You guys! The Dalai Lama came to Princeton a few weeks ago and I got to see him speak. I like to think of myself as a buddho-christian so this was an exciting opportunity for me–only 4ooo tickets were available for the event and his last speaking engagement was to over 100,000 people. Whoa. Luckily, my sister worked a little magic and…voila! We were in. I was beyond excited.
I have always been intrigued by Buddhism; something about this religion’s message always resonated in a deep part of me. I’ve dabbled in meditation + chanting, and I’m a big fan of Pema Chodron, but I was raised Catholic. And, well, sometimes I feel conflict about connecting with the ideas and a leader of a different religion, even as an adult. Almost like I’m cheating on my religion? Anyway, I’m getting over it; I just can’t ignore the peace + clarity that the Buddhist beliefs bring me.
And it was even more so after visiting India and Nepal seven years ago. It’s a long story, but I pretty much ended up on my death bed in the middle of a Nepalese village. It was a medically freak occurrence that brought me to a precarious state, but the kind people I encountered there saved my life. Their way of life makes so much sense to me–they believe in compassion, forgiveness and tolerance; they value human lives over things. I’m convinced their practice of these beliefs is how I made it back home in one piece.
So when I got home from that trip, I started digging around about Buddhism–I wanted to understand it better. And the more I dug, the more I liked it.
For example: the Dalai Lama believes that despite philosophical differences, all major world religions have the same potential to create good human beings. That really resonates with me because, isn’t that what it’s all about? Individual choice to believe our own way of becoming a better version of ourselves?
We all want to be ‘good human beings’. And the ability to practice religion is such a precious and necessary component of any culture–multiple and different religions offer a range of perspectives–that’s how we learn and grow. It’s how we become tolerant, how we learn acceptance.
So armed with this information I’ve gathered over the years, I understandably felt a little buzzed on the day of the Dalai Lama talk. I was going to see THE man.
The amazing energy of all of the kind, compassionate + devoted people that gathered for the day brought a peaceful, but intense feeling to the campus. There were groups from communities all over, showing support and respect for their holy leader. They sang and danced and dressed in their beautiful robes–I literally got choked up a few times watching them!
Even though we were in the upper level for the talk, it still felt like a small gathering–you could literally hear a pin drop. Everyone was in awe of him; I think it was because we all felt like we were in the presence of a living legend. Regardless of your religion, it’s hard to dispute the fact that the Dalai Lama has had a major impact on humanity + the world as a whole with his teachings.
Throughout the talk, he was happy + childlike, which was an amazing surprise; he giggled a lot and was playful. He got a Princeton baseball hat as a gift when he was introduced, and he popped it on + wore it for most of the talk. Such a cool dude.
There were even peaceful protestors outside before and after the event! They were able to share their truth, too. (SO important.)
So here are a few basic ideas I took away from his talk:
- Affection and kindness are the answer; no amount of money can create true happiness and inner peace.
- Compassion and kindness expand the human nervous system. Anger and hatred shrinks the brain in development. (I’m pretty sure he cited some studies of this)
- We need more education about inner values–how to develop them within ourselves–and create this secular education of whole heartedness in schools.
- Trust and fear cannot go together.
- The real meaning of forgiveness is reacting without anger.
- Read different views of topics that come up in your life and use critical thinking to come to your own conclusions. Don’t accept things at face value or how they are presented.
- Our life depends on hope and the belief that it exists; when you don’t have hope, there is no purpose and it’s easy to give up + believe in the bad.
- We are closest as a society when we feel we are all the same and are connected.
The levity of his talk stayed with me for days and made me feel really, really good. It was a confirmation that even though it’s not the religion I was born into, I can explore other ideologies when they ring true with me (and not be afraid). Trusting the path of growing and learning new things can be a wonderful, enlightening experience–peace + joy come in many forms. And I feel like challenging myself occasionally about what I believe + stand for, helps me grow.