DALAI LAMA’S CURRENT LIFE
The Dalai Lama currently resides in Dharamsala, India. He lives in a modest yellow, low-roofed bungalow, known as The Heavenly Abode, set in a beautiful garden. He spends much of his time there in his meditation room, which contains some statues of Buddha, books and scroll paintings but otherwise is plain and spartan.
The home of the Dalai Lama is part of a compound with a yellow temple and a concrete monastery for 200 monks. It is now surrounded by high walls, iron gates and armed Indian soldiers. In 1997, three of the Dalai Lama's closest religious associates were murdered in a room 100 yards away from his home.
Websites and Resources
Good Websites and Sources: Official Dalai Lama site dalailama.com ; First Through 14th Dalai Lama dalailama.com/biography/the-dalai-lamas ; Early Dalai Lamas minnesota.publicradio.org ; Dharamsala (Home of Dalai Lama ) site mcllo.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Dalai Lama Quotes brainyquote.com ; Dalai Lama Foundation dalailamafoundation.org ; Nobel Prize Biography /nobelprize.org ; Books on the Dalai Lama: The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama by Pico Iyer (Knopf, 2008); Kundun by May Craig. The Dalai Lama’s autobiography is called Freedom in Exile. Film: Unwinking Gaze, a film about the Dalai Lama by Joshua Dugdale. Links in this Website: DALAI LAMAS Factsanddetails.com/China ; PRESENT DALAI LAMA Factsanddetails.com/China ; DALAI LAMA’S CURRENT LIFE Factsanddetails.com/China ; DALAI LAMA AND POLITICS Factsanddetails.com/China ; PANCHEN LAMAS AND LAMA CONTROVERSIES Factsanddetails.com/China ;KARMAPA LAMA Factsanddetails.com/China
Tibetan History: Tibetan History Timeline haiweitrails.com ; Friends of Tibet friends-of-tibet.org ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; History of Nations site historyofnations.net ; Chinese Government site on Tibetan History xinhuanet.com ; Book: Tibetan Civilization by Rolf Alfred Stein. Robert Thurman, a friend of the Dalai Lama and professor of Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia University, is regarded the preeminent scholar on Tibet in the United States. Tibet Under China: Tibet China Conflict PDF file eastwestcenter.org ; Tibet and China, Two Distinct Views Chinese Government’s Take on Tibetan History ; index-china.com; Book: The Dragon in the Land of Snows by Tsering Shakya (Random House, 1998) is a first rate book on the history of Tibet under Chinese occupation. Links in this Website: TIBETAN HISTORY Factsanddetails.com/China ; TIBET UNDER CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ;
Good Websites and Sources on Tibet: Central Tibetan Administration (Tibetan government in Exile) www.tibet.com ; Chinese Government Tibet website eng.tibet.cn/ Wikipedia Wikipedia Tibetan Resources phayul.com ; Open Directory dmoz.org/Regional/Asia/China/Tibet/ ; Snow Lion Publications (books on Tibet) snowlionpub.com ; Photos Tibet Photo Gallery Tibet Gallery Terra Nomada Terra Nomada ; Tibetan Cultural Sites: Conservancy for Tibetan Art and Culture tibetanculture.org ; Tibet Trip tibettrip.com ; Tibetan Cultural Region Directory kotan.org ;
Chinese Government Sources on Tibet: China Tibet Information Center en.tibet.cn ; White Paper on Tibetan Culture english.people.com.cn ; Tibet Activist Groups: Tibet Online tibet.org ; Students for a Free Tibet studentsforafreetibet.org ; Students for a Free Tibet UK /sftuk.org ; Friends of Tibet friendsoftibet.org ; Tibetan Review tibetan.review.to ; Campaign for Tibet (Save Tibet) savetibet.org ; Tibet Society tibetsociety.com ; Free Tibet freetibet.org ; Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy tchrd.org
Dalai Lama's Character
The Dalai Lama comes across as a very cheerful, affable person. Chip Brown wrote on Smithsonian magazine: “I was struck by how happy he seemed. And it was not the witless cheer of a Pollyanna with no grasp of man’s cruelty. It seemed rather the happiness of someone who reveres life despite sound reason not to—a man whose philosophy has not left him to despair.”
