A hush fell over the entire room, all eyes glued to the center stage with its forest of potted plants and large white throne-chair, wondering what to expect, what was about to happen. People of all ages peered from every corner of the Bank United Center, tall men in suits guarded every entrance; The Dalai Lama himself was about to emerge.
I admit, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I first decided to hear His Holiness speak at the University of Miami about a month ago. I knew a little about Buddhism and spirituality, about his exile, and his enlightenment. I knew the opportunity to hear him speak was a gift. But, still, I didn’t know exactly how any of this would relate to me.
There I was, at the back of the arena, standing with the rest of the crowd, applauding a man I barely understood, wondering, “What can he say that’s different than what I’ve already heard before? Why should I listen to him?”
Generally, I tend to be skeptical when trusting ‘enlightened’ leaders, experts, celebrity figures. Great thinkers such as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson emphasized the danger in such a practice, encouraging us to think and to understand for ourselves; would the Dalai Lama be humble enough to earn my respect and trust?
Yes. Yes, he would be all that and more.
There he sat, cross-legged, front and center, in robes of crimson red. He was quiet, he was slow, intricately crafting each sentence. His speech was simple, his message, powerful.
“I am just one human being; you are one human being- mentally, emotionally, physically, we are the same,” he explained. He did not try to boast of superior wisdom or knowledge; he did not try to persuade or change. Instead, he sat there, a little grandfather in his cozy armchair, sharing stories with his many grand children, his warm smile magnified for all to see on the megatron.
And when he laughed! A low, knowing chuckle, a truly unique sound consumed the room. His laugh alone made him a friend. It was enough to put a smile on my face at least. Friend to friend, he shared his secrets.
The words the Dalai Lama spoke today were, admittedly, nothing new to me; too many leadership retreats and books about yoga and happiness and health taught me the powerful like between spirituality, peace, and happiness. Coming from him though, the words suddenly had new life.
“Attachment causes you to become biased, and you cannot be objective”
“Peace can only be achieved with inner peace.”
“Everyone has the right to live a happy life.”
The lessons he taught reminded me of values past, morals I had once believed in before I became distracted by superficial, material life. I needed to hear them again.
The Dalai Lama did many things today; he taught some, he showed others; he reminded me. And I realized how ignorant it was for me to question his trustworthiness earlier; yes, maybe I had heard his teachings before, but had I ever applied them? Here was a man, who not only spoke of true greatness, but lived it, an example for the world.
By the time I filed out of the BUC a few hours after arriving, I felt different. No, I won’t go as far as to say that I was “enlightened,” or even changed, but the words that I had heard from that wise old man struck me.
There is always something to be learned; we just need to believe, to trust the speaker, and to trust that we will listen ourselves.
Today, I listened. And, today, I learned:
“In order to trust, you must first open your heart.”- Dalai Lama