Sunday, November 13, 2016

Words of Wisdom from His Holiness, The Dalai Lama

I had another one of the experiences that will stay with me for the rest of my life, something I never thought I'd be writing about. 

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend a presentation by the Dalai Lama. Over the course of a few days, he presented his teachings on interdependence and "The Path," the Initiation of Avalokiteshvara (I had to Google that one), and finally a public talk on the source of genuine happiness.  Dalai Lamas are said to be the manifestation of the Buddha of Compassion, present in human form to grant us with their wisdom, love, and integrity. Tension Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama, truly appeared that way: love, respect, and positivity in the form of a joyful, yet powerful, man. 

I attended the public talk with a few friends (and 12,000 others), which started off with an introduction by Richard Gere (!!!), who has practiced Buddhism for years. (Check out this interview he gave on his Buddhist learning- it was pretty interesting!) It was clear that though he's known and worked with him for a long time, he was still in awe of his teacher.  He shared a poem by Rumi that I had heard before, but that really resonated in this moment. It was funny because he read it from his phone, looking it up as the translator repeated his words in Italian, and at first we thought he was texting during his own speech!

Come, come, whoever you are
Wanderer, Worshiper,
Lover of Leaving.
It doesn't Matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken
Your vow a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come, come.

I add that here as well because it opened the talk with a reminder of the "atmosphere of inclusiveness" that the Dalai Lama projects. The message he delivered was a reminder that all 12,000 people listening to him speak were a part of his community of respect and compassion, and though we make mistakes, we always have the potential to rejoin that community. 

His English was slightly broken at times, but he delivered his message passionately and with good humor. "Basically, we are the same human being; mentally, emotionally, physically, we are the same." All of us have the same desire for a happy, problem-free life, and while we all have the right to achieve that, we don't always know how. Happiness comes from our mentality, though many of us try to gain our happiness from materialism, which is not enough. Physical comfort is not enough, either; our inner values are what bring us happiness. 

When facing a problem, most of us start with the ability to look at it from only one side, and with that perspective, the situation can seem overwhelming. Mental peace come from our ability to look at a situation from all angles, and to assess that situation realistically. In this way, which must be learned and honed through practice, we can gain a better understanding of how best to approach the situation troubling us. He said, "In order to fully utilize our intelligence, we should be calm," but stressed how anger and attachment make it difficult to remain calm, and therefore reduce our abilities to properly use our intelligence. 

Part of our barrier in the search for happiness is a self-centered attitude. 

When we focus only on ourselves, it gives way to distrust, suspicion, and anger. It can create a tightness inside of us that only loosens as we take others' happiness into consideration. He mentioned the loneliness that comes from the idea of being Tibetan, Buddhist, or the Dalai Lama. Out of seven billion people on Earth, he is the one and only Dalai Lama. But with this attitude, there is too much stress on himself as an individual, and that is a lonely way to live. However, in looking at himself as just another human being, he suddenly gains seven billion brothers and sisters; it removes the barriers of nationality, race, and religion, and creates a sense of oneness. There is joy in place of fear, distrust, and frustration. It's our duty as humans to recognize this in ourselves and in each other; we are the same. We have the same basic needs: food, water, and shelter. We have the same basic desire: happiness. 

The first thing that struck me about the Dalai Lama was the depth of his laughter. This came often, but was funniest when his translator was trying to speak. Every few minutes, he would pause and allowed the translator to speak to the mostly Italian crowd. It was strange because he would say such powerful and moving things, but the applause was always delayed until after it was said again in Italian. At one point, he interrupted and said, "Sometimes I feel hot, then I use this," and dropped a wet towel across his head, which remained there for most of his presentation. After saying it though, laughter that seemed to come from the deepest place rolled out of him, and as he let his translator move on, he continue laughing to himself. He was full of such joy and had the most wonderful sense of humor!

After he finished chuckling, he adopted a more somber attitude. 

While we were enjoying a peaceful and friendly atmosphere, it is important to remember that at this same exact moment, on the same exact planet, there are people so full of fear and anger that they are killing each other. 

