Happy Birthday To A Living Saint
A very happy birthday on July 6th to one of the most wonderful people on Earth! Few people would argue that point, regardless of their religion. A lot of non-Catholics agree that Mother Teresa was one of the greater human assets this planet has ever enjoyed. A lot of non-Buddhists say the same thing about the Dalai Lama.
Many people call the Dalai Lama “His Holiness.” I don’t. The reason I don’t is because the man himself is constantly saying that each of us is as inherently holy as any of us. He says we are all part of the bigger Whole to a much greater extent than we are the fragments of humanity we seem to be. It isn’t easy to keep this man off a pedestal but out of respect for his insistence that he is “a simple Buddhist monk,” I try.
A few short birthday tributes follow. The first is a true story about sitting on the beach with the elder of a very rural village in Thailand. I was thinking of the Dalai Lama while sitting with The Elder, and also while writing about it. The quote at the end leaves no doubt that the page is a tribute to both men. This one will be in the new book’s Tribute To Teachers section.
The second little bit is a few words lifted from a longer true story about a week-long teaching by the Dalai Lama that I attended in California decades ago. If you want to read more about that, it is in the book Fearless Puppy on American Road. In it, you’ll see the two sentences below. They warrant another mention here.
The Dalai Lama and other teachers on a similar wavelength are an essential part of my survival and happiness. How seriously the world at large takes this man’s ideas may prove just as important to its survival and happiness.
Thank you for reading, and thank you for clicking the backlinks.
Be well. Love, Tenzin
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Waves (and a Quote) / The Village Elder
I am sitting on a beach in rural Southeast Asia. Next to me is the old man considered wisest by the hundred or so residents of this little village. When he speaks, every ear in town listens. The Elder is a wonderful person, a Class A human being. He has become as much of a friend to me as possible. I can’t speak his language. He can’t speak mine—but he very patiently and gently works around the language barrier.
We watch the waves rise up from and then return to the ocean.
The Elder has lived his whole life in this tropical paradise. He has a bond with Nature itself. Like Nature itself, he is stable in the knowledge that nothing is stable. He knows that there is no consistent norm. The Elder knows that life is composed of a wide variety of changes and experiences that are as fleeting as Nature’s weather. Some of these changes and experiences are more fun than others.
The Elder knows that different people will react with wildly differing degrees of intensity to these changes and experiences. For most folks, these varying degrees of intensity bounce around inconsistently on either side of a near-mythical center point of complete emotional stability. Many will never get to that point of perfect emotional balance even once during their entire lives.
Our Village Elder is at home there.
The Elder has observed the coming and going of so many highs, lows, traumas, joys, elations, confusions, and heartbreaks that he is able to predict the emotional weather in most humans. He has earned enough respect to influence some of it.
I wonder how many waves he has seen.
We sit in near-silence, occasionally passing the few words back and forth that we know in each other’s language. Hand motions fill the conversational gaps.
Occasionally one of us laughs at nothing. Then the other laughs at the first one, so we both end up laughing at nothing. Nothing itself seems to like it best when we both laugh.
The Elder turns toward me and speaks in his own language. A hand motion and a selfless desire to communicate accompany his voice. It is not necessary to literally understand every word. The Elder’s empathy and compassion enable him to convey love and wisdom without language. He transmits a comfort that can smooth rough edges off of jagged situations. He does so with a universal ability that even animals and babies understand.
He owns a smile that has stopped more damage than The United Nations.
“Be aware of everything but worry about nothing. Waves come in, waves go out, life goes on. Do whatever is possible to help. If it doesn’t help, don’t do it. Enjoy your time here. Learn what you need to know.”
As he speaks, everything instantly feels better. Things will change. That is what things do. Change can be at least partially and perhaps totally under our own control.
Anyone sitting with The Elder would feel an electricity radiating from him, as I did. You can feel the intense power of this man’s serenity in a simple waving motion of his hand and see it in the sparkle of his eyes. There is a very obvious and incredible depth to the wisdom that this old man has developed during his extraordinary life. I feel very fortunate to be on this Earth at the same time and in the same place as this amazing person.
“The waves come in, the waves go out.
Underneath, ocean… calm.”
The Dalai Lama
and from the The City of Angels Lives Up To Its Name chapter in the book Fearless Puppy On American Road
The Dalai Lama was officially enthroned as the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan nation while still in his mid-teens. His countrymen and others consider him to be a reincarnation of the Deity of Compassion. There is evidence to support this notion.
He escaped likely murder by the occupying Chinese army in 1959 when he was twenty-four years old. The Chinese military killed nearly a million Tibetans and destroyed about six thousand holy sites, temples, and monastic universities.
