Listening in as the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet spoke at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, it didn’t take me long to decide on nuances to share that might be different from others in the crush of media. Among the most striking was the juxtaposition of the man and the kids.
Students comprised the majority of the 3,000 at the FAU Center Feb. 24. Elsewhere on campus, another 2,500 students and faculty watched a simulcast in the auditorium. What a good thing, I thought as I watched them pay rapt attention, that they are getting to hear this wonderful human being.
The 74-year-old exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader is the personification of humility spawned of wisdom. “Some people regard me as all-knowing,” he said. “But I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow.”
Most pleasantly surprising was the sage’s humor. No stuffed robe he. That became apparent a few minutes into his hour-long talk-and-question session as he removed his shoes to adopt a lotus position in the oversized chair.
This was not the occasion to discuss Tibet’s occupation by China that has made him an exile. His message was about how compassion leads to peace and begins in each individual. “We need peaceful resolution,” he said, “in order to carry out real dialogue.”
I was aware that as a result of meetings of major world religious leaders, the Dalai Lama was close with two of my recently deceased heroes: Chiara Lubich, who became known as the “Blessed Lady” of the worldwide Catholic lay movement the Focolare, and Imam W.D. Mohammed, who was eulogized as “America’s Imam.”
I wished I could have asked him about the loss of his friends. I also lamented who could replace such spiritual giants among humanity including him, who many call “His Holiness.”
Initial cloudy thoughts quickly gave way to sunshine musings about the kids who shared such a rare space with him.
It was a joy to see the students’ pensive faces as His Holiness the Dalai Lama planted good seeds for what comes next.
Not to make any comparisons, but who, when he was in college, predicted the presidency of Mrs. Obama’s son? The message of the sage of Tibet, and the students’ respect for it, served as yet another reminder that for humanity, the best is yet to come.
C.B. Hanif is a writer, editor and media and inter-religious affairs consultant. Find him at www.interfaith21.com.