His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama stresses the importance of cultivating inner peace and staying positive and hopeful at an informal meeting
His chuckle is most endearing. Not far behind is the childlike innocence His Holiness the Dalai Lama retains in the twinkle of his eyes. He is not averse to going the extra mile just to see you crack a smile – even if it means pulling a funny face!
When he stepped in to meet us, Dalai Lama had just spent his morning greeting the many people who come to catch a glimpse of the God in exile, the supporter of Tibetans. They prostrate themselves before him, bow, touch his feet, kiss his hands; some cling to him and burst into tears. He calmly meets all, speaks words of hope and wisdom, smiles and chuckles, intent on sending back all smiling.
He walks in unaided to greet us as we wait at his residence in McLeod Ganj. His first words after the initial greetings are, “I am a great supporter of ahimsa and karuna — this is the tradition of India. I like to spread this message not through religion, but with the help of analysis and science. It all has to be logical.” After a pause, “You have to be peaceful. And peace comes through non-violence and compassion!”
Just as I start to ask a question, he continues, “Compassion is a very important virtue. We are all social animals. So we live together and take hope and courage from each other. Animals stop at that, but humans have to do more than that. Promote peace. Stay positive and hopeful. Protect the environment.”
A pause, but understanding he has more to say, I stay quiet. Dalai Lama continues, “I believe in the oneness of 7 billion people. We are all one. Problems arise when we start thinking ‘us’ and ‘them.’” Smiling he looks at us and waits now.
I ask him a question that has bothered me consistently.
“Your Holiness, should compassion and forgiveness extend to evil also?”
Dalai Lama says, “What is evil? There is no evil in a child. As they grow up, our attitudes make people evil or terrorists. Compassion and understanding can take care of all. You change your attitude towards people and they will also become different. Be compassionate towards enemies.”
He continues, “Like China and we Tibetans -– we have to ultimately all live together as brothers and sisters; why be enemies?” Pausing he allows a naughty twinkle to settle in his eyes and adds with a chuckle, “Fight occasionally!”
What is the significance of a positive attitude?
“Hope is everything. It is important to keep people positive and looking forward.” His Holiness, despite his description of himself as “a wise monk on a peaceful journey in search of self-enlightenment” occasionally allows his irrepressible humour and honesty to get the better of him. And so he takes his habitual dig at the US President Donald Trump, “Not like Trump. Every morning something bad!” Chuckle. He wags a finger at us.
Next I ask His Holiness if he has achieved inner peace? He responds with a faraway look, “Everyone who meets me goes back smiling. I always smile at everyone. I love teasing people. People don’t believe my age – look at my teeth, my lips, my face (he displays all). This is because of inner peace. I believe in Bodhicitta (altruism)– the goodness in all human beings. You must work on yourself. Change your attitude.
“I am not afraid of anyone because whether friend, foe or demon, I see a brother or a sister in everyone. If you are scared of anyone, put up my photo and they will run away!” Of course he chuckles here!
How are we different from the 80s and 90s? “The world has matured with suffering. Look at the European Union. If EU had not been formed, all these European countries would have been fighting with each other. But now they are one and there is no question of war. After the suffering in the two World Wars, they have learnt their lesson.
What is the purpose of life? “To achieve peace and happiness,” says the Dalai Lama without hesitation. But not just for yourself, spread peace amongst humanity and for your country too. That is all part of you. Conversations and debates help. Debate with others and with your own self to understand and analyse.
As we talked to the Dalai Lama, a fog had spread across the monastery, swirling through the corridors of the main temple. We take our leave and as we circumambulate the monastery and emerge, we see the fog has dissipated as mysteriously as it appeared.
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DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.