5 Lessons I Learned from the Dalai Lama

Last month, the Dalai Lama came to the University of Colorado Boulder to speak to a sold-out crowd of over 18,000. It was my first live experience with his holiness and even though it was a large venue, it felt very intimate. Despite sound issues and him speaking in Tibetan and English, I was completely captivated the entire 2 hours he spoke.

Here are the lessons I learned:

The Dalai Lama was very playful and had the most endearing laughter throughout his program. When the mayor of Boulder gave him a bicycle helmet and jersey in honor of “Bike to Work” week, he flung the jersey over his shoulder and put the helmet on. He told us the helmet offers protection on the bicycle journey the same way mindfulness offers protection against our afflictions (suffering) on our journey. Even a deeply wise man does not have to take himself so seriously.

In the eight verses on mind training he taught, “when I encounter beings of unpleasant character and those oppressed by negativity and suffering, may I cherish them for they are so rarely found.” Practice compassion for others who are so rarely found.

He said the wisdom of emptiness is the absence of independent existence. The concept of emptiness or selflessness has always been a difficult one for me to totally grasp, but I can tell you his holiness emanated this emptiness the whole time. It’s not all about me and what I want and what I have, it is much bigger, as we are all connected.

Lifelong Learning
He encouraged, “may I always be the student wishing to achieve the highest aim.” When we treat our experiences, our families, our enemies, and our friends as our teachers, we are always open to learning. The lifelong student is open to possibilities and practices a beginner’s mind.

In his last verse on mind training, he said by understanding all things as illusions, free of clinging, we can be released from bondage. This is the true practice. Knowing myself eliminates grasping and leads to my freedom.

I was deeply moved by the presence, the wisdom, and the humility of the Dalai Lama and continue to reflect on my experience. Today, I wish you the playfulness, compassion, emptiness, and freedom I felt he gave me that day.

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