Shopping Cart
Your Cart is Empty
There was an error with PayPalClick here to try again
CelebrateThank you for your business!You should be receiving an order confirmation from Paypal shortly.Exit Shopping Cart

Kaitli‚Äčn Murphy-Knudsen

Place, Politic, and Spirit in Modern Life


The Dalai Lama Reveals the Secret to Enlightenment: Laugh at Your Own Jokes?

Posted on May 17, 2011 at 10:10 PM
Peace Mural @NewarkPeace : Panelists onstage at the Newark Peace Education Conference, May 2011His Holiness the Dalai Lama : His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Moderator Robert Thurman, Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, Newark's Earl "The Street Doctor" @NewarkPeace, May 2011His Holiness the Dalai Lama : His Holiness the Dalai Lama @Newark Peace, May 2011His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Moderator Robert Thurman : His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Moderator Robert Thurman, @NewarkPeace May 2011

Expectations were high. This was the Dalai Lama after all. Was it too much to expect the most profound insights we'd ever heard, solutions to the problems of the world at large and our smaller worlds within it?

This past weekend the Tibet House, the Drew Katz Foundation, Columbia professor and Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman and Newark Mayor Cory Booker hosted His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Newark Peace Education Summit in New Jersey. With the heightened security, bows of deference and the craning of thousands of ears toward his every word, it was hard for me to imagine what it would be like to face such out-sized expectations when traveling--feeling their weight in the very air between you and everyone you meet, people who want something important from you that they cannot quite name but expect nonetheless.

Despite this, His Holiness did not disappoint. He may even have revealed the secret to enlightenment itself. But not as you might think.

He did not say anything surprising or new, and aside from some close listening to account for a slight language barrier, no mental gymnastics were needed to follow his points.

He spoke of bringing secular moral ethics back into an educational system that has veered too far in the direction of teaching knowledge alone. He urged for the cultivation of an inner peace that outer peace depends upon, stipulating that inner peace alone is not sufficient in changing the trajectory of world events.

He pushed the audience to exert compassionate action on our communities and to intervene to correct suffering and injustice.

He described the need to differentiate between the actor and action when we are wronged, seeking justice for actions that harm while directing compassion at the actor, who deserves our respect as a fellow human being.

A lot of people say these things. Why is it so different, especially for a Western audience, coming from the Dalai Lama?

Priests and preachers give the same advice on Sundays to snores from their congregations. The people who do hear it have a hard time living it at the first sign of annoyance or the sight of someone we don’t like very much.

Yet even among attendees who do not subscribe to Buddhism or believe the Dalai Lama is a centuries-old, reincarnated-many-times holy man, many said he was the one whose impact was the most significant.

Why did the Dalai Lama take the cake, and why can't anyone quite explain the reasons? In the West, does it all boil down to the wattage of his star power?

I am no Buddhist scholar, and my knowledge of Buddhism amounts to one reading of Siddhartha in a college World Religions class, and a few readings meant for popular consumption from the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh.

But as a qualified non-scholar, I don’t think this was about star power. Correct as His Holiness may be on every argument for compassion, I think he tricked us. His words may be true and real and honest, but they were the side show.

I will tell you what I saw, and you tell me what the real show was.

•    When the moderator welcomed the Dalai Lama to an afternoon panel discussion, he asked, “His  
      Holiness, do you have a few comments to start us off? The topic is peace in the family.”

     “I have no experience with that. No.”

     The audience laughed, and one woman near me didn't stop until long after the moment passed.

•    When pressed on a question about arguments in the home, the Dalai Lama told a story
      about two boys he saw fighting. He pantomimed with his hands, wrangling his fingers
      together while scrunching his face into a knot. He broke his hands apart when the altercation  
      ended and swiped his palms together.

     “Too hard to say... no conflict! But I say, maybe argue as little boys do… When they are done, they
     are done. Same.”

     The audience waited for more.

     “Aside from that, I don’t know.”

•    He giggled at his jokes. Many times when he told a funny story or joke that had not quite come
      across clearly to the audience in English, he would laugh so hard at his punchline that soon our own
      laughter was bouncing off of his, which made him laugh even harder.

•    After a long anecdote or explanation, often the audience would continue to wait, hanging on the  
      hope for more words, the rest of his answer.

     “That’s all,” he would say abruptly, putting up his hands and smiling. “I’m done!”

•    He acted out his stories to make his points.

     “Ok, let’s say I am suspicious,” he said, then pointed directly at a member of the panel who had
     disagreed with him earlier.

     “Of HER.” He smiled at his joke. “Let’s say…NO trust.” He tried to assume a posture and face of
     suspicion and aggression, but the look was so false that it elicited chuckles from those around me.
     Someone who has no ill will inside to draw from is a terrible method actor.

What I saw was that laughter came easily. The Dalai Lama laughed a whole-person laugh, often at his own comments or expense while slapping his leg and looking to the person next to him, as if checking to be sure they were sharing his same pure joy.

