The Dalai Lama is coming to Dallas this week.
For as long as I can remember I’ve wished for this visit. I’ve imagined this visit, dreamed and day-dreamed about it. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, universal sage of wisdom, model of compassion, a purveyor of lovingkindness, a Teacher comes to Dallas.
And what does this mean, to feel this way, as a cradle-Episcopalian from a long-line of Episcopalians, all rocked in the same wooden cradle? I already have a teacher, three to be exact, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But for me, curiosity led me to more: more points of view, more knowledge, access to something beyond the liturgy I memorized in the fragrant pews of my childhood.
As the director of an art museum presenting works from Asia: Japan to South Asia and a multitude of diverse belief systems, my work also led me to more. I have encountered Buddhism in the astonishing process of the construction of a sand mandala. I have encountered Hinduism watching a priest bathe a deity in Irving, Texas. I’ve marveled at the beauty of a Sikh profile, in turban, and I’ve chanted in unison at the Hare Krishna Temple in East Dallas. I’ve tried on these experiences—each with a new awe, an open curiosity and an intentional sense of wonder. And every Sunday, I return to Saint Matthew’s Cathedral Church to teach Sunday School, to recite psalms, and prayers in the pews, and to sing my grandmother’s favorite hymns, pitch-matching the choir.
I am a Christian. I believe in a Jesus who, like Buddha did 530 years earlier, walked this earth with one message: love. Love each other, love your enemies, love your neighbor as you love yourself. And today, a Dalai Lama walks, with the spirited step of a three year old. He walks in love. I think Jesus would have loved the Dalai Lama: for his fearless walk in truth and love, for his conviction to live each day compassionately for others. He gives of himself in the same way Christ teaches Christians to live. Love your neighbor. Be compassionate. Be peaceful. Maybe it's that simple.
Buddhism may be better described as a practice, a way of being to our practice and discipline-starved 21st century minds. The doctrine of praying, confessing, absolving, of “command”ments and all of the rigors of religion as we know it may be better entered through a gentler course of practice including a quieter space like meditation. For me, the teachings of Buddhism and the wisdom of the Dalai Lama offer a non-threatening curriculum of lovingkindess. This curriculum has inspired new ways of being in my life. These teachings have impacted how we are together at our office as colleagues. They have bolstered my work as a leader in the arts community and in my personal life as a mother and wife. I have encountered new practices of writing, walking, praying and studying nature all before 7 am. I am exploring my faith through the teachings of many faiths and with each journey I return home to my church, stronger in who I am and who I want to be in this very short moment here on earth.
The Dalai Lama comes to Dallas this week. I am preparing, pouring over his words, his videos and his teachings. I was humbled by his appearance at Glastonbury at a music festival with Patty Smith just this past weekend. The YouTube Video captures his first moments on stage, eyes bright and animated. He is joyful, every part of his being, like a small boy seeing a new world for the first time. He walks ahead of himself, as if he just can’t wait to enter the next moment in time. He reaches out for a hand to steady him, and a hand is ever present. And he knows it. He is humble in his needs and in his humanness. He walks over and greets every person on stage with the deepest respect. He laughs at jokes we won’t know. He stands in the center and bows deeply to the crowd. Here is this man, revered the world over, standing with total honor and respect for the audience. He is in as much awe of the thousands in the crowd as they are of him. He appears to create a personal experience, a personal connection with everyone there.
And finally, after brimming with joy at the rounds of “Happy Birthday to you”, he takes the familiar microphone, the spirited crowd falls silent, and in just three minutes, doles out a bounty of loving lessons for the human spirit. He is the embodiment of lovingkindess. All of this is captured and experienced in my moment in Youtube on the tiny screen of my iphone6. It’s a different world.
I believe I am a keen observer of the world—and I can say with faith there is so much love to be seen in the world. Everyday. You just have to look for it. I call them Little Alleluias. I find little alleluias in airports, on the steps of a church, in a museum gallery. The Dalai Lama believes this, too. He asks us to be observers of the world around us, to find ways to give love and compassion to the beings we know, and those we don’t know. And as I think about how, the more you look, the you see. Just as suggested by our teachers, the more the love we see and share, the more love there is in the world.
So, Love is my teacher.
And it will flow through me as I learn and as I teach others. I will seek the wisdom of my religious beliefs, I will pray to my God with more wholeness in my heart, and I will see the light brighter in others as they pursue their own journeys in the world. For me today begins an eight-day journey with the Dalai Lama: he arrives this afternoon in Texas and I will follow his eightieth birthday celebrations to Irvine, California where he will speak on compassion, the environment and lovingkindness. I will write my learning and my reflections, my views on love and religion and all that happens in between. Love is my teacher, my pen and the blank page, the sunrise at the glorious pivot of night to day as if to say, knowledge is coming: listen.