HOUSTON— Among the guests at a Wednesday luncheon hosted by the Lourdes Foundation at the California Science Center in Los Angeles stood a 78-year-old man revered by many. During the luncheon, this man spoke about Desmond Tutu, faith, gay relationships, gender, morality, and even being chased by a dog.
He engaged in playful banter with Jim Carrey and also participated in a sing-along of “What the Worlds Needs Now is Love Sweet Love” with Larry King, Eric Benet, and David Foster.
This man believes that the No. 1 moral principle to teach children is to “use common sense, along with gentleness and compassion.”
Described by Sharon Stone as “a man for all seasons,” he is also a Nobel Peace Prize Winner.
In addition to these accolades, he has also earned numerous awards, medals, and honors (including honorary citizenship in several different countries) from places all over the world.
Who is this Man?
He is His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.
He is considered to be the spiritual leader of Tibet. At the age of two (when he was referred to as Lhamo Dhondup) he was recognized as the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.
When he was chosen, he reacted with great joy and happiness.
“I was very happy,” he said. “I liked it a lot. Even before I was recognized, I often told my mother that I was going to Lhasa. I used to straddle a window sill in our house pretending that I was riding a horse to Lhasa. I was a very small child as the time, but I remember this clearly. I had a strong desire to go there.”
Believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and the patron saint of Tibet, enlightened beings who have chosen to postpone their own nirvana by being reincarnated in order to serve humanity.
Also known as Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama doesn’t describes himself as anything more than “a simple Buddhist monk.”
“I feel that is the real me,” he said. “Being a monk is something which belongs to me. No one can change that. Deep down inside, I always consider myself a monk, even in my dreams.”
The line of Dalai Lamas before him began as one of spiritual teachers until the 5th Dalai Lama assumed political authority over Tibet. The current Dalai Lama retired from his political duties in March 2011.
The Three Commitments of the Dalai Lama
According to his website, the Dalai Lama has three main commitments: the promotion of human values, religious harmony and understanding, and the preservation of the Tibetan Buddhist culture of peace and non-violence.
1. “My first commitment is the promotion of human values such as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline. All human beings are the same. We all want happiness and do not want suffering. Even people who do not believe in religion recognize the importance of these human values in making their lives happier. I remain committed to talk about the importance of these human values and share them with everyone I meet.”
2. “My second commitment is the promotion of religious harmony and understanding amongst different religious traditions. Despite philosophical differences, all major world religions have the same potential to create better human beings. It is therefore important for all religious traditions to respect one another and recognize the value of each other’s respective traditions.”
3. “Thirdly, I am a Tibetan and carry the name of the Dalai Lama. Tibetans place their trust in me. Therefore, my third commitment is to the Tibetan issue. I have a responsibility to act the free spokesperson of the Tibetans in their struggle for justice.”
How to Help the Poor
As a major proponent of the fight against world poverty, the Dalai Lama has been questioned over and over about how to help the poor.
Specifically, he most recently answered Arthur Brooks regarding how to help impoverished people in a capitalist system.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Every day I engage in extensive analysis of the nature of self and phenomena. We are self-centered and selfish, but we need to be wisely selfish, not foolishly so. If we neglect others, we too lose. We have to support others.”
He went on to encourage education as a means to provide a better and bright future, stating that in order to progress we must live with generosity and conscientiousness.
Though his place in society keeps him in the public eye, he remains steady in regards to Tibetan issues such as poverty and violence.
“Even an enlightened being, with limitless knowledge and power and the wish to save all others from suffering, cannot eliminate the individual karma of each being… From a deep point of view, while we don’t have our independence and are living in someone else’s country, we have a certain type of suffering, but when we return to Tibet and gain our independence, then there will be other types of suffering. So, this is just the way it is. You might think that I’m pessimistic, but I am not. This is how, through Buddhist teaching and advice, we handle situations. These sorts of thoughts make me stronger; more active. It is not at all a case of losing one’s strength of mind or will in the face of the pervasive nature of suffering.”
You can follow the 14th Dalai Lama on Twitter and Instagram. His handles are listed below.