With a sense of comedic timing that seems to receive far less examination than his political and holy roles, he weaved our attention through suffering and laughter simultaneously. He did so without diminishing or turning an eye from blunt realities for a second, and without goading us into the guilt or despair that can paralyze well-meaning people into the cynicism of thinking our efforts can’t change anything.

So what was it? Another Buddhist monk answers with stories.

Buddhist monk and the Dalai Lama’s mentee Tenzin Priyadarshi attempted to describe this quality in a workshop in responding to a high school teacher’s request for advice. She was struggling to stop her students from using hateful language, and she felt conflicted about her angry reactions to colleagues who advised that she let it roll off her back.

He reminded us that the Buddha was a warrior who had defeated anger in himself, the same anger people recognize as critical judgment today when we attempt to change someone's opinion with an argument we are attached to. He differentiated between speaking her truth and trying to convince, suggesting that it is too much of an expectation to think that someone will change because of what we say.  But once you have accepted the role of the warrior and eliminated your anger, sometimes it just happens.

To illustrate, he told the story about a group of rabbis who had frequently urged the Dalai Lama to engage in arguments about their philosophical and religious differences. They persistently pressed him for his point of view until His Holiness relented.

“Ok,” His Holiness finally said. “You know how they say the Jews are the chosen people?”

“Yes?” they asked expectantly.

“That is outdated.”

The tension was broken.

If the Dalai Lama has lived lifetimes as a spiritual leader to cultivate the inner and outer paths to non-violence, it is no wonder the rest of us are still stuck being aggravated by stupid things. His ability to accept us all while simultaneously spurring us on to better actions surely took a warrior to win.

But as a result, out of an audience of a few thousand, I was left with the distinct impression that he had seen me, and I was just fine with him—despite my very non-peace-like aggravation with a few audience members when they hassled Jody Williams, the Nobel laureate who had led the international effort to ban land mines, because she had failed to notice or speak out against the summit’s (biodegradable, locally made) water bottles, which would take too long to biodegrade.

So that’s all, as His Holiness would say? Maybe the bumper sticker is right and the hokey pokey really IS what it's all about?

Except that loving people and staying close to laughter in the face of suffering are a little harder than that. Pablo Picasso may have come closer when he said that "it takes a long time to grow young."

As for my own long time, I am still sifting through the bold ideas and words, the stunning courage and struggles and triumphs of the summit’s speakers. They are all over the place in my head, not quite behaving, slamming into each other and introducing themselves to my own experiences. I need a few days to get them in line.

What do you think?

If you attended the conference, what was it about the Dalai Lama this weekend that impacted you?

If you did not attend, have you ever met such a person? Someone who, not because of the "side show" of their words alone, but something else, because who they are redirected you a little bit, away from angst and toward peaceful action in your own life?

Feel free to share your comments below. If you are a private person, respond via email using the form on the right. Thanks for reading!

Categories: None

Post a Comment


Oops, you forgot something.


The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.


Reply John Fowler
5:45 PM on May 21, 2011 
I thoroughly enjoyed your write-up on the Peace conference in Newark, NJ. I currently live in the Middle East and we could certainly use more talk and action directed towards healing old wounds but it seems we all need to have that peace within oursleves before we can hope to see it in the communities around us. I mostly appreciated the wit and the DL's laughter:) Thank you.
Reply Kaitlin
6:50 PM on October 2, 2011 
John Fowler says...
I thoroughly enjoyed your write-up on the Peace conference in Newark, NJ. I currently live in the Middle East and we could certainly use more talk and action directed towards healing old wounds but it seems we all need to have that peace within oursleves before we can hope to see it in the communities around us. I mostly appreciated the wit and the DL's laughter:) Thank you.

