I love the Dalai Lama. I love the simplicity of his approach on how to be happy: positive thinking and cultivating compassion. I love that he is charismatic without any pretense or self-importance. I love his vision for our world. I admire his wit and his ability to bring light-hearted humor into his message. I respect that he “walks his talk” with his rigorous daily practice to simply be at peace and therefore, be a force for good. I am grateful that he has stepped beyond the boundaries of Buddhism to reach a world audience and address global issues. He is a true leader, as he believes each of us can be a force for good. He believes that it starts from within.
I haven’t always loved the Dalai Lama however. We had a long separation that I initiated. He duped me, or so I thought.
When my son Lively was eight or nine, I flew us down to Long Beach to see the Dalai Lama in person. Yes, my young child seemed genuinely drawn to the Dalai Lama’s message. I couldn’t have been more thrilled!
We arrived at the auditorium early and excited. We eagerly handed the attendants our tickets and milled about buying books and trinkets and posters while we waited for His Holiness to begin. We eventually took our seats. My son was getting antsier by the minute waiting for what felt like a long time (even to me). I noticed that the auditorium was maybe half full. I thought it odd but suspected nothing. Finally, the lights went down. A Tibetan monk from his entourage took the stage. He spoke for a bit, then announced that the Dalai Lama was unable to make it and sent his sincere apologies. Other speakers were set to take the stage in his place.
WHAT? WHY? Why wasn’t this cancellation communicated to ticket holders in advance? Why didn’t you tell us at the door? Why are you selling books and posters and trinkets in the lobby? In shock and disappointment, we got up and left the auditorium. I marched over to an attendant in the lobby demanding to know what was going on, and to answer all of my questions. It seems he was on the East Coast and couldn’t get here in time. Huh, that’s it? Yes, that was it. No explanation about selling goods, or about communicating before we got on the plane, or about not telling us when we arrived. He did offer a token apology.
I was incensed. Lively was confused and disappointed. I did my best to smooth it over and not poison my son with my anger – in the spirit of adhering to the Dalai Lama’s message of removing destructive emotions from the mind. Sadly, I don’t think I was effective.
My mind remained in a dark place. What a waste of our time and money I thought. What a dishonest and money-grubbing organization I concluded.
We were unhappy. (Just as the Dalai Lama promised we would be if we allowed destructive emotions like anger to control our thinking.) But dammit, we were justified in our feelings. We had a right to feel this way! Yes we did, but we did so to our own peril.
Ever since, I have been cynical toward the Dalai Lama. I began barely glancing at his posts on my Twitter and Facebook feeds. A “humble monk” my ass!
That was six years ago.
Just last week I tuned into see Daniel Goleman, author of the groundbreaking book “Emotional Intelligence” on Oprah’s show “Super Soul Sundays” (Season 12, Episode 2). I had read his book years ago when it came out and was a true believer in the concept and importance of the quality of emotional awareness. It turns out, he has just written a book for the Dalai Lama that was just published called “A Force for Good.” He was asked by his longtime friend to write a book sharing his vision for our world. The author of course jumped at the opportunity.
Given my respect for the author and the fact that I was in a completely different emotional place than I had been 6 years ago, I ordered the book immediately. Yes, I was willing to give my money and time to hear His Holiness’ view as told through a writer I respected. I figured it had to be good.
It is of course, amazing. I am only 2 chapters in and I am transfixed.
As I read, I have discovered his message to the world applies first to his message to me – as one of the “everyone” who can be a force for good. He reminds me that it starts from within. I can’t help but apply it to my present life, where I am striving to support and lead my family to a place of peace and wellness. It’s exactly the message I need to hear right now.
My mind goes to my past self. I realize how blocked I was for many years. How could I be so unenlightened, so emotionally out of touch? How did I let myself be so cynical and negative, holding on to a such a negative belief about the Dalai Lama – that he was just another average guy, touting his humble wisdom while at the same time, allowing his organization to be greedy and inconsiderate? Why didn’t I give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that perhaps something last minute came up on the East Coast and it couldn’t be helped or publicly announced at the time? Why couldn’t I consider that the sale of merchandise was an offering to help his followers to hear his message in his absence? I remember that the auditorium wasn’t full so perhaps there was an effort to inform ticket holders about the cancellation and I for whatever reason missed it.
I am choosing not to judge myself too harshly and instead show myself a little compassion. I am choosing to be grateful that I am no longer in that headspace.
I will write again once I’ve finished the book. I feel confident that I will have much to share at that time.
For now I’ll share my big take-away: the importance and practice of what he calls “emotional hygiene.” By mastering our own minds we “lessen the power of destructive emotions and foster more positive modes of being.” He believes that it all begins here.
“a universal ethic…science of compassion…a compassionate economy…muscular compassion…care for those in need…heal the planet…dialogue not war…education of the heart…” These are the primary elements of his vision for our world. I will write more soon as I learn more. But don’t wait for me…read the book yourself!