The Dalai Lama has been described as “impish, self-deprecating and an infectious giggler” and “an unorthodox exemplar with an insatiable scientific curiosity” who “is prone to choose science...when science contradict faith.”
People close to the Dalai Lama him say he never gets angry, "Part of hos charisma is that he is genuinely gentle and humble. He really seems like a man in whom ego has been shrunk. People feel humbled when they meet him."
The Dalai Lama walks with a side-to-side gait, stooped forward, Abe Rosenthal of the New York Times said, "like a middle linebacker.” Not all Westeners revere him Christopher Hitchens has charged the Dalai Lama with being a “hereditary king appointed by heaven itself” and enforcing “one-man rule” among Tibetan exiles. Because his English is sloppy and highly accented and he often breaks out into long bouts of laughing and giggling, he sometimes gives the impression, Pico Iyer, wrote, that he is “not the brightest bulb in the room.”
The Dalai Lama's laugh has been described as his most effective weapon. Isabel Hilton wrote in the New Yorker, "It is certainly an agreeable laugh. His shoulders heave, his head goes back, and he rocks in his chair until it passes. It is a great full stop of a laugh, putting an end to further pursuit of a line of inquiry and deflecting impertinence and hostility." One monk said, the Dalai Lama uses his laugh “when he doesn't want to say anything.”
John Peacock, a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism, told the Independent, "He speaks very differently to Tibetans and to Westerners. With his own people he behaves more like the previous Dalai Lama: he is more serious and more directive about what they should do. With Westerners he is altogether a more genial figure." He is famous for being on time.
Filmmaker Joshua Dugdale, who made a film about the Dalai Lama, wrote in the Times of London, his “quietly, joyous charisma...is irresistible, ubiquitous and extended equally towards all guests irrespective of rank or standing. The intensity of his eye contact when he speaks to you is unnerving...When he talks he makes you feel like the only person in the room....And then there’s his sense of humor. His laugh...proved infectious wherever he went...Certainly he uses this humor to deflect unwanted questioning, occasionally hiding disappointment and frustration. But I came to believe that it was heartfelt, undermining an optimism about human nature and a complete conviction in his approach.”
The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos on the Dalai Lama’s Personality and Character
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: “ High Tibetan lamas traditionally carry themselves as remote, commanding figures. The Dalai Lama, by contrast, usually runs late, because he has a Clintonian appetite for handshakes. "We were in this hotel in downtown L.A., and they're trying to get him from point A to point B," Ronny Novick, who has frequently filmed the Dalai Lama, told me. "And, all of a sudden, boom! He breaks off and goes into the gift shop, where they're selling chewing gum and 'I Love L.A.' Teddy bears, just to say hello to the shopgirls." [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
“For someone so involved in diplomacy, the Dalai Lama is willfully unconcerned with status. He tugs the beards of sombre religious clerics and holds hands with heads of state. He cuts short meetings with dignitaries whom he finds overly self-impressed. (When he settles deep into his chair, aides warn, he has lost interest.) Oprah once asked him if the whole world should meditate, and he replied cheerfully that it was a "stupid question." He then answered it in detail.” [Ibid]
“He tires of what he calls the "old courtesies," and one of the first changes he made after leaving Tibet was to declare, despite the protests of his retinue, that his visitors should henceforth be given a chair of equal height. Unlike many Buddhists, he eats meat, because, he says, his health suffered during a spell as a vegetarian. (Paul McCartney later wrote to him, urging him to reconsider. "It just doesn't seem right—the Dalai Lama, on the one hand, saying, 'Hey, guys, don't harm sentient beings. . . . Oh, and by the way, I'm having a steak,' " he told the Guardian.)” [Ibid]
