Saturday, September 23, 2006

HH Dalai Lama's Universal Message

As reported in the Orange County (California) Daily Register

By Anh Do (Asian Affairs columnist)

He stepped onstage, and my heart calmed.

I had been waiting, next to the ragamuffins, the designer-shoe set and the multi-earringed.

We are all anxious to hear the 14th Dalai Lama – a man many believe is the greatest in the line of Dalai Lamas through his humanitarian work and his campaign to save the Tibetan civilization.

Inside the cavernous theater at Universal Studios, his voice embraced us. Deep. Plain. Certain.

Public speaking, he told 6,000 of us, is "so useful," allowing "me an opportunity to think."

Some may come here out of curiosity. Some with great expectations, he noted.

"I have nothing to offer." (Laughter.)
"I'm not talking Buddhist philosophy. My experience is limited." (Lots of laughter.)

"Some believe that I have some extraordinary energy, miracles. That's even worse."

What he has, I found, is simplicity. And a wisdom shared between chuckles and the donning of a Calloway golf cap:

1. Attitude is our greatest obstacle. As a society we suffer from extreme self-centeredness, preventing us from reaching our potential.

2. Respect others' rights. As social animals, we need to live as a group together. We have the capacity to unite.

3. All religions, all traditions, promote love. Forgiveness. Contentment. The common message is to elevate human values.

Some of you, His Holiness said, "may respond that we already know these things. But – really – are we following it?"

I've thought about this since listening to him last week.

Who am I – a child schooled in the Catholic faith – immersing myself in Buddhist teachings?

I am neither especially devout nor an atheist. During my early years in Catholic schools in Vietnam, nuns whacked us with rulers when we could not do our math or recite proper French grammar. But my mother and father raised their children to be open to the beauty of all religions, the mystery of all faiths.

My father filled our home with books and music, making sure we had information on the Koran, Hinduism, Confucianism, Quakers and Jehovah's Witnesses.

My mother took us to temple, cooked kosher and navigated us through First Communion all the while garbing us in the right clothes to match secular holidays.

Both parents showed us that practicing is believing, yet that there's always more than one belief.
As an adult, I have visited mosques, monasteries and cathedrals all over the world.

So I understand the universal human connection when His Holiness says: "Every human being has some moral obligation, some responsibility to better the world . . . to save the world," and adds that Tibetans and Christians can "learn from each other's texts."

The audience around me gave the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Laureate who fled from his homeland after China's takeover in 1959, a rock-star reception.

I, too, stood up to clap at the gathering, hosted by Thubten Dhargye Ling, a dedicated community of Tibetan Buddhists based in Long Beach. Yet my mind was starting to drift, focused on his words.

"Peace" he said, "is not just a mere absence of violence. Peace is something fuller. Peace and compassion."

He nailed it. At its essence, this is what we seek in being spiritual.