Dalai LamaRecently I watched a surprisingly wonderful movie called “10 Questions for the Dalai Lama“.

I am not sure why it was so surprising to me that it was wonderful – perhaps because on that particularly night I was browsing my new neighborhood’s vintage Blockbuster store (perhaps the only one left in my part of a city of six million residents!) for much lighter fare.

Yet, in an odd and weirdly wonderful way, I found exactly what I was looking for.

The Dalai Lama, just four when he was “discovered” and just 15 when he assumed the full weight of his responsibilities, could honestly be the Adam Sandler of Buddhism.

He is just so funny! He smiles, he laughs, he hugs and chuckles and jokes his way through discussions on the most ponderous, serious, and heart wrenching of topics.

This is not because of any lack of awareness of the gravity of his people’s situation, nor the precarious state of all those under the threat of persecution today. It is because, in his many hours and days and years of deeply solitary meditations and studies, he has discovered that violence, hatred, and anger do. not. work.

Of course, anyone who has ever endured the challenges of recovering from anything (like us, for instance) already knows that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again while expecting different results.

The Chinese government, and other world powers both established and, um, not so established, are still figuring this out. Or not, as the case may be.

But this doesn’t stop the Dalai Lama, who, throughout his 45-minute interview with independent filmmaker Rick Ray, repeatedly counsels, “less emotion, less emotion.” He believes that allowing human emotion to run amok will produce similar results to allowing little children or untrained pets to run amok. There will be chaos, destruction, and, often, a painful outcome for all involved.

On his own website, the Dalai Lama is quoted as saying that “Buddhism is about human emotions”.

“Any unrealistic method brings disaster. The message of non-violence, love and compassion keeps our mind calmer. We must look objectively, our mind must be unbiased. An agitative mind can’t see reality and objectivity……In the course of that exploration, it will become obvious that most disturbances are stimulated not by external causes but by such internal events as the arising of disturbing emotions. The best antidote to these sources of disruption will come about through enhancing our ability to handle these emotions ourselves. Eventually we need to develop an awareness that provides the ways and means to overcome negative, disturbing emotions ourselves.”

Clearly, the pathway to peace is an inside job. Learning peace starts within – it is not something we can learn by first imposing a peaceful state on others (a task which nearly always translates more honestly into “imposing our will upon others”) and then reaping the peaceful benefits ourselves as well.

Rather, the Dalai Lama instructs, we must sit with our human emotions, watch them, understand from their presence what is prompting us to act, and perceive how very interdependent we are on those around us, and how interdependent they are on us as well.

From here, compassion, tolerance, kindness and – perhaps most importantly – self-discipline can teach us what anger and hatred never will – that there is a “middle way” where all can benefit, all can heal, all can have enough, all can live and thrive.

Today’s Takeaway: Have you been allowing your own human emotions to carry you away time and again into taking action or speaking words you later regret? Would you be open to trying on the Dalai Lama’s advice for size, perhaps spending a short period of time daily in meditation watching your emotions, learning what they have to teach you first, and only then choosing your words and actions with interdependence foremost in mind?

Dalai Lama photo by abhikrama, available from Creative Commons