“To get those around him to relax, he has honed a sense of "radical informality." He giggles, makes jokes about digestion, cleans his glasses with a handkerchief, and, if the meeting follows lunch, marches off to the washroom with a toothbrush and an admonition about oral hygiene. Spalding Gray, the late writer and performer, once asked him in an interview how he deals with distractions like "women in bikini bathing suits." The Dalai Lama, who has been bound by a vow of celibacy since childhood, responded, "Sometimes in my dreams, there are women. And, in some cases, fighting or quarreling with someone. When such dreams happen, immediately I remember, 'I am monk.' " [Ibid]
“He tends to make a deep impact on those he meets not only because of his spiritual stature but also because he is unusually interested in what they say. "It's quite disarming, because he'll say, 'Well, what do you think I should do?' " Robert Barnett told me, adding, "I've always wondered whether he would ask the same question if I were a nutcase, because as far as one can tell he listens patiently to them, too." [Ibid]
“The Dalai Lama's effect on others has drawn the attention of scientists. The psychologist Paul Ekman, a professor emeritus at the University of California at San Francisco, and a pioneer in the study of emotion, had long regarded Buddhism as "another crazy cult that was attracting people in the Bay Area." Then, ten years ago, he met the Dalai Lama at a conference and experienced what he calls "a sensation I've never had before or since." The best way to describe it, he told me recently, was "when you get a CT scan and they inject you with a radioactive fluid that makes your whole body tingle." Ekman, who went on to co-author a book with the Dalai Lama, titled "Emotional Awareness," said, "It is a concept you can find described all the way back in history: there were people whom others wanted to be around because it just felt good to be in their presence. They were usually spiritual leaders of one kind or another, and that's what he is. From my vantage point, it's a mutation."” [Ibid]
Dalai Lama’s Views
He once said, “We are the superior species on Earth but also the biggest troublemakers.”
The Dalai Lama has made his share of errors. He endorsed the founder of Aum Shinrikyo, the cult that carried out the sarin gas attacks in Tokyo’s subways. He said this error offered proof that he was not a “living Buddha.”
The Dalai Lama regards abortion as a sin and is against "violence to all sentient beings.” He has criticized the use of contraception and spoken out against euthanasia. He has also said that homosexually conflicts with the teachings of Buddhism but has spoken out in favor of gay rights. He opposes oral and anal sex (“the other holes don’t create life”). He also opposes sexual freedom and divorce.
He has spoken at the annual meeting for the Society of Neuroscience in Washington D.C. And spoken in human rights and globalization in Germany.
Dalai Lama's Religious and Humanist Beliefs
Dalai Lama meditating On reincarnation, the Dalai Lama once said, "The answer is not simple to give, but...I have no difficulty accepting that I am spiritually connected both to the 13 previous Dalai Lamas and to Chenrezig—and the Buddha."
Describing how to be happy the Dalai Lama wrote, "Generally speaking, one begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness and those that lead to suffering. Having done his, one then sets about gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those who lead to happiness."
The Dalai Lama wrote in the Washington Post, “I often say that while one can adhere to the principle of ‘one truth, one religion’ at the level of one’s personal faith, we should embrace at the same time the principle of ‘many truths, many religions’ in the context of wider society...A deep sense if caring for others, based on the profound sense of interconnection, is the essence of the teachings of all great religion. In my travels, I always consider my foremost mission to be the promotion of basic human qualities of goodness.”
See Dorje Shugden, Sects Tibetan Buddhism.
Dalai Lama and Science
The Dalai Lama has always been fascinated by technology and mechanical things. He likes to relax by repairing watches or clocks. When he was young he was able to get an old movie projector to work without manuals. He once said, “If I didn’t become a monk, I would be an engineer.”
The Dalai Lama has told his Western followers not to embrace Buddhism. He told the Indian writer Deepak Chopra to disregarded organized religions and instead “look to common sense, common experience and the findings of science for understanding” on the road to a higher consciousness.
Fixing a clock He has said that Buddhist scriptures disproved by science should be abandoned. He often prefers to talk about “global ethics” than difficult-to-comprehend Buddhist philosophy.
