I am soooo excited! For the first time ever, His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama is coming to Maui. He has visited Hawai’i before, but never Maui. In April, he is coming for two days of public teachings here on the island. And I now have in hand (or at least at will call) my tickets to go see him.
Oh happiness! Oh joy!
I adore the Dalai Lama. For so many reasons. He truly is the embodiment of compassion, and his teachings and his own life have been steady influences for peace in the world. This may be a multiple posting (or maybe a really long one) because there is so much I can say about the Dalai Lama.
Let me start at my beginnings. I didn’t know much about the Dalai Lama until he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. I think it was around that time that I saw a 60 Minutes interview with His Holiness. I was immediately struck and impressed by his commitment to peace. Here was my thought: If there is ever a person on this earth who could be justified in hating a group of people, I would think it could be the Dalai Lama towards the Chinese government and military. The Chinese invaded Tibet in 1949. I won’t press too much on the politics of Tibet here. But it is true that, at the time of the Chinese invasion, there were approximately 6 million Tibetans living in Tibet. Following the National Uprising in 1959, many people were killed, monasteries were destroyed, and the Dalai Lama was forced to flee his own country and live in exile in northern India, where he still lives today. If you want information on the Tibetan Government in Exile, you can look HERE.
So, given a small slice of that information, back in 1989, I would have expected the leader of a country to raise a call to arms, to scream for retribution, and to ask for international military assistance. But the Dalai Lama is not just any leader of people. He is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. And he is the current manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. That position, along with years and years of training when he was young, did not lead this man to call for the return of his country through war and violence. He has been advocating a non-violent resolution to allow the Tibetan people to return to their own sovereign country and to rule themselves again, in peace.
Now, you may or may not believe there is such a thing as an enlightened being that can be reincarnated in each generation. You may or may not adhere to the spiritual beliefs and practices of Buddhists monks. I did not when I first learned about the Dalai Lama, and I still do not. But I admired his spirit, his perseverance, and his tireless efforts to serve as a spiritual leader and teacher. I believe that if, if, it is possible for a human being to truly embody the spirit of compassion, then this is the man.
So, in the years that followed, I spent a lot of time reading about the Dalai Lama – mostly reading things he himself has written. And I learned to also admire other qualities of his – his incredible intelligence and insatiable curiosity. He was the kind of kid that would take electronic contraptions and watches apart – just to try and learn how they work. He wants to understand everything around him. Probably out this curiosity, the Mind and Life series was created. And out of the Mind and Life series, some of my favorite books have been written. Which just made me like His Holiness even more. You can read about the Mind and Life series HERE. In a nutshell, every two or three years, based on a different topic, a group of scientists meet with the Dalai Lama in northern India to conduct a sort-of roundtable discussion about that year’s topic. In the books, each chapter usually starts with each scientist presenting a summary of work in their field – be it neuroscience, psychology, artificial intelligence, or physiology. After the summary, a discussion follows with all the rest of the participants, including the Dalai Lama and (usually) a couple of other Buddhist monks.
I love the way His Holiness can get to the heart of a subject right away. After listening to complex subjects in multiple fields, he starts out the discussions with very insightful questions. Then, during the discussions, he correlates what he is learning with Buddhist teachings. He explains to the other participants…..”Well, that is similar to the Buddhist idea of …..” or something like that.
For me, these books are very interesting to read. For the scientists, I think many of them have followed up with specific studies and research after their meetings with the Dalai Lama. The first book I read was “Gentle Bridges.” I loved this book and highlighted all sorts of things in my book. Then, I found out that the first meeting was just one of many, and I’ve been trying to read the rest of the books in the series.
So, I like him for his intelligence, his curiosity, and his innovation. He has been developing new democratic forms of government for the Tibetans in exile for years. I like him for his open-mindedness. He is the spiritual leader of his people, but he understands that different people all over the world find spiritual truth in different religions. He doesn’t expect people to convert to Buddhism. He doesn’t diminish the importance of other beliefs. Again, for someone as steeped in his own religion as he is, I would expect him to think that his is the only religion. But he does not.
And finally, if all that was not enough to like the man, check out his SMILE. Part of his philosophy includes greeting people with a smile. And he does so with such warmness, such jolly-ness, and such sweetness. How can you not like a man that comes at you with such a genuine smile?
And so, in a couple of months, I get to see that smile in person, again. I saw him speak once before, several years ago in Mountain View. I was far away on the grassy area, mostly staring at the big screen, while listening to his interpreter. But he was there. And I was there. And it was a very satisfying moment for me. One I look forward to repeating.
By the way, as a way of introduction to his writing, if you are interested, my favorite Dalai Lama book is “The Power of Compassion.” It’s a short book with some short essays. A list of his books is HERE.
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