Two years ago, I attended the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday celebration in Leh, India.
I was startled by the greatness of the crowd. Locals, Tibetans, and travelers rushed to the ceremony to see him. The speech was in Tibetan without any translation, but for most attendants, it was enough just to hear him speak.
His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, turns 82 today. He draws bigger crowds each year because of his remarkable nature—he has a vision for the world that is different from the norm.
For me, the Dalai Lama is an example of what it means to live well. Not only is he the spiritual leader of Tibet, he’s also the spiritual leader for many people worldwide. He has inspired and taught us how to be unconditionally happy, how to have an open heart, and how to find peace on the inside. His laughter is contagious and his perspective on living helps us take life a little less seriously and enjoy it while we can.
The Dalai Lama is simply the epitome of wisdom.
The lessons we can extract from his Holiness are abundant. However, in honor of his 82nd birthday, we need to understand what I believe is his most valuable teaching of all: developing compassion.
What I love about the Dalai Lama is that his actions embody his words. Despite China’s occupation of Tibet—the Dalai Lama’s homeland—his Holiness insists on seeking a peaceful solution with China through a realistic dialogue that respects both Tibet and China’s demands.
Some people might deem this approach as passive, but it is wise and holds compassion at its core. We live in a world that believes in fighting anger with more anger. Some believe in the power of rage and hate, and that through anger we can fight the bad and abolish injustice. The reality is that anger breeds more anger and hate only breeds more hate.
To truly combat injustice, we must understand the nature of our actions. We can’t seek justice through idleness; we must take action, but our actions should be motivated by wisdom and compassion. This is how real change takes place.
To develop compassion, the Dalai Lama advises people to start by changing themselves first. We must look inside before looking outside. His Holiness believes that this change can begin for our younger generation through schooling. He says, “Our existing modern education system is oriented toward materialist values. We need an education about inner values to lead a healthy life.”
The Dalai Lama teaches that compassion naturally resides within us—just look at babies and toddlers. As we grow up, we begin to lose it, which eventually leads to losing ourselves. If we put effort into recognizing that compassion is our innate nature, we can reawaken the kindness within us.
At 82, his Holiness believes that being kind toward each other is what leads to abundance and happiness. His goal is to see all sentient beings share that kindness with each other. It is only then that true peace can take place in the world.
At the end of the day, we all seek love—Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. Like the Dalai Lama, our main religion should be kindness. We shouldn’t think twice before offering a helping hand. We shouldn’t analyze whether a person deserves our love or not. We all deserve love, kindness, and good-will equally. Sharing these gifts is our essential purpose in life.
Happy birthday to the Dalai Lama. May all sentient beings understand what his Holiness knows: without compassion, there’s no value to our humanity.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: thierry ehrmann/Flickr
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Social Editor: Sara Kärpänen