What I learnt from Tenzin Gyatso: “Stay Humble, Stay Happy, Stay Human”

Every once in a while, someone will come into your Life and make you sit up and appreciate the value of being human – and being happy.
On my Life’s journey I have met a few people who have had a profound impact on my outlook to Life and have inspired me to be happy. But this morning at the Extra Mural Lecture Series at IIT-Madras, The XIVth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, invited me to look at Life and happiness afresh.
He raised the pitch and perspective to a higher-than-30,000-ft-level saying each of us has a responsibility to make this Century, the 21st Century, the Century of Happiness. And even as he delivered this profound message, he ensured that he gently, beautifully, stirred your soul and made you realize that the real purpose of your creation – and mine – is to be happy!
Tenzin Gyatso: The XIVth Dalai Lama
Picture Courtesy: TIME/Internet
The Dalai Lama began by simply being who he is – he is simplicity personified. He picked up an apple, from a fruit basket that had been given to him by IIT-M Director Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi as a welcome gesture, and kept chomping on it all through his lecture. He said, “I prefer informality. I prefer all of us treating each other as humans. That way there is equality. You know, the moment I start looking at myself as a Tibetan or as a Buddhist monk, then I begin to treat myself with exclusivity. And let me tell you if I start referring to myself as The Dalai Lama – I am the only Dalai Lama in the world which has over 7 billion people – then it gets very lonely. So, I am just another human being like you. I like it this way. This is when we can have a conversation – you and me!”
He made a very strong case for humanity and happiness. He said that all humans, intrinsically, basically, are compassionate. And all human beings want a happy Life – and they have a right to be happy! All destructive emotions – anger, hatred, fear – are secondary. They arise in people only when their idea of happiness is disturbed. Each individual, he pointed out, has a responsibility: to go back to the basic human state of compassion, to have a vision to make this world happier and to develop the patience to attain this vision. “But it is a personal choice,” he reiterated, adding, “That is why the Buddha said, ‘You are your own Master.’ Your happiness is in your hands and in your actions – mental, verbal and physical actions. So, you can go to work on what I have shared with you or you can drop it.”
Tenzin Gyatso: The XIVth Dalai Lama
Picture Courtesy: TIME/Internet
He made us pause and think of religion and its role and purpose. He patiently elucidated what the various religions are trying to say. He led us to understand that each religion, and the multiple philosophies professed by each religion, may appear to be different. But ultimately all of them are promoting human well-being and happiness. Again, he championed that it was an individual responsibility for each of us to stay focused on the bigger picture of what each religion was striving to achieve. “The true meaning of secular is to respect all religions and their followers and respect all those who are non-believers (in religion) too. It is our responsibility to work towards religious harmony among the world’s people. That’s my commitment,” he said.
At 80, The Dalai Lama lives and leads his Life’s message from the front. Not in his spiritual role. Not in its political avatar. To me, he has relinquished both. The political mandate he gave up in September 2011 when he retired from the Central Tibetan Administration. And he is hardly interested in continuing in the spiritual role either, of being a reincarnation of Avalokitesvara – the Boddhisattva of Compassion. In an interview he gave a German newspaper in September 2014, The Dalai Lama has indicated that he is not keen on the tradition of the Dalai Lama, which has stayed for over 5 centuries, continuing any longer. In fact, he spoke about it briefly this morning too. “Even the Dalai Lama institution has become feudal over the years. It’s time for change. Which is why, I prefer dealing with people at a human level not as a reincarnation of Avalokitesvara,” he said.
My family and I – who are together for the first time in 8 years for Diwali – could not have found a more enriching experience on a Diwali morning! Just being in the presence of the man is such a blessing. Here’s someone who has stripped himself of all the trappings of power and exclusivity and has gone to the root of human existence to promote compassion and happiness among the world’s people. I don’t know of too many statesmen and global leaders who have been able to do that or are doing that. Which is why, perhaps, over 3000 of us in the audience at the Student Activities Centre at IIT-M clung on to his every word, having chosen to pause our Diwali celebrations.

They call him ‘His Holiness’. But I won’t call him so. As he chomped on his apple, and kept repeating how delicious it was, he taught us the value of being humble, being happy and being human. To me, therefore, Tenzin Gyatso is just a happy, humble, human being! And so he inspires me to be one myself! 
Advertisements