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Moved By Love--In the Compassionate Presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama



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Dharamsala, India, October 2022

“Be kind whenever possible, it is always possible”--HH the Dalai Lama


Life seldom offers us special moments which leave a deep impression on our psyche and which can potentially change the course of our journey.

This is an attempt to share such a profoundly transformational moment, (dare I say a ‘magical moment’) I experienced in the blessed presence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.


The occasion was--‘Compassionate Leadership Summit’ being held at the very residence of His Holiness with a group of 15 inspiring young leaders from around the world. We all came with a short presentation about our life stories and a question we would ask His Holiness. We had been preparing for almost 3 years. As the day for our interaction with His Holiness approached, my mind-body went through an immense churn and a kind of soul-searching. I tried hard to make sense of my convoluted life journey so far. The seeker within me carried too many questions which did not seem to have clear answers.


Would I rise to the most precious opportunity to interact with a globally revered wisdom holder? What value could I potentially bring to this dialogue?

The evening before I was to make my presentation, my mind kept going back and forth on the content of my storyline and the ultimate question I would ask HH. I had consulted many of my friends and mentors and now it was time for me to deeply listen to my own heart. I went to bed sitting in a long meditation late into that night, woke up early morning around 3 am and continued with my meditation. Just prior to the Summit, I had even attended a 20-day-long Vipassana silent retreat. My intention was to be a highly receptive (mind-body) instrument in the presence of HH and to prepare a field within myself for an ‘organic emergence’.


As I walked up to the residence of HH Dalai Lama early in the morning along with Mingyur Rinpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche, I was still feeling somewhat nervous. These two noble brothers offered me their kind blessings and a ‘Relax Mantra’. It finally brought me some ease. I was now ready to surrender to the moment. A beautiful tree stood outside our meeting hall with HH. I sat under the tree in silence, gently hugged the tree before entering the space. I walked in with immense gratitude and a remembrance that multiple causes and conditions, innumerable visible and invisible factors had come together to bring about this auspicious gathering. I also knew that I was just a symbolic representative of the millions of compassionate beings who keep the intrinsic human goodness and hope alive in this troubled world. I carried with me our shared hopes and suffering, perhaps to seek some solace in the presence of this divine being we were about to meet.

With Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche on our walk to the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, October 19, 2022


As soon as His Holiness the Dalai Lama walked in and offered his blessings, a wave of calm engulfed the space. The dialogue began with him cracking some jokes with his characteristic pure, innocent, childlike self! This was the second day of our dialogue with HH. A considerable degree of rapport and informality had already emerged between us. We felt more attuned to not just receive his words of wisdom but also to imbibe his presence. I sat closer to him, mindful of my breath, my feet on the ground, palms open and being fully available to the ‘field of energy’ I was immersed in.

As the dialogue progressed, each of my fellow young friends shared their deep personal stories of struggle and pain. Intense emotions like grief and sadness, fear and frustration, helplessness and confusion surfaced in our intimate circle with His Holiness. He sat witness to it all with his immensely loving, compassionate presence, responding to each question in his own unique wisdom-filled, light-hearted cheerful way.

Compassionate Leadership Summit at His Holiness the Dalai Lama's residence in Dharamsala, HP, India on October 19, 2022. Photo by Tenzin Choejor


By the time it was my turn to speak, the entire gathering was soaking in the ocean of his incredibly loving, kind and joyful presence, which I attributed to His Holiness. Before asking my question, something deep within me felt a kind of magnetic pull towards his holy feet to seek his blessings. It was a spontaneous leap of faith. As I prostrated before him, floodgates of love, kindness and compassion opened up. His Holiness held my palms in his, offered me a warm embrace and a side-to-side greeting on the right cheek. The connection felt so soft and warm—akin to motherly affection. My sense of time-space collapsed and the separate-ego-self melted in those moments. My little heart cracked open with the showering of his infinite Metta blessings (loving-kindness). I sensed a profound energy transmission in those blessed few moments with His Holiness. It naturally overflowed and was instantly palpable to all those present in that sacred space.


Receiving blessings from HH the Dalai Lama. Photo: Tenzin Choejor

The Bodhisattva, as he is believed to be in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, sensed through my heart and generously offered what was most needed in that moment. The residue of personal, ancestral and collective wounds inside me seemed to have been transmuted by the alchemy of his soothing, healing touch.


As he gently released me from his loving embrace, I barely managed to stagger back into my seat, hardly able to contain the overwhelming experience I was undergoing. With my eyes tearing up; my heartbeats pounding strongly and my body still trembling, a powerful surge of lightning and tingling sensations arose through the spine. It felt as if I had taken a plunge into a bottomless ocean pervaded by an absolute calm. My mind had disappeared from the scene and I could barely think or hear anything. It took me a while to reorient myself in the body and the physical space I was surrounded by. As I tried to gather myself, HH began to speak something in Tibetan—his words carried a certain depth and energy which we all felt enchanted by. He shared his daily personal spiritual practice of reciting a mantra from the 7th century Indian sage, Shantideva:

“As long as space endures And as long as sentient beings remain,Until then, may I too remainTo help dispel the misery of the world.”


