Up Close and Personal with His Holiness the Dalai Lama
By Lisa Haisha
“We all have a natural tendency to desire happiness and avoid suffering.”
– Dalai Lama
When I opened my Christmas present from my husband, which was an envelope with “Merry Christmas, Lisa” on it, I had no idea what to expect. As I opened it and pulled out the piece of paper and started reading, I discovered that in three months I was going to be part of a select group that was going to India. I looked at my husband, he smiled and said he saw this offer on the Celebrity Buzz auction and he won. He knew India was on my bucket list. He went on to say that the money he spent will go to the children in India and we get a two-week trip that will take us to New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur. We would stay in Palaces, have a chauffer, translator and dinner each night with interesting people like the Dalai Lama’s astrologer, his meditation teachers, his yogis, royalty, the Prime Minister, and best of all, three-days get with his holiness to discuss the spirituality.
As the host of the Legacy series, the Dalai Lama was on my bucket list for people to interview, even if not formally. He is someone that I admired for all the work he does with compassion and in politics, but especially because he says his religion is happiness.
I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn from the source. I saw this trip also as a gift to connect to a culture that I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to explore. I feel it’s so important to spend time in places that are different from ours, to have compassion and a better understanding of the world, and to share that knowledge.
New Delhi – Taj Hotel
When the day came that the Dalai Lama was going to arrive at our hotel (yes, we stayed at the same hotel) everyone was on high alert. They said he was arriving around noon. As we ate breakfast around 7am, the hotel staff was decorating, and white flower arrangements kept pouring in. I couldn’t just sit there stuffing my face with vegetable curry, so I got up and went to explore. I saw about fifty men coming in and a lot of commotion. It turned out that the Dalai Lama had arrived four hours earlier than scheduled. I realized they wanted him in the hotel safely without all the commotion of the hotel guests. It looked like a procession. About thirty monks formed two lines and the Dalai Lama walked between them, protected from anyone trying to get access. Guests started to notice and began scrambling for a look, a picture, anything. Locals, who were staying at the hotel started bowing and his holiness shook hands as he started walking through as people grabbed at him, calling his name. Some people dropped to their knees as he was walking the thirty feet from the lobby to the elevator. When he passed me, I put out my hand as he approached me. He took it and looked at me with his perennial smile and jovial energy. We locked eyes for about five seconds as he squeezed my hand and we both smiled. Several people snapped photos. Then he was off to the next person and gave them blessings, as he moved in the direction of the elevator. His posse then circled him and guarded the elevator as he got in, not allowing anyone else in as the elevator door closed. The crowd was left feeling like they just met Jesus Christ himself… some in tears, others were emotional and sharing their profound experience just seeing him up close, in person.
The 14th Dalai Lama is the longest-lived incumbent.
We were in a small meeting hall in the hotel, decorated with Tibetan art. There were about one-hundred-fifty chairs with the invited guests coming in after being screened at the door like they were at Heathrow airport: “Take off your shoes, purses on the conveyor belt, take off your coats and sweaters…” They weren’t taking any chances. Finally, after being patted down from head to toe, I was in.
I was seated in the fourth row aisle seat next to my host during the trip. The Dalai Lama was set to arrive at 10am and speak until 2pm and to my surprise, he arrived on time and with a big smile on his face. The guests stood up. He shook hands or just touched a shoulder and said a few words with everyone he passed. When he got to me, we locked eyes again. It felt surreal. I couldn’t believe I was in the same room with him and I happened to be on the aisle that he walked down. I had already been blessed by him earlier and now again.
About a year ago, I went to hear him speak in New York. I thought I was going to meet him at that time since I had a VIP pass to meet him backstage. By the time they let me in he had left the premises. Also, in New York, his Holiness only talked about the political climate with China for two hours straight. Even though it was interesting, I was craving a talk about spirituality, which is his main focus these three days.
So now I’m in this sacred space with him again and with about a hundred other local healers, monks, Buddhist scholars and people who have devoted their lives to helping others through their non-profits. We were all seeking wisdom and wanting to heal our psychological and emotional wounds. All of a sudden a bell rings, then the Dalai Lama’s right-hand-man walks to the podium and says, “Welcome, please meet the Dalai Lama.”
The Dalai Lama sat there and then started laughing. And laughing. We all started laughing. “We need to laugh more. Be in our bodies. Love more,” he said. Then he went on for three hours talking about life today in 2015. What we need to do globally to survive. He wanted us to go out and be the leaders of a compassionate crusade. He said people in his inner circle selected us (our hosts are in his inner circle). He said we were a collection of people from around the world that have an audience and to please take our responsibility seriously.
For the twelve hours of being in the room with this extraordinary group of minds and with his holiness, I learned a huge amount, but a lot of it was at a cellular level, during our meditations.
Five insights and/or facts I gained from the 3-day gathering:
1. Compassion and Kindness are Paramount:
The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his work with Tibetans worldwide and for being the leading advocate of kindness, compassion, and nonviolence in all relationships – personal, political, social. He is considered the moral guide of humanity and is one of the most admired figures today. He said we must all practice kindness more now than ever before, even to terrorists groups like Isis. Even they are still people who can show love for their family and tribe, and if we keep thinking they’re evil, they will stay evil. Our thoughts are powerful; He suggested we send them compassion.
2. Focus Outward:
We need to think about others more and humanity as a whole, not just as individuals. His Holiness is on a mission to help us all come together, but even he expressed his own doubt on whether it’s possible anymore. He said he gave up on politics and advocating for Tibet because he wants to prove that non-violence works. He even has compassion for his oppressors, the Chinese government. I valued his honesty and sharing even his own fears.
3. Practice moderation and less Indulgence:
Humans are lower than animals. If you look at the African savannah, for example, predators prey on other animals only out of necessity when they are hungry. When they are not hungry, you can see them coexisting quite peacefully. But we human beings, despite our ability to judge between right and wrong, can act out of pure greed. Sometimes we engage in actions purely out of indulgence--we kill out of a sense of "sport," say, when we go hunting or fishing. So, in a sense, one could argue that human beings have proven to be inferior to animals.
The point is to try to develop the scope of one's empathy in such a way that it can extend to any form of life that has the capacity to feel pain and experience happiness. It is a matter of defining a living organism as a sentient being.
5. Reflect humbly on our own shortcomings:
To counter one's arrogance or pride, you need to reflect upon shortcomings in yourself that can give rise to a sense of humility. For example, you can think about all the things in the world about which you are not proficient in. Some people can’t cook, others have no language skills; still others are ignorant when it comes to computers. So, whenever you have a little tingling sense of pride, think about your own ignorance, it should set you straight.
There is so much more to the Dalai Lama’s teachings. He said it took him hundreds of lifetimes to know what he knows so not to be hard on our selves. He encouraged us to keep studying, teaching, and opening our hearts.
If you’re interested in learning more, please visit his website and attend one of his events. It seems he is always traveling around the world giving talks, even though he is based in India. It is a life-changing experience and I am so honored and excited to share what I have learned even in those short 3 days. They were so full of love and learning, I felt it was worth a lifetime.
*Please note that not all experiences, beliefs, and ideas are shared by each member of “The New Hollywood.” We are a group of shepherds, not sheep.