Jordan pictured here at back with H.H the 14th Dalai Lama
The talk came in the courtyard of Tsuglagkhang Complex in Mclead Ganj, a subrurb of Dharamsala and the de facto capital of Tibet. The complex contains the personal residence of the Dalai Lama, temples, bookshops and a Tibetan museum. As we waited for His Holiness to arrive we were asked to gather in groups according to nationality so he could come around and greet us when he arrived. When he he came he took photos with each group, tugging on beards and having a laugh and his joy was absolutely contagious.
Sitting on the floor in that courtyard I felt more like I was hearing stories from my grandfather than a top religious leader and Nobel Laureate. He joked frankly about the differences in our lives and his as a monk. There was a lot of ‘oh you crazy western kids’ to his humor. He laughed about how many people are going to Thailand, and how he suspects that many are going for the night clubs. “I think there is a lot of sex happening at the night club, isn’t it?” The crowd laughed along. He had managed to connect with 1500 people, mostly in their twenties, within minutes. He was just totally connected and authentic. “Many people are coming to Dharamsala also, many are coming and smoking hashish!” Everyone laughs. “OK OK,” he grins, “if you are smoking and it is bringing you benefit then do so, but only a little.” By now the crowd was hysterical, His Holiness chuckling along with us. The thing that sold me on his character more than any of his words was his laugh. He had a real, from the gut laugh that went on and on.
The Dalai Lama was recognized to be the 14th incarnation of the Boddhisattva of Compassion at age two and at age fifteen he was officially enthroned to begin his duties; he was now seventy-eight years old. For sixty-three years he has been shaking hands at events like this, but when he shook my hand there was no routine, no redundancy in his eyes; he looked at me like I was the only one there, the first hand he had ever shaken. The endurance of his optimism, the gem of his being was so clear in his presence.
He discussed his transition from an isolated country, living a quiet life to now doing these talks to tourists and foreigners all over the world. He spoke of his sense of global responsibility, of the duty to do what he can on a public platform to shine a light on the troubles of his people. He felt it was so important to spread these philosophies based on compassion and oneness in a world at war with itself.
The Dalai Lama has a deep and justified gratitude for the Indian government and people. He was accepted as a refugee in India when he was only 23 years old under extreme circumstances. The Chinese Cultural Revolution had come to Tibet to destroy Buddhism and Tibetan culture. His summer palace was attacked with two artillery shells as 30,000 citizens surrounded it to protect him. He was able to flee in disguise and reach India. 1.2 million Tibetans were killed in the violence that followed, 1/6th of their entire population.
He took this opportunity to praise the religious harmony and secular government of India. One Indian man politely challenged this in the question session, raising the issue of India’s current religious tensions. “When you are close to something which is small it looks big,” he said, “but when you step back and look at the big picture, you see how well India is doing. Don’t focus on the small negative points.”
Traditionally the role of the Dalai Lama has been to act as Head of State for Tibet and a high ranking administrator in the Tibetan School of Buddhism. His Holiness has totally revolutionized the position with his ability to truly connect with people all over the world. In a time when his people need him more than ever he has rose to the occasion and arguably brought more awareness to the plight of his people than any other leader of his time. As he approaches eighty years of age, the war against the Tibetan people and their culture continues. The need for a man of his character, intellect and charm is only growing. The biggest question for the people of Tibet is can the next incarnation possibly continue the great work done by His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama?
Written by Jordan Ross Dore of Breathe in Life