The Dalai Lama likes to use the words “logical,” realistic,” “analyze,” and ‘explore” when he talks. He has a model of the brain of his desk that he likes to assemble and disassemble and has said the Buddha is a “scientist.” Though he remains intensely interested in science, he has never entered the computer age. "His Holiness finds it difficult even knowing where to press the button," his longtime private secretary Tenzin Geyche Tethong once said. His blog and other online accounts are tended by others.
The Dalai Lama is especially interested in neuroplasticity, the study of who the brain is wired. He has spoken at the Society of Neuroscience despite objection by some supporters of mixing religion and science,, At the meeting the Dalai Lama said, “If a surgery of the brain could provide the same benefits as hours of meditation daily I would do it.”
Since the mid-1980s, the Dalai Lama has met periodically with internationally recognized scholars to discuss matters like quantum physics, cosmology and consciousness. In September 2004, he was grilled by Harvard psychology professor Alan Wallace while he sat on a stage during a Massachusetts Institute of Technology symposium on the pursuit of happiness.
Describing what happened when he “affectionately rubbed” hands with the Dalai Lama, the renowned psychologist Paul Ekman said, “I was inexplicably suffused with physical warmth during those five or ten minutes—a wonderful kind of warmth throughout my body and face. It was palatable. I felt a kid of goodness I’d never before felt in my life, all the time I sat there.”
Dalai Lama's Daily Life
Watching TV The Dalai Lama rises at 3:30am, according to Pico Iyer, and then performs “mediation, prostration, reciting special mantras, then more mediation and prostrations, followed by reading Tibetan philosophy or other texts, then reading and studying and in the evening, some meditation—evening meditation—for about an hour." CNN once filmed him doing his prayers. He yawned occasionally. When asked what he was doing, he replied, “Shaping motivation for the day.” He usually takes a shower and eats a breakfast of tsampa (roasted barely porridge) mixed with butter and honey.
When he is at home in Dharmasala, in his two-story stone-and-concrete bungalow, the Dalai Lama also prays, does full-body prostrations—part ritual and part exercise--and mediates for several hours at the end of the day. He often mediates on his death and rebirth. When asked why, he told Newsweek, "Because I still need a lot self-improvement in myself. Monk is my core identity.” When visitors come he greets them on a brown sofa chair, with a mug of plain hot water before him. In Dharmasala Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: Dalai Lama remains a venerated figure, and he is surprisingly present in their daily conversation. Families in Tibet routinely contact his office with the request that he name their newborns.
The Dalai Lama tries to make time for a half-hour workout on an exercise bicycle or treadmill and look at the BBC-television evening news brought to his house on a satellite dish bought by an American friend. He follows the news closely, reading several newspapers and confessing an addiction to morning broadcasts of the BBC World Service broadcast. Before breakfast, at five-thirty, he walks outside or on a treadmill. He tunes in to the BBC, and occasionally Voice of America's Tibetan-language broadcast, before returning to meditation and readings in philosophy. After a day of work and meetings, he performs a final hour or two of meditation before bed, at 8:30 P.M.
The Dalai Lama usually wears a maroon robe with a yellow shoulder band and his trademark glasses. Even though was described by Rupert Murdoch as a "very political old monk shuffling around in Gucci shoes," the Dalai Lama usually wears Doc Martens, modest, teacher-style loafers, sneakers or flip flops under his robes. When he sits on a chair he often tucks his legs underneath him in the lotus position.
Dalai Lama’s Health
In the past decade or so, the Dalai Lama has also required hospital visits for a pinched nerve and dysentery. But otherwise is in pretty good health. “If I don’t commit suicide,” he told an Indian talk show host on his 75th birthday in 2010. “then otherwise my body is very healthy. Another ten to twenty years . . . no problem. Maybe thirty years!” If his prophesy holds, he will be a hundred and five. .
