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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Dalai Lama's message clear, understandable

June 9, 2010


June 4, 2010

I just returned from Indianapolis - or so it seems.

Instead of going to the 500, I went two weeks early to be with a world famous spiritual leader for two days.

And when His Holiness the Dalai Lama and I meet in Indiana, I always lose sleep. But it?s worth it.

There are no expectations of one-on-one interviews. Just the excitement of being in his presence is overwhelming.

And if he read this, he would laugh and say, ?Why? I am just a simple Buddhist monk - no more, no less.?

He says he has no special healing powers and offers proof by saying he doesn?t think his gall bladder surgery would have been necessary if he did. And it?s the same story with his eyeglasses, he says, laughing.

Being near the Dalai Lama requires getting up before daylight. That?s no problem. I never use an alarm clock, and I?m always awake by 4:30 a.m.

Franklin County friend Angela Mitchell accompanied me to a May 13 teaching and press conference in Bloomington and a public speaking the next day in Indianapolis.

The two-hour teaching began at 9:15 a.m., and we had to be at the Indiana University Auditorium media entrance no later than 7 a.m.

All rooms were booked in Bloomington so we stayed in a Martinsville motel 22 miles away. I tried to fall asleep meditating but don?t ever remember dropping off.

At 6:15 in Bloomington, one reporter was in front of us at the locked media door - Ronald Hawkins, a Louisville native and University of Kentucky graduate.

Shortly after 7, the line was long when the door opened for the first-round of security scanning, and we felt we?d known Ronald forever.

He writes for The Reporter-Times in Martinsville and was eager to see the Dalai Lama.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, 74, is the head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. The Dalai Lama honorary title means ?Teacher Whose Wisdom Is As Great As the Ocean.?

In 1959 he fled his homeland after China?s takeover of Tibet and now lives in Dharamsala, India, where he established the Tibetan government-in-exile.

He?s a tireless worker for peace, and every year travels throughout the world giving talks about wisdom and compassion.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and in 2007 was presented the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.

We gathered on a stairway and were told if we wanted to attend an afternoon press conference at the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center - several miles from the auditorium - we must leave the teaching early to go through security again two hours before the Dalai Lama arrived.

Before the teaching began, one reporter fainted on the stairs and had to be taken to a hospital for treatment. Later we all had to line up cameras and recording gear in a hallway for canine inspections.

The dog inspections were repeated at the cultural center. The Dalai Lama called the afternoon session ?Meet the Press.? We lined up as he walked into the Great Hall and shook his hand as he walked to the front table.

The room was adorned with paintings of Buddhas and Tibetan wax-butter sculptures.

He seemed to make eye contact with everyone in the room.

?Media people have a responsibility to inform people,? he said. ?You should have long noses, as long as elephant noses - People have a right to know? - the good news and the bad, in unbiased reporting.

The visit to the cultural center was the Dalai Lama?s first since the 2008 death of his brother, Thubten Norbu, who founded the 108-acre center in 1979.

Norbu was a retired professor of Tibetan studies at IU.

I met him in March 2003 on a weekend walk for Tibet?s independence from Bloomington to Indianapolis. My niece, Kimberly Pearl, a member of the International Tibet Independence Movement in Indianapolis, recruited me.

The last time I saw Norbu was Sept. 7, 2003, the first time I had been in the presence of his famous brother.

The Dalai Lama and Louisville native Muhammad Ali were in Bloomington to dedicate the interfaith Chamtse Ling Temple on the grounds of the cultural center.

The temple ?will be a place where people of all faiths and all cultures can gather to plan deeds of compassion and wisdom rather than acts of violence and war,? Norbu said.

?It will be a safe haven for all those who wish to conduct workshops, seminars, and perform religious services and rituals to promote world peace and harmony.

?All persons of all beliefs are welcome here. We open our hearts and arms to all.?

Leaders of 16 religious denominations participated in the outdoor dedication along with 3,000 others.

This time, on his sixth visit to Indiana, the Dalai Lama said in the Great Hall, ?My late brother?s spirit very much still exists here.?

The rain began as we left the cultural center in late afternoon and was pouring by the time we reached our car. Although we knew 4 a.m. tomorrow would arrive too soon and we?d go through security checks again, we were energized.

Hawkins, the Martinsville reporter, summarized it well in his newspaper column the next day.

He wrote: ?It?s not every day a journalist can say after he was drenched by a torrential downpour, scanned multiple times for security, forced to wait hours for scheduled events, and got his car stuck in mud, that he?d had an exhilarating day.

