I got to attend a teaching today with the Dalai Lama. It was a very big deal for me. Truly, a bucket list item. If you have been reading here for a while, you know this was a mutli=year chase for me, with endless setbacks. It became comical the way things would fall apart with my chasing him, or his books… etc etc. In the end, I took every one of these as teachings from him about non-attachment. It worked! Once I realized that I can’t be attached to his holiness, and maybe I will never get to see him in person… he materialized… and quick.
His first visit that was supposed to be in Oct 2015 (but was canceled for emergency health reasons) was 2 years in the making. Tickets were not available, because people were coming from around the world. The angle I worked to get in was to be a volunteer. Two years led up to his visit in Oct, me salivating the whole time. When it was re-scheduled, there was only a 12 hour notice, and it was just barely leaked by the press. Tickets had been sold out before there was even a press release about it… or before it was announced on his website.
How exactly, then, did I find out…. And get tickets? Well, that is between me and the Lama.
I want to share with you just some of the things that seemed interesting to me. I am not going to talk about his teachings. He has 81 years on earth, it would be an insult for me to try and sum up in a paragraph or three.
He was not one for pomp and circumstance. There was little formality to any of this work. Though there was a theme of the teaching, he was clearly winging in. He referred to his mortality more than I have seen or heard… alarmingly so. Just late last year, he mentioned he would settle one and for all the issue if he will re-incarnate. Though he is the 14th Dalai Lama, he is strongly considering not re-incarnating for good reason. See, he isn’t the leader of all Buddhism (though in my mind, he absolutely is. A man holier than the Pope, for me at least). The Dalai Lama is the leader of Tibetan Buddhism. Problem is, that doesn’t exist anymore in Tibet. In fact, for all purposes, Tibet barely exists. China has wiped it out over the last 60 years. They have killed all the natives, abolished the language, and made one most spiritual stop on Earth just a vacation destination for the Chinese.
Sorry, back to the point about the reincarnation… and why I mention it. He said just late last year he will have a formal written succession plan and decision in place by the time he turns 90. He is 81 right now, and today he said that would be ‘very soon’, ‘next few years’, and ‘imminent’.
I have read he is a joyful man, but I had no idea. He was often giddy. He would crack himself up, and loved the small discomforts that occur in polite conversation. It may be a cliché, but he had a child-like demeanor.
He was really hard to understand. I guess it was his accent, or perhaps the acoustic, but I only got about 20% of the words he said. Probably best, because his shit was so fucking profound that any more than 25% comprehension would have blown my mind – xenu style. Here is a video from earlier this year. Fast Forward to about 56 minutes in to hear him speak.
Side note to that – how frustrating would it be if you got to finally see the Dalai Lama speak. Know he will speak for about 90 minutes. At this symposium in the video, he doesn’t get to speak until an hour in. the first hour is just people spouting platitudes. We lucked out, there was none of that. He showed up on stage early, and with no announcement. We were still looking at merch when we heard the crowd erupt. It was scheduled to begin at 1:30 pm, and he was already taking Q&A from the audience by then.
The venue was not sold out, as far as seating went. Meaning, I am sure it was sold out on paper… but by the time were in it, there was probably several hundred empty seats.
At one point in time he pointed to a guy in the audience and asked him to stand up. He said that he recognized him from a former life, and asked if he would come back and chat with him after the teaching.
The peace and joy he radiates just blows my mind. By all accounts, he has had a very brutal life. His family and community and entire religion have been killed off by the Chinese… who still won’t recognize him as anything but a rabble rouser. He has had to live in exile for 60 years. Yet, he does not live in fear.
He spoke quite good English. His accent was really tough, but his command of the language was very impressive. He travels with a translator who helps him if he gets stuck. In that video I referenced above, translator guy is on the left.
He was big on self accountability, of course. However, he demonstrated it in small but very impressive ways. The lecture and Q&A needed to stay on a tight schedule. You can imagine a man such as he has every minute of the day accounted for… probably years in advance. This means someone has to be the heavy. Someone has to say ‘no more questions please’, ‘please no questions about _____’, or ‘I am sorry but that has to be the end of today’s questions’. His Holiness didn’t have anyone do that for him. He gave all the bad news, even though it was small things. I may have been the only one to notice that detail, but it meant a lot to me.
in closing, please remember this isn’t about what he taught us. What he taught us was beautiful and useful. It would be reductive of me to even try and explain. Instead, this is to save me a million conversations of ‘what was it like’. Also, so that I may remember years from now.
One last thing, about the picture above. During the Q&A at the end, a gentleman who was deaf asked a question via ASL (sign language). His Holiness was amused, and said it was the first time ever anyone had asked him a question via sign language. Pretty Cool. Once the gentleman question-asker person was told his via sign language… he took the opportunity to teach His Holiness how to say just one thing – I Love You. His Holiness was super tickled with this, and jumped up and started using his new sign language to tell everyone he loved them. I was hopeful someone would pick this up and carry it on the news.
Here is a pic of the whole stage, from the wifey’s cell phone. The venue was the basketball arena on the CU campus in Boulder. It was pretty perfect. Plenty of seats, and all with a great site-line. Educated guess tells me the place holds a several thousand.
On this day, I was not Correct. I was humbled. I was grateful.
*** Suggested reading – if you are looking for a place to start regarding Buddhism, or the Dalai Lama… start with his autobiography. Freedom in Exile is Dalai Lama’s amazing life story, told by the man himself. If you are looking for an easier way to get in, without sifting through thousands of pages of Sutras and such… try Herman Hesse’s Siddartha. It is amazing. Almost all of Hesse’s work is.