The Dalai Lama told The New Yorker” "Some Chinese—I think, ten years ago—created a rumor: 'Dalai Lama is suffering from cancer, only a few months left!' " He said that he had been having regular checkups. "According to physicians, my body is very good. But it seems the Chinese know more about my condition!" He erupted in laughter. [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
The Dalai Lama turned 74 in 2009. In 2002, he was hospitalized and had to cancel a trip to the United States and took a three month break to recover from a bowel infection.
in August 2008, the Dalai Lama was admitted to a hospital in Mumbai, complaining of abdominal discomfort. Doctors said his health was good and that all he needed was some rest. In October, he had surgery in Delhi to have a gallstone removed. A spokesman at the hospital where the procedure was performed said it was a “simple routine procedure.”
Afterwards the Dalai Lama canceled some foreign trips, citing exhaustion after a grueling schedule to drum up support for the Tibetan cause before the Beijing Olympics. Questions were raised about the Dalai Lama’s health and retirement, The Dalai Lama began describing himself as semi-retired but also said that he had no plans to retire. He said, “There is no point, or question of retirement. It is my moral responsibility till my death to work for the Tibetan cause.
Dalai Lama’s 75th Birthday Party
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker,” The Dalai Lama's birthday party, an event he has never much cared for, was set to begin at 9 A.M. on July 6th, in the Indian Himalayan town of Dharamsala, where he lives. He skips the party most years, but he had promised to attend his seventy-fifth, so five thousand people turned up at the temple that morning, in a humid downpour, to await his arrival.” [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
“A few minutes after nine,” Osnos wrote, “ a band with drums and bagpipes marched into the temple courtyard, playing the Tibetan national anthem, which is illegal in Tibet. After the band came a throng of monks in maroon-and-saffron robes, and at its center was the Dalai Lama, ambling up the path from his office...At the stage, he pivoted to face the audience with a look of wide-eyed astonishment, an expression that he applies to many things. He sat down beneath a banner inscribed in his honor: ‘The sun in the sky, the jewel of the world, the light of our hearts, may you live a long life.’" [Ibid]
“The festivities that followed seemed to owe less to temple rituals than to those of a Midwestern ice-cream social. The Dalai Lama took in some school-dance-troupe performances, greeted members of the local Lions Club, and handed out public-service prizes. Then came some of the supremely odd moments that one has come to expect in the company of the Dalai Lama: A smiling Indian man approached the stage and unrolled a gift, a large portrait of the birthday boy, which the artist had painted in his own blood. Later, the Dalai Lama accepted a present from an eight-year-old Indian girl who is regarded as a prophet. She once predicted that he would fall ill, and he subsequently contracted a gallbladder infection. (Recently, she prophesied that Tibet would be an independent country by 2016.)”
Dalai Lama's Activities
The Dalai Lama spends several months out of the year on the road, mainly giving lectures on Buddhism but also speak about what he calls the suffering of the Tibetan people under Chinese rule. A typical visit involves some unofficial meetings with politicians in the country he visits, the dedication of a Buddhist temple, visits to several cities and a six-day teaching cycle.
The Dalai Lama travels the world to raise support for the Tibetan cause. He participates in meetings with religious leaders, presides over ceremonies for Tibetan Buddhists living abroad, appears at mass rallies, lectures businessman on "Ethics and the Bottom Line," attends fund raisers with Hollywood celebrities, and gives lectures on Buddhism ethics and religious practices. When he speaks at public gathering he usually speaks in Tibetan, which is translated into English by his translator, but occasionally breaks into English himself.
The Dalai Lama has a busy schedule. During one day of a visit to Melbourne he had 17 appointments, beginning with a meting at 7:50am with a rabbi and ending with lecture before 20,000 on "Inner Peace, World Peace." On a trip to Jerusalem in 1999, the Dali Lama donned a skull cap at the Western Wall and posed for photographs with black-robed priests at the tomb of Jesus and toured Islam’s third holiest site.
Conducting a ritual In recent years the Dalai Lama has spoken out on a number of environmental issues. Hehas told Tibetans to stop wearing fur to protect endangered animals and called on all humans to do something and greenhouse gases and climate change.
