His Holiness, The Dalai Lama.
Yep, that's what I said, The Dalai Lama.
I am not a religious person. (But if I had to pick a religion, I'd join Team Buddhism.) I am, however, a great believer in the power of love, truth, compassion, empathy, and tolerance. And, thus, not surprisingly, a fan of DL #14.
One of the things that draws me to him is his approachability. Sure he's wise as all get out, but he's also a real person. He's, well, jolly.
His "entrance" to the stage wasn't to fanfare. He ambled, like just about any other 73-yr old man in robes would, up the stairs as the opening cello performance was almost finished. He approached the musician, leaned over to him, smiled, and then stood behind him enjoying the music. This wasn't the typical arrival of a world and religious leader. It was like watching the fun uncle showing up late to a reunion, right in the middle of some cousin playing piano.
Those more tied to the formality of a lecture and of visiting dignitaries took their turn at the podium and said their bit and were fashionably humble, including the gentleman who actually introduced His Holiness, John Mellencamp.
[Yes, that John Mellencamp. One, we're a little short on celebrities in Central Indiana, and Two, his wife, Elaine, is a leader of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, which happens to have been founded by the Dalai Lama's late brother.]
His Holiness affixed his wireless mic. I scootched to the edge of my seat, ready to have my mind blown with oratory bedazzlery. But, that's not his style. He didn't take a pose behind the podium. He sat in a large cushy chair. His English is halting and a little rough. But his message barges right past that minor inconvenience.
I'm not going to presume to be able to relay his wisdom, or even try to capture his thoughts or his message. There are books, and tapes, and books on tape that do a much better job of that than I could. But I can tell you how I felt.
I didn't leave with a sense of being touched by a god. I don't feel like I've been anointed or saved or promised or entitled to eternal anything. But I do have a renewed belief of good in the world. I have a sense of being one of 6 billion people who are mostly the same, who want mostly the same things, who need mostly the same things, who live mostly the same way and believe mostly the same things. Our differences, the differences that some spend so much time talking about and fighting about and hating/hurting/killing each other over, are really very small and insignificant. If we look at what we have in common, see our own humanity in others, we'll all be happier.
My favorite moment, the one that really showed how even this wise, eloquent, humble Buddhist from Tibet is more like me than I'd ever guessed, came about 45 minutes into his "speech". To his left sat a very formal looking assistant who helps him when he can't find or remember the right English word for something. The Dalai Lama was talking about commonality, how we are all born of our mothers, how easily we come to trust this person we don't know because she is affectionate and caring and she feeds us. In doing so, he seemed to struggle for the word for "that little bit, that bump that we put in our mouth..." He kept stumbling, and looking to his assistant, who was turning deeper shades of red by the second. His Holiness wouldn't let him off the hook, he wouldn't move on, not until he finally got the assistant to say it..."nipple". "Yes, nipple.", said His Holiness, with a sly smile on his face.
For those interested, you can learn more here, here, and here.
Numbers: 1.2 miles, a rest day after a pretty challenging week.