Wednesday, November 28, 2012

H.H. The Dalai Lama: "So I Got THAT Goin' For Me!"

H.H. The Dalai Lama 
nTelos Wireless Pavilion
Charlottesville, Virginia

On October 11th of this year I was lucky enough to be able to witness His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama speak in Charlottesville, Virginia.  This was a significant trip for me, some 5 hours away, but it was incredibly worth it and was one of the greatest experiences of my life, one of the few that I consider “Bucket List Epic”.  It was a wonderful day and an amazing honor to be in the presence of a man who could be considered a true holy man of our time.  I was asked by a friend to accompany him on this journey, and I am very grateful that I was.  Our day of travel became a wonderful experience as well as a spiritual pilgrimage road trip, of sorts. 
Signage for the Dalai Lama on the Downtown Mall

In case you are unaware, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual and political leader to the Tibetan people.  He is the head monk of the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.  He is a simple monk whom many believe to be the reincarnation of the Buddha himself.  The Dalai Lama, however, claims to be nothing more than another human like you or I.  This is, however, untrue, because he is quite a remarkable human being even if he isn’t the reincarnation of the founder of Buddhism.  He was chosen to be the Dalai Lama at the age of 4 and now at the age of 77, has been living in exile in India since the age of 15 after Tibet was seized by China in 1951.  I have always found the Dalai Lama to be an incredibly fascinating man.  I’ve obviously been intrigued by him because of my interest in Buddhism, but regardless of his religious views; he is filled with wisdom for living a compassionate life based on kindness and tolerance.  Seeing him speak was a remarkable event in my life. 

Crossing into nTelos Wireless Pavilion Land
After arriving in Charlottesville and finding a space on the top level of the parking garage we made our way to the Downtown Mall.  This area of Charlottesville is very amazing.  It’s a gorgeous street without vehicle traffic that is lined by shops, restaurants and museums.  There are huge trees going down the center of the street, which are apparently rather old, I would guess some of them to be 75 to 100 years in age.    There was only one gate into the pavilion so there was quite a long line leading up to the entrance.  The Dalai Lama is guarded by the Secret Service while in the States so we were given the ol’ wand swipe and pocket search on our way in.  We made a pilgrimage walk of sorts from the car through this beautiful downtown area to the nTelos Wireless Pavilion where we would see the man some deem to be a prophet, a holy man, and a great political and spiritual leader.  The Dalai Lama means something different to everyone, but regardless of religious background, to most who know of him, he brings forth the idea of compassion.  His newest book Beyond Religion:  Ethics for a Whole World was on sale and we both purchased a copy, as it was the focus of the Lama’s speech on this day.

Post speaking, under the Pavilion, we were seated to the right in the white chairs.
Our view, although obscured by the heads of those in front of us, was actually not that bad considering the seats were considered to have an "obstructed view".  Our seats were relatively close and it was exciting to think we were in such close proximity to His Holiness, even if he is just a man.  After getting seated we enjoyed the cultural performances that were presented to us before the DL’s arrival.  There was some interesting Native American dancing being done in different styles by women and then came a chief with some “wonderful plumage” who would later present the Dalai Lama with a handmade necklace.  At the end of the performance all of the dancers joined each other on stage to move in their own style in a dance that they dedicated to all Mothers and others, including all those Native American warriors that had fallen. 
The Wall on the Mall, filled with messages in chalk.

After this there was a performance by a Tibetan folk artist living in exile named Techung.  I really enjoyed this part of the event.  Techung used different Tibetan instruments; he started out with a song on a flute and then performed another on an instrument that is a Tibetan fiddle of sorts.  He positioned this on his leg as he used a bow to play it.  It was beautiful.  Techung announced that one song was arranged using the poetry of a woman on house arrest.  I wish that I could have understood her words as they were sung, although one phrase was repeated in English, “on the road again.”  I found it quite enjoyable. 

And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for.  The woman moderator announced H.H. the Dalai Lama!  This was quite thrilling; I had a smile fixed for quite a few rounds of standing ovations and my eyes welled up with a light film of tears in excitement as I saw him before me in his traditional monk garb and greatness.  The man who I had accompanied had been trying to see the Dalai Lama speak for years at this point in his life.  His face was adorned with a grand grin of happiness as he stood clapping beside me with his eyes fixed.  It was a life goal for him that he fulfilled on that day.  Bucket list epic.

After being announced and seated, the Dalai Lama was presented with a performance from a group of third generation American Tibetan children.  He was then presented a handmade necklace by the Native American dancer with the beautiful plumage.  The necklace had an Om symbol on it, and the Lama laughed and joked, pointing out how it was a Hindu symbol even, and not Buddhist.  He wore the gift around his neck the rest of the time proudly. 
"Practice Thinking!"

 It wasn’t surprising that the Dalai Lama’s speech was centered on compassion, as this is his newest book’s main message as well as his most fundamental message as a spiritual icon; when we think of the Dalai Lama we think of compassion.  One of the first things I remember him saying was him addressing us as “brothers and sisters” and saying how he believes it is important to view everyone as such, stating that we are all the same.  A notable message in his speech was that of motherly love.  He said that a strong bond and sense of love from the mother creates a strong and loving person, and if there was a rift or problem in that relationship there was fear in the heart of the individual.  He spoke of trust and how it is the most important factor in any relationship.  He said once that trust is broken it is very hard to attain again.
We left our marks on the wall.

His Holiness also spoke of morals and ethics and how these things should be upheld in humanity regardless of ones religious beliefs.  All religions, he said, are focused on the similar key concepts of compassion, love and tolerance.  He spoke of religious tolerance and his view of secularism as well as his belief that morals and ethics “beyond religion” should be taught in schools. This comment got a roaring applause of agreement from the audience.  The concepts he mentioned and his delivery were momentous and it was interesting how it takes the words of such a wise man to point out the obvious to society.  It seems that his teachings chime with something deep inside of every human, they speak to a common thread we all share.  That’s the point of being wise, I suppose.  You see what others can’t see, or simply don’t see.  Again, it’s all about perspective.  It is hard to believe that all people don’t believe these teachings or feel them in their being.  In our hearts, I believe that we do.  This is what the Dalai Lama reminds us of, this is what his iconography stands for.  He is an immense outward symbol of our brotherly and sisterly love.  He is the physical manifestation of our collective human heart.  He is a true holy man. 

- MS


The Dalai Lama in Charlottesville, Virginia, October 11, 2012

Caddyshack ("So I got THAT goin' for me!")

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