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.