By the grace of something, last Sunday I found myself headed down the interstate to Denver for a public talk given by Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This event occurred as an add-on to Peace Jam, which is "an international education program built around leading Nobel Peace Laureates who work personally
with youth to pass on the spirit, skills and wisdom they embody. The goal of PeaceJam is to inspire
a new generation of peacemakers who will transform their local communities, themselves and the world." This year’s tenth-anniversary event brought together a bunch of young people and a whole flock of Nobel Laureates.
On Sunday, about 15,000 other people, mostly adults, got a chance at inspiration, too. We piled into the Pepsi Center through intense security: wanding, purse inspection, no bags or cameras. Amazingly,the processing didn’t feel cumbersome and no one around us got stressed, although admittedly my friends and I were there early.
Then we heard music by Nawang Khechog, who was described as a flautist, which is like saying an Aran sweater knitted at 9 stitches to the inch is a sweatshirt.
We also were introduced to the work of the Mind and Life Institute, which sponsors projects connecting scientific research with Buddhism in an ongoing effort to understand the nature of reality and how the mind works. I am not Buddhist, but I find this all fascinating and think it represents valuable lines of inquiry about what we humans are doing here and how we can do a better job of caring for ourselves, each other, and the earth. (See "What’s In Your Mind," the cover article from National Geographic for March 2005, or this National Geographic news item.)
I’d been in the Pepsi Center once for Simon & Garfunkel‘s "Old Friends" reunion tour. It usually serves as a sports arena and it felt mammoth.
As soon as the Dalai Lama began to speak, the same place felt like a huge living room where a wise elder was gently talking about what he’s learned in life, in case it might be useful to those gathered around him.
The Dalai Lama’s understanding comes from encompassing complexity without either denying or getting bogged down in the details. The types of circumstances that have affected this individual would certainly push many people into a less serene and good-humored approach to life. He’s a remarkable
role model for anyone who wants to work at personal and community transformation, regardless of religious or spiritual orientation.
The Dalai Lama’s recurring theme: Life goes better for everyone if we live with compassion, or what he calls "warm-heartedness" toward all other living beings.
"Is it really that simple?" I thought.
And I keep coming back to the realization that it is.