Monday, April 14, 2008

Forget the sound of one hand clapping...

What is the sound that a girl makes when she can't find her friggin' Dalai Lama ticket??

I'll give you a hint: it's somewhere been a sob and the sound that a cat makes when he is in heat. It ain't pretty.

So, after digging through the trash, loudly bewailing my loss and my neighbors throwing a shoe at me to shut me up, I eventually found it at 2pm!

Of course, this left me exactly 45 mins. to drive to the U-District (15 mins.), park my car (5 mins.), and walk to Hec Ed Pavilion (usually between 30 & 35 mins. from 52nd and Brooklyn). Yes, that adds up to more than 45 mins. However, after sweating through my wool coat in 50 degree weather, I finally made it EXACTLY at 2:45. And I was just in time to watch the pro-China demonstration. Good times. As someone commented, it sounded like they were yelling very angry communist chants...who knows...

I entered the building and made my way with the masses of other students to our seats. What followed was two hours of insightful observations made by a man who has been the spiritual leader of his people for 58 years.

His discussion on compassion, how we practice it, and how we inspire it in others was beautiful. He is a very simple speaker and gets directly to the point. He also related several personal stories to emphasize his points. My favorite was one he told of a boy in Ireland.

Several years ago, he made a trip to Northern Ireland to meet with some of the victims of the violence there. He said that when he walked in the room there were almost no smiles and extreme tension prevailed. However, he noticed this one boy who did actually smile. The boy had been hit on the forehead, right between his eyes, with a rubber bullet during the fighting when he was thirteen and was blinded instantly. However, the now grown man told him, when he woke up in the hospital after the incident, he didn't feel anger or hatred at those who had harmed him, instead, his first thought was sadness that he would never again see his mother's face. So, unlike his fellow victims who clung to the pain and the anger, he released it, and was grateful, instead, for being alive. When the Dalai Lama returned to the same place two years later, he saw more smiles, and he saw that young man again, this time with a beautiful wife, and two beautiful children.

I thought this story was a lovely example of the beauty that can be in our life when we release, or at least subdue, the anger, hurt, frustration, and self-pity that can sometimes result from being beat down in our lives by those around us. When we accept it and move on, everything that we wanted can still be ours, we just have to recognize that it may come in a different form than we thought.

So, some words on compassion to contemplate. As was said during the reading of his honorary degree citation (he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Human Letters at UW), the Dalai Lama has taught us that humanity is one. Suffering is our common lot. Happiness is our common goal. Love is our most fundamental need. Compassion, therefore, and most importantly, is our universal duty. Compassion is not just recognizing the feelings of your fellow man, but is instead a rational and logical conclusion of what pain is in the world and making a concerted effort to better it.

On a lighter note, when asked by one of the students how he thought we should encourage other nations to become more involved on the war on AIDS, he responded "I believe that is a sexually transmitted disease, yes?" After receiving affirmation, he simply responded, "well, we just get them all to wear rubbers!"

I almost died laughing!

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