Saturday, October 23, 2010

Listening to the Dalai Lama

Thursday, October 21, 2010, 8:45 PM

From the moment he appeared on stage today at Millet Hall, Tenzin Gyatso, his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, radiated a powerful air of beneficence into the sold out, ten thousand seat stadium. This man, I thought, pulling myself to my feet to join in the applause, is so full of love that I can feel it. Looking around the floor, I saw this reflected in the rapturous faces of others, young and old. A woman in the aisle next to me held her white hands over her heart and fluttered them slowly like moth's wings, the smile on her face clearly sending her love back. After giving the traditional Buddhist greeting bow, he made a face and gestured for us to sit down.

Tenzin Gyatso, his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
During the lengthy introductory remarks, His Holiness reached into the red bag on his couch, took out a Miami University sun visor and put it on. He told the audience this helped him see them better. Speaking to darkened auditoriums was like talking to a ghost, he explained.

He told us he was tired and would stay seated throughout the afternoon. He untied his shoes and pulled his feet under him with a “let's get comfortable” gesture that suddenly made the giant space seem cozy and intimate.

His Holiness's talk was entitled “Ethics in the Modern World,” but there would not be a prepared lesson; instead he would speak from his heart. He told us that our minds are all we have and how we use them is the only choice we can make. “This guy,” I thought, “has been to Ala-non.”

The hour passed quickly. Sometimes it was difficult to hear what he was saying, which was frustrating. Even more frustrating were the times I missed what he said because I was busy trying to anchor his earlier statements in my brain so I could keep them forever.

Instead of feeling sad about what I missed, I am grateful for what I retained.

The Dalai Lama told the audience that the news media has a great responsibwhiteility; they should have long noses like an elephant to sniff out both sides of a story. Then both sides should be presented to the public. The audience laughed at his description of how the trunk could be used to reach around and get the untold side of a story.

There are many similarities between Buddhism, Christianity and Islam: Forgiveness, contentment, love, compassion are some of the ones he told us about. All the world's religions are built on the same principle; love for the Creator and creation, but their philosophies may be very different. He stressed the importance remaining true to the tenants of your faith, whether it is Buddhism, Jainism, or whatever it may be, and also respecting other's faiths.

He spoke warmly about Christianity's dedication to education and Islam's commitment to charity. Traveling throughout some of the poorest areas of Africa, he found many schools and clinics staffed by nuns in remote areas. And traveling throughout the Islamic world, he saw the rich giving to their mosques to help the poor. These things can bring people together instead of pushing them apart.

When asked about how to react to increasingly grim and violent stories in the media, he told a story about a city where five people were murdered in one year, but many people were helped daily. Which shows the true nature of humanity?

Our true nature is one of compassion, violence is an anathema to us. We react strongly to violent stories because it is the opposite of our nature. The world is full of good people, even the ones we would see as our enemies think of themselves as good. Peace could be reached if we learned to see similarities, not differences.

My experiences this summer has taught me that this is true; people always try to do what they think is right. Being in my wheelchair in the community, I am always surprised by complete stranger's willingness help me.

There was so much to be learned from what I saw today; I hope I did a fair job reporting it. Seeing His Holiness today was a great privilege for me and the rest of the audience. He tried to show us how easy we could attain peace and contentment by believing we could and appreciating our universal similarities, not fearing differences. His belief that we could have a better world by each of us making that choice was infectious. I hope I can make tomorrow a better day than today.

10/22/2010, 9:35 AM


  1. Wow Michael, you are so lucky to see him and he has, as one would imagine, obviously had a profound effect on you. I am happy for you that you got to see him. I have been having some struggles lately with positive thinking and virtous thinking/living, but reading your post and knowing your struggles and your ability to receive comfort from this - tells me to work harder at getting over myself...

    Does not seem to want to let me post under my wordpress id?

  2. Thank you for your kind words. Seeing the Dalai Lama was a once in a life time privilege!

    Something that sustains me quite a bit is that I am loved for who I am, not the person I wish I could be.

    I don't know why you could n't post under your WordPress id, must be something with the Google. I don't know, I am still looking for the "Any" key...;>