Master of Public Administration
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You can also download a three-part audio diary on Public Radio East about the journey here
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, recorded in Atlanta
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is both the head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on 6 July 1935. At the age of two the child, then named Lhamo Dhondup, was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity.
16 October 2007 Greenville, N.C.
On Wednesday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama receives the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor given to a civilian from our country.
For 50 years, His Holiness has continued his message of peace, compassion and acceptance, though his country has been invaded and its most holy places razed and dismantled. He refuses anger.
If you read his books, he is disarming there, too. It's impossible to remain unaffected by his thoughts. Each sentence reflects his thorough dedication to compassion. What's more, he doesn't mind sharing the universal difficulties that face us all as we struggle with desire in the sense of wanting more of everything -- food, possessions and security.
To nurture his deep inner calm and love, he practices meditation for several hours every day and he shares some of the mental exercises he uses. One of them recommends that you create an image of desperation, of people in need, and hold that image in your minds eye. Next, create an image of yourself in your most demanding, self-centered state.
When I do this reflection, it helps take the me-pursuits down a notch, and reminds me of the world's great need and how I need to pay more attention to it.
On Saturday, I leave for Atlanta, where His Holiness will give three days of teachings.
Only three more days.
That's how long until I leave for Atlanta, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama will give three days of teaching. He has been named a Presidential Distinguished Professor at Emory University. It is the first such position he has accepted.
I stumbled on news of his visit in August, reading Shambhala Sun. There, I saw a photo of His Holiness with a succinct notice that he would be at Emory University. Immediately I felt compelled to be part of his visit. I had no idea how it would happen, but I knew the first step would be to consider the idea, explore it and eventually commit to making it happen.
I reserved a hotel, starting making plans. A brainstorm idea came to cover the event this way -- A great eastern holy man in the Deep South!
The news director at Public Radio East in New Bern, N.C., where I am often a commentator, thought it was a wonderful idea and asked me to record the trip as a personal journey, which would become an audio diary.
I feel very humbled by the opportunity to see and hear him.
18 October 2007 Greenville, N.C.
It's hard to distinguish between confusion, dreams and writing -- they can overlap, especially when I get up to my chin in a project, a short story or working on the novel.
At worst, there is a sense that nothing is moving forward, just sitting at my desk wishing something would arise. Other times, I feel carried along by a wave. I just have to hang with it and do my part by transcribing what's going on inside.
These worlds sometimes throw up barriers. For instance, when I'm deep in writing, I have to let other things go. People wonder if I dropped off the face of the earth, and in some ways, I have.
Today I am sorting through notebooks and equipment, getting ready for Atlanta. I'm also clearing out closets and drawers. There is a sense of wanting to be as clear and focused as possible to listen to His Holiness.
It's usual for me to clean a lot when I'm trying to write. I ask myself, Couldn't I get a lot more done if I just wrote instead? Yet somehow this exterior setting works like a box on my attention, keeping it on the story at hand.
19 October 2007 Greenville, N.C.
I spent a couple of days cleaning the house and think I'm at last clear-headed enough to start packing. Looking through my wardrobe, my clothes seem silly and western when compared with the elegant flowing saffron robes worn by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Nevertheless, I'll have to wear them! Besides, I'll be part of the media horde, so I have to look professional. It's with mixed feelings that I take part as a member of the media, yet at the same time I know that's the best way to share what I experience -- most important, I consider it my responsibility to spread what I hear from His Holiness. Nobody can disagree that we can all use a little more compassion and hope in our lives.
Not to mention humor. His Holiness has an understated, almost child-like sense of humor. That may come from his having been claimed as the 14th incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the great Bodhisattva of Compassion, when he was only 3. In some ways, he never was a child, as it is reported that from a very early age he showed curiosity about spiritual matters, maturity and intelligence.
20 October 2007 Greenville, N.C.
It's about 4:45 a.m. Saturday. I am consuming black coffee trying to wake up. Everything's packed but this laptop.
Checking the weather, it looks like there may be thunderstorms Monday afternoon. That's when the Tibetan festival is set for downtown Atlanta. We sure need the rain, but ....
I'll miss Greg and the animals while I'm gone. Now that the day's here, I feel hesitant. It's rare that anyone gets to meet a hero, and His Holiness is a hero of mine. Yet I also know we're all people, just the same. We all have quirks and failings. Sometimes I wonder if it's not better just to keep some people away from reality.
Yet others do quite well as real people -- Vaclav Havel, the playwright and former president of Czech Republic -- comes to mind. I once stood beside him as he smoked a cigarette. There he was, flesh and blood, but still he emanated something very noble.
21 October 2007 Atlanta
Last night, it was my honor to attend a musical performance by the Mystical Arts of Tibet, a group of monks from the Drepung Loseling monastery in India.
It took place in a methodist church on the campus of Emory University, which is a Methodist university. The Emory-Tibet Partnership is bringing these two cultures closer together.
When the monks walked on stage and began their rituals, I didn't know whether to cry, convert -- or have a panic attack. It was as if I were transported into an entirely different universe, unlike anything I personally have ever taken part in.
Their performance was called Sacred Music Sacred Dance for World Healing. It was the monks' most sacred ritual dances and music for casting our evil spirits and reminding us of our temporal nature, that we -- and everything -- will pass.
It’s hard to describe the performances. It felt as if these 10 monks were allowing us to share their personal, holy world. They began with chants, holding three notes at the same time, opening the chants with the long, bellowing horns.
