“We all have a natural tendency to desire happiness and avoid suffering.” – Dalai Lama
When I opened my Christmas present from my husband, I had no idea what to expect. As I opened the envelope with the words “Merry Christmas Lisa” on it and pulled out a piece of paper, I discovered that in three months I was going to be part of a select group that was going to India. My husband knew India was on my bucket list, and with a smile told me he had won the trip on the celebrity buzz auction. He went on to say that the money he spent will go to the children in India.
Our two-week trip took us to New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur. Each night we met with interesting people like the Dalai Lama’s astrologer, his meditation teachers, his yogis, royalty, the Prime Minister, and best of all, three-days with his holiness to discuss spirituality.
As the host of the Legacy series, the Dalai Lama was on my bucket list for people to interview. I have always admired his compassion and his work in politics but most of all I admire his views that religion is happiness. This trip not only gave me the opportunity to connect to a new culture. I feel that spending time in different places around the world is important to gain compassion and a better understanding of humanity and even more importantly to share what you have learned with others.
New Delhi – Taj Hotel
When the day came that the Dalai Lama was going to arrive at our hotel (yes, we stayed at the same hotel) everyone was on high alert. They said he was arriving around noon. As we ate breakfast around 7am, the hotel staff was decorating, and white flower arrangements kept pouring in. I couldn’t just sit there stuffing my face with vegetable curry, so I got up and went to explore the scene before his holiness arrived. It turned out that the Dalai Lama had arrived four hours earlier than scheduled. About thirty monks formed two lines and the Dalai Lama walked between them, protected from anyone trying to get access, it looked like a procession. Guests started to notice and began scrambling for a look, a picture, anything. Locals, who were staying at the hotel started bowing, some people dropped to their knees as he was walking by. When he passed me, I put out my hand, he took it and looked at me with his perennial smile and jovial energy. Several people snapped photos. Then he was off to the next person and gave them blessings, as he continued to move in the direction of the elevator. His posse then circled him and guarded the elevator as he got in, not allowing anyone else in as the elevator door closed. The crowd was left feeling like they just met Jesus Christ himself… some even in tears.
The 14th Dalai Lama is the longest-lived incumbent.
All of a sudden a bell rings, then the Dalai Lama’s right-hand-man walks to the podium and says, “Welcome, please meet the Dalai Lama.”
The Dalai Lama sat there and then started laughing. And laughing. We all started laughing. “We need to laugh more. Be in our bodies. Love more,” he said. Then he went on for three hours talking about life today in 2015. What we need to do globally to survive. He wanted us to go out and be the leaders of a compassionate crusade. He said people in his inner circle selected us (our hosts are in his inner circle). He said we were a collection of people from around the world that have an audience and to please take our responsibility seriously.
For the twelve hours of being in the room with this extraordinary group of minds and with his holiness, I learned a lot but a lot of it was cellular, during our meditations.
Five insights and/or facts I gained from the 3-day gathering:
- The Dalai Lama won the noble peace prize in 1989 for being the leading advocate of kindness, compassion, and nonviolence in all relationships – personal, political, social. He is considered the moral guide of humanity and is one of the most admired figures today. He said we must all practice kindness more now than ever before, even to terrorists groups like Isis because they are still people who can show love for their family and tribe and if we keep thinking they’re evil, they will stay evil, because out thoughts are powerful. He suggested we send them compassion.
- We need to think about others more, humanity as a whole, not just as an individual. He is on a mission to help us all come together but isn’t sure it’s possible anymore. He said he gave up on politics and advocating for Tibet because he wants to prove that non-violence works. He even has compassion for his oppressors, the Chinese government.
- Humans are lower than animals. If you look at the African savannah, for example, predators prey on other animals only out of necessity when they are hungry. When they are not hungry, you can see them coexisting quite peacefully. But we human beings, despite our ability to judge between right and wrong, sometimes act out of pure greed. Sometimes we engage in actions purely out of indulgence–we kill out of a sense of “sport,” say, when we go hunting or fishing. So, in a sense, one could argue that human beings have proven to be inferior to animals.
- The thing that we call “mind” is quite peculiar. Sometimes it is very stubborn and very difficult to change. But with continuous effort and with conviction based on reason, our minds are sometimes quite honest. When we really feel that there is some need to change, then our minds can change. Wishing and praying alone will not transform your mind, but with conviction and reason, reason based ultimately on your own experience, you can transform your mind. The point is to try to develop the scope of one’s empathy in such a way that it can extend to any form of life that has the capacity to feel pain and experience happiness. It is a matter of defining a living organism as a sentient being.
- To counter one’s arrogance or pride, you need to reflect upon shortcomings in you that can give rise to a sense of humility. For example, you can think about all the things in the world about which you are not proficient in. Some people can’t cook, others have no language skills, still, others are ignorant when it comes to computers. So, whenever you have a little tingling sense of pride, think about your own ignorance, it should set you straight.
If you’re interested in learning more, please visit his website and attend one of his events. It seems he is always traveling around the world giving talks, even though he’s stationed in India.
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photo credit: Lisa Haisha