By Tammy T. Stone
It’s making headlines that the His Holiness the Dalai Lama is contemplating reincarnation not only as a blonde, but as a “mischievous” one—and a pretty one at that—so as to garner more attention.
Though I didn’t see him be interviewed, I can picture the smile on his face.
The knee-jerk reaction to such a statement is perhaps inevitable, but it would be far more sensible to view the Dalai Lama as trying to send us a message than that he had an “oops” moment, or that he is actually in search of an easy life as a pretty woman.
Never mind reincarnating as a blonde. What about reincarnating in general?
What about enlightenment, or the mission of the Bodhisattva to keep incarnating as long as sentient beings have suffering in need of alleviation? What about the responsibilities of a spiritual leader who has taken on political duties of such tremendous scope?
The Dalai Lama’s background and range of knowledge is staggeringly beyond our immediate understanding or our own life situation. The current Dalai Lama is the 14th successive one in a 600 year-old tradition.
From an extremely young age, he was set upon a life course that involved meditation and ritual-learning, the cultivation of compassion and strict study for hours and hours a day. He was memorizing texts and scriptures and learning the art and science of debate, and becoming learned in a worldview that is among the most vast and complex out there.
For years, the Dalai Lama has been meeting with a growing community of interested scientists for “Mind and Life” dialogues, where bridges are being sought, and found between the Tibetan Buddhist worldview and contemporary scientific thought, in topics ranging from cognition and dreams to quantum theory.
My point here, I guess, is that it’s safe to say the Dalai Lama has never been a mere religious figurehead.
He has been a fierce, passionate and diligent political and spiritual leader, determined not to lose compassion for a China that expelled him and his people out of their homeland, and who, by example, has been the face of compassion, joy, intellectual prowess and wisdom from a young age.
We can read and talk about the issues surrounding his possible reincarnation as he approaches his 80th birthday, but do we really understand how this works or what the implications are? We know the Chinese are trying to gain control over how the Dalai Lama reincarnates, so it’s entirely possible his statement about not reincarnating at all is a commentary on this situation.
We can interpret the Dalai Lama’s statement about becoming a blonde as his way of reaching us on a level we currently exist on, with our less than realized notions of how to be compassionate, equanimous and completely free and open on issues of gender and race.
We can also remember that the Dalai Lama constantly refers to himself as just a simple monk, and this is not a simple matter of modesty, false or otherwise. The Dalai Lama is in the service of Dharma, of a greater truth, and this truth is far vaster than any one being can be, and this is possibly something he wants us to sit with in a very serious and contemplative way.
As long as we are charging the Dalai Lama with something as off-the-mark as being sexist, or whatever the charges may be, we are only pointing the mirror at our own limited view of the world. We are allowing ourselves to deflect our attention from the myriad tragedies in need of our compassion and attention in favour of pigeon-holing and casting blame.
In the end, blaming others is always an offshoot of self-blame, and a lack of self-compassion.
We can choose distraction and blame, or we can choose to envelop ourselves in a world where people like the Dalai Lama have used their incredible scope of knowledge, wisdom and whole-hearted compassion to effect change in the world and inspire us to do the same.
Whether, and how, the Dalai Lama chooses to reincarnate is probably beyond what most of us can fathom.
If it is beyond us, then it is not something we need to think or worry about, but it’s safe to say we also don’t have to take issue with a joke that speaks to how we have chosen to construct our own society.
As long as the current Dalai Lama is here, let us learn from in all the ways he has chosen to teach us, and remember that the things that bother of us the most are also our greatest teachers.
*See the article about the Dalai Lama’s statement here.
Tammy T. Stone is a Canadian writer, photographer and chronicler of life as it passes through us. Always a wanderer, she’s endlessly mesmerized by people, places and everything in between; the world is somehow so vast and so small. She feels so lucky to have been able to work, learn, live and travel far and wide, writing, photographing and wellness-practicing along the way. She invites you to see some of her recent photography here and to connect with her on her writer’s page, Twitter and her blog, There’s No War in World, here.
Photo: Yoga Nine Vipassana/Tumblr
Editor: Dana Gornall