?That?s what this reporter experienced Thursday, from his early arrival on the Indiana University campus until he drove his mud-splattered car home.

?The cause for the exhilaration was the first-hand experience of shaking the hand and speaking briefly to the Dalai Lama, listening to his wit and wisdom.?

What I remember most about being with the Dalai Lama in 2003 and again this year is the positive energy I feel for weeks afterward. The kind Tibetan people - and those working to help them gain their independence - have become my friends, my family.

I asked several what draws them to the Dalai Lama.

Valerie Purvin, a clinical professor at IU Medical Center who grew up in a Jewish family in New York, says, ?The thing I appreciate most about him is his lack of religious chauvinism. So many religious leaders, whatever their message is, have a position that this is the one and only path with capital letters.

?He does not do that. Often when he speaks, there is a pause and he will say, ?In any case, that is what I think. If you find that useful, fine. And if you don?t, then never mind, just drop it.??

Purvin says she loves his intellectual curiosity.

?I?m appreciating as I get older how hard it is to hold onto that kind of curiosity over time, to not want early closure,? she says. ?I don?t want to keep wondering. I just want to learn it and act on it.

?The fact that he is still exploring and open to Western science and neurology with Tibetan Eastern philosophy is very appealing.

?I think he gets more pleasure out of doing his job than anybody I know.?

Lexington?s Richard Farkas, the official photographer for the Dalai Lama?s visit, says he?s met His Holiness four times, and has visited Tibet twice and Dharamsala, India, once.

?I feel good whenever I see the Dalai Lama?s picture, and especially when I?m near him,? he says. ?He?s very genuine, very open. He?s got a good sense of humor. He?s serious, funny, gentle and compassionate.?

Lynn Jackson was among 10,000 who gathered at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis to hear the Tibetan leader speak May 14.

Persons of all faiths attended including 500 school children.

?I feel the Dalai Lama is a message for the world,? Jackson said, after his 90-minute talk titled ?Facing Challenges with Compassion and Wisdom.?

?He?s a prophet. He transcends any specific religion.?

Jackson says the Dalai Lama?s message is always so clear and understandable ?you can put it in your heart.?

She says she belongs to a ?spiritual oneness group? at St. Luke?s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, made up of a Baha?i, Hindu, Tibetan Buddhist nun, Muslim, Jew, Unitarian Universalist, Christian Scientist, Wicca and American Indian.

?We invite people who might have a different spiritual approach and see if we can find our sameness, our difference and see if we can develop programs for the entire community.?

At Conseco, the Dalai Lama talked about the importance of establishing a compassionate approach to living, and assisting those in need regardless of their religious, economic, political, ethnic or social background.

The event began with an ?Invocation for World Peace? cello performance by Michael Fitzpatrick, formerly of Louisville now living in California.

I interviewed Fitzpatrick in 2001, not long after he produced his ?Compassion? CD in honor of the Dalai Lama?s visit to the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, where the late Christian monk, Thomas Merton - a peace activist, writer and poet - lived.

Merton and the Dalai Lama met in India in 1968 in hopes of working together to bring world peace.

It was the most significant interfaith meeting of the 20th century, Fitzpatrick says.

Five weeks later Merton was accidentally electrocuted in Bangkok, Thailand.

That?s when the Dalai Lama pledged to commit the rest of his life to fulfilling Merton?s wish to bring East and West together in peace, harmony and compassion.

Now Fitzpatrick has a ?Compassion Rising? film, which debuted in Bloomington just before the Dalai Lama?s teachings.

Frankfort?s Mary West says she heard about the Dalai Lama coming to Indianapolis after she ?flippantly put on Facebook? that the Dalai Lama was her boyfriend.

?I figured he was the only good boy breathing on the planet,? West said. ?And one of my girlfriends sent a message back saying, ?Your boyfriend is going to be in my town if you would like to come see him.??

West said she had met Nobel Peace Prize winners Mother Teresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Al Gore and Jimmy Carter, ?and the Dalai Lama would be the crowd jewel of any Nobel collection, so I jumped at the opportunity.?

West says she admires him for ?his pursuit of peace in a very hostile world, and how he has approached adversity without hostility or animosity.

 ?Being there I was greatly encouraged by seeing the broad mix, the ecumenical community. It gave me a great sense of hope - especially as polarized as our country has become - that people are out there striving to unite us, not drive us apart.?
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