A Precious Human Life


When he is here in the US, the Dalai Lama is a visiting head of state, and as such, receives a high level of security. Federal, state and local agencies coordinate to provide protection for him.

The Dalai Lama has a powerful influence upon the people who encounter him. Many people, not merely Buddhists, or even religious people, say that when they hear him speak they feel as if he is speaking directly to them. They say this even when they are in an arena that holds 50,000 people.

People who hear him and see him say that their feelings of fear and anger, feelings  they may have grown accustomed to, without being aware of it, melt. In place of these negative feelings arises a feeling of calm and peace and love.

For his presence to produce a result like that, without any evident effort on his part, is surely a mark of an extraordinary being. Some say he is the most accomplished human being alive in the world today, someone able to demonstrate by his life and his actions, how humans can mature and realize their potential.

Millions of people buy his books, others see and hear his talks, ceremonies and classes online. Tens of thousands attend his lectures and teachings worldwide. He is among the most revered figures in the world.

In some quarters, he is also among the most reviled. To the Chinese government he is a trouble-maker, an enemy. Some Tibetan groups see him as infringing on their authority, and the struggles have been bitter. Where Islamic cultures border Buddhist ones, as in central Asia, the conflicts have sometimes been violent. From the Muslim invasion of India in the 11th century, which extinguished Buddhism in its home land, to the Taliban’s bombing of the majestic 125 foot tall statues of the Buddha, carved 1500 years ago into the mountain cliffs at Bamiyan, Afghanistan was a very public vandalism, but it was not unique.

Observing the Dalai Lama in action, you can see his courage. His openness, certainty and vulnerability are as much an example of his courage as his famous journey into exile through the snows of Tibet through the Himalayas to India, under fire from Chinese guns.

His kindness is courageous. There is no fear in his body. No fear in his emotional poise. No artifice, no complaints, no threats or pleas or promises.

His dignity is complete. His effort on behalf of others is ceaseless. His sense of duty and the clarity of his mission govern his public actions.

We can see no hesitation in his exchange with people who make demands on him, who wish to debate him, who wish to draw from him, whether teaching or praise, status or support or refuge from a world of suffering.

He seems to connect with everyone. Yet he does not take his safety for granted. He does not presume that because he is good that no harm will come to him.

He is continually protected. Among his attendants and translators, monks and managers is a contingent of professional warriors, all of whom are willing to put their lives on the line and defend his life, without hesitation.

In 1959, when Chairman Mao ordered the army of the People’s Republic to invade Tibet, burned the monasteries and murder the monks, the Dalai Lama’s escape was managed by the CIA. This is no secret.

Some would say that the success of that venture was the result of his formidable good karma created in the infinite past. Still, they would have to agree that the karmic results of those past actions manifested in the form of strong, skilled, courageous, armed warriors. They protected the Dalai Lama and saved his life. Those modern warriors helped make possible the worldwide dissemination of classical Buddhism and the regeneration of Tibetan culture in India and the West.

The Dalai Lama is an immensely precious thing in the world today. We need to take care of what is precious. Not squander them, abuse them, take them for granted, falsely assuming that we can get another one.

Our lives are precious. Our families are precious. Our friends, communities, our country, the world… draw the boundary where you want to, but we need to take care of what is precious.

We need to be sure that we are protecting what is most important. If we train our body and mind but we neglect our motives and mission, we will degrade the quality of our lives. To what purpose will we put all the skill we have?

Let’s say you have some water. You would like to give it to some thirsty people. But they are far away. You have no pipeline, no tanker, no jars, no bottles. Nothing to hold it, no way to get the water where it is needed. In that case the water would be useless. It would evaporate or become undrinkable, or seep into the ground and disappear. The thirsty person would have no way to make use of it.

We need a vessel to contain what is most precious to us.

We need a physical world. A body. Human relationships, love, work and purpose. We need to preserve the forms of things so their content can be preserved and moved and used. So that their purpose, and ours, fulfilled.

The Dalai Lama’s message of peace may be boundless, but is conveyed to us by his body and mind; present in his language and actions; communicated by his physical presence at various times and places throughout the world. As he travels, his body is protected by the people who take care of him.

We are all in a position to take care of people.  We can help them grow in character and deepen in wisdom, and help them face life and death; see the reason for suffering and what to do about it; help them learn how to use every moment as the moment of freedom.

The Dalai Lama does not have the same job as the people who protect him. But he needs them. And they need him. We all do.


Post by J. Michael Brooks


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