On Hearing the Dalai Lama Speak in Birmingham

So why would an agnostic such as myself get up at 3 AM on a Sunday morning and drive over 3 hours to listen to a Buddhist teacher and other religious teachers in a theater with poor acoustics and a bad sound system?

I dunno, but I did it. And it was an amazing experience.

Here's the first round of protesters. There was another, larger group closer to the theater. They were LOUD!
Here’s the first round of protesters. There was another, larger group closer to the theater. They were LOUD!

I arrived in Birmingham at around 7:45 AM, parked 3 blocks away, and walked to the theater, only to be blasted by hundreds of Shugden Buddhist protestors who claim the Dalai Lama is causing them to be persecuted. Of course, some say the Shudgens are financed by the Chinese government and protest everywhere His Holiness goes just to stir up shit.

I had to listen to their ceaseless chanting while I stood in line to go through the metal detector and have my purse searched. Once inside, I waited in line 20 minutes to use the women’s restroom (no line in the men’s, and I was sorely tempted to cross the gender barrier and head on in). I bought a bottle of water, served sans cap, and was told I couldn’t have said cap because security won’t allow it.

The place was crawling with police and security. It made me incredibly sad to think what this man must go through to speak his wisdom. And to think I complain about trolls!

Hard to tell, but this tent was in the middle of 3rd Street. Inside were metal detectors each of us had to walk through, and have our belongings searched.
Hard to tell, but this tent was in the middle of 3rd Street. Inside were metal detectors each of us had to walk through, and have our belongings searched.

The event started late. And I really had to strain to hear and understand what the Dalai Lama was saying. Yet, I could, because in that packed theater, you could hear a pin drop.

So what did His Holiness say that I needed to get up early and drive 3 hours to hear?

Just this (paraphrased):

There are 7 billion people on this earth, and each of us has his or her own stuff to work through. And each of us should have the right to work through it. So instead of fighting with others because we believe differently, we should each reach out with compassion and understanding.

Whoa! This is heady stuff! You mean I should let the intolerant bigots be intolerant bigots because that’s their drama they have to work through?

To be clear, the Dalai Lama did NOT say any of us should tolerate intolerable behavior. What he DID say that instead of fighting back, we should reach out with compassion. We can stop the intolerable behavior without hating on the intolerant.

The Dalai Lama and other speakers on the state. I was in the back, so the pic isn't very good.
The Dalai Lama and other speakers on the state. I was in the back, so the pic isn’t very good. Also on stage L-R: Imam Khalid Latif, Rev. Eric Andrews, His Holiness’ translator (no name given), Dr. Serene Jones and Rev. Carl Jeffrey Wright.

His Holiness said we must find a way to teach compassion to all, everyone, around the world. For it is only when we practice compassion that we are happy ourselves, and those around us are as well. Right now, we teach our children how to get over on others so they can make a buck.

It really is about loving one another. I can’t make you love me. But I can show you how it’s done when I love you.

And if enough of us did that, imagine how the world could be.

20 thoughts on “On Hearing the Dalai Lama Speak in Birmingham

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  2. And that Jen, is what love is, showing it no matter what others show us. What a wonderful experience you must have had. I have to admit I was taken aback when you weren’t allowed the water bottle cap. Has our culture reached such a low that we will use such a small unintentionally designed item as a weapon against a man of peace.

    I think you show that sort of love in your rescue work with animals and as a social worker. You are miraculous.

  3. What a contrast, not even permitting a bottle cap for security, and a message like that.

    I’ve found that at the bottom of nearly all spiritual beliefs, at least the ones I’ve been able to study, you’ll find this same message. All the rest is just people piling their stuff on top.

  4. I once saw the Dalai Lama in Radio City Music Hall in New York. There was a feeling in the air that we were in the presence of a great man of peace, and that it was a true honor to be seeing him in person. He wears such an amazing expression of happiness and contentment. What a beautiful Human Being.

  5. I think I can understand what you’re feeling, Jen. I heard the Dalai Lama speak in New York’s Central Park some years ago. Amazing.

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