What a busy past few days it has been! Thursday, I was up at 4am, flying to VA for a conference for Thursday and Friday. Then, Friday evening, I was flying back to Atlanta to arrive home around 11pm only to get up the next morning at 5:30am to go to an all-day conference for the Dalai Lama hosted by Emory University and The Mind and Life Institute (more on that in a bit). I had originally intended to be done for the day then, at 4pm. Except that I walked into the big tent the M&LI had set up as a Tibetan Bazaar. I managed to get out of there with only a beautiful tapestry of the 8 auspicious symbols and a ticket to last night’s Mystical arts of Tibet concert. Of course that meant I had enough time to go home, take a 25 min. nap, eat something, and head back out to the concert again. I am so glad that I went, though. I have never experienced anything like it before, and it was beyond amazing.
I confess to not knowing a great deal about the “Free Tibet movement” and the little I do know I have only learned recently. Because I imagine I am not alone in this fact and because I also think more people should know about what is going on in this section of the world, I’d like to provide you with some information. The Drepung Loseling Monastery was established in 1416 outside of Lhasa and was one of Tibet’s largest monastic educational institutes. At one time, over 10,000 monk students lived there who had come from not only Tibet, but also from China, Himalayan India, Mongolia, and the Mongol regions of eastern Russia. In 1959 when the Chinese communist government invaded Tibet, they destroyed almost every single one of the 6,500 monasteries in Tibet and either killed or imprisoned most of the monks. About 250 escaped into India where they were given refuge and a land donation by the Indian government. There, they created a new Drepung Loseling monastery to preserve and pass on the ancient traditions. Today their population stands at about 3,000. This article indicates that immediately after the Dalai Lama fled Tibet, nearly 90,000 Tibetans died and that to date, the Tibetan government estimates at least 1 million Tibetans have died under Chinese rule. The Chinese communist government continues to deny Tibet independence, and so, the Dalai Lama and Tibetan monks remain in India in exile.
Going to the conference yesterday was an awesome experience. When His Holiness came on stage, everyone stood, and he took turns bowing to each person on stage with his hands clasped in front of him. He also bowed to the audience in the same way. Numerous scientists were there to conduct mini-presentations of their research on depression, compassion training, meditation, etc. Most are probably world-renowned experts in their areas. And while the information they presented was indeed fascinating, it is not what I took away from the conference. I took with me HH the Dalai Lama’s hearty laugh and radiant smile. I took with me the vision of him sitting in a lotus position on his chair with his bare feet showing. I took with me the sight of him putting the burgundy visor on his head after having sat down. I took with me him laughing wholly at himself when he lost his train of thought and said “I don’t know!” I took with me the reverence the scientists held for him as each nervously presented their findings and tried to answer his questions. I took with me the idea of ‘what would it be like if we were to all treat each other as reverently as the Dalai Lama treats everyone who he meets and as those scientists treated him.’ I took away his emphasis on compassion and that he first learned compassion through his mother; that mothers are always the first teachers of compassion. I probably took away a great deal more that will continue to surface in my thoughts as the days pass on.
Last night’s performance of sacred music and sacred dance was astounding. I have never heard people make the sounds those student monks made or heard instruments like the ones they played. And everything they did was dances or songs or chants of healing and prayer. Sacred movement and sound. My favorites were the debate and the snow lion dance. The monks travel around the country performing. I found some pictures of a performance at Carnegie Mellon that are almost exactly like what I saw last night. By the time the performance finished, the audience was in love. We gave the performers a standing ovation which appeared to have really tickled them. Their faces beamed as they stood listening to our clapping and seeing us all on our feet. They emanated joy and compassion. I wanted to wrap them all up in a big hug. But since that wasn’t possible, I bought one of the tree-friendly journals and a small poster of a sand art mandala that blows my mind.
In reflecting on all of this, I think back to the key note speaker at the conference in VA who greeted everyone with direct and intentional eye contact and a warmth I had not seen or felt before. It was the same feeling as His Holiness the Dalai Lama imparted. The revering and celebrating of others’ being. The only way I can think to describe it is like having someone hug your heart. I notice that we don’t do that anywhere near as often as we should, and so I am going to change that by changing me. I am going to start by focusing more on loving myself unconditionally and by greeting three people a day in that way.