The Dalai Lama has written three dozen books, including his autobiography, The Art of Happiness, written with psychiatrist Howard Cutler (Riverhead, 1998), and Ethics for the New Millennium (Riverhead, 1999). The Art of Happiness was on the New York Times best seller list for more than 40 week. Ethics for the New Millennium was also a New York Times best seller.
Dalai Lama on Tour
The Dalai Lama does one or two big U.S. tours every year.Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: “The Dalai Lama was booked for two days in front of a sellout crowd of about three thousand people” at the University of Indiana. “After Bloomington the Dalai Lama was booked at the Indianapolis arena that is home to the Pacers of the N.B.A. Signs advertised upcoming visits by the gospel singer Bill Gaither and the W.W.E. SmackDown World Tour. One of the Dalai Lama's strengths as a speaker is his ability to tailor different products for different audiences. In Bloomington, he gave a formal Buddhist teaching on "The Heart Sutra," but for the stadium crowd in Indianapolis he sat forward on a plush burgundy armchair with a tiny headset microphone protruding from under his left ear and deployed a reliable laugh line: "Some people may have the feeling that the Dalai Lama has some kind of miracle power. After 2008 October, I went through surgery. Gallbladder." Beat. "So that scientifically proves Dalai Lama has no healing power." [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
“During the next hour and a half, he conducted a high-speed tour of his vision of the good life, rooted in his conviction that, "physically, mentally, emotionally, we are the same." He staked out the widest possible circle of agreement—praising believers of all religions as well as believers of none. He was animated and jokey, folding his hands into paws to act out the role of a kitten whose survival depends on a mother's compassion. To drive home his point that a "happy life is entirely dependent on the rest of the community," he held his wrist in the air and said, "I love my watch, but if I kiss my watch the watch has no ability to return affection." It was vintage Dalai Lama: light on eloquence, and alive with energy and common sense. The crowd was absorbed.” [Ibid]
Afterward, during a question-and-answer period, a woman in a yellow T-shirt and jeans asked about managing anger toward others, adding, "Like, maybe, in my instance, an ex-husband?" The Dalai Lama smiled, straightened his back, and answered by drawing a comparison between her divorce and the fate of Tibet. "We lost our own country, we lost our freedom. Everything. But then think about the situation: this is something beyond our control. No use for too much worry." [Ibid]
Dalai Lama Lovers
Some Christians regard him as a kind of management consultant for the soul. "There's a whole group of us out there who consider ourselves Christian Buddhists," Lisa Morrison, an Indiana Christian told The New Yorker. "I believe in Jesus Christ—that he lived is not a question, it is a fact—but I have also been touched so deeply by His Holiness."
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: “His success is due in part to the West's long-standing fascination with Tibet as the "cure for an ever-ailing Western civilization, a tonic to restore its spirit," as the Buddhist-studies scholar Donald Lopez said in his book "Prisoners of Shangri-La." Many Americans were introduced to Tibet by the novelist James Hilton, who conjured up an earthly paradise in the Himalayas which he called Shangri-La, in his 1933 novel "Lost Horizon." [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
One the woman who asked the Dalai Lama a question at a stadium appearance—a thirty-eight-year-old certified dog groomer named Erin Pattison—told The New Yorker afterwards: "what I'm doing is what I should be doing." After her divorce, she'd begun studying to become a veterinarian. "It's like what His Holiness said to me: The worst is nothing compared to losing your country. I'm blessed with what I have."
Dalai Lama, the Media and his Hollywood Friends
On visits to the United States, the Dalai Lama is often escorted by Richard Gere. Both Gere and Harrison Ford have spoken before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee pleading for more support for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause. Harrison Ford’s screenwriter former wife, Melissa Mathison, Alec Baldwin, Carmen Electra, Barbara Streisand, Todd Oldham, Oliver Stone, Sharon Stone, Willem Dafoe, Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Steven Seagal, and Goldie Hawn are among the Hollywood stars that have voiced their support for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause. The Dalai Lama also considered Pope John Paul II a friend.
