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February 2, 2009

10 Questions

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This weekend I hired the film “10 Questions for the Dalai Lama”. Although I did not find the film to be particularly inspiring in itself, it was the story of the 14th Lama and the words that the Lama spoke that gave me some things to think about.

This is the abridged version of my article, which ended up being quite long! :)

The 14th Lama was prophesied to rule in a time of great crisis, and it is certainly a time of great crisis!

I think only intensely religious people can imagine the type of popularity the Dalai Lama has among his people. As said in the documentary, his power over his people can, for Americans, only be likened to having the reincarnation of Jesus Christ ruling from the White House, as though he had never left this earth.

The 14th Lama was found in 1938, and came from humble beginnings, the antithesis of Buddha’s beginnings. Tenzin Gyatso was officially announced when he was four, and started his monastic studies at the age of six. The Dalai Lama is now 74 years old! Through the years of spiritual study, there was no way that he could have known how his people would suffer during his reign.

In October 1950, China sent troops into Tibet, to liberate the Tibetans from so-called elitist Dalai Lama rule. The Lama called on the USA for help, as he knew of their reputation for liberty and democracy. He was largely ignored, as Christians saw no value in the Buddhist religion, and the economic and business powers in the land saw no use for Tibet as a resource.

India was the Lama’s next step, and it is here, in Dharamsala, that the Lama has established a Tibetan government in exile. The Chinese continue to commit atrocity after atrocity. Anything of religious significance has been destroyed. Refugees flowing into India are regularly counselled and comforted by the Lama himself.

The filmmaker, Rick Ray, was granted an interview with the Dalai Lama. Here are some of the Lama's responses:
- He would rather counsel the rich, because they knew that money could not solve their problems. There was too much greed, and these people were never satisfied.
- People in the West are quick to anger, and this is because they lack self-discipline. Self-discipline is necessary for thinking about the consequences of our actions, and we should use our intelligence first before anything else.
- Some religious practices were useful, such as those calling for the preservation of life and family closeness; others were out of date. Religious practices should be respected as long as they contributed meaningfully and positively to their followers' lives.
- Regarding the Middle East, all religions had the potential to create harmony, but sometimes their effect was limited because some people in power made religion more complicated by involving their emotions too much, involving too many of their emotions, and involving too many that were negative.
- Regarding the world population: quality is better than quantity; the sheer number of precious lives in the world were now at risk because of their quantity – there are too many people and too much suffering.
- Non-violence is the only solution: the power of the gun is short-term, but the power of truth is long-lasting. Smiles, warmth and love last forever.
- Non-violence should only become violent if one is protecting oneself, and if the circumstances suggested there was no other way. It was, however, important to remember that your interests and those of your enemy were interdependent, and destruction of your enemy is invariably a destruction of yourself. Therefor war is an outdated concept.

The Lama is adored around the world, but his real wish: to be able to go somewhere remote and devote the rest of his life and all his energy to spiritual practice. He would then move towards his last day without a lot of expectation, as he hopes not to regret anything. Shouldn’t we all aspire to such a simple and humble desire?

What would you ask the Dalai Lama if you had the chance?

Also, take a minute and visit His Holiness' very own website! :) Click here.

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