Most of the anger and most of the fear that results in violence stem from differences that don't really matter- secondary differences such as nationality or religion. These are secondary because at the fundamental level, what matters is that we are all human. A quote that stuck with me was, 

"We need more effort to create a sense of oneness." 

If we can see each other as humans first, then when we recognize differences, we'll be able to approach them with the understanding  that we are all the same. If we can respect what matters to others, then what matters to us will be respected in turn. The fact of the matter is, we don't have an alternative; this is our reality and we need to accept it. Problems are solved through dialogue, but that will only happen through respect and understanding. 

When we ignore our oneness, we begin to see that destroying others is our victory, but that doesn't work anymore. He stressed that in ancient times, communities could be independent and self-sufficient, but that isn't possible in the world we live in today. Our success depends on the success of others, and their success depends on us. Violence, and the concept of "we" versus "they" is outdated. This is meant to be a century of peace and dialogue. Here is my purpose of sharing this post today: His Holiness gave each listener a mission. We're only 16 years into this century. We need to make the effort to understand reality and build this century into the century of peace and compassion. That is our common task. He encouraged us to share this message with our friends, and encourage them to share with theirs. Basically from one person to ten people to a hundred thousand, "we can contribute to changing the world through a change human perception." 

After such a passionate and important message, he began walking around the stage, stopping at one point in front of one of the Italian politicians. We saw him kind of tickling him, and then tapping under the man's chin until he smiled. As he giggled his way back to the podium, he stopped the translator again, saying, "Sometimes the people remain more serious. I smile and they do not return the smile. Then I do this (referring to tickling the man), and that way they're laughing and laughing... I love that." He was just so silly and funny, in addition to being so wise. I love him. 

After sharing his first commitment to the promotion of a sense of oneness in our world, he moved onto his second commitment: religious harmony. In his mind, the major religions have spent the past two thousand years promoting the same values of compassion, love, forgiveness, and tolerance. The varied climates and cultures create a necessity for there to be differences; there is a different mental disposition due to lifestyle, so it make it necessary for a difference in philosophy. This is true even within one religion. In Buddhism, for example, followers have developed their own philosophies, with ideas stemming from the same teacher (Buddha). Despite these differences, we need to recognize the commonalities between world religions, and in that way can find genuine harmony. 

I'm trying out a quote poster maker with some of my favorite things he said-- It's my first try, don't judge :)

 He also spoke on terrorism related to religion, stressing that the moment terrorism is acted in the name of faith, the terrorist removes themself from their faith. A Buddhist of commits violent acts in the name of Buddhism is no longer Buddhist. He used the word "jihad" as an example, referring to the fact that in Islam, the "greater jihad" (not the "lesser jihad," which is the term most of us relate the word to-- Google it) refers to the inner combat of our own emotions, the combat between anger and compassion, constructive emotion with destructive emotion. He shared that even as a Buddhist monk, he carries that inner combat with him every day, and that is the "Greater Jihad." The moment it becomes physical or violent, it would take him from his beliefs and remove him from his faith. 

Finally, His Holiness discussed his third commitment, which was to maintaining Tibetan and Buddhist culture. After four centuries of the Dalai Lama's traditional involvement in Tibetan politics, he voluntarily gave up not only his own, but future Dalai Lamas' political responsibility. He believes that the responsibility of himself and others in his position should be the preservation of the peaceful, nonviolent, and compassionate culture he loves, as well as the ecology of his region. It was a subject that mattered so much to him, affecting his own country, but his words impact us all, no matter the situation we feel the same passion for. I feel that in the current global climate, all I can do is try to infuse the love and understanding I learned during these few hours into places I have control, such as my classroom, and do my best to make what difference I can. 

"Change doesn't come from the government. When you think about the problems that humanity is facing, then for me, just one human being, the problem can seem too big, and one individual cannot do much. But instead think: we must do something. The change must start from one individual. After all, humanity is a combination of individuals. We can't think we're helpless, we need to try to make our contribution."

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