I don’t sleep well the evening before a train trip. Its owing to a fear of missing the train. I was up most of the night. If I don’t sleep I won’t miss the train. I think I got a 25 minute nap, and I didn’t miss the train. Miss it, I was over an hour early for the departure. I read commentaries on the Heart Sutra written by Thich Nhat Hahn during the ride down to Washington DC. Why read Thay on a trip to hear the Dalai Lama? The answer is a quite practical one. Thay’s books fit in the side pocket of my blazer.
The Washington DC metropolitan area has an amazing diversity of Buddhists. Before the His Holiness arrived, Lamas and Monks from the various traditions chanted. As the monks chanted a three year old (I guess three) scampered over to the stage and tried to join the monks. It was a very three year old thing to do, and I was silently rooting for the lad and hoping he’d make it up to be with the monks.
Then the moment we had all been waiting for had arrived. As if on cue, 4000 people silently rose to their feet as His Holiness entered the room and ascended the stage. The Dalai Lama often refers to himself as a simple Buddhist monk. It was a simple Buddhist monk who greeted a spellbound auditorium. He comes off as a man to understands and appreciates his responsibilities and at the same time embraces his simple humanity. It shows in the way he bowed and waved to the assembled crowd.
The talk was mostly about religious cooperation. He spoke of a secular society – not a society that rejected religion. His secularity is one of vast inclusion. It is a global society that far from rejecting religion, embraces religion and also embraces non-believers. We use the highest calling of all religions – to help humanity be better – and leave specific doctrine behind when we come together. In this way we embrace the very best in ever person’s offering. (this is my paraphrase and not the actual words of His Holiness) In a humorous moment he noted that some Christians and Muslims had implored him not to use the word secular. With his big Dalai Lama smile he said that he liked the word and in fact used it quite often.
He then taught on the Four Noble Truths. One of the things that struck me about his teaching was the importance of intention.
For me the morning was more than this or that teaching, this or that word, this or that advice. I think His Holiness embodies that which is best in being a human being. He teaches by example and inspires those who admire him to reach beyond.