Sunday, November 4, 2012

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

I minored in Religious Studies and have always been interested in studying the world's religions. I don't exactly remember when I first learned about the Dalai Lama, but for some reason, I have always been drawn toward him. The Dalai Lama is both the head of state and spiritual leader of Tibet. The Dalai Lama is believed to be the reincarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion - the patron saint of Tibet and an enlightened being who has chosen to be born again and again to serve humanity. In Christian terms, it's kind of like one of Jesus' twelve disciples being reborn. In 1989, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of the Tibetan people and he has written over 72 books. Still don't quite understand how awesome he is? He's right up there with Ghandi or Martin Luther King Jr.

While all of that is remarkable and praiseworthy, the Dalai Lama is most appealing to me because of his genuine compassion and love for all of humanity. He is one of the happiest people on the face of the earth. When we moved to Japan, I decided that I should check and see if the Dalai Lama was coming here at any point. I don't know why it never occurred to me while we were living in the States.... but I was incredibly happy to find out that the Dalai Lama would be coming to Japan, and only a short train ride from us! I splurged on some good tickets, passed the word around us and got a nice group of ladies together to go with me. We left this morning, bright and early, and I was ecstatic, to say the least.

Look at all those seats! It was packed by the time things started.

The teachings to be covered in the lecture. 

The first half of the day was a lecture from the Dalai Lama on some Buddhist teachings. The Dalai Lama would be speaking in Tibetan, with translations in Japanese, Korean, Chinese and English. We got excited when he began the teaching by asking who in the audience spoke English and asked his aids about whether or not it would be better to speak in English instead of Tibetan. Apparently, the Korean translator could only speak Tibetan and Korean, so the Koreans would be out of luck if the lecture was in English. Big disappointment for us. It became very clear that the English translation was going to be less than optimal. The translator was hard to understand and our translations seemed to be very short compared to the Japanese translator who was speaking over the main speaker. It became obvious that we were missing out on a lot. Plus, the goings were slooooow. The Dalai Lama would speak in Tibetan and then he would pause while it was translated into Japanese, Chinese, English and Korean simultaneously. I won't lie - I wanted to fall asleep. We could only hope that after lunch, he would decide to do the public talk in English.

Our ticket price included a lunch. And unlike any other group/public event I'd been to in the US, you didn't have a choice in what you got. You took a bag and said thank you. In the bag, we found some food and green-tea drink. The food was DELICIOUS. I came to find out that the brown things were tofu with rice on the inside (my favorite of the two things on the plate) and the sushi rolls had rice and cooked vegetables in a soy sauce. Mmmmm. Yummy and filling. 

After lunch came some Heart Sutra recitations and Buddhist chanting. It was awesome! Definitely something you don't see everyday in the US. 

One of the monks I took a picture with ended up being the Dalai Lama's personal aide! Super cool!!

As if it were good karma from sitting through the first half of the day, the Dalai Lama began the second half by saying that his aides thought it might be better for him to give his public talk in English. I almost jumped out of my seat with joy! It was like a breath of fresh air to hear him and to be able to understand everything he was saying. He talked about how to nurture a compassionate heart and after an hour or so, he took questions from the audience. Luckily for us, most of the questions from were from Americans, Australians and Europeans (speaking in English)!

It was an honor to be in the same room with such a historic, compassionate, world-renowned advocate for peace. Seeing him in person was something I have always wanted to do, but never thought would actually happen. It was just amazing. I'm so thankful to have had the opportunity and to have had a husband willing to go along too and share the experience with me.

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