In 1993, while presenting the award for Best Art Direction at the Oscars, Richard Gere said, “I was wondering if something miraculous and really kind of movie-like could happen here where we could all kind of send love and truth and a kind of sanity to Deng Xiaoping now in Beijing that he will take his troops and takes take the Chinese army away from Tibet and allow these people to live as free, independent people again.”
Richard Gere chairs the board of the International Campaign for Tibet and helped turn Tibet into a favored cause in Hollywood. The told The New Yorker his goals are much more modest than they once were: "We're working with every government and saying, 'You have to bring up Tibet. In every discussion, that's the minimum.' And they all say they do it." He added, "Whether it's just checked—'O.K., we spoke the word "Tibet," '—or how deep are they getting into it? That's a state secret." [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
There are a number of Dalai Lama jokes and puns in circulation. There's a fast food restaurant in Hong Kong called the Deli Lama. In the from Caddyshack a golf course groundskeeper played by Bill Murray said he once caddied for the Dalai Lama and said he was a “a big hitter” who gave “total consciousness..on your deathbed.” as a tip. Once at a press conference, Stuttering John" Melendez, a side kick of radio shock-jock Howard Stern, asked the Dalai Lama "What it was like to wake up one day and realize that you were God?" The Dalai Lama reportedly leaned forward into the microphone, stunned. Melendez then asked, "Do people ever say to you, 'Hello Dalai?"
10 Questions for the Dalai Lama, a film by Rick Ray, was described by the New York Times as an “anything-but-tedious film” that “expertly merges the mystical and mundane” and “presents a warm and well-rounded portrait of his subjects, Buddhist philosophies and the painful circumstances of his exile.”
The Dalai Lama has been featured in an Apple computer advertisements as has Picasso, Alfred Hitchcock, Amemlia Erhart, John and Yoko Lennon, Gandhi and Muhammad Ali. Larry King once called the Dalai Lama a Muslim on CNN. When the Dalai Lama’s 1966 Land Rover went on sale on eBay, the auction was announced by Sharon Stone, who said, “You’ll just laugh the whole time you’re in it!” On another occasion she introduced the Dalai Lama at a fund raiser as “Mr. Please, Please, Please Let Me Back Into China!” (She meant Tibet).
On the Dalai Lama and His Hollywood Friends
On the Dalai Lama’s relationship with Hollywood, Sinolgist Orville Schell told Newsweek, "Since he doesn't have embassies, and he has no political power, he has to seek other kinds. Hollywood is a kind of country of its own, and he's established a kind of embassy there." The Dalai Lama did not visit the United States until 1970. At that time he gave highly technical discourses on Buddhist philosophy which left many listeners completely baffled. There were neo celebrities connected to the Dalai Lama at this time. Except for Richard Gere the Dalai Lama only began to be embraced by western celebrities after he won the Nobel Prize in 1989. His message was simplified and secularized.
On the Dalai Lama’s popularity in Hollywood Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: “As a cliché, it is usually invoked in service of one skeptical view or the other: either to point out how far the Tibet issue has drifted from the people and places at the center of it, or to suggest that the Dalai Lama is too eager or willing to associate with big names simply for the sake of it...Neither is quite right: the Dalai Lama has a more subtle understanding of the role of the press and power than either his fans or critics usually expect.” [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker website, September 28, 2010]
“Regardless of whether you adore or resent him,” Osnos wrote. “Tthe Dalai Lama’s sheer portability and adaptability is one of the most important facts of his life. The Chinese government blames him for courting supporters in the West, and yet, by any political calculation, he has no alternative. After centuries in which previous Dalai Lamas never set foot beyond their own kingdom, this Dalai Lama spends his life ambling from one subculture to another.”
