Saturday last found me in Montreal, urged by a Tibetan friend from Burlington to hear the Dalai Lama speak. Surrounded by bushel baskets of bright yellow mums, robed in maroon and saffron yellow and seated cross legged on a comfortable armchair, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, Spiritual leader of Tibet, appears to be for all the world, an impish gnome- magically dropped in to watch an afternoon of television with the kids. He is delightfully down to earth, sincere and humorous.
He believes in smiling, he believes in the common bonds, of body and soul that all people share, and he believes that humans are social animals that desire and need to be together.Addressing a sold out crowd of 15,000 ‘souls’ each primed with goodness and peaceful intentions was seeming child’s play for this 74 year old. The audience hung on his words, looking for the magical ingredients that have brought him such international acclaim. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He has the interest and attention of politicians, scientists, economists, actors and religious leaders. He has raised the plight of Tibet and its culture to world visibility. His message is profound, but like much about the Dalai Lama, uncomplicated. To quote: “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
His talk, with translation by a French monk, dealt with Compassion. Compassion for others. Respect for others. Understanding that everybody has the desire and right for happiness. Having compassion for your enemies. [He has some serious enemies] The importance of showing and teaching love. His holiness sees two necessary steps to achieving compassion – both have to do with education, one is educating the mind, and the other is educating the heart. As he says – “education without heart is dangerous, and heart without education, may not be dangerous, but there is no progress” And then he laughs. And so did we. An essentially modern man carrying an ancient message of tolerance and love, the Dalai Lama, sees the present positively. He refers to the early 20th Century as being the bloodiest ever, but after mid century he sees progress in conflict resolution, and in the development of personal conscience and voice. A world where individuals express their disagreement with war and politics with increasing openness.
Down to earth, impish and sincere the DL seems to make an effort to dismiss any signs of his acclaim, any aspirations to greatness or holiness- he removes his shoes, he sits cross-legged, he calls for lights to be lifted, so he can see the audience, he struggles with a bad PA system, juggling multiple microphones, and smiles and laughs at these technical difficulties. His casualness belies his deep respect for the Tibetan Culture he supports and inspires in his followers.
Dancers in traditional Tibetan costumes, with billowing sleeves and extravagant hats precede the Dalai Lama’s talk, allowing a peak into the world of Tibet, that high plateau country of ancient practices, of coral and turquoise beads, of turning prayer wheels and echoing gongs, of hill top monasteries and wind blown snow, of steppe ponies and long haired yaks. Their swaying arms and remembered dance patterns provide a glimpse into the land that had the time and impulse to create a religion based on compassion. And a people to carry it. In the long snaking line leading into the Bell Center, groups of Tibetans could clearly be picked out, garbed in colorful clothing, with their Asiatic features they were a visible representation of a faraway homeland. I spotted some of my Burlington friends in the crowd. We hug. They are glad I have heard their spiritual leader speak, and so am I.
Feel Beautiful, Be Beautiful, Live Beautiful