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There he was…the Dalai Lama. Over the last year, I’ve measured so many of my actions by what I think people like he, Mother Teresa, Peace Pilgrim, St. Francis, or Lao Tzu would do were they in my predicament or had my choices. After actually seeing him, I’ve come to see that despite doing your best…you can still screw it all up.

But, as I was saying, I had the opportunity to see the Dalai Lama in person. He spoke for about an hour and half in a basketball arena to a crowd of 11,000 people.

They sold concessions. Weird. It seems somehow disrespectful to eat popcorn and drink a diet coke while listening to a monk. I mean, he is the leader of a country…how would you feel if they sold snickers bars and beer to listen to the president address congress?

There were a number of “funny” bits to it all. Ironies really. They had metal detectors to thwart those who would seek to do harm to a man who preaches peace.

They bag size limits at the door, to see monks who own nothing. The crowd was, as you’d expect, mostly aging hippies. It’s Eugene. Most of the town is aging hippies.

Another irony was that the president of the universities introduction was just short of 5 minutes. His list of accomplishments were in the end, believe it or not, compared and contrasted to the Dalai Lama’s.

The beginning, middle, and end of his talk was the constant thought of the unity of humanity and that we share one world and are all interconnected. His answer to solving the world’s problems was dialogue.

After his prepared talk that seemed to be almost “off the cuff” he finally sat down to answer some questions. Most of the questions were long, intricate, and were a bit pompous. “I’m the head of this and that department, hold these degrees, move in these circles, and I’m gonna ask this question…”

The only question that was of some substance was one asked by proxy. A young woman who, while attending college works with prisoners in the state correctional facility, asked the shortest and most direct question. She could have asked her own question, but chose to love an inmate and present his question for him.

The pre-recorded questions were projected from the jumbo-tron. It was kind of funny that he shot down many of the questions by saying, “didn’t I just talk about that?” But when it came to the simple question of the prisoner his answer was different.

The young woman posed the question of the prisoner, “If you could say one thing to the next Dalai Lama, what would that be?”

His Holiness responded, in an exasperated tone, “I don’t know!” Then he laughed. The audience laughed too, and applauded.

However, the next words struck me. He continued, “If I may say so, I think that is a very foolish question”, and then laughed some more.

People laughed, applauded, etc., but I was shocked.

I’ve thought no small bit about this. I’m sure there is a cultural bias here. The word foolish in English is always negative.

I have spent no small amount of time though trying to figure out why he saw it as a ‘foolish question’.  I am not the only one who had a hard time with his short, curt, and perhaps hurtful answer. Below is what one person wrote:

“1. HH is, counting all his earthly incarnations, over 600 years old, plus however many millennia of rebirths prior to achieving his status as Bodhisattva. Asking him what he would say to his next incarnation is like asking a normal person what he would say to himself in about a month.


2. Because of political interference from China with the succession of lamas, HH has indicated that he might not choose to reincarnate again directly after his next death.


3. If you don’t buy all the reincarnation stuff, you still have to figure that each Dalai Lama learns a fair amount about the prior Dalai Lamas, without need for specific statements left in public forums.


4. As the Bodhisattva of compassion, he basically has about one thing he wants to say to anybody at all, including his future incarnations, and he just said it in the prior hour plus of talk.


5. If you have one chance to ask one question of a fully enlightened being, ask for something that will help with your own limited state, not for something that will help with another fully enlightened being.


6. The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near. Who can imagine what the circumstances of the next Dalai Lama (if any) will be? No-one, not even the Dalai Lama! He’s a Bodhisattva of compassion, but he’s not omniscient.”

It is the 6th answer that makes the most sense to me. What would the Lama before him have told him, “Hey, watch out for the Chinese?” “Be prepared to live in India?” “You will be speaking around the world so learn English, Spanish, French, and…?”

However, this whole thing gave me such peace. Really. Here is the Dalai Lama attempting to do the best. I truly believe he was trying his best to love and be compassionate to all and of course this young woman and the prisoner who asked the question. But…people felt unloved by his answer.

I felt released.

I try to do my best all the time…and I screw up. My words, like his, sometimes come out wrong. They did that very morning with my own mother. But, it really is about intention and about trying your best. Hopefully, a lifetime of loving will be enough to convince others of my integrity of intention.

In addition, I found comfort in another of his trials…one that I have felt as well. Yes, in hyper-liberal Eugene, there were demonstrators at this event. Any guesses as to whom might protest the Dalai Lama???

How come it is always the Christians. I asked one, “Do you think Jesus would be standing on the corner right now waving a sign and a bible?”

A Christian lady, waving a bible around and yelling at everyone leaving that we were going to hell for listening to false gods needs our compassion all the more. Her Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another,” and yet I don’t think anyone felt loved by her.

Furthermore, some ethnic Chinese, carrying signs and handing out quarter-page leaflets about why Chinese rule of Tibet is a good thing. Saying that the Dalai Lama incites rebellions.

What a relief to know. What a gift to my peace of mind. If you ever find yourself feeling down or depressed because people are being cruel to you or as in my experience, being told you are going to hell…even the Dalai Lama has people who don’t love and understand him too.

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