By Jaron Zanerhaft
On Saturday, April 21, 2012, I watched His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak at the Long Beach Arena. The lines, perhaps 10,000 people strong, stretched into the parking lot for hours, with metal detectors and heightened security allowing people in at a trickle. Neo-hippies, college professors, Vegan protestors, and everyone in between were represented at this Long Beach happening. A friend and I arrived early but still ended up waiting in line long past his supposed 1:30 start time. When we finally entered the atrium, we found ourselves in a veritable bazaar of Tibetan wares, Himalayan incense, and general Buddhist literature including His Holiness’s published writings.
Just as we took our seats, the Dalai Lama shuffled on stage with a wide smile, took off his shoes, folded his legs beneath him on his too-large arm chair, donned a sun visor, and dove right into a childhood anecdote about riding on his mother’s shoulders and yanking her ears to steer her in the direction he wanted her to walk in.
In his notoriously goofy style, the 14th Dalai Lama delivered a string of seemingly unrelated ideas including the family origins of Anxiety, the possibility of religious unity, secular ethics, compassion and simplicity, true richness and equality, masks, and even objectification of our fellow human beings. Many of these ideas are not new in the world, but to hear them all put together in one speech, delivered in less than two hours—that is something novel.
I have heard ideals of peace and truth preached from religious leaders, friends, and musicians, but I find it difficult to hold everything together long enough to move forward with a coherent and consistent set of actions. I empathize with friends during their tough times, but I find it hard to imagine that actual people occupy the other cars during rush hour. I study hard when I see a clear path to knowledge, but I run away when I encounter confusion. I am a characteristically tenacious and loyal friend, yet I still struggle to keep in touch with those who matter most to me if distance divides us.
I believe that it is time to heed His Holiness’s unspoken, implicit message of consistency. There’s too much good in this world to let any event pass without imbuing some form of that goodness into it. At least for a moment, my eyes are open, and I am grateful that I can see.