Thank you :). I hope you start to see at least snippets of that peace there soon.
Reply Richard Lamb
9:23 AM on October 6, 2022 
Reply Brian Brown
1:22 AM on October 20, 2022 
Kid present ahead want doctor minute. Make value story light. Serious standard road life leader skin. Community artist him occur push cup pull. Morning chance buy rise forget.
Reply paul george shoes
7:40 PM on October 23, 2022 
I enjoy you because of all your effort on this web site. Kate really likes carrying out investigations and it's easy to understand why. All of us know all of the dynamic form you provide vital ideas on your web site and as well as encourage participation from some other people on the subject matter plus our favorite princess has always been becoming educated a great deal. Enjoy the remaining portion of the new year. You're the one carrying out a powerful job.
paul george shoes
Reply kyrie irving shoes
7:41 PM on October 23, 2022 
I not to mention my guys came viewing the great hints located on your web blog and so at once came up with a horrible suspicion I had not expressed respect to the web site owner for those techniques. All the young men were consequently stimulated to read through all of them and have in actuality been tapping into these things. Thank you for being quite thoughtful and for making a decision on this form of incredibly good guides most people are really desperate to know about. My very own honest apologies for not expressing appreciation to earlier.
kyrie irving shoes
Reply goyard outlet
7:42 PM on October 23, 2022 
I'm just commenting to make you know of the wonderful experience my friend's daughter experienced viewing yuor web blog. She figured out a good number of pieces, which included what it's like to have a wonderful giving heart to have other people quite simply have an understanding of chosen multifaceted issues. You really exceeded readers' desires. I appreciate you for giving such priceless, dependable, edifying and even easy tips about your topic to Mary.
goyard outlet
Reply bape hoodie outlet
7:42 PM on October 23, 2022 
I'm commenting to make you understand what a impressive discovery my girl gained visiting your web page. She noticed too many pieces, which include how it is like to have an awesome giving mindset to make folks easily completely grasp specified impossible matters. You actually did more than people's expected results. Many thanks for rendering the invaluable, dependable, edifying and also unique thoughts on that topic to Mary.
bape hoodie outlet
Reply fear of god
8:26 AM on October 24, 2022 
My wife and i have been absolutely cheerful Emmanuel could finish up his reports from the precious recommendations he made while using the web pages. It's not at all simplistic to simply continually be giving for free solutions a number of people have been trying to sell. And we all grasp we now have the blog owner to thank because of that. The type of illustrations you've made, the easy site navigation, the relationships you help create - it's everything unbelievable, and it's letting our son in addition to our family imagine that this subject matter is pleasurable, and that is tremendously pressing. Thanks for all the pieces!
fear of god
Reply fear of god clothing
8:27 AM on October 24, 2022 
Thanks for every one of your work on this web site. My niece takes pleasure in setting aside time for investigations and it's easy to see why. My spouse and i notice all relating to the compelling manner you present rewarding techniques through your web blog and therefore cause contribution from other ones about this concern and our own daughter has been discovering a lot. Enjoy the rest of the new year. You are doing a pretty cool job.
fear of god clothing
Reply supreme hoodie
8:27 AM on October 24, 2022 
I would like to express some appreciation to the writer just for bailing me out of this particular trouble. Just after surfing throughout the search engines and seeing things that were not beneficial, I assumed my life was gone. Existing devoid of the strategies to the problems you have fixed as a result of this short post is a crucial case, as well as the ones which may have in a wrong way affected my career if I had not noticed the blog. Your primary knowledge and kindness in taking care of every item was useful. I'm not sure what I would've done if I had not discovered such a solution like this. I can also at this point relish my future. Thanks a lot so much for your reliable and result oriented guide. I won't hesitate to endorse your blog post to anyone who requires tips on this area.
supreme hoodie
Reply hermes birkin
8:27 AM on October 24, 2022 
I have to express my appreciation to the writer just for bailing me out of this situation. After checking through the search engines and meeting techniques which were not powerful, I was thinking my entire life was gone. Being alive without the presence of answers to the problems you've solved by way of your main posting is a crucial case, as well as ones which could have in a wrong way affected my career if I had not noticed the blog. Your main understanding and kindness in controlling all the stuff was tremendous. I'm not sure what I would've done if I had not encountered such a point like this. It's possible to at this moment relish my future. Thanks a lot so much for your specialized and amazing guide. I will not be reluctant to endorse your web blog to anyone who wants and needs support on this area.
hermes birkin
Reply jordan outlet
8:27 AM on October 24, 2022 
I must convey my affection for your kind-heartedness in support of individuals who actually need help with the idea. Your very own dedication to getting the message around turned out to be certainly good and have encouraged girls much like me to attain their ambitions. Your entire warm and helpful tips and hints can mean so much a person like me and much more to my mates. Warm regards; from everyone of us.
jordan outlet
Reply supreme clothing
9:26 PM on October 24, 2022 
I in addition to my friends were checking the great helpful hints on your web blog then unexpectedly I had a horrible suspicion I had not thanked the website owner for those strategies. Those men were definitely for this reason very interested to learn them and already have in truth been tapping into those things. Thank you for really being indeed kind and then for choosing certain outstanding areas most people are really desperate to understand about. My personal honest apologies for not expressing appreciation to earlier.
supreme clothing
Reply goyard online store
9:26 PM on October 24, 2022 
I and my guys were found to be digesting the excellent advice from your web page while all of the sudden I got a horrible feeling I had not expressed respect to you for those strategies. Those young boys ended up warmed to read them and have in effect in truth been loving these things. Thank you for actually being well accommodating and then for going for varieties of outstanding subject areas millions of individuals are really eager to understand about. My very own sincere apologies for not expressing appreciation to you earlier.
goyard online store
Reply kyrie irving shoes
9:26 PM on October 24, 2022 
Thanks a lot for providing individuals with remarkably nice possiblity to discover important secrets from this blog. It's always so pleasurable and also packed with a great time for me personally and my office fellow workers to visit your blog nearly three times weekly to read through the fresh guidance you have. And indeed, we're actually fulfilled with all the great thoughts you give. Some 1 tips in this posting are essentially the best we have had.
kyrie irving shoes