The samsara of headwinds and the awesomeness of the Dalai Lama

Pedaling along the Ottawa River bike path into an icy headwind did not dampen my enthusiasm to go and see the Dalai Lama at the Civic Centre last week.

The way I looked at it, perhaps the cranium freeze would silence the cacophony of thoughts that plague me and allow the message of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama pour straight into my brain matter.

This promotional video encapsulates the Dalai Lama’s vision for one human family united by compassion and understanding. Honestly, someone should sell an album of his laughter (Yeah, I know I’m late with this post. Bite me. Ahem. I mean, oh well):

I was to meet up with my friends Rebecca, Jeff and Michelle when I got there. I didn’t plan on having to wade through the 7,000 attendees. It wasn’t hard to identify them though. Jeff was wearing a two-foot-high Cat-in-the-Hat number, Michelle took a page out of Santa’s fashion book as far as headwear was concerned, and Beck was in some sort of fez. Ahhh, my friends. The Weirdos (well, some of them, anyway). No judgment.

Before the MC was announced, we were told about the Tibetan resettlement project, in which Canada has agreed to re-settle 1,000 Tibetans from their impoverished village in India, where families have lived in exile for generations. When he thanked Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, I was sitting there thinking, “Wow. I can’t believe I’m at this event and applauding Steven Harper’s conservative government.”

But really, why not take two or three or five thousand Tibetans? Watch this video tribute to the Tibetan people that was created by the Montreal band, Sunshine and Good People. After watching this, everyone is going to want Tibetans in their towns:

The big surprise was Richard Gere. From my seat, all I could see was a white guy with white hair.  Gere said something about cherry trees, made a joke about Canadian orderliness, cued the photographers and introduced the main event.

When the His Holiness put on his burgundy golf visor, I wanted to rush over and hug him, but I restrained myself. My sporadic, seven-year practice of two-minute meditation, 1-4 times a week has equipped me with iron self control.

The Dalai Lama said that he’s grateful to Canada for extending to him, a stateless Tibetan, honorary Canadian citizenship.

“Unlike you,” he said. “I don’t have to pay taxes, so when I come here, I can just enjoy myself.”

Less than a minute in and he had us in stitches.

My favourite part was the question and answer session. There must have been a call for questions before the event and the best ones were selected.

I didn’t take notes, so I’ll attempt to summarize a few of my favourites. The words below are entirely my own because I can’t recall verbatim quotes:

1. These events attract people who already believe your message. How do we attract the people who are not interested or not listening?

We have to respect other people’s thoughts and beliefs. Just wait it out. If people are not listening, perhaps they will pay attention when they find themselves in tough times when mindfulness and compassion become quite helpful.

2. How do I raise my infant son to be a kind, ethical person without following a specific religion?

Love your child. We are all born of mothers and have a mother’s love. This is what unites us as humans. But some of you are thinking that this 76-year-old monk should get married and have a child, so he knows what he’s talking about.

3. What would you tell people who have advocated for freedom for Tibet for years and are feeling discouraged?

On one hand, you have truth and compassion. On the other, you have hate and violence. Truth and compassion always win. As China becomes more open, a meaningful autonomy for Tibet becomes inevitable.

I snorted when the Dalai Lama mentioned that the years he lived under Chinese rule in Tibet gave him an opportunity to study hypocrisy. It was snarkless snark artfully delivered.

Afterwards, I perused stalls of Tibetan crafts. If one could buy her way to bodhicitta (awakened heart), I was well on my way. I hopped on my bike for the ride home and made the mildly-annoying discovery that the wind shifted 180 degrees. I pedaled back into the headwind, eased into a nice cadence and blew a flat tire.

For fuck sakes…um…I mean…OM

For more information about the Tibet Resettlement Project, check out Project Tibet Society. And the least you can do is like them on Facebook.

The Dalai Lama’s message that humanity can be united by the secular ethics of compassion and understanding is one I can really get behind. His point was “religion is nice, but it’s not universal,” but kindness can be. The promotional video encapsulates the Dalai Lama’s message beautifully. Honestly, someone should sell an album of his laughter. I’d buy it.

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