08 Feb Want to Know the Dalai Lama’s Secret?
By Catherine Graham
A glimpse of the beaming face of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, especially in these queasy times, is hugely uplifting. It’s like the sight of ray of sunshine after weeks of grim rain. Consistently over the decades, media pictures show him laughing playfully, or connecting humorously with those around him , whether they be young or old, rich or poor. On the other end of the scale, he is also renowned for his compassion, even sometimes shedding tears when complete strangers, such as refugees freshly escaped from Tibet, tell him their stories. It’s worth remembering, also, that he is no stranger to adversity in his own right: as a teenager he was forced to run for his life, on foot across the Himalayas when his country was invaded. He has gone on to live his entire adult life in exile, witnessing from afar the atrocities that have occurred there to his fellow Tibetans. Yet if you were to rifle through thousands of pictures of him online, you would struggle to find one with the slightest trace of bitterness or negativity in his demeanor. The same goes for his words, even when he is talking about the “tough stuff.” Google his recent words on the topic of Trump, and you’ll see how clear, honest yet lacking in acrimony he is as he expresses his opinion, even on flammable topics. How does he do it?
Some might think his secret is that he is somehow gliding through life’s journey an inch above the ground, magically blessed by the Buddhas and somehow untouched by or oblivious to the burdens that we regular humans face. But no. The whole point of Buddhism is that it is deeply pragmatic and through integrating the practices into our lives, these methods and meditative tools, from mindfulness to compassion training, can be a powerful practical resource to us, day by day. The qualities His Holiness embodies may indeed be vast and deeply aligned with how things are ultimately, yet there is nothing “woo- woo” about them. They are qualities that are consummately ready to interface with the nitty gritty of life’s inevitable challenges, big or small. And it is especially comforting to acknowledge, at times like these, beset as they are with so much discord and fear around everything from climate change and the refugee crisis through to political scandals, that yes, we too can become more like His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The qualities he embodies, those sunny, loving, spacious, wise traits, are the fruits of his committed practice, over time. They are all trainable The Dalai Lama’ secret is no secret at all. It widely shared and highly available in the texts and teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.
Venerable Amy Miller is coming here to Vajrapani Instistute later this month to lead a retreat all about how to embody more of that “Chenrezig energy”: that vast Enlightened compassion energy that His Holiness the Dalai Lama embodies with such down-to-earth humility and grace. Venerable Amy introduction to compassion has also been fuelled by exposure to much suffering, she worked as a counsellor to the dying during the AIDS crisis in the Eighties in San Francisco. Like His Holiness’, Venerable Amy’s Buddhism also has a deeply down-to-earth flavor. It has been seasoned and grounded by exposure to people in real pain, as well as through the gritty realities of navigating the high-powered world of politics. Before she became a nun, she was a political fundraiser in Washington DC and wrote articles for Mother Jones, a publication that focuses on politics, the environment, human rights and culture. She left all this behind when she encountered the Buddhist teachings and in 1990, decided to “take robes, ” and dedicate her life to exploring the teachings in depth as a Buddhist nun.
Thirty years into her ordination, no doubt Venerable Amy might tell those that ask, that the journey toward becoming more like Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion, is, for most of us, a long one. But as the old saying goes, each journey simply starts with a single step. If His Holiness knows how to embody the energy and activities of Chenrezig, the Compassion Buddha, it’s because he has meditated on these qualities and he is committed to the practice. And this is good news for all of us: if we apply ourselves to the practices, and remember to employ the powerful mind training methods that Tibetan Buddhism offer us consistently in daily life, we too really can and will become more like His Holiness. And now, more than ever before, for the sake of our own personal wellbeing as well as for the greater good of our ailing planet, more and more of us need to be making that step. Now. Right now. Come join us!