Friday, 21 March 2008

His Holiness The Dalai Lama

In March 2004, my son asked me an intriguing question. If he gave me a ticket for something I would have to travel to, would I go? My reply was that if he gave me a ticket for something I would be sure it was worth going to. The, "something," remained a secret until Mother's Day, 2004, when I received one of the best gifts ever, a ticket to attend three days of talks by HH The Dalai Lama at the Scottish Exhibition Centre in Glasgow.

For me, to be in the presence of the Dalai Lama was a special privilege. Having braved the weaving traffic on the M8 from my brother's house in Coatbridge to the exhibition centre, I took my place with a few hundred others in the huge hall, amid an air of anticipation and quiet reverence, even before the great man appeared.

When His Holiness entered, he walked across the stage with head bowed slightly, followed by his interpreter, who sat on a cushion on the floor, close to the big chair that the Dalai Lama takes with him on his tours.

The Dalai Lama has the most smiley face I have ever seen. He spoke in his own language, always in a very animated way, which held the rapt attention of an audience, most of whom, I am sure, did not understand one word of what was being said. The Dalai Lama would pause and the interpreter would tell us what had just been said, with a warmth of expression which echoed that of the Dalai Lama himself.

His Holiness has a child-like quality and a sense of joyfulness conveys itself from him, even when he is silent. His sense of humour and his modesty are well-known. Let me give you an example. At the end of each day, the audience was invited to ask questions and one question was, "How do I recognise a good teacher?" The Dalai Lama explained and the interpreter gave the response in English; there are ten qualities of a good teacher and the Dalai Lama had said he was not good with number 10, "A good teacher should always be patient with his students." While the interpreter was speaking, all eyes were on the Dalai Lama, who was seen to be almost falling off his big chair laughing. When the interpreter had finished, he looked to the Dalai Lama with a questioning expression and the Dalai Lama explained his laughter.

The Dalai Lama said, "I did not mean to imply that I was good with the other nine!"

Those words, spoken with child-like mirth, brought quiet laughter from the audience. For myself and everyone else I should think, it was the irony that such a greatly revered teacher should display such self-effacing modesty, which drew the laughter.

The Dalai Lama will return to the UK in May this year and will give talks at several venues. I will go to see him if I can, but if that is not possible, it doesn't matter. I have had the privilege of being in his presence and I shall cherish the experience and thank my son for a wonderful Mother's Day gift!

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