IN THE PRESENCE OF THE DALAI LAMA AT LOUISVILLE
AN EXTRAORDINARY TEACHER, AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE
A journey into the matters of spirit: Kanwal Prakash Singh
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
June 10, 2013
Kanwal Prakash Singh
A Buddhist spiritual pilgrimage: The stage was decorated with a giant tapestry of Lord Buddha, the founder of the 2,600 year old Buddhist faith, fresh flowers at the base, a splendid throne bedecked with brocaded silks directly in the middle of the stage, cushions for the venerable and monks and nuns from several Buddhist traditions on both sides. Leaders from different faith traditions and non-Buddhist dignitaries were on the stage. The arena had the look and aura of a Tibetan Buddhist Temple Sanctuary in Tibet or India. Two giant screens were flashing slides of the magnificent images of Tibetan people, festive celebrations, landscape, and heritage sites, with hauntingly beautiful musical renditions on the flute, providing cultural and spiritual background music captivating mind and spirit.
His Holiness greeting audience from his elevated seat
Throughout the brilliant and illuminating discourse, I felt that I was on a pilgrimage of spirit that transcends the boundaries of faith, culture, tradition, nationality, geography, and gender. Ardent admirers, Buddhist teachers, the Dalai Lama Fellows from Louisville, other Midwestern states, across the USA, and some from around the world had gathered inside "the serene and welcoming spiritual court." The audience of 6,000 represented many diverse backgrounds, faith associations, cultural experiences, and yet formed one beautiful tapestry as One God's Children.
It was a wonderful feeling to see these cultural and spiritual paths converge at the KFC YUM! Center in Louisville on May 20th to attend the Teaching Sessions of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. The Dalai Lama was going to explain and discuss an ancient text: Atisha’s “Lamp for the Path of Enlightenment,” written by an Indian Buddhist master and philosopher, Atisha Dipamkara Shrijnana (982-1054) at the request of a Tibetan King in the eleventh century.
To set the spiritual context, two short videos were shown: “Engaging Compassion” a short history of Louisville, the meeting between the revered Dalai Lama and venerated Catholic Thomas Merton in India and the deep respect that emerged between these two communities since; and “A Vision of Tibet,” a moving vision of Tibet in beautiful images and haunting music. Both left a deep imprint on my soul; we were being connected to the living history of our planet.
A thunderous applause and reverential welcome followed as His Holiness the Dalai Lama walked on the stage to the deep rhythmic chanting by the monks. The Dalai Lama, in majestic simplicity of his traditional orange-gold and maroon robes of a Tibetan monk, with sacred prayer beads on his right wrist, greeted the monks and then walked to the edge of the stage, bowed and greeted the vast gathering before him with folded hands.
As the Dalai Lama sat on his elaborately-embellished throne to begin his teaching, Michael Fitzpatrick, an acclaimed soloist and recording artist, presented a captivating meditative performance on his electric cello that seemed to transport our spirits to some beautiful higher realm. Before the start of afternoon Session, the audience was treated to an indescribably beautiful healing music on the flute by Grammy Nominee, Tibetan Flutist Nawang Khechog.
In the morning Teaching Session, the Dalai Lama focused and elaborated on the theme of “Engaging Compassion” as the vital and unifying cornerstone of our humanity. He called upon people of all faiths to work together: generously share blessings with those in need as an act of faith and moral conscience; advance human dignity, freedoms, and happiness of others; respect different faiths, cultures, and perspectives. Everyone deserves to be happy. We must serve those in desperate circumstances and uplift human condition to a more hopeful and promising destiny. His Holiness advocated that the peaceful resolutions of regional, territorial, and inter-faith conflicts are important for world peace and harmony.
(L) KP Singh......(R) Dhondup Rsering and Dzanxi Wangomo, a Tibetan Buddhist couple
He briefly alluded to his being away from his home country of Tibet, living in exile in India for the last 54 years. He stressed that it is important for the Tibetans in Diaspora to preserve their faith, culture, and sacred heritage outside Tibet.
