An Encounter with the Dalai Lama

I had an encounter with His Holiness the Dalai Lama back in 1995.

He was visiting Deer Park Buddhist Center near Madison, Wisconsin, and offering teachings and empowerments. Those who donated some money to the Tibetan cause and to Deer Park got to attend a small reception for His Holiness. I attended this reception at the local Unitarian Church with about two hundred other people. We milled around in the sanctuary of the church as we awaited his arrival, drinking tea and nibbling on tiny cakes. I could feel the emotions rising up in the room and in myself. We all seemed to want something from His Holiness.

Finally he arrived, and a path was cleared for him to make his way to the podium. By sheer luck I found myself right beside the path where His Holiness would pass! Here was my chance to be near him. Then I felt a light push from behind. Everyone was crowding toward the path. The man behind me was holding flowers to give to His Holiness. This man earnestly reached past me with his gift, thrusting the flowers in front of my face.

As the man shouted out “Your Holiness! Your Holiness!” and held his flowers out toward the approaching Dalai Lama, I remembered what this was all about. It was about taking every opportunity that arises to express generosity and love. It was not about getting recognition from the Dalai Lama.  So I stepped back and let the man behind me be in front and nearer to His Holiness.

As I stood behind the man with flowers, His Holiness walked by. As he did, he reached out his arm past the man with flowers, squeezed my shoulder and smiled at me. I felt so much love and gratitude in that moment. We listened as His Holiness talked about helping the Tibetan people, and about the need to be good to one another. When he was ready to leave, we made another path for him. I ended up on the other side of the path, again right on the edge. I stood there, happy to be close to him again and filled with appreciation. Then a woman behind me began to cry out and push me: “Your Holiness, your Holiness . . .” She really wanted to be near him. So, again I backed away and let her stand in front of me. And once again, as His Holiness walked by, he reached around the woman and squeezed my shoulder and smiled at me.

What a lesson I learned. What a blessing I received. And it wasn’t about His Holiness acknowledging me. It was about practice. I learned, hands-on, that when we offer love and generosity that is what we receive in return. Loving-kindness does not go unreciprocated. I also learned that there will be times when it may appear as if we are giving up something (our spot in line), but really we are opening up to something greater.

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