Dalai Lama Lessons

I have wanted to see the Dalai Lama for many years now, and on this speaking tour to India, my wish came true. What could top our memorable trip to the Taj Mahal, but a session with His Holiness himself?

On the plane to northern India I sat next to an attorney from Singapore who had studied with the Dalai Lama before. She was a lovely woman who had been through a tough break-up, and was very interested in my advice on finding true love again. Who knew I had something to teach one of the Dalai Lama’s disciples?

The 14th Dalai Lama lives in a small town in northern India called Dharamshala, a village perched in the foothills of the mountains just east of the Himalayas. From the small airport of Gaggal, Dharamshala is15 km of windy roads with steep drops that made my heart jump many beats every time we turned a hairpin corner with oncoming traffic narrowly scraping by our taxicab. Paula and I quickly took some motion sickness medicine as the driver told us that Actor Richard Gere had paid to pave the roads leading to the Dalia Lama’s home, so one can only imagine how much worse the drive would have been if it wasn’t for the generosity of Richard Gere, a long-time Buddhist and activist in the cause of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

We continued to drive further up the mountain surrounded by Himalayan Oak and Pine trees with green valleys on the horizon where rice, wheat and tea were being grown. There were lots of streams and the air was cool compared to Delhi and Agra, but most notable was the peaceful environment that I had successfully manifested.

Even though it’s India, it feels like Tibet with monks and nuns everywhere you look, and people are speaking Tibetan just as often as Hindu.

Our four-star hotel was listed as a resort paradise with fantastic views of Kangra Valley, but some cockroaches welcomed us in to our room, so Paula did the unthinkable, which was not based upon Buddhist love and compassion and then we slept with the lights on to deter other creepy crawlers from joining us.

We woke up at 5:00 AM anxious to see the Dalai Lama, who was going to arrive at 8:00 AM, but we had to go through several security stations before we were allowed into the temple, leaving behind anything that had batteries. We surrendered our cameras, phones and I was even told that my travel drive was not permitted, so we gave them to the equivalent of a coat check shack Tibetan style in exchange for a plastic number for retrieval upon leaving the temple.

There were a disconcerting amount of soldiers with machine guns, so I guess the price of being the world’s most famous peace-loving Buddhist is that you need protection, but I found it disturbing that they not only had them at the gates to the temple, but were also inside.

It’s hard to believe that a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is among the most revered figures in the world can possibly have enemies who want to harm him.

Dharamshala is the center of the Tibetan exile world in India, following the Tibetan uprising in 1959 and Mcleod Ganj is where the Buddhist Temple is located opposite to the residence of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

Finally, we walked up several flights of stairs to the center of the compound canopied by a white tent that was adorned by many cute monkeys whose paws you could see in silhouette as they scurried across. There was a yellow lab on patrol for the monks (His Holiness has a dog!) who was going bananas (pun intended) with all these monkeys. He chased them whenever he could and by the wag of his tail you could tell he really wanted to play.

We had to take our shoes off and kneel on the hard floor waiting for His Holiness to arrive who was running late, but he is the rock star of spirituality so I was happy and excited about being enlightened, even though my legs were killing me.

Then he walked in with incense smoke billowing ahead of him and my pain was gone as I felt the presence of greatness and heard his infectious laughter.

The gold Buddha behind the Dalai Lama’s throne shone magnificently and as he made himself comfortable, monks served us some milky, buttery soup-tea from a copper kettle (which I rejected) followed by giant hockey-pucks of dense bread and we had breakfast with the Dalai Lama.

With this excitement out of the way, we stayed kneeling on the hard floor for four solid hours listening to His Holiness share some of his lessons of life and love.

When observing the Dalai Lama speak English, (rather well I might add), he exudes kindness with courage as he recalls his journey into exile. Without any fear or declaration of victimization, he shows only gratitude, humbleness and humor.

He says that he embraces all religions and still considers himself a student in many philosophical and theologian matters, but I was ready to learn from his wisdom so that I can share his lessons with you.

  1. To achieve the “Sense of Oneness” for a happy and peaceful state of mind, we need to help others to be harmonious.
  2. When we have the wish to help others, we will attain enlightenment.
  3. Our responsibility is to think about humanity as one big happy family.
  4. Without mindfulness, we are living an animalistic existence, so humanity needs to use higher states of intelligence.
  5. It is okay to indulge in life’s materialistic offerings, but not to chase them all the time.
  6. The important thing is to find the meaning beyond physical attachments; otherwise we are in a world of pain and will be afraid of death.
  7. Distractions must be replaced with non-materialistic mindfulness.
  8. The virtues we have created in this life will help us at death.
  9. There is no need for temples because our own mind and heart is the temple.
  10. The mind has no limit and love can be cultivated by overcoming negative emotions.
  11. The basis of peace and nonviolence is compassion and love.
  12. The basis of morality is kindness.
  13. If we do things based upon our ego, then our effect in the world will be negative.
  14. Suffering is caused by ignorance and confusion.
  15. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their own happiness or satisfaction.
  16. When we have inner peace, the external problems do not affect our deep sense of peace and tranquility.
  17. Without inner peace, we may still be unhappy even if we have materialistic wealth.
  18. With compassion we can free others from suffering.
  19. Through training and practice there is infinite wisdom to be learned.
  20. We need to expand our knowledge day by day.

I loved learning from the Dalai Lama and I do feel more enlightened, even though my legs fell asleep and my knees were bruised, it was a small price to pay for such wisdom.

We headed out and I asked a monk if we could take a photo with him, since we couldn’t take one with the Dalai Lama this was the next best thing, especially since he resembled His Holiness. Lama Sangye was his name and he has his very own monastery in Southern India where there is apparently another Tibetan microcosm. He invited us for lunch and led us toward the Tibet Kitchen, a little restaurant filled with monks enjoying their meals. We exchanged e-mails and he invited us to his visit him in December when the Dalai Lama will be teaching at his temple for two weeks.

Then we went shopping and bought so many gifts that we had to buy another suitcase.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here