He invited us to begin our day with such an intention—described by him as an altruistic motive. He went on to explain how “this aspiration to serve others’ wellbeing offers us great inner-strength, inner-peace, courage and self-confidence and helps reduce our own suffering…the best method to cultivate a genuine peace of mind is to really strive to reduce excessive self-focus and to increase orientation towards others. In fact if someone is good at pursuing their own self-interest and happiness, then embracing a broader, altruistic outlook is the way to go”, he advised.

His words echoed as a direct response to the anguish in my heart, which sometimes feels small, bitter or overwhelmed in the face of suffering which I later mentioned to him. He revealed to us the ‘secret’ of his immensely compassionate presence for all beings—something I was genuinely curious to learn more about.

I was so moved by this exchange that the content of my own personal story had lost its grip on me. It felt unnecessary to present my narrative to His Holiness. He had already seen and heard me at a much deeper level. He responded with profound wisdom to the questions held in my heart before I could even articulate them—how amazingly perceptive of him!





Holding hands and receiving blessings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama


As I soaked in his loving presence, my heart was welling up with gratitude. Something about our coming together felt reminiscent of an earlier connection with His Holiness, perhaps from another life. In that sacred space, I was also reminded of two other compassionate souls whose presence, similar to that of His Holiness, had deeply touched me early on in my life. First was my grandfather—Ramchand Shaha—who dedicated his youth to the freedom movement along with Mahatma Gandhi. His courage, simplicity and a life well lived in service of Dharma continues to inspire me. The second was my spiritual teacher Satya Narayan Goenka ji who brought back the precious gift of Vipassana to the land of Buddha and took it to the world at large. I had experienced a similar meltdown of my separate ego self when Goenka ji had offered Metta during my first meditation course with him at the age of 17.


His Holiness offered us a glimpse into the possibility of ‘Oneness’ that he so emphatically appealed to us all to step into—for the sake of humanity and the planet. How wonderful it would be if only the whole of humanity could enter this realm of oneness even for a few moments! It would bring about a radical, fundamental shift in human consciousness and the world would be a different place—I later thought to myself. Thankfully, J. Krishnamurti offers some solace when he says: ‘Your consciousness is the consciousness of all humanity, if you as a human being transform yourself, you affect the consciousness of the rest of the world….’

Our communion with His Holiness left me feeling reinvigorated for greater compassionate action and strengthened my resolve to further cultivate Metta (Loving-Kindness) in my everyday life. Subsequent to our dialogue with His Holiness, Tsoknyi Rinpoche kindly led us into a meditative practice to help us assimilate the enormity of the blessings we had received. I really liked the metaphor he shared with us–to treat these blessings as ‘sacred ash’ from an auspicious ceremony. We ought to spread it far and wide, not hold onto it too tightly nor let it fizzle off, he gently suggested.





Our group of young compassionate leaders with HH the Dalai Lama accompanied by our mentor Dr. Richard Davidson

It has been over three weeks since our auspicious audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Something within me feels calm and settled. While only time would truly reveal the fuller significance of it, I get the feeling that an irreversible process has been set in motion and that my life would never be the same again.

A deep bow of gratitude to our kind mentors Dr. Richard Davidson, Daniel Goleman and Tara Bennett-Goleman who held us with so much trust and love throughout this incredible journey and to all the inspiring compassionate young leaders, mentors, supporters and well-wishers who made this special moment possible. Kindest wishes to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his long, healthy life. I now hold His Holiness and the Tibetan people in my daily morning Metta practice with immense gratitude towards them for keeping the flame of Dharma alive. May my life be dedicated to the service of Dharma allowing me to do my bit to keep that beautiful flame burning.


I would like to close with these inspiring words from His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

“I feel that compassionate thought is the most precious thing there is…if we have a good heart, a warm heart, warm feelings, we will be happy and satisfied ourselves, and our friends will experience a friendly and peaceful atmosphere as well. This can be experienced nation to nation, country to country, continent to continent.”


Written by:

Vipul Shaha, Pune, India

Educator-Facilitator, Presence-Oriented Psychotherapist & Counselor, Gap-Year Coach, Yoga and Mindfulness Trainer

vipul.shaha@post.harvard.edu


References:

1. Compassionate Leadership Summit, Healthy Minds Innovations, University of Wisconsin-Madison:


2. Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N.Goenka and Sayagyi U Ba Khin:


3. The official website of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his thoughts on Compassion:

4. YouTube Video Recordings of the Compassionate Leadership Summit:


5. ‘The Way of the Bodhisattva’ by 7th century Indian sage Shantideva:


6. J.Krishnamurti on Human Consciousness:

PS: Even as the mind tries to capture this incredible experience in words, J. Krishnamurti offers a cautionary reminder in his book 'Freedom from the Known':





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