For the dances, they wore vivid costumes, of royal blues, saffron reds and yellows, with layers of silk and brocade. During one dance, a monk held a mirror and turned in a circle, to represent the fleeting nature of the world and everything in it. The Dance of the Skeleton Lords also reminded us that we will pass -- but they were not just skeletons, they are also protectors of truth.
During the Snow Lion Dance, two costumed monks recreated the snow lion in a playful fringed costume. It moved me to tears. At the end, from the snow lion’s mouth, a banner reading simply “World Peace” unfolded.
Before my arrival yesterday, His Holiness took part in a day-long scientific panel, Mindfulness, Compassion and the Treatment of Depression. I’ve heard that His Holiness listened intently to presentations from others on the benefits of meditation.
22 October 2007 Atlanta
(Photo by AP)
I spent yesterday listening to His Holiness and it was probably one of the best days of my life. He does radiate joy, peace and love -- I was prepared for disappointment, because really, no hero is genuine, right? The difference with His Holiness is that he's a hero for his humanity, and not because of other reasons, like so many of our heroes, who are presented as flawless, beautiful, unerring demi-gods.
No, His Holiness is simply a human being and arrived at his place of wisdom through a lifetime of hard work. That work has allowed him to develop deep understanding and acceptance for the world and all of us sharing it.
A few moments before he was scheduled to appear, the gymnasium fell silent,the colored lights that were twirling everywhere stopped and no one moved.
I hardly knew how to prepare myself, so I just said let me have a clear mind to understand this great man of peace.
When His Holiness walked onto the stage, I knew my fears that I would somehow be disappointed were groundless. How could I be disappointed?
He walked with a gait that reminded me of my grandmother, only quicker and more steady. Still, there was a sense of age to his step. He smiled constantly as he held the hands and hugged the monks there, bowing to them, as if they were the honored guests and he just an ordinary visitor.
He wore the saffron yellow and burgundy robes of a monk and on his feet, flip flops. They made no noise, however, as he walked around the stage greeting everyone.
I felt warm inside, deeply reassured not only that my hero was genuine, but somehow that the entire world wasn’t such a bad place after all.
In the afternoon a peace building summit took place ... more tomorrow ... but when I left the gymnasium, I walked into a bright, crisp autumn afternoon. Everywhere I looked, I saw joy -- people playing soccer in a field, friends walking together to the Tibetan bazaar that’s set up under the white tents, people carrying their small children. I felt awed by the beauty of everything.
23 October 2007 Atlanta
(Photo by AP)
The clouds came down to turn Atlanta into a little Tibet, and Centennial Park into Lhasa on Monday. A fresh, cool day, the buildings surrounding the park shrouded in mist became mountains, shedding their concrete nature for a few hours and giving us a break from the known world.
More than 7,000 people crowded the park and they sat on blankets, many with their children, other couples and people of all ages and walks of life.
His Holiness spoke of love and the importance of inner values, compassion and kindness, and said he would serve others until his death.
I have been in the presence of an enlightened human being. It gives me hope of what is possible by strengthening inner values and positive human emotions -- compassion, affection, love -- and discouraging the bad ones.
Today I pack up and head home, the long, eight-hour drive back to Greenville.
24 October 2007 Greenville, N.C.
Arrived home about 6 p.m. Tuesday. So tired from the drive my head was spinning, but I raced into the house to give a hug to Greg and the animals rushed me at the door!! There was a lot of slobbering and tails wagging and then I finally got to give Greg a hug.
I found myself yammering on about what I heard, what I experienced, and wondered if I shouldn't better heed the old Buddhist principle about avoiding chatter, but I'm not there yet.
The most unexpected effect: Everything looks different. The physical world seems different to me. I walked into a grocery store and instead of feeling bombarded by all that stuff, I just got what I needed, which seemed like less than usual. The gossip and women's magazines I usually feel drawn to seemed unreal. Here's the scariest part: the women on the covers looked like skeletons to me!! (Usually I think, Wow, I wish I were that thin.)
Today I am back in the frying pan with work pressures. Thankfully, it is overcast and raining, which has helped protect the peacefulness I've felt inside. I guess I will need to get a meditation regimen up and running really soon so I can build on the wisdom and peace I feel I've been part of for the past few days.
25 October 2007 Greenville, N.C.
(Photo by Greg Eans)This morning I woke at 6 a.m. to the drumming of hard rains and it felt like Christmas. There was thunder, lightning and a steady downpour, what I grew up to call "a frog strangler."
Yesterday I bumped my way back to real life after spending some time in the misty places with His Holiness. I feel more committed than ever to protecting parks and open spaces. When the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, it recognized his work as a peace maker, but it also honored his dedication to our earth and the environment.
I found a new Web site, dalailama.com. It has writings, speeches and biography.
My goal is to take up meditation to try to cultivate some inner peace ... seeing what His Holiness has achieved gives me hope. He says that by having "inner values" the outer world and our actions will more likely be compassionate and productive in a positive way. Guess I have my work cut out for me.
"Our freedom campaign is based on non-violence. Following the path of non-violence is the business capital and pride of our campaign. If we do not have truth on our side, we will have no alternative but to keep suffering.
Having truth on one's side gives one the pride to be transparent about everything and to speak reason in a face-to-face exchange. It is on the basis of knowledge that truth must be vindicated by non-violent means.
There is no way this task can be accomplished by just an act of taking a solemn oath."
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, who has peacefully worked for Tibet's human rights and autonomy since his exile in 1959.
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