On the appearance of the Dalai Lama at an event in Bloomington, Indiana hosted by rock star John Mellencamp and his wife, model Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp, Osnos wrote: “ The Dalai Lama, as usual, was running late, and Elaine calmed the guests with an update: ‘As soon as His Holiness is done speaking then I think we’ll be able to hit the buffet.’ When the Dalai Lama arrived, John Mellencamp, a bantam of a man with a black pompadour, picked up an acoustic guitar and welcomed him with a hoarse folky tune from his latest album... Everyone applauded, including the Dalai Lama. Then he clasped Mellencamp’s cheeks like a toddler’s, and leaned in so close that his forehead grazed the prow of Mellencamp’s hairdo. It was not at all clear how much he knew—or needed to know—about the singer before him. He was on the move, leaving deep impressions in his wake. By the time people hit the buffet, he was out the door enroute to the next gig.”
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: “The Dalai Lama's romance with the West makes him vulnerable to detractors: learned Buddhists who cringe at the sound of Scripture being boiled down to bromides; liberals who point out that although the Dalai Lama calls for full legal rights for gay men and women, he cites Buddhist doctrine, which condemns anal and oral sex, and considers it unsanctioned for Buddhists; decided atheists like Christopher Hitchens, who called the Dalai Lama's following "a Hollywood cult that almost exceeds the power of Scientology." [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
Comedian Russell Brand Joins Dalai Lama Tour
In June 2012, the BBC reported: “ Comedian Russell Brand has fulfilled his role as an unlikely compere for the Dalai Lama in Manchester, as part of the Tibetan spiritual leader's UK tour. Brand introduced the Dalai Lama's address entitled Century Of Dialogue - Stand Up and Be the Change. The Dalai Lama's tour aims to spread the 76-year-old Buddhist's teachings of peace and understanding to youngsters. Brand told the audience he had just met the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for the first time and found him "amazing". [Source: BBC, June 16, 2012]
The crowd at Manchester Arena was mainly made up of under-25s who were given free tickets for the event. The Dalai Lama told the audience the future was in the hands of young people who could make change happen. "The 21st Century belongs to you," he said. "My generation belongs to the 20th Century, it has already gone so my generation are ready to say bye bye. "You are the main people who really create the better shape of the world so therefore I think quite certain this century can be more pleasant, more peaceful and more equal." He said vision, warm-heartedness and determination were necessary to attain those goals and that young people were more open-minded. [Ibid]
“Dialogue was the key to avoid violent conflicts, he said. "At the age of 16 I lost my freedom. At the age of 24 I lost my own country. During these 50 or 60 years I have faced a lot of problems but I never give up hope. Hope based on truth, hope based on reason." The Dalai Lama was asked what message he would give to the youth of Manchester following last summer's riots in the city. Demonstration and protests were sometimes warranted but never violence, the Dalai Lama said. Beard tug
During the event Brand and the Dalai Lama appeared to form an unlikely double act. At one point the Dalai Lama playfully tugged Brand's beard on stage, and the comedian responded: "Not really a lot I can do in a situation like this. I just have to go with it." Originally from Essex but now living in Los Angeles, Brand is known for his eccentric behaviour and for several controversies, including prank telephone calls he made to Andrew Sachs on BBC Radio 2, and for his marriage, and subsequent divorce, from pop singer Katy Perry
Brand described the Dalai Lama as "intense and sort of mellow, which is what you expect of someone who meditates five times a day". He then said: "Going from junkie to Shagger of the Year...three times... to now introducing the Dalai Lama. It has been an interesting journey." The Dalai Lama described Brand's introduction as "completely informal", and Brand responded: "Did you pick up any spiritual tips?" The Dalai Lama replied: "I think your openness transfers wonderfully.” [Ibid]
“The pair went on to talk about their contrasting sleep times, with the Dalai Lama arising early in the mid-morning, something that was not typical of Brand's lifestyle. "Day is for work, night is for sleep but you can do what makes you happy," said the Tibetan leader. "Thank you for sanctioning my lifestyle," replied the comedian. The comedian, who has been a long-term supporter of the Tibetan cause, thanked the Dalai Lama as the two-hour event drew to a close. "I have found it very inspiring and helpful," he said. "We need to look within ourselves.” [Ibid]
Image Sources: Dalai Lama com
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated July 2012