It seemed like a chance of a lifetime. To see and hear the Dalai
Lama in Portland. I had been an admirer of his for a long time because
of his courage. In spite of all the grief and trauma that he and
his fellow exiled TibetanS have experienced since 1959, the Dalai
Lama remains an example of loving compassion.
On Mothers Day, May 13, he arrived in Portland and I was
excited with anticipation of attending a 2-day workshop with him
along with 4000 other people on Monday. The morning arrived and
I overslept! I can count on one hand how many times that
has happened in the last 20 years! I rushed to get ready since we
had to arrive before 7 am to go through the security check and be
ready for the Dalai Lamas lessons. Running from my car to
the waiting line, I felt the wind and rain against my face. Of course
I had not brought an umbrella but fortunately the people in line
ahead of us had an extra umbrella and believed in sharing.
I loved being in the Dalai Lamas presence, watching him interact
with people, smiling, and experiencing his humor. The first day
he explained the 4 Noble Truths. What I walked away with that day
was: Our personal focus should be cultivating a good heart. The
first truth of suffering has to do with cause and effect (or karma).
Life is a chain of events, one leading to the next, all connected.
We live in an extremely diverse world with many views of reality.
With the correct insights, we can diminish the force of ignorance
and reduce suffering. The antidote for suffering includes seeing
the nature of reality and being grounded in experience.
I found more pertinent information from the Dalai Lama the second
day. Much of it was a reminder, but still I felt I was hearing it
on a deeper level. It takes courage, the Dalai Lama told us to practice
morality. Cultivate compassion, he suggested, which is a state of
mind that focuses on the suffering of sentient beings and aspires
that they be free of suffering. It is necessary to take care of
yourself and have compassion for yourself but there is also a balance.
If you work altruistically you are serving others and bringing freedom
There is a Buddhist practice called Tonglen, which is done as a
meditation: As you breathe in, take in someones suffering
and breathe out compassion for them. The primary reward for this
practice is that it develops your compassion and may even be beneficial
to the person you are focused on.
Some people think the Dalai Lama has special curative powers and
come to him for healing. "But I dont have any, in fact
if there is a doctor in the house, I have a rash that needs attending,"
he said with glee.
In a lighter moment, the Dalai Lama talked about the awareness
of seeing yourself as a spiritual practitioner and how important
you are. For instance, someone who is called the Dalai Lama
and sits on a throne has to be careful not to think of himself as
more than a humble monk."We are all one human family."
No race, country, or religion is any more special than another.
There is reason to hope, he assured us. More people than ever want
peace. War is an outdated concept. More of us realize that we are
interdependent nations in the world and that we need to take care
of each other. He was astounded that in Washington DC, our nations
beautiful capital, that there are many homeless and poor people
who are not being taken care of.
He commented that we have such material wealth here but people
are not happy. We need more contentment and less consumption. The
gap between the rich and poor is widening. There is too much greed
and it leads to harming our planet. Its time to re-think our
attitudes and find more ways to be supportive of one another.
Near the end of his talk, he took a couple of questions, one of
which was: What does the Dalai Lama do for fun? Hes almost
66 years old and his schedule in Portland for 4 days, included the
public welcoming and peace walk, a 2-day workshop, the Tuesday night
event, a youth peace conference, a luncheon, and a breakfast. "Fun?"
he laughed, "well, I guess I sleep for fun." Yes, I can
relate to that. I have felt for some time that you know you are
getting old when you look forward to going to bed at night.
This week with the Dalai Lama was like a fast-moving stream as
lifes boulders, rapids, eddies, blessings, and sadness swirled
by - one moment, ecstatic, the next, tears. Life at its fullest.
Carol Merrick is a local activist and spiritual seeker who helps
to organize the EarthSave Chapter in Portland area, and facilitates