Just back from two days of teachings by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in Long Beach, California. Wow. What do you say? For those of you who haven't been to a teaching or public talk by him, it's an intense experience. There are so many people there, from so many backgrounds. There are Bahai, Yogis, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, and Hindus, just to name a few of them. This time there were Chinese, Vietnamese, and Tibetan monks and nuns on the stage beneath His Holiness' "throne". They took turns chanting the Heart Sutra (Prajnaparamitra) in their own languages plus Sanskrit.
It was an incredible event.
His Holiness is very fit and healthy looking, full of the sparkle and seriousness that are his trademarks. But this time I got more of a sense of the work that he does, touring and teaching, being so politically active, constantly on view as a world figure. The security for this event was almost like going through an airport. The Long Beach Police Department was in full show—their strongest members guarding the doors and all around. The FBI was represented, too. Keeping the Dalai Lama healthy and safe is a huge responsibility.
I saw more malas in the past few days than I have for a year! The winner in terms of most worn mala bead was definitely Sandalwood, followed by dark rosewood, then Rudraksha and Bodhiseed. Many people were wearing them around their necks with the guru bead behind their heads, I don't know why. (Maybe someone can tell me.) The Tibetan people wore their traditional robes and dresses and many men carried their malas hanging down from one hand, saying mantras on them as they walked. I only saw one highly decorated mala, and it was of rose quartz with many rose quartz pendants hanging down. It was gorgeous. The most beautiful mala, though, was a dark green aventurine mala with metal counters on a short Tibetan man. I had to stop and admire it.
So many ways to use them, yet it all came down to the wonder that so many people were in Long Beach saying prayers to generate compassion together, each in their own way. His Holiness is very clear that he doesn't want anyone to change religions, that people should stick to the religion they have. He explained over and over how to think of what he was teaching (ethics, emptiness and other things) if one was Christian. It was really wonderful. Mainly his attitude is, if it helps, use it. If it doesn't, don't let it become an obstacle. He promotes harmony between religions, not divisiveness.
The flavor of the event was serious, but the crowd was like a large group of people in a very large marketplace, slowly following one another in lines to get to seats, see vendor's displays of art and jewelry, to bathrooms, and to get food. Everyone was very friendly and calm despite the crowdedness. It was a great example of people getting along.
I came away with so much. I know only a little, my meditation is questionable, I don't understand half of what I could if I actually studied, but I love this path and the people on it. It's truly a blessing to be able to pursue a path that suits one. How lucky we are to have freedom of religion and the freedom to gather! It was sad that it's possible to go to this kind of event here in the West but not in Tibet now. Maybe if we pray for the Tibetan cause and support the International Campaign for Tibet, some positive change can come about.