Interview with Amandine Roche: "Only connecting with your inner peace can bring peace to the world"
El cultivo de la capacidad que tiene la mente de permanecer en el mismo sitio se llama práctica de prestar atención. La atención es como una cuerda que evita que el elefante salvaje de Shantideva destruya todo lo que se le ponga por delante. Por Koncha Pinós-Pey para Espacio MIMIND.
If with the rope of paying attention
amarramos al elefante de la mente,
our fears will dissolve
and all virtues will fall upon our hands.
Shantideva, Indian teacher
The rope of attention brings us back to the immediate experience, to breathing, to walking, to listen to the other. I ask you for a moment of your attention to understand the virtuous qualities that come to us from this woman, kind, perceptive and persevering, while we are pondering her words.
Salam Alaikum, Bonjour, Good morning, Good morning... in what language can we talk to this beautiful woman who is a brave and powerful jewel?
What does your name mean?
My name comes from the Latin verb toMare love in gerundio: "The one we love."
When you were little dream of being an explorer, photographer, yogi, politician, lawyer or just something else?
When I was a kid, I promised myself I'd never be bored in my life. I wanted to explore the world, be a reporter, photographer, film director. My paternal grandmother read me stories of great mystics and explorers. I dreamed of having the same life. My maternal grandmother was Polish and described her life in the concentration camp during the war. I promised myself that I would study human rights, work for the United Nations and fight for democracy. I'm so grateful to my family roots.
What have been the life-changing episodes?
I've had three life experiences that have changed me. The first was when S.S. Dalai Lama came to my law school to give a lecture on the violation of human rights in Tibet. I decided to focus my studies in Tibet and wrote my thesis on political science about Panchen Lama, the second great Tibetan authority kidnapped by the Chinese government.
The second experience was when I went to Asia following in the footsteps of Ella Maillart - a Swiss adventurer - and had been invited by the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Luckily I left on September 10, 2011. I was lucky enough to get out before the Americans bombed. On the border of Pakistan I couldn't rescue an Afghan girl, so I promised myself that I would return to Afghanistan and work for peace.
The third great life experience was when my United Nations colleagues were abducted in Kabul and we were evacuated. I felt terrible, I was so stressed that I decided to go to Dharamsala, India, to hear the teachings of S.S. Dalai Lama. I did yoga, Ayurveda and meditated. And then I realized that despite having worked for many years for the United Nations in the Department of Peace Operations it was time to work for inner peace, and to keep it, believe my foundation in Afghanistan.
The 18-year-old episode with the Dalai Lama?
I was lucky enough to be sitting in the middle of all the Tibetan monks when S.S. Dalai Lama came to speak. Seeing a blonde head of a young woman in the middle of the shaved heads of the monks, His Holiness stood in front of me, put his forehead next to mine, and blessed me. A month after I met him I had a car accident, with a near-death experience. Then I realized that nothing happened to me thanks to the blessing of His Holiness.
What was it to you on September 11, 2001?
He was in Kabul when the Taliban informed us that the World Trade Center had been attacked. At night, the Northern Alliance bombed Kabul airport in revenge for these events and Commander Massoud was killed. I was clear that this was the end of the world or the beginning of another.
Do you meditate? What techniques do you practice and who introduced you to it?
I've been singinging since I was little. I had a very deep connection to my inner voice, I always found answers. I learned mindfulness with Arnaud Desjardins, and Sogyal Rimpoche. I have done on several occasions the ten days of Silence of Vipassana in retreat. But now fundamentally what I do is follow my teacher Amma.
What do you think meditation can bring to world peace processes?
As S.S. Dalai Lama says, "We cannot achieve peace without achieving inner peace." I totally agree with him. Meditation helps you know who you are, connect with your soul, the source of peace, love, light and harmony. Once you have connected with your soul, it guides you through meditation, and only this can help you bring peace and light to the world.
What is intelligence to you?
To bring more peace to the world we need to focus more on what real intelligence is, which is fundamentally spiritual and not so intellectual. As Einstein said: The mind is the servant of the soul, so we need to strengthen the teacher and not the servant. It is in the mind of man that war is created and its causes are the lack of control of negative emotions such as hatred, jealousy or envy.
What can you tell us about Afghanistan's ethnic multidiversity?
Afghanistan is a mosaic of people trying to live together in harmony for many centuries. The Hazara, with their beautiful eyes, are descendants of the Mongols and live in the Hindu Kush. They are Muslim Shiite Muslim Muslims, who are in frequent disputes with Afghan Sunnis. Tajiks account for 25% of the population and descend from Bactrians. They are easily recognizable by their olivaceous complexion, slender body, speak dari, a tongue derived from Persian. The Uzbeks, from Amu Daria. The Kizilbashi, who are Persian-speaking Turks. The Brave Turkmens, originating from the valleys. The pashtoun/pathan, Indo-Europeans of origin and who believe to be the elite of the country, occupying the positions of greatest power. They legislate and impart justice according to their own code, with exalted virility and great war longings. On the podium of the tribes, the pathan are at the top. His reputation is well known as traffickers, bandits, extremely sensitive, even pathology, with anything that protects his world, with a concept of medieval honor and strong roots of attachment to the land. Pathans are the kings of the country, their goal is to remain in power, and they are not afraid to make it clear to the rest of the world.
You founded the Amanuddin Foundation in Afghanistan, what does this name mean?
Amanuddin is the name the Taliban gave me when I arrived in Afghanistan, it is very similar to my name, and it means the religion (djin) of peace (Aman).
What are you doing in Afghanistan and who do you work with?
The foundation has a school called Torches of Light, with 300 children, which we created with a Taliban friend in the poorest and most violent area of Kabul. We want this school to become a school of peace, where there may be conditions of growth, non-violence, yoga and meditation. We also have a meditation program that we teach in prisons, with the Taliban, for Afghan children and women. We have made an agreement with the Ministry of Health to also train Afghan doctors in the Department of Mental Health, to work the entire line of post-traumatic stress disorders.
Why teach yoga and not something else?
I teach yoga, meditation and nonviolence; everything I've learned from my spiritual teachers in India.
What can We Europeans do to preserve peace in Afghanistan?
I believe, as Einstein said, that we cannot give a solution to the problem with the same energy that created the problem. Afghanistan needs a spiritual response to war.
Shantideva says: "The total happiness of the world depends on making others happy, and the unhappiness of the world comes from making ourselves happy." What does this phrase suggest to you?
Shantideva is a teacher. His vision and wisdom has been strongly expressed by S.S. Dalai Lama, who stated that we should read Shantideva every day to find inspiration in action for the world. It makes a lot of sense; you can't find authentic happiness if it's not in service to others. Caressing one's ego only leads to suffering.
Salaam Aleikum, may peace always be with you.
Amandine Roche has the deep and tender courage of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. The political legacy of this famous disciple of Gandhi, known among pashtuns and Indians internationally, is credited with the creation of the army of the largest non-violence ever created, a defender of women's rights and non-violence. Throughout his life he never violated the compatibility between Islam and non-violence. His Jihad went against the greatest inner enemy: ignorance.