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Thursday, October 28, 2010

In the Presence of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama

Watch the presentation I saw courtesy of the Community Media Center.

If you were to ask me which celebrity or public figure did I hope to meet or see perform/speak in person some day? The Dalai Lama would have been at the top of my list. Recently that hope was realized when I was invited to attend a private presentation he had requested to have with students from the Ravenswood school district in East Palo Alto, CA. The district itself is comprised 7 schools that include kindergarden through grade 8, and predominately children of ethnic minority groups: Hispanic 70%, Black/African American 20%, Pacific Islander 9% and Other 1%. There were approximately 400 8th grade students in attendance from schools throughout the district.  Ten were chosen from an essay contest, and were able to ask The Dalai Lama a single question.

His Arrival

When I posted these photos on Facebook someone asked some basic questions about The Dalai Lama that I thought I'd share with you here in case any of you were wondering the same things:

Is "The Dalai Lama" his real name? No. It is Tenzin Gyatso

What does "Lama" mean? Lama means he is a teacher of Buddhism

What makes him Holy? He is believed to be a reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lamas the first of whom was a human incarnation of a bodhisattva (an enlightened existance)

What religion is he associated with? Buddhism

Have there been many Dalai Lamas before him? He is the 14th Dalai Lama

What methods have been employed to confirm his holiness? He was found by a special search party and recognized objects that belonged to the previous Dalai Lama claiming they were his.

His manner was calm, affable and he laughed heartily and often.

The students asked questions about his childhood in Tibet, why was he (as a child) chosen to lead his country and religion? How does he cheer himself up when he feels sad? Is world peace possible? And what would he do differently, did he have a biggest regret? Most of his answers centered on compassion, affection, peacefulness, responsibility and education. The Dalai Lama said several times to the students "The choice is yours" and "The responsibility is yours" to go out and create a more peaceful world. To choose compassion and education over violence and being self centered.

He said believers and non-believers share the same seed of human compassion and with inner peace, general peace in the world is possible.

From his perspective, while innovation, science and technology were part of the greatness of the last century, what were our worst faults? Violence caused by a lack of a genuine desire for peace. We need to show more affection to each other and our children so they in turn can grow up to be confident and peaceful adults. 

He said sometimes we sacrifice fundamental values for nationality and religion. That he said, is a mistake. Discrimination is backwards thinking and that if we think of all people as our brothers and sisters and reach out to them with a truly open heart, 99% of humans will respond to genuine openness.

The reason I was lucky enough to attend? John Woods and his team at Enhanced Lighting transformed the gymnasium by sponsoring the purple draping, stage lighting, projectors, projection screens and the sound system that enabled everyone in the room to enjoy the presentation. In return he was given a few tickets one of which he offered to me. Thanks so much to John and Megan, owners of Enhanced Lighting. Truly it was a dream come true.

The students presented The Dalai Lama with a gift and he posed for a group photo with them before departing. Personally I left feeling inspired.

The wish for peace is something I have long hoped for in my own life, in the lives of my friends and loved ones and for the entire world. This experience is bringing me back to asking myself what is really important? What are my priorities? How much compassion do I have? How much altruism and empathy do I share with the people around me? Do I allow myself to get caught up in feelings and actions that work against peace? Peacefulness in my own life? Peacefulness in the world? I do. But I don't have to. I can choose peace and acceptance of myself and others. Perhaps sometimes the best thing to do is to simply recognize when a situation brings out my worst nature instead of my best and to choose differently. It's being aware of myself and how I impact the world. As he said, it's my choice. And it's your choice too.

The media was there in full force.

And here is a great article about the visit by Chris Kenrick of the Palo Alto News Online: CLICK HERE

This is one of my favorite books I've read about Tibetan Buddhism. If you're interested in learning more you might want to pick up a copy of Awakening to the Sacred by Lama Surya Das.

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