The Dalai Lama - My Inspiration
Someone asked me the question recently, who inspires you? In no time at all I was able to rattle off three names. Tony Robbins, The Dalai Lama, and Mozart. I then added my music teacher at school, my English teacher at school, my Grandad Clive, and nature. I said that there are so many people who inspire me I could keep adding to the list all day. They pinned me down and asked for just one name. I chose The Dalai Lama.
WHO IS THE DALAI LAMA?
Born in Takster, Tibet on 6 July 1935, Lhasa Thondup was selected as the tulku of the 13th Dalai Lama in 1937. (A tulku is a reincarnate custodian in Tibetan Buddhism. They come from a specific lineage of teachings. They are trained from a young age by their predecessor). Two years later aged around the age of 4 he was formally recognised as the 14th Dalai Lama. He was enthroned at the age of 5-and-a-half, and he took on full “political” duties at the age of 15. In 1959 during the Tibetan Uprising the Dalia Lama fled to India, where he still lives as a refugee. (After nearly a decade of repression by the Chinese army, Tibetans in their thousands rose up in protest. Thousands of lives were lost and the the Chinese ruled victorious).
Since beginning his reign he has travelled the world and has spoken about the welfare of Tibetans, women’s rights, nonviolence, interfaith dialogue, environmental issues, physics, astronomy, Buddhism, science and a wealth of other topics. He has always been fascinated with science. For example, he had a telescope and would look at the moon. He realised that the moon was a lump of rock floating in space. It was not a heavenly body emitting its own light as Tibetan cosmologists had taught him. The Dalai Lama has said that had he not been brought up as a monk, he would likely have become an engineer.
I SEE THE LIGHT
How do you know when someone inspires you? For me it’s that lightbulb moment when something they’ve said or done makes you take notice. You discover that you want to find out more about them. You want to ask them questions. You want to listen to them forever. It happened when I saw the quote “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” I knew then that I needed to read more about this amazing man. So I bought books and read up about him. The thing that struck me most about him was his sense of humour. Sure, he is a man of great compassion. He is a learned man. But he has a great sense of humour.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”
His humour comes through in a lot of his teachings, where appropriate. None more so than in the book with which he was involved alongside Archbishop Desmond Tutu - The Book Of Joy. Throughout the book there is a clear demonstration of mutual affection. Both men have a deep respect for each other. A brotherly love for one another. They wind each other up brilliantly and I really wish I’d been witness to their time together. The Dalai Lama is very mischievous. He met a king from an African country. The king was there lauding it over everyone. Majestically sitting on his high throne above all who are in his presence. The Dalai Lama was sat there secretly wishing that one of the legs of the throne would break so that the king could experience a moment of humility.
His living room, where he does his prayer and meditation, is something to behold. Not only is the wall covered in thangkas and statues of Buddha present. There is also a lifelike crucifix and a statue of the Madonna holding a baby Jesus. A deep blue globe nested in a golden stand is another sacred peace symbol. Despite being a Buddhist monk, his prayer practise envelops the whole world. Rather than being exclusionist, he is all encompassing. He shows compassion to everyone.
“People take different roads seeking fulfilment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”
His attitude towards other religions can be outlined thus. "Imagine there’s a city and in this city is just one restaurant. This restaurant serves only one dish but it is the best dish you’ve ever had. The restaurant will enjoy great success to start off but eventually the numbers will start to dwindle. People will get bored of just having one dish and they will be undernourished. Religion is there to provide spiritual nourishment. Everyone has a different need. It is silly to think that one religion can provide everyone with the spiritual nourishment they need." I think that’s a beautiful way of putting it.
A FINAL REASON
When the Dalai Lama turned 80 the village threw a party for him. He had Archbishop Tutu with him as they were doing the interviews for “The Book Of Joy”. There was a giant cake and local students provided music. As the students were singing “We Are The World” the Archbishop got up to dance. He encouraged the Dalai Lama to get up and dance. As a Tibetan Buddhist monk their vows prohibit dancing. But on this occasion, with is dear friend, he shirked that rule. He got up to dance for the first time in his life. At first it was like that of an awkward teenager but he soon started to smile and laugh. The Archbishop held his hands and they moved to the music. A celebration not only of the birthday, but of the true friendship they shared. Absolute joy. Real connection.
Why does the Dalai Lama inspire me? He is a man of great faith. He has huge compassion. He respects everyone on the basic human level. He has taught me an incredible amount through his books and his teachings. He does not let his faith prevent him from having a sense of humour. He didn’t let his vows get in the way of sharing a moment of unprecedented joy with a friend. He is prepared to accept that some of the Buddhist teachings may be specific to a particular cultural and historic context. He is an awesome human!