grows out of the ahimsa spirit and is a central expression of it. The application of Buddhist meditation to aging is another application of the ahimsa spirit. Our increasingly fragile and infirm bodies and minds are sacred, and worthy of the greatest kindness and care. To respect our aging at every stage is the greatest kindness we can offer to ourselves and those we love.
From reports of abuse and neglect to soaring costs, the reputation of aged care homes in the West has taken a battering in recent years.
Now some families are finding alternatives far from home.
With its tropical climate, lower costs and culture of respect for the elderly, Thailand is attracting families dealing with dementia and Alzheimer's from as far away as Europe.
Walter Gloor brought his wife Maya to a care home in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai two years ago, from their home in Switzerland. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's when she was 50, and it had become clear that she needed round-the-clock care.
"The main reason was, where is the best place for Maya? ... We couldn't find anything better. So I think she deserves to be in the best place in the world," he says.
Martin Woodtli runs an aged care facility in Chiang Mai, where 14 patients live in villas and have round-the-clock personal carers. He set up the centre in 2003, after struggling to find care for his mother in their native Switzerland.
"Maybe we have to find new models of care because the care system for elderly people in Europe is not working any more and it's going to be a big, big problem," he says.
Shown today on Al Jazeera ...