Today I was one of a few thousand who was fortunate enough to hear the Dalai Lama speak. He visited the University of Washington to receive an honorary doctorate degree and graced the audience, mostly composed of students and faculty, with advise and wisdom.
Applaud started right as the marshal welcomed His Holiness into the arena. Everyone was clapping and happy. Then suddenly when he finished climbing the stairs onto the stage, the applaud escalated to a level that I’ve only heard at sports arenas. Students were hooting and yelling, clapping and whistling. It was almost as though the room had been filled by hundreds of thousands of new people, when really only His Holiness and a few apprentices had entered.
My first impression of the Dalai Lama was that of a humble and grateful man. He bowed and smiled as he entered the room and insisted that people sit down, for he was of no importance. He walked slowly with his hands together in the prayer position, smiling all the while. President Emmert and other high educators said a few short words and eventually gave the Dalai Lama a purple graduation gown and a large plaque. Everyone was applauding, but really they were waiting for him to speak.
He began by speaking his native tongue to ensure that his gratitude was accurately communicated. His translator said how grateful he was to be given this degree and to be given the opportunity to speak in front of a crowd of students. After his thanks he told a few jokes about his poor English and his degree for which he didn’t study at all for. He spoke slowly and carefully, and his English was broken but understandable.
He started by explaining that peace does not depend on the sky but instead on ourselves. Violence, hatred, and war are human inventions, and only compassion and wisdom can be the basis for peace. One must be truly at peace with oneself before sharing peace with others, and to be at peace with oneself, you have to be able to use your mind to expel violent and angry thoughts, which come naturally to anyone included His Holiness. Conflict is also natural and unavoidable, and his hope was that dialog would be used to unite conflicting opinions instead of war being used to destroy them.
The talk was absolutely wonderful and enlightening, and though I could put more detail into my story I chose not to. Instead of supplying more detail I want to share one of the stories he told, which touched me the most of anything he said. He was telling a story about enemies and people who do not have compassion or internal peace. One of the students who was elected to ask him a question asked him, “How do you share your compassion with your enemies and with those who do not have compassion?” He answered, and I paraphrase, “I do not know (chuckling). When in the presence of such people I try to smile, tell jokes, and be as happy as possible.” I can’t help but smile and feel totally happy when I envision his kind, loving, welcoming face say these words.
There is more that I’d like to say, but I don’t think my small blog post would do his message any justice at all. I instead plan to try and be good to my neighbors and respect those around me as est I can. I will try to not let anger, greed, or jealousy affect me, and I will try to smile as much as I can. I’m very grateful I was given this opportunity to be in his presence, and I hope that you too will be given an opportunity to see the Dalai Lama speak.