So finally I come to writing about seeing the Dalai Lama in Perth and the whole experience seems to have retreated to some peaceful space in my head that enables me to access feelings and intuition rather than facts and memory! On top of that, I have a glorious case of gastro and have been in bed for a day and a half and my brain is still residing somewhere near my umbilicus right now. I’ll give it a go nevertheless!
The first thing that struck me about the Dalia Lama was how small he looked surrounded by 17,000 people. There was no fanfare, no bright lights or elaborate set, just a small, humble man in red robes and a hat to shield his eyes from the glare of the lights overhead, with a gracious smile and serene demeanour. He began by saying, “I’ve nothing to offer you, nothing. We are the same; I am just a normal person”. He was to talk about ethics for the new millennium and he began by saying that, “It is our actions that bring joy, peace and happiness and which give us our ethics”. So simple and yet so easily forgotten by the academics who convolute matters, and by all of us who so often look beyond ourselves for answers, solutions, validation, peace, action, and solace.
He went on to say that the deepest experience of love and compassion begins at the breast of the mother and because of that everyone has the potential for compassion deep inside them. Even deep inside a cruel person is the seed of compassion; it’s other human experiences that subdues their innate compassion. And so, “ethics and compassion are not from religious teachings, but from basic biology… Cultivating compassion and affection for oneself brings peace [of mind]. Then others’ behaviours can then not undermine your own self-confidence and inner strength”.
The Dali Lama has the most infectious giggle I think I’ve ever heard. He had some language difficulties which resulted in some amusing translations from his friend sitting next to him. Predominantly they just agreed with each others interpretations and the Dalai Lama giggled as some of the comments went on a circular journey between them and he ended up saying exactly the same words he had to begin with, just with more conviction that they were right the second time around! He made a point of using Western examples and barely mentioned religion. He said: “Scientific findings from neurologists are investigating our emotions and are now confirming that kind-heartedness and a calm mind with compassion brings a positive effect on our brain and system (giggles here and infects 17,000 people who do the same) … Doctors now realise that a compassionate mind strengthens our immune system and anger and hatred eat into our immune system… I don’t think that millionaires can buy compassion and happiness from the supermarket (more giggles)“.
He went on to speak about where our attention lies and what impact that has on our state of mind and our spiritual growth. “From birth we are running to death (chuckles) that’s life… It’s how we see illness that makes all the difference. Even the unfortunate can be transformed so there is benefit from it… Our joy ultimately depends on our warm-heartedness. This comes through our ability to analyse ourselves, not through any modern injection. (He points to his head and taps on it, grinning) This is a small space and quite mysterious, but ultimately powerful. It is our thoughts and emotions that are so important for happiness. It’s worthwhile to investigate them, especially compassion, which brings us spiritual reconciliation and peace of mind and allows us to judge long term consequences. This emotion (compassion) carries our wisdom.”
The Dalia Lama went on to say that our attention is usually 90% focused on the outside, but we need to bring it inwards to understand ourselves and find joy. He commented that mental experience/awareness can subdue our physical experience (including our experience of pain), so then our mental experience is more important than our physical or material existence. Therefore it is our innate, inner world; our compassion and warm-heartedness that is the most important level. “The sensory level relies on material values. Mental comfort comes through inner investigation.”
“Whether you believe in God or not doesn’t matter, ultimately YOU are you own Master, so be good!”
At the end he wisely said; “So, that’s all” and gave one of his deliciously infectious giggles and 17,000 of us giggled back, drew in a deep breath, drank up some of the residual compassion that this tiny man had draped across us like a warm blanket and contemplatively made our way outside the auditorium.