The Dalai Lama’s talk at SMU on Wednesday, July the first, 2015 opened with George W. Bush Presidential Center President Margaret Spellings welcoming His Holiness and presenting two seniors from the Tibet Club at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. The newly minted high school graduates offered handmade prayer flags in honor of his visit. These young women, ebullient in stature and expression, stood on the stage with the Dalai Lama waving the flags like little children—a gesture, amusingly, he started.
In the audience we could hear him chuckling and saying “thank you” several times. As directed, they politely exited the stage, but he in his warm way called them back, wanting to offer them the traditional prayer scarf. Giddy with the moment, they accepted this loving gift and literally danced away from a remarkable exchange. My thoughts swept to Eva Kutsheid, our beloved printmaker and teacher who lit a bright light of love for Tibet for all of us over fifteen years ago. Eva inspired a compassion movement for Booker T. Washington and for the Crow Collection of Asian Art and now for Dallas. She passed from this earthly plane just over one year ago, but this was very much a moment bursting with her love and presence: her light now takes on a different form. And it is beautiful. The lesson: remember.
We all settle in for the moment we are most present for: his teachings. The moderator of this talk is Cokie Roberts (formerly with ABC) and she bashfully admits she will do her best to “interview” His Holiness. She asks the Dalai Lama if he is going to do what some people do on their eightieth birthdays: jump out of an airplane and he chuckles a reply: “It’s quite silly”. Indeed. It’s clear interviewing His Holiness is a tall order. Rather than be “interviewed”, he walks over to a familiar place at the podium and begins teaching. I’ve now watched him in several documentaries and have surmised that he laughs to himself every time he stands up. Today is not different. The lesson: laugh.
He thanks first President Bush and describes a “heart to heart” friendship kindled at their first meeting. If there is a theme for this day with the Dalai Lama it is friendship. Then he tells us that he is talking to us on the level of just one human being, among 7 billion human beings, no differences: emotionally, mentally, physically: we are the same: same right to achieve a happy life. We have the equal right to this happiness. He illuminates our “special” brain as the source of infinite love, compassion and tolerance, but this brain also causes destructive emotions such as anger, hatred, fear and more complicated feelings. He believes that a lot of problems we are facing are our own creation: man-made products of our own intelligence.
He describes this day for us in the Moody Coliseum: peaceful, equal, using individual freedoms and liberty. But, this very moment in a different part of the world: suffering is happening, killing and human beings killing human beings. And he says, the worst thing: religions, various religious traditions carry the message of love and with that a message of tolerance, forgiveness and self-discipline. So, religious faith is really a source of love, forgiveness but sadly it is a perception of religious difference that is causing more division, hatred anger and unthinkable killing. These divisions are man-made problems. The lesson: this is on us.
He points to our material culture, one of an affluent society: as individuals we are coping with too much stress, worry, fear and distrust. He notes that material facility cannot provide inner-peace. He tells us we are lacking a deeper understanding of the value of compassion and love. Of the seven billion over one-billion are non-believers, but they also have the right to have a happy. We all need to pay more attention to our respective inner-value.
He calls on modern education to increase curriculum on inner-values and moral principles. We human beings as social animals, no matter how powerful one individual, without the rest of community one individual cannot survive. Emotionally we need a certain set of emotions that bring us together: love, affection and sense of community. We are social animals but deep inside we have a very self-centered attitude: just me, me me. But biologically we have an inherent sense of community. We can teach people a simple concept of how important the rest of the community is to our survival. He tells us that others are the basis of our future. “Take care more seriously about the well being of others. We need friends, friendship: friendship entirely based on trust, trust based on taking care of others well being. Then trust comes. Too much self-centered attitude will not bring friendship. We are social animals and part of humanity, we have to pay more attention to inner values. We must include more information and training in the education field.” The lesson: teach love, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness.
He then references his study of science, how constant anger and fear are eating our immune system. A greater concern for others’ well being brings inner strength, inner strength brings a calm mind, a calm mind is very important factor for a healthy body. He then teaches us that thinking about love, certainly useful, isn’t enough. Thinking about love is important, but implementing love, serving other people, helping other people: love translated into action is more effective for health. We need some sort of lesson about warm-heartedness as a value in the education field as a counterpoint to a generation steeped in material value. The lesson: love in action leads to improved well being.
He notes too much emphasis on the secondary level of our difference: color, religious faith, rich, poor—negate completely the oneness of the first level: the human level. If we do this—emphasize our oneness in humanity, the secondary level of difference won’t matter. We need constant effort through various professions to recognize at a global level for a peaceful, compassionate world. He calls on each of us as part of humanity to develop a sense of a responsibility to this lesson to carry it forward. “Each of you individually analyze, analyze, get more conviction, share with one friend, share with ten people and each of them will share with ten people and [on and on]…” He believes the changes on a global level will only come from the individual, the individual who listens and just tells one person. And he ends this stunning lesson with the simplest: Ok, what do you think? He challenges us to either take his lessons with us or actually take action with them. The Lesson: Commit, commit to compassion.
Our teacher chuckles to himself as he takes a seat, dons a “shade” hat in his usual University custom, and Cokie begins with a tough question on China’s new willingness to engage in a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. He claims they are shortsighted, too much emotion: Out of their weakness they are shy to admit their failure. Silly! Admit mistake! Then change!
What if we used these exact sentences when coaching ourselves in the mistakes we make and repeat?
Silly! Admit mistake! Then change!
Why are the toughest answers the most simple?
How seriously we take ourselves. The talk flowed into a few questions he answered humbly, but the real lessons in the longer and unexpected talk washed over me like love does and stayed with me for weeks. They are still with me. I traveled on to California to the Global Compassion Summit, experiencing five additional lectures by His Holiness and realized nothing was like this talk he gave. The length of his talk and his humble, honest intention of hope that we might carry a message were ours and ours only in Dallas. And now they are yours.
Please enjoy the full capture of this magical day at Southern Methodist University in this Youtube video: