By Deb Avery
On this day, 80 years ago, Lhamo Dhondup was born to peasants in beautiful, mystical Tibet.
Two short years later, a life changing event occurred when a monk visited a nearby monastery searching for the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. After having followed signs to this two year old child, certain tests were performed and these monks proclaimed that this small child was more than he seemed.
He was taken from his home and placed in the Kumbum Monastery where he began living his new identity—an ancient one—as the 14th Incarnation of the Dalai Lama.
In his biography he states that this was a difficult time. Yet he had his older brother there with him and a very kind and patient teacher. There his training began and he grew into a young man.
Then 13 years later, China invaded his land bringing much change and heartache to him, his people, and his beloved country.
Soon, he found himself fleeing for his life and exiled from his country because of the occupation of the Chinese. In fact, the situation in Tibet is one of the world’s longest and most significant in the history of human rights crises. With no freedom or basic rights, the people of Tibet can be arrested and detained indefinitely for no reason. No council is available to them. It is a totalitarian rule.
So much has happened in the life of the Dalai Lama. Not all of it has been good.
As a matter of fact, he has witnessed and lived through some very difficult times of suffering. Yet his calm and gentle demeanor can put anyone at ease. His humor, that sometimes borders on silliness, can make you smile even on the worst of days. And his compassion and never ending loving kindness, has helped heal many hearts and minds the world over.
When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, “for his consistent resistance to the use of violence in his people’s struggle to regain their liberty’s,” as was stated by the chair of the Nobel Committee, Egil Aarvik, The Dalai Lama had the following to say; “I accept the prize with profound gratitude on behalf of the oppressed everywhere and for all those who struggle for freedom and work for world peace.”
There was no anger nor vengeance in his voice, no “eye for an eye” mentality, only his gentle, calm voice stating that he accepted this prize in tribute to Mahatma Gandhi whom had inspired him greatly. And of course, on behalf of the six million Tibetan people who have suffered so, and continue to do so.
No vow of revenge. Just perseverance, humbleness and hope.
The Dalai Lama has seen much strife and heartache in this incarnation, yet he is so full of life, so kind and gentle. He is a bright light of hope, courage, love and perseverance, not just for Buddhists, but for people of all nations, all beliefs and ideologies.
On Monday, July 6th, he celebrates his 80th birthday. And the world will celebrate with him.
This gentle and compassionate man who has spent his life teaching a better way through love, peace and non-violence, is a blessing to all people.
His life has been one of inspiration, hope, endurance with grace. His books, talks and visits with politicians and religious leaders all over the world, have inspired many to seek a better way. Through his gentle, but firm belief in non-violence, he has caught the attention and the hearts of many.
Through his sense of humor he has shown the world the lighter side of Buddhism. It’s not all silence and chanting. He is always making humorous quote such as: “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” And then there were these comments at Regions Field in Birmingham, Ala.,Sunday, October 26, 2014, when he joked several times about the heat. “Sometimes in India, very hot, so I do this,” he said. He then took a wet, white washcloth and placed it upon his head as he said: “Special hat.” He wore the cloth on his head for the remainder of the talk.
He can also be a bit controversial for some, especially for certain areas in the US. He raised eyebrows at that same talk in Birmingham, AL with a comment about ‘nipples’ while talking about breastfeeding. Something that the US isn’t quite so casual about. But his remarks were spot on—as usual.
While telling a story about his father running home to breastfeed from guarding the flock of goats, long after most in the US would consider appropriate, he tried to convey the naturalness of animals and humans to breastfeed and how nurturing and important it is to bond with and show affection to our children.
This remarkable man can touch hearts where others fail. He gives us hope for a better future—a future with more laughter, more love and less violence.
Today, Monday, July 6th, let us send him loving energy and best wishes to celebrate his 80th birthday and the sharing of himself with the world for 60+ years. And while we’re at it, let us be grateful for all the remarkable, sometimes controversial, silly and compassionate things he does and says.
Happy 80th Birthday, Dalai Lama.
May you have many more to share with this world—not only in this incarnation, but in those to follow, should you choose.
And yes, we will still love you, even if choose to come back looking like Marilyn Monroe.
Editor: Dana Gornall