Only one person on the planet could draw a crowd of fourteen thousand in Perth, Western Australia, to listen to nothing but a two-hour long speech
on happiness. That person is Tenzin Gyatso, the 14thDalai Lama, exiled leader of Tibet.
The speech was essentially a long ramble – and I say that not in a pejorative way but because ramble is what the Dalai Lama does. And it works – he says whatever comes into his head, flowing seamlessly from one topic to the next. It’s unorganised and probably even impromptu, but he keeps the audience in rapture throughout.
The topic of this particular conversation (I call it that because the audience asked questions at the end) was on ‘Spirituality in the Modern World’.
He covered everything from the weaknesses of pride and the strengths of compassion, to the downfalls of capitalism and the potential positives of socialism, to the overwhelming need to use peaceful solutions to solve global conflicts wherever possible. One of the quotes I remember vividly was: “The 20th century was the century of war. Let’s make the 21st century the century of peace.”
There’s a reason why everyone sits up and takes notice when the Dalai Lama has something to say. To me, he’s simply the wisest person I’ve ever come across. I’ve never read any of his writings or heard him say anything that I can genuinely and with conviction disagree with. And when I do initially feel as though I don’t share the same opinion, I usually come to the conclusion later that I just don’t know enough to have a valid view on the subject – whatever it is.
It seems to me he really does have the answer to everything, even if the answer is not having an answer at all.
For example, one lady in the audience said:
“My seven year old asked me this question and I didn’t know the answer – but I said I knew the man to ask… Your Holiness, if God created Jesus and the Earth, who created God?”
Admittedly a nonsensical question to an atheist like myself. But the Dalai Lama had a great answer:
“Sometimes it is best not to try to go beyond our human capacity [for thought]… Science and reason cannot be used to explain the existence of God. They also cannot be used to disprove the existence of God. Sometimes it is better for these things to remain a mystery.”
I think even an atheist can appreciate sentiments like these.
One of my favourite things about the Dalai Lama is his humility, and the way he doesn’t try to force his ideas on people or proclaim them as the ‘truth’, like other self-help authors I’ve read.
Also in contrast to a lot of the quick-fix happiness solutions floating around, the Dalai Lama admits that achieving happiness, or at least more happiness in our lives, is genuinely difficult and can take many months of disciplined training. I love this assertion – it’s so much more realistic than the idea that enlightenment is so close within our grasp and we just have to unlock some kind of secret to reach it. To me that’s utter bullshit.