How the Dalai Lama Does It

Ever wonder how the Dalai Lama keeps his humility? How this exalted holy man acts like everyone’s favorite — and sometimes silly — uncle, making fart jokes to be clear that he’s just another one of us? Some 15 years back when I took an all-day class taught by His Holiness, I learned more about humility from his example than from the text he taught.

The class, in a gymnasium at George Washington University, was on the eight verses of Lojong (mind training) that are part of the Dalai Lama’s own practice. He said he recites them every morning and has since he was 10 year old. He dealt with them one by one, expanding on each verse for about 50 minutes, followed by a 10-minute break.

So I — along with more than 1,000 of my closest friends, including Goldie Hawn in a tight-fitting black cocktail dress and Richard Gere in a suit and tie — spent eight hours with the Dalai Lama. He was his usual self on stage — serious but never self-important, with an occasional touch of self-deprecating humor. During the breaks, though, he was even more avuncular, walking though the halls looking for old friends in the crowds and greeting them with a warm handshake.

The eight verses he discussed were these:

By thinking of all sentient beings as even better than the wish-granting gem for accomplishing the highest aim, may I always consider them precious.

Wherever I go, with whomever I go, may I see myself as less than all others, and from the depth of my heart may I consider them supremely precious.

May I examine my mind in all actions and as soon as a negative state occurs, since it endangers myself and others, may I firmly face and avert it.

When I see beings of a negative disposition or those oppressed by negativity or pain, may I, as if finding a treasure, consider them precious, for they are rarely met.

Whenever others, due to their jealousy, revile and treat me in other unjust ways, may I accept this defeat myself, and offer the victory to others.

When someone whom I have helped or in whom I have placed great hope harms me with great injustice, may I see that one as a sacred friend.

In short, may I offer both directly and indirectly all joy and benefit to all beings, my mothers, and may I myself secretly take on all of their hurt and suffering.

May they not be defiled by the concepts of the eight mundane concerns, and aware that all things are illusory, may they, ungrasping, be free from bondage.

I won ‘t attempt to explain or expand on those eight verses. But imagine that you were taken from your parents as a baby and raised by your culture’s wisest teachers to be the your country’s religious and secular ruler as well as the most recognized worldwide spokesperson for Buddhism. At age 10, you were taught to say those eight verses every morning, and you have continued that practice throughout your long life.

Some of us might rebel, but remember that those born in modern Western cultures place a higher value on individual freedom than many others. In many Eastern cultures, especially when the Dalai Lama was born, in 1935, the welfare of the group comes before the interests of the individual.

So I think I understand now how the Dalai Lama retains his humility, and how the rest of us can, too. I’m sure His Holiness won’t mind if I refer to an old joke to make it clear. The route to humility is the same as the route to Carnegie Hall:

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Copyright 2015 © Mel Harkrader Pine


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