I took the opportunity to see the Dalai Lama speak yesterday in the Kohl Center in Madison, WI. I know very little about Buddhism and my knowledge of Tibet mainly comes from movies, so I found His Holiness to be absolutely amazing. He’s funny, he’s humble, he’s pragmatic. He is so unlike any other world religious leaders… every day we see Christianity taking a stand against science, making Christians choose between science and religion. The Dalai Lama explicitly addressed the modern sciences, in that his religion and the findings of scientists are often in agreement, supporting each other. Wow. How refreshing to see someone saying it’s okay to question, okay to be inquisitive, that the faith can lie elsewhere, with other things in our lives.
He’s funny. He spoke of how some people think he can heal them, and he can’t. In fact, he pointed out that if anybody needs healing it’s him — he’s got some skin problem that is quite itchy. Ointment for that would be the real blessing, he said.
His main message was about compassion, and how compassion is a completely human trait, not found in nature. It’s a result of our need for other people, it is a learned behaviour, and that it is to be cherished, cultivated, and preserved, because it’s the root of all of our happiness.
Lastly, he addressed the issue of a free Tibet. It was interesting hearing him say that it isn’t necessarily in their interest to be independent of China, but what they really want is meaningful autonomy. Right now the agreement with China makes them an autonomous region, but nobody who makes decisions for Tibet has a stake in their culture or way of life. They want to see their way of life protected by participating in decisionmaking for their region, while at the same time getting the benefit of the modernization and infrastructure China has to offer.
Very cool. I was quite impressed. In fact, I haven’t been able to stop talking about his talk…