A Buddhist lama recently invaded the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville where the University of Louisville teams win basketball games, a modern version of attaining nirvana. (Nirvana is a Buddhist term meaning, in part, ultimate realization, perfect peace and becoming one with the universe.) A friend asked, “Oh, you went to see the cool guy?” The Dalai Lama is the coolest guy in the world, cooler than Rick Pitino or any coach or politician who ever lived.
I saw the Dalai Lama on two previous occasions, once in Louisville and at the Assembly Hall at IU in Bloomington. When introduced there, his first statement: “I think the reason we’re on this earth is to be happy.” His fans stood and cheered like during the glory days of Bobby Knight. Essentially, that’s his whole message — peace and happiness. Basically, the Buddhist way of life teaches how to eliminate suffering through non-attachment to material things, but primarily through compassion for others, which puts humanity before Swiss banks.
In 1935 in a hut in the mountains of Tibet, a reincarnate was born. Lhampo Thondup was one of 16 children, with seven dying at a young age. He was born into a Tibetan Buddhist family. Buddhism is one of the first religions, established in the sixth century BCE. Dalai Lamas serve as their spiritual leader, and when the 13th Dalai Lama died, a team of monks went searching for his successor. They discovered the 2-year-old reincarnate in a remote village. Legend has it that when the lamas approached the young boy, he said, “Those are mine,” the beads they carried of the previous Dali Lama.
He became the 14th Dali Lama, based in the Potala, an ancient and magnificent palace on a mountainside overlooking Lhasa, Tibet. A few years ago, I went there to see it and other monasteries on remote mountainsides. Tibet is an incredibly beautiful place, and their people, who revere all life, don’t just talk about compassion, they live it.
Reincarnation is a mystery to me, but how could a 2-year-old from the humblest background become the wisest among the wise?
Communist China had different plans for Tibet and the Dalai Lama. In 1950 they invaded Tibet, destroying thousands of monasteries, looting and killing many peace-loving Tibetans. It was the crime of any century. In 1959, fearing possible assassination, the 25-year-old Dalai Lama and several of his followers secretly escaped over the Himalayas to India. He has been based in Dharamsala in northern India since then, writing, teaching and meeting with other religious figures to promote peace and compassion. He met and conferred with Thomas Merton, the renowned Christian monk from Gethsemani in Kentucky in 1968. They hit it off, but Merton tragically died a short time later.
The Dalai Lama sat there that day in the Yum! Center on the throne near where you usually see slam dunks, but he dunked it, too. Speaking pure goodness, he scored with one “good” word or phrase after another, which I jotted down. He began by referring to “mothers,” and explained they give unconditional “care,” which is the basis of all humanity. He spoke about “warm hearts,” “peace of mind,” and attaining “calm.” He mentioned “common sense” as it relates to wealth, and asked, “How big a house do you really need to make you happy?
He said “faith brings hope” and encouraged listeners to “keep your own faith.” He works tirelessly to bring all religions together for the common purpose of promoting better understanding and respect for all faiths. “Inner beauty” reveals “affection,” he said, and “self-creation,” like all creation, is ongoing. I recorded one bad word — “fear,” but that can be overcome by faith in God, who brings “calm,” that is good.
Obviously, the 14th Dalai Lama hopes to return to his homeland someday, but the Chinese People’s Republic will not permit it. “Forgive” them he says. Where have we heard that before?
The 14th exudes faith, hope and love. He’s charisma personified, with compassion his creed. He laughs at jokes on himself. In explaining the difference between the sensory and mental levels, he referred to his two nostrils, pointing to one saying this one “good,” and the other, “not so good.” His hearty laughs and hope for our world make you feel so good inside, which is the name of his game. Why don’t we give it a try?
— Contact Terry Cummins at TLCTLC@AOL.com