Ever since then he has operated out of his nation-in-exile’s base station in northern India along with thousands of his countrymen, working tirelessly on behalf of his people still in Tibet as well as those with him in India and scattered throughout the world.
The Tibetan nation-in-exile now has offices in nearly every major country on the planet. The Dalai Lama has re-established, in various locations throughout the world, every major monastic university destroyed by the Chinese military. He has seen to the training of thousands of monks and nuns while simultaneously establishing agricultural, artistic, educational, and other programs that preserve the Tibetan population and culture in exile. The Dalai Lama is responsible for the education of thousands of children who have escaped or been born in exile from their homeland. He has established an additional Tibetan Children’s Village to educate the thousands of children still being smuggled out of Tibet.
The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his continuing focus on nonviolent means of improving the horrific circumstance of his people, and for a Gandhian quality of resistance to the abuses of the Chinese invasion.
Do you know of any other twenty-four year old kids who barely escaped savage aggressors and went on to successfully set up a national democratic government/ educational system/agricultural economy, preserve an entire culture, and win the Nobel Peace Prize—all without having a homeland or the support of any singular government in the world or the United Nations?
Neither do I.
It is senseless for me to attempt a description of this person or the presentation of his teachings. It’s just not possible. I will try to do it anyway in the next chapter. But first, here is a very short collection of quotes from his opening address at UCLA and the printed material made available that day.
The Dalai Lama and others that feel and speak on a similar wavelength are an essential part of my survival and happiness.
How seriously the world at large takes this man’s ideas may prove to be just as important to its survival and happiness.
The purpose of our life is happiness and joy. Basic human nature is gentleness. Genuine peace is not a mere absence of war.
Peace out of fear still leaves us unhappy.
Compassion is not just pity. It includes awareness and a feeling of responsibility. Realize that the other person is just like us—that they want and deserve to not suffer, and to have happiness the same as us.
Compassion develops inner strength, this develops self-confidence, this washes out fear. Negative attitude toward others, pessimism, and hatred...come from fear. With compassion a person becomes more positive and constructive. Without this inner quality a person becomes more negative and destructive.
A person without this good human quality becomes unreliable. They can say one thing and mean another. In politics they can become dirty politicians and cause great suffering. Good hearts create mental calmness—very important for good health.
Human beings don’t knowingly pursue suffering. Ignorance, impatience, and short-sightedness lead to it. Every human has a good heart at birth. We all start with it. That’s why the news is negative. We pay more attention to negative events because of the surprise and shock of it. It is contrary to human nature.
The antidote to hatred in the heart…is tolerance. Tolerance is an important virtue...it enables you to refrain from reacting angrily to the harm inflicted on you by others. You could call this practice “inner disarmament”...It makes you free from the compulsion to counterattack and protects you from being conquered by hatred itself.
Consider the following. We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others. Nor is it so remarkable that our greatest joy should come when we are motivated by concern for others.
But that is not all. We find that not only do altruistic actions bring about happiness, but they also lessen our experience of suffering. Here I am not suggesting that the individual whose actions are motivated by the wish to bring others’ happiness necessarily meets with less misfortune than the one who does not. Sickness, old age, and mishaps of one sort or another are the same for us all. But the sufferings which undermine our internal peace—anxiety, frustration, disappointment—are definitely less. In our concern for others, we worry less about ourselves. When we worry less about ourselves, the experience of our own suffering is less intense.
Western education tends to develop the brain while it neglects the heart, so you have a longing for teachings that develop and strengthen the good heart. Christianity also has wonderful teachings for this, but you don’t know them well enough, so you take interest in Buddhism! (Laughs) Perhaps our teachings seem less religious and more technical, like psychology, so they are easier for secular people to use.
When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways—either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.
Many thanks to our wonderful friends at Pema Boutique Hotel for their help and support. ***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author are also available through Amazon or the Fearless Puppy website, where there are sample chapters from those books. Entertaining TV/radio interviews with and newspaper articles about the author are also available there. There is no charge for anything but the complete books! All author profits from book sales will be donated to help sponsor an increase in the number of wisdom professionals on Earth, beginning with but certainly not limited to Buddhist monks and nuns.
***If you missed the Introduction to the new book that will be titled Temple Dog Soldier, or would like to see several chapters of it that are available for free online, go to the Puppy website Blog section. This is a book in progress. You will be reading it as it is being created! Just like you, I don’t know what the next chapter is going to be about until it is written. As the Intro will tell you, this is a totally true story—and probably the only book ever written by and about a corpse journeying completely around the world!