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Notes from going to see the Dalai Lama

So we got to go see the Dalai Lama speak this morning; that was cool. He's giving two talks today and the one we went to was "Eight Verses on Training the Mind;" he asked at the beginning how many people in the audience were Tibetan (about a fifth) and then how many were Buddhists (about a quarter) and sort of tailored the talk from there. He went back and forth between English and Tibetan (?), and most of the time when he was speaking English it was a sort of set talk, and when he went into Tibetan and the translator had to talk it was clearly more off the cuff--eg. in the beginning the Mayor of Boulder presented some presents, including a bicycle helmet (which he cheerfully wore for like twenty minutes) and then began his talk by mentioning how he doesn't ride bikes anymore but he did when he was younger, and the wonderful thing about helmets is that they mean you are going on a journey and you seek protection.

To be honest my favorite part was just watching him with people. For instance, at the beginning there was a troupe of Tibetan children in traditional garb to do a welcoming dance and song, and he made a point of smiling and waving and interacting with them. There was also a bit where I guess VIPs and such stepped forward to present and receive scarves (they didn't describe the ceremony so I'm not sure what it was, it was just clearly a ceremony and probably religious) and he always measured his interactions with people, eg. there were several Tibetans who were near tears and very emotional and he touched them very gently and spoke to them, and then with others, mostly westerners, he gave hearty back-slaps; a few times he touched people's hair with interest (the two, three times this happened it was with Asians, maybe Tibetans?) and kind of stroked the tops of their heads, and I...dunno what that was about, maybe it was a way of showing affection, comfort? Not sure. But he was very whimsical too; in addition to the helmet-wearing, at one point toward the middle he said "Okay, all the non-Buddhists can go to sleep now" and started talking more seriously about the teachings.

But I was also struck by the mix of religious, political, and popular there. Rep. Jared Polis was there and did a brief welcome, and then said he had to heed the call to action and was going back to DC to participate in the sit-in (and he got a long ovation for that). But we were also at the sports center, so the talk was in the basketball stadium, and the concessions stands were open and selling popcorn, nachos, pretzels, and sno-cones. Basically I was struck that one could listen to the living embodiment of one of the world's major faiths and eat nachos, THIS ENTERTAINS AND FASCINATES ME, and people did.

Finally: Another thing I thought was interesting was at the beginning the other speakers--esp Polis, but also the head of the Tibetan Association of Colorado (or something like that) brought up how the Dalai Lama can't ~say~ anything about China-Tibet relations, so they had to. Which is sort of an interesting thing of itself--being able to be politically silent but not silent.

And in case anyone is interested, the talk was drawn from his previous writing on the subject of the Eight Verses, and you can find the original verses with his commentary here.


( 2 comments — Add your .02 )
Jun. 24th, 2016 07:12 am (UTC)
That sounds really lovely. Thank you for describing it so beautifully!
Jun. 25th, 2016 05:07 am (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it. TBH I feel like I didn't get as much out of it as I ~should~ have. Partially this was because I just couldn't always understand what was being said, between problematic acoustics and an Eastern accent I couldn't always parse properly. And I'll be honest, I've read some of the Buddhist teachings, and while I appreciate a lot of it, a lot of it also is, frankly, a justification for a brutal caste system (eg. the Parable of the Turtle and the Bird, or the Five Types of Wives), and just...nope. Nope nope nope.

And too, there's my own temperament and beliefs in social justice. For instance, one of the Eight Verses is about viewing someone who has treated you badly and is filled with negativity as a teacher, for they should be pitied. And...I get what it's saying, but in terms of the day to day, that's...just not feasible? Is an incredible luxury, in a way?

But there's lots of food for thought, and like I said, I just loved watching him with people. If nothing else, I think he is a rare example of a Good Human.
( 2 comments — Add your .02 )

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