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the Dalai Lama looked me in the eye and said, women rule! (in so many words)

A little story to start the weekend…

TO INDIA WE GO

Just about to turn thirty, I was given a rare opportunity to have a private audience with His Holiness The Dalai Lama. “Hey kid,” my boss said on the other end of the phone, “I think I’ve got us a meeting with the Dalai Lama … at his place in India. You in?”

I had no idea how I was going to swing three weeks in India, the flight from Seattle to New Delhi, Delhi to Bangalore and back. “Yeah, I’m in.” And like most things meant to be, the money showed up at the right time and I showed up in smelly Delhi with high expectations.

His Holiness is based, along with the exiled Central Tibetan Administration, in the high mountain region of Northern India in Dharamsala. It is essentially a little Tibet, teeming with refugee Tibetans and transported monks. And it’s a hell of a trek to get there. Planes, trains, and mini vans switch-backing up thin, cliff-side roads for hours.

DALAI LAMA DAY

After being thoroughly frisked and passed through metal detectors, my five travel mates and I were ushered into a His Holiness’s meeting room furnished with stunning tankas and red mahogany trimmed sofas. We waited like groupies before the big show.

We were told we’d have precisely fifteen minutes to meet. And he was already fifteen minutes late. What if something more important came up? It would be understandable if he blew us off at the last minute. We weren’t diplomats or officials. We weren’t even Buddhists.

He burst in, robust and radiant, “Sohhh sorry! Sohhh sorry to keep you waiting.” {You’re the 14th reincarnation of the venerable Dalai Lama and you’re apologizing to this motley crew? I thought. Now that’s an entrance.}

COMPASSION, WOMEN + GEN X

We spoke of universal consciousness. Are there different consciousnesses on different planets or dimensions? “One, ultimately one consciousness, is what I think,” he replied. We spoke of current military actions and politics. We laughed. We mostly laughed in amazement at his bellowing belly laughs. I watched him like a hawk. I thought to myself, don’t be glamoured, Danielle. His greatness could be a projection from followers, a role he plays. And still, I felt a complete sense of clean, sincere, awesomeness. In my most humble estimation, this guy registered as The Real Thing.

The clock was ticking. One after the other, like school children in a row, he gestured for each person to ask their question. And then he skipped a beat. He abruptly turned to me. Penetrating gaze. Fuzzy eyebrows raised. “You. You have a question, yes you.” In wasn’t my turn yet. It was Valentines’ Day. I really just wanted to say, “Sir, will you be my Valentine? I have a total crush on you.”

“Uh, yes, well, my generation is at a crossroads where no other generation has been before.” {Duh, that’s naturally true of every generation.} “And I wondered, what message do you have for us Gen X’rs?”

“Ah yes, crossroads.” Nodding briskly. “Well, in the West, you have education, and this is good. And you have technology. And this is good. But, you do not educate your people in values. Values of the heart. Compassion. This you must do.”

“And you see, it does not matter whether you are Buddhist or Christian.” he went on. “Compassion lives in heart, beyond religion. Even me, Buddhist, I can say, you do not need Buddhism, just the compassion of the heart.” Call me cynical, but I just can’t see The Pope being so flexible.

“Women know this,” he went on. “Because, peace, peace is implicit in women. You put boys together, they make war. You put women together, they make peace. Women are the leaders of the future.” He spoke of Jimmy Carter as a leader with feminine-based principles, and Benazir Bhutto as a “very aggressive woman, but good leader…very good leader.” And he laughed. And laughed.

Almost an hour had gone by.

SEEN AND LOVED

Even though his secretary insisted we wrap, HH glanced ’round the room and said, “Okay?” as if to ask our permission to be excused. Quick photo op. Cameras flashing. More laughter.

And then the Dalai Lama did the most incredible thing. When I thought he was about to exit left and high tail it out of there, he moved toward the doorway entrance and waited patiently for each of us to file out. And then he hugged each one of us good-bye. Slowly. Firmly. Like your favourite grandparent hugs you – with thankfulness and deep care, like they have all the time in the world.

And when he pulled back from our Most Holy Bear Hug, he looked me in the eyes, as he did with each of us, and he smiled wide and nodded. And let me tell you, without an ounce of romanticism, being in his gaze was like having the milky way grinning down on me. I have only rarely in this lifetime felt so clearly seen, and so clearly loved. The simultaneity of recognition and acceptance was intoxicating.

And out we filed.

So how do you follow up a meeting with the Dalai Lama? With fries and Coke in a smokey cafe, of course. We debriefed in the glow. We were stoned on the experience. We dissected his political views and take on universality. And each one of us, in our own way, said, “How about that hug, eh?”