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Published: September 16th 2010
So after missing the first opportunity to attend one of his teachings, I thought it would be best to not give up my second chance to listen to His Holiness’s wise words. I was under the illusion that I’d be insanely bored due to the fact that I know diddly squat about Buddhism, but I was sorely surprised. I really enjoyed it and learnt some of the basics of Buddhism in the process, as well as being able to take part in the taking the 36 bodhisattva vows which was an experience in itself.
One of the biggest things I noticed was that the Dalai Lama loves to crack jokes. They’re very sweet and simple jokes that manage to have hundreds of people in one room chuckling to themselves. Everything about his presence is uplifting.
The first half of the first day H.H. attempted to give the teaching in English, much to my enjoyment as it feels more authentic when you’re listening directly to his words, rather than a translators. As I said before, he spent most of this half day letting a few jokes slip here and there as well as some childhood stories. He also spoke about having tolerance for other religions and that you’re better off sticking to your own rather than converting to Buddhism. It rather seemed that he was just talking about anything that popped into his head and I relished in that access to his private thoughts and memories.
The rest of the teaching was more hardcore Buddhism; a little hard to follow, especially when cramped on the floor of the temple in an uncomfortable chupa (traditional Tibetan dress) but I tried my hardest and took a few key things from his words. The last day was the highlight of the teaching though. As I mentioned before, we all took the 37 Bodhisattva vows, which meant taking part in essentially a Buddhist ritual. That is, we all took a red ribbon and wrapped it across our forehead, ninja style, and held a dried flower in the tips of our fingers whilst having our hands in the lotus position, cupped in front of our face. We then privately took the vows, or any vows that we felt we wanted to take, as well as taking the red Buddhist string and wrapping it around our wrist. This was obviously accompanied by the odd chant and prayer. All together a beautiful atmosphere and something I’m so glad I didn’t miss, even if it didn’t have the same meaning to me as it did the monks and amas beside me.
The best was yet to come though. Just as Emily, Marieke and I were preparing to stretch our cramped legs out and get going, we heard an announcement on our radios saying that a few hours later there would be a question and answer session with H.H., only for tourists! I felt like I’d hit the jackpot. We got to hear answers to questions that are sat in the back of our minds, with the expectation that they’ll never be answered and we got a closer look at the Dalai Lama as the majority of the audience (the Tibetans) had left so we managed to sneak our way in much closer to H.H. He cracked many more jokes and was as direct as ever with his answers. For example, one person asked ‘if you weren’t the Dalai Lama, what would you like to be or do?’ and he replied ‘well… that’s a stupid question, because I’m the Dalai Lama, it’s impossible for me be anything else…. next.’ He also gave advice not to boycott China, spoke about seeking autonomy and so on. His smile will be engrained into my mind for an eternity. I hope it won’t be the last opportunity to see him. If my luck continues, maybe I’ll see his beautiful face in a mere few months.
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