Lise Hand: Lesson in happiness from a wise and beguiling man
WHEN the Dalai Lama arrived in a chilly Dublin on Monday afternoon, he rested for a while and then went out and about meeting the locals.
"Everyone showing me a smile," he told the packed church in Kildare town yesterday. "Not artificial smile -- genuine smile, genuine expression of inner warmth, and I really appreciated it. Although the weather is quite cold," he added, as his audience laughed.
The Dalai Lama laughed, too -- which he does frequently -- and his infectious bubbling giggle rippled out and everyone showed him a smile again.
This two-day trip is the first visit in 20 years to Ireland by the 76-year old spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, and he was greeted during his various appearances with fervent -- albeit extremely polite -- enthusiasm.
He had a busy day of public engagements, kicking off with a press conference in the CityWest Hotel, before addressing 2,500 people at the Possibilities 2011 event, which is a new social change initiative started by three non-profit organisations: Afri, SpunOut.ie and Children in Crossfire.
And everywhere he went throughout the day, by his side was Richard Moore, his close friend and founder of Children in Crossfire. In 1972, the Derryman was shot and blinded by a rubber bullet at the age of 10, but later met and befriended the British soldier who shot him. The pair seemed inseparable. Richard's hand was always tightly clutched by the Dalai Lama as they sat together or walked the streets.
Draped in his traditional bright saffron-yellow and deep red robes, the Dalai Lama had plenty of advice for his rapt audiences, and delivered his philosophies with great animation, a heavy accent and a happy inattention to word order which was wonderfully reminiscent of the sayings of Yoda, the wise Jedi Master of 'Star Wars' (a character widely believed to have been inspired by the Tibetan leader).
But he is a spiritual guru not an economic one, and so his concern was with the world's religious deficit.
"The ultimate source of happiness, peace of mind, cannot be produced by money," he said. "Billionaires, they are, I notice, very unhappy people. Very powerful; but deep inside, too much anxiety, too much stress."
Several times he spoke of forgiveness -- and he was asked about the difficult notion of forgiving those bankers who trespassed against us. "Forgiveness does not mean that you should forget," he explained. "Criticism is good, but without anger."
He left beaming and shaking hands to a standing ovation, and travelled to Kildare town, where about 1,000 people awaited him in a cold and blustery town square -- including a small group of women from Mongolia and Tibet who are now living here.
There were grannies and dads and mums with buggies and students on the mitch and men in business suits, but all were clearly fascinated by the appearance of the man who has been living in exile since 1959, when he fled Tibet after a failed uprising against China.
It was a short ceremony on the square -- the Dalai Lama was presented with a traditional woven St Brigid's Cross and then Sisters Mary Minehan and Phil O'Shea of the Solas Bhride community presented him with a symbolic Brigid Flame in recognition of his lifelong commitment to non-violence.
He then addressed 700 people in the local church, mixing sly humour and deeper reflections.
(Of course, this being Ireland, there's no shortage of homegrown humour either -- one dejected philosopher tweeted: "It's alright for him, he has a job for life, and the next one, and the one after that".)
The 14th Dalai Lama is a beguiling man, and it wasn't just his robes that brought a splash of colour to a grey day in Ireland.