“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it…”
This morning I watched the Dalai Lama arrive in a helicopter surrounded by hundreds of traditionally dressed villagers waiting to greet him. During our trek through Zanskar we had been told that the Dalai Lama was set to make an appearance in the region, and sure enough, just a few days after we arrived he began three days of teachings.
Here is everyone waiting. Many of these people came from kilometers away, some of which had to walk as there are no roads to their villages. As you can see from the photo, almost everyone was carrying a white scarf which was later given to his Holiness as a sign of respect.
My favorite traditional outfits were those of the Tibetan women who wore enormous headdresses with detailed beading and designs.
As everyone settled in around the small “stage” the Dalai Lama was presenting on, I realized that we had the best seats in the house. As they provided us with an English translation (through a speaker), the dozen or so of us foreigners had our own special section right next to the stage. In fact, we were so close that if you bowed or waved to the Dalai Lama, he would acknowledge you back!
Alongside us in front were rows of monks from different monasteries throughout the region.
Here are the guys who played the traditional music as everyone took their seats.
The Dalai Lama began his teachings by stating that everyone, not just Buddhists, needs to learn religious tolerance and love and compassion for all. He touched on the fact that science and religion must agree, and then proceeded to stress how important it is to be a “21st century Buddhist” (or follower of any religion). He explained that simply praying or following rituals is not the point, and that in order to truly live your life as instructed, you must actually understand the writings and live your life accordingly.
This trip, besides showing me a diversity of religions (Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, and Hindu) has shown me that everyone becomes what they are born into. Just as many people are Christians in the States because those around them are, most people here become whatever religion they are brought up to be. This unfortunately causes nearly all of the religious world to become “blind followers,” people who simply believe whatever it is they were brought up to believe without questioning or investigating the truth for themselves. Because of this I was very happy to hear the Dalai Lama stressing that you must actually understand and live your life in accordance with the writings instead of thinking that the occasional ritual or prayer is what makes you a Buddhist (or a follower of any religion). If religion is to bring about any good in our world it should not be a thing you are born into, but rather a thing you investigate for yourself and decide if it’s what you believe and how you want to live.
No religion could disagree with any of the messages the Dalai Lama brought up as they are the same things which Jesus, Mohammad, and Baha’ullah all taught. Being raised a Baha’i (LINK) these teachings all resonated loudly with what I had been brought up to believe, and though I still think that in this day and age organized religion is doing more harm than good, I can’t help but respect the Dalai Lama and his teachings as a way to a happy and fulfilling life.
Though I also had the chance to see his Holiness speak in Eugene before I left for this trip, it was interesting to see him in this small and intimate outdoor venue as he addressed his people. As he is no longer allowed inside Tibet, and as the people there have been cruelly wiped out by China, these Zanskari and Ladakhi Tibetan Buddhist are now his true people.