May 8, 2013

My Day with the Dalai Lama: elephant Meets His Holiness.

“I am just a simple Buddhist monk, no more, no less.” ~ His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

It was a moment I had dreamed of all my life, I reflected, as I was whisked through our first security gate and through to a side corridor leading onto the main floor of the Comcast Arena. Our group was small, less than 20 members of the press, in total—and representing news agencies from all around this world. To my right, I caught the flashing glimpse of a CNN media badge—and quickly passing to the left of me, another team from the Voice of America.

And as we hurried off to yet another security checkpoint, doubt slipped past without notice to ask,  “So, just what do you think you’re doing here?”

Exactly the thought I had rolling around in my head these past few days. To be one of the so few media selected to participate in such a historic event—I tear up, just thinking of it, and as I reflect on the path I’ve traveled over this last most challenging year.

As our group broke through the main central door leading into the arena, and just past our final security checkpoint—I finally had a chance to breathe deeply…to take in the fullness of “just this moment, now.”

To be standing here, I am grateful.

But, to be simply standing, I am overwhelmed.

I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes, as I stood looking outward and into this sea of faces staring back to me—15,000 ‘human brothers and sisters’ waiting patiently with the same sense of anticipation and wonderment currently flooding my own heart. In just a short while, His Holiness, the spiritual leader of Tibet and 14th Dalai Lama, would be joining us to share with us his own personal thoughts on compassion.

As the crowd grew still in hushed anticipation, I remember thinking, “I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a silence quite this loud.”

A moment following, we were escorted, just three of us this time, to a small side door—the one through which the Dalai Lama would eventually emerge.

“This is it,” I heard another cameraman call out. And as I waited, hands fumbling over my camera lens—that traitor, doubt, came back to bug me once more. How did I get here? Maybe, I don’t belong.

As my head lowered downward under the weight of ‘not feeling quite so good enough’—I felt the sharp elbow nudge of a new reporter friend, shouting, “Hey, wake up!”

And just like that, there he was— just right there, in front of me—looking back as if I were one of his oldest, and most cherished friends. His dark eyes twinkled with the most brilliant of smiles, as he clasped his hands forward and lowered his head to bow.

“Sit down,” he said, as we all stood reverently to honor this most amazing man. “No formality! We are [the] same…The way we are born, the way we die—no formality.”

I had once heard a most magnificent story of a man whose heart was so great that it could completely transform the spirits of all those around—and just by way of sharing in his very presence.

And now, that man was standing right there in front of me—smiling back to remind me that we are one.

He was here today to share hope for this, our generation.

“That group of individuals of the 20th century are ready to say bye-bye. You have the responsibility to create a new world based on the concept of one humanity.”

He spoke continuously for 45 minutes, never once breaking passion’s stride. There were no note cards during this lecture—as these words were coming directly from his heart.

He asked us to find the means, each day, to deepen our interconnectedness. To view this world through the eyes of compassion, forgiveness, and tolerance—to extend happiness and peace even in this, a most hostile world. He offered that tragedy should serve as humanity’s reminder that change…real change…requires a constant effort.

“We spend too much emphasis on differences between us,” he said, “that we forget the oneness of humanity. If we could think more about that oneness, [our] secondary differences will be easier to resolve.”

We are all very much the same. Even in all of these, our greatest ‘differences’—we all want peace and happiness…and that, my dears, is the thread connecting each one of our human spirits.

Whether Buddhist, Muslim, Christian…or even a non-believer…at the core of every human spirit, is a most basic human need to be fulfilled—to love and be loved in return.

“You have the opportunity and the responsibility to create a new world, a happier world…on the basis of the oneness of humanity.”

Indeed, it is our role to ensure that this most precious message of tolerance, understanding, and peace be preserved—and that each of us, in some small way, may become a change agent for humanity’s greater good.

We are all very much one. Even on those days when it is that we may feel just a bit like we don’t belong.

At least, that’s what a very wise man once said to me—as he stood there with the most beautiful smile in his eyes.

Namaste, my most beautiful friends–and thank you for the gift of your light. May we all move through our days with peace in our heart and compassion in each of our steps.

Bonus: Photo Gallery Images

Photos: Tara Lemieux

Bonus Video: Dalai Lama, “Peace Through Compassion: Connecting in a Multi-Faith World.”

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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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