Deep in the heart of downtown Manhattan, The Three Jewels Outreach Center serves as a spiritual resting place which offers yoga, meditation and dharma teaching. It is a haven to many in the community because they offer extensive, scholarly Buddhist teachings for a donation.
It also was the springboard for an extraordinary project in Nepal, 108 Lives Project which first began by making a tangible difference to 108 beggars, their families and communities in Kathmandu by helping them and bringing supplies, and has now also grown into a platform for young social entrepreneurs in Nepal and Cambodia to hone their skills.
Hector Marcel, one of the Three Jewels’ main teachers, is the director of the 108 Lives Project. YogaCity NYC’s Gina de la Chesnaye had the opportunity to sit down with this compassionate, charismatic leader to learn more.
Gina de la Chesnaye:Can you tell me how the 108 Lives project got started?
Hector Marcel: The 108 Lives was an opportunity for people, who were studying in detail the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy that we offer at The Three Jewels, an experience of putting into practice the ideas that we talk about every Thursday by actually doing them in Nepal.
The idea began before we started teaching at the Three Jewels, but it didn’t get off the ground until the students there decided to jump in and put these ideas into practice and the basis of the idea is generosity.
The idea that giving selflessly, to another person as important as you, to forgot yourself for a second and just give to someone as though they were you - regardless if you liked them or didn’t like them, but just care for them...it would change you.
And that is the field of the practice for the philosophy. The by-product is that there are a bunch of really lovely people in Nepal who need things way beyond our necessities and they get help and we get to offer some help. The practice of doing something that forces you into a field of experience is where real change happens. The idea is to connect humanity and see what happens. We all have a world in our hearts and changing one at a time is the beauty of 108. Just one at a time.
GDLC: So the idea sprang from teaching at Three Jewels?
HM: I was starting a new series of courses - the 18 courses from the Asian Classics Institute which is a 5 year program summarizing 25 years of monastic study at Sera Mey Monastery, one of the largest monasteries that got bombed in Tibet, and has now transferred to India. The founder of this school of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy from the 1300’s was the teacher of the 1st Dalai Lama. It’s a really big deal. You will get the core ideas, the philosophical, transforming ideas that the Buddha saw as a way to wake up in this course. That hadn’t been taught as a continuous series until 2008. I was asked to teach that course, the entire 5 years.
GDLC: You are also the Senior VP of Learning and Change at John Foley, Inc. a consulting firm. How does this connect with your other work?
HM: I had passed the ideas on in my corporate world as an organizational and transformational change manager for government organizations, mostly in Australia and throughout South Asia. I would put in snippets of Eastern philosophy that would truly help executives and staff deal better with change because the whole philosophical premise is that everything changes and if you can know the basis of the change and not the pretend basis that we think we know you can actually transform the way things happen.
And there is another idea in Buddhism around compassion, taking care of others, that fits so well in my corporate world – talking care of customers, internal or external, any being that you interact with.
GDLC:Like the Diamond Cutter Sutra which says, in essence, 'The giving without attachment to self, the liberation of all beings where there is no self and no other...'
GDLC:Can anyone drop into the classes?
HM: I think its fine for people to drop in. I make it a habit of reviewing the core content. At the very least you will walk out with a heightened awareness of yourself and a desire to learn what came before.
GDLC: The Three Jewels has a 20-year history of being an outreach center. Why do you think this is so?
HM: Everybody comes because they are looking for something and I can summarize that the people that come are looking for some wisdom or knowledge. You meet a whole bunch of people that have gone through that journey. The beautiful thing about the Three Jewels is that it is so accepting of so many different modes of hurt. People come in wounded and feel mended.