Repeatedly, the Dalai Lama punctuated his serious remarks with hearty laughter, often at his own expense, reminding us of his humility and humanity. He takes his being a celebrated spiritual leader, a treasured global icon, an apostle of non-violence to the world, and a revered god-king and Buddha of Compassion to his followers, all in stride. I see him as a Spiritual Global Rattana (a precious and rare jewel), radiating a kindred light, mirroring our responsibility to all Life and Love for all Creation, just as the Sikh scriptures and major faith traditions affirm and command.
In the afternoon Teaching Session, His Holiness explored the sacred Text: Atisha’s “Lamp on the Path to Enlightenment” and brought home that the path to enlightenment lies through serious study, prayer, meditation, concentration, and mental training. The “lamp” symbolizes light, dispelling of darkness and misunderstandings; and the path: following the mandates of emptying one’s mind of all temporal distractions and leading to a higher consciousness on the path to enlightenment. He said, initially the discipline and path are hard, but practice, concentration, dedicated focus on sacred image(s) and pursuit of perfections can lead to liberation, a state of bodhisattva (spiritual awakening), and finally enlightenment.
Achieving enlightenment is possible for a person of any faith, only one may focus on an “image” or spiritual practice that is a part of one’s own faith tradition. The Dalai Lama emphasized following one’s own faith, respecting and learning about other traditions. At times, he read the original Tibetan text, explained it in the Tibetan language, and utilized the services of his trusted translator Thupten Jinpa to translate his explanations into English.
At the end of the teaching, the Dalai Lama led the entire gathering in a beautifully-prepared prayer-benediction, much as is done in a Christian Cathedral, in a petition for peace and goodwill, understanding and well-being of all Creation. For me, the words and spirit of the prayer suddenly threaded the spiritual wisdom enshrined in the Sikh, Buddhist, Native American, Jewish, Christian, other faith traditions into one beautiful Raagmala (a visual and sensory tapestry that combines aesthetic imagery) of universal blessing and humanitarian embrace.
REFLECTING ON THE AMAZING EXPERIENCE
The Dalai Lama passionately advocates that we "make our temples, not just places of worship but centers of study and learning." I found special resonance, and I am certain many in the audience did as well. The Dalai Lama believes, as ancient practices confirm, that study and learning offer the best hope to know one’s own deeper self; to develop love and respect for one another, for all things sacred; to dispel negative stereotyping about other faiths, cultures, and beings that are the root causes of suffering, devastating conflicts, and unhappiness in our world.
The Dalai Lama’s book: “Ethics for the New Millennium and Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions can Come Together” may offer further direction to imagine and make this a “Century of Compassion” and cooperation among faiths, cultures, governments, and institutions to address distressing and threatening world problems.
The words and explanations of His Holiness carried me across frontiers from where I could see the spiritual wisdom and lessons of my Sikh faith and other faith traditions manifest before me. This venerable mentor helps us to see our lives and faiths in a new light, in our intertwined destiny as an interfaith family engaged in diminishing fears and searching for common ground.
One senses that one is in the presence of a Spiritual Teacher who has the power and moral authority to awaken the true mandate of our individual and collective humanity, our embraced faiths, or association with no faith. The Dalai Lama gently leads us to see divine light and goodness enshrined in each being; to honor universal secular ethics; to unite to make a difference in life, to happiness, and the freedoms of others. He teaches us about sacred concepts: truth, love, and trust; tolerance and forgiveness; about emancipation from fear, conflicts, ignorance, and to triumph over the sufferings of mind and spirit by engaging in useful acts of compassion.
I was overjoyed when His Holiness greeted me as I was taking his picture before the afternoon session. I felt immeasurably blessed by the experience: lessons, spiritual intersections, and an enlightened faith perspective.
Congratulations to: Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, citizen-volunteers, Drepung Gomang Institute-Louisville Tibetan Buddhist Center, The Festival of Faiths; The Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington and Media Coordinator Lisa Morrison; benefactors and friends, that tirelessly worked for months: to make the "Engaging Compassion" pilgrimage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Louisville a memorable experience and a blessing, not just for the Heartland of America, but for our world. .....Indianapolis, Indiana USA KPSinghDesigns.com <> May 27, 2013
Long Life Prayer for His Holiness
“In the land encircled by snow white mountains,
The source of all happiness and benefit,
Flows in your person, Chenresig Tenzin Gyatso
Remain until samsara ends.”
Source (Printed Program): Atisha’s Lamp for the Path To Enlightenment