Happy Birthday, Dalai Lama!
For Tibetan Buddhists in particular July 6 is a very special day. It is the 77th birthday of Tensin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. Well wishers from all over the world are showering Dharamsala with birthday greetings and gifts. The Dalai Lama has become so well-known and recognised in the world outside ofTibet and China that nary a week goes by without a news story about him. This was certainly not the case when he was young and being educated to assume the role of Dalai Lama for Buddhists all over the world who recognise him as the re-incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, Avalokiteshwara. As such the Dalai Lama fulfills the most important role anyone can play: he has achieved enlightenment and has undertaken to reincarnate until all sentient beings attain enlightenment as well. That is an exalted calling, than which there is nothing more vital to humanity. We dwell in a world that is in itself a place of suffering. Despite all its beauty and grandeur, the presence of humans disturbs the natural balance of the planet. The addition of self-conscious beings with freedom to choose how they will live introduced a form of chaos into the natural order of the bio-world. And we have certainly perpetuated that chaos in every imaginable form from individual acts of cruelty to the organised murder of war and the wilfull destruction of the only environment in which we can continue to exist. Why do we do this? Buddhists believe that our purpose is to use physical incarnation to learn how to balance all aspects of existence from the most basic biological reality to the most sublime state of compassionate detachment from the wheel of karma, the state of enlightenment or pure consciousness. As the incarnation of the spirit of the preceding Dalai Lama and so on all the way back to Siddartha, the Buddha, the Dalai Lama is both a living symbol and an example of how to achieve ultimate Freedom, the state of pure consciousness.
Happy Birthday, Dalai Lama!
What is unique about this Dalai Lama is that he is out in the world and not living a reclusive existence in an ancient monastery. Tensin Gyatso engages with the world and in doing so opens our eyes to another way of being, the way of true happiness, a state that we all have access to through the practice of mindfulness and the gradual detachment from material reality to open the way for our evolution into pure consciousness, a kind of reunion with All That Is in which we participate in creating new forms of life, new universes, extending consciousness to infinity.
The Great Liberation
For some years now it has been the Dalai Lama’s wish to retire from public life, not to live a more leisurely existence but to do what only he can do: to enter ever deeper levels of meditation over a period of time until he reaches the point at which he can leave his body behind when he feels it is his time to go. That time is one that all who love this man dread. I certainly do. His absence will be felt keenly and that rarest of all jewels, the genuinely happy spirit, will go out of the world. Those who have absorbed some of his capacity for pure joy, his capacity for contentment even in adversity, and his devotion to ending human suffering, will continue his work for ultimately we must all liberate ourselves. That process can be accelerated by living in a state of mindfulness and those of us who alive right now are indescribably fortunate to be able to observe and learn from him. Though it is painful to contemplate, my deepest wish for His Holiness is that he is granted the opportunity to prepare for his great liberation now. Our love for him must become unselfish so that he is free to follow his destiny without our trying to hang on to him. His freedom is ultimately our freedom, too, so when we release him to his rightful path we release ourselves as well.
© Delia O’ Riordan 2012
Photo credits: courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons.