Compassion and Trust: Lessons from His Holiness the Dalai Lama
In the past weeks, Santa Clara University has been abuzz with the news that the Dalai Lama was coming to speak at our school. Tickets were fought for, discussions were planned, and many blog posts–well at least one–were written about the event. As I have written previously, my blog post for Campus Ministry about my disappointment in not getting a ticket gave me the opportunity to be a student blogger and see the Dalai Lama speak. One of the results of this opportunity was that on the morning of the Dalai Lama event, I woke up at 4:30 AM to do interviews for local news stations around 5:00 AM. Getting to meet and talk to the local news reporters was an exciting experience, and when I found out that my interview had been played on the news, I was even more ecstatic. Sharing my experience as a student at a Jesuit university who also finds immense value in the teachings of a Buddhist leader was rewarding. Being interviewed gave me a new perspective that truly allowed me to express my excitement at seeing the Dalai Lama speak. As the morning went on, I continued to help the staff of the Office of Marketing and Communications, and eventually after an prolonged period of security clearances, we were allowed in the building.
As soon as I walked into Leavey Center, a sense of calm overtook me, and as I looked around at my fellow students and others who were at the event, I realized that I was not the only one experiencing this tranquility. The aura of peace was audible; believe it or not, I could feel the calmness in my body: a warm, relaxed feeling that I had not expected. Looking at and chatting with the people around me, I could tell that there was a shared feeling of peace in Leavey Center, and perhaps even across campus. The Dalai Lama was not even in the building, yet we could already feel his presence. Furthermore, Twitter was facilitating a student discussion, as we were posting to #DalaiLamaSCU to share in our anticipation of seeing the Dalai Lama take the stage. And the moment he did take the stage, it was like a charge of electricity entered the room. His presence filled us with awe.
One of the most unexpected and wonderful aspects of the Dalai Lama’s talk was the natural humor that he exuded. Oftentimes, we think of religious leaders as serious beings, unwilling to make or take a joke, yet here was one of the most important leaders in the world joking with the audience, even laughing at a joke about prostate exams. His humor was so incredibly genuine that as a member of the audience, it made me more comfortable, more open to listening to his message. The fact that the Dalai Lama can find humor in this chaotic world gave me a sense of hope, and his laughter reflected the true joy that he surely has. And his laughter was definitely a source of joy for the audience; it was one of the most pleasant and authentic laughs I’d ever heard.
It was not all jokes, though. The Dalai Lama also conquered difficult topics for students including finding a balance for material versus spiritual wealth, being inclusive of nonbelievers in discussions for peace, and trusting others. One of his quotes that really stood out to me was “The 21st century could be a more compassionate society...but we need to make an effort.” The fact that he sees brightness in the dark corners of this world filled me with hope. The Dalai Lama is honest in acknowledging that there are damaging aspects in the world including weapons and overwhelming material desires, yet he also truly believes that humans are, by nature, good, and therefore there is always a reason to work for peace. Hearing him tell us that peace is possible was reassuring and reminded me why I desire to change the world. As a senior who falls into a cynical mindset when things aren’t going right in my life, it is vital for me to remember that there is always, always hope, despite the darkness that I experience. The Dalai Lama helped me to remember this, and I think his message resonated deeply with the rest of the Santa Clara community. In a way, his visit was a source of rejuvenation and spiritual refreshment. The fact that our university got to witness, however briefly, a source of the world’s healing is the most incredible blessing many of us could have ever asked for.
Marissa is a senior English and Women's and Gender Studies double major. She hopes to complete a year of service after she graduates from SCU.