Monday, October 29, 2007

One Fine Day with the Dalai Lama

Having front row seats to listen to the Dalai Lama is probably a once-in-a-lifetime event for me. But my front row seats were far to one side of the stage, and the Dalai Lama's interpreter was seated right in my line of site. His Holiness gestures gracefully when he speaks, so at times, it appeared that some disembodied arms were playing an invisible harp. Or that I was watching the Once-ler speak.

I did get to see his face occasionally during the talk, but his message was why I was there: "Cultivating Happiness." It's a powerful message. But it's a very simple message.

Things do not make us happy. We want something, we buy it, and for a moment, we think we are happy. But the next day, we are not happy.

Alcohol and drugs do not make us happy. We may be happy while we are consuming, but the next day, we are again unhappy.

Wealth does not make us happy. Some of the wealthiest people on earth are unhappy. Some of the poorest are happy.

Religion does not make us happy. (There were a few gasps from the audience when he said this. I wondered if a gasp came from the priest I recognized there.) Many people who claim to be religious are not happy. Many people who follow no one religion are happy.

What makes us happy? The Dalai Lama says that compassion makes us happy--giving it and receiving it. Compassionate people are happy. A baby who has its needs met--is fed, is warm, is held and loved--is happy. A person who has been the recipient of compassion is happy. A person who is the agent for compassion is happy.

If we can maintain and strengthen our compassion for one another, we will be happy.

Hey, the Beatles said it, too: All You Need is Love.

I don't care, call me a granola-crunching, tree-hugging, Birk-wearing, heathen hippie. I can take it.


Citlali said...

I won't call you any of those things. I believe it 100%.

It was quite a revelation a little over ten years ago when our fragile little fundamentalist church had a total meltdown and imploded on itself into a zillion little branched-off groups. They all called each other names and mostly pointed fingers at the other "less christian" ones. There has been nothing funnier and more pathetic in my short experience. THEY were calling others less christian. wow. It was then I decided to have nothing further with religion and, consequently, nothing with God either, for a while. Praying made me cry. I decided that my image of God had to be wrong if I couldn't talk to him without becoming upset. So I made a clean break.

A funny thing happened -- I saw "Little Buddha" for the first time and had a complete epiphany. The common thread among religions became clear and simple: LOVE is the only important element in our struggle to become better human beings. That's it. Nothing else matters. No stupid, man-made, shallow, repetitive traditions HAVE to be kept in order to become more like our Creator. Nope. No squabbling, holier-than-thou group is better OR better off than another.

For others religion is sometimes still a very necessary aid. For me it has become simply a subject of extreme fascination -- both historical fact and fiction in books, movies and real life. I'm eternally grateful that I was given the gift of freedom.

It's funny that my gift came from Hollywood and Buddhism -- two of the many so-called devils my previous religion preached against.

Compassion: God answers prayers even when you can't pray.

I think the lesson you gathered is invaluable. I'm very glad you shared. = ]

Domhan said...


Welcome to Domhan!
I spent many years reading books with titles like The Dark Side of Christianity and Why the Catholic Church Must Change or Die. At one point I finally realized I was reading all of this as a way to justify my anger at religions...all religions. I had religion forced upon me when I was a child, and it came at a time when I'd had bad experiences associated with a church. I decided when I was about twelve that organized religion was a bunch of hooey. I started forming my own beliefs that have become the foundation of what I believe today (just without so darned much anger). Yet I still have a hard time using the word "god" with a capital "G" because the God that was forced down my throat was not a kind one. That God is not the god I recognize today.

What you described about your church imploding is amazing, and it's exactly why I have a distrust of organized religion. So much harm can be done in the name of religion, but so much good can be done as well! I just wish we could organize efforts of compassion and understanding in ways that don't involve "us" and "them," especially when it turns into "us is BETTER than them"!

A friend who knew how I feel about religion once tried to get me to go to the Universalists Unitarian Church with her. I wouldn't. On some level, I wanted to go with her. But part of me didn't want to find out that it was the same as every other church I've been involved with. I didn't want to be disappointed. I wanted to believe that somewhere there are people taking care of each other in truly compassionate ways. Yeah, I'm looking for a utopia.

I have never seen "Little Buddha"! I am putting that on my must-see list.

Peace to you and all your posts!

P.S. I actually AM a granola-crunching, tree-hugging, Birk-wearing, heathen hippie! And I'm ok with that....

Citlali said...

LOL. Cool. Man, do I feel for you. There truly are so many of us damaged deeply in the name of religion and "good" upbringing. My introduction to my new regime came at almost 11 years of age -- my 11th birthday (which was NOT celebrated in ANY way) was spent fasting, and I mean FASTING -- no water, no food -- because of the judeo-christian lack of recognizing the new testament. They kept the old testament traditions, habits, sabbath and holy days -- ALL of them.

Yeah. and I totally get the NOT spelling God with a capital G -- believe ME -- that whole dilema was on my mind while I typed that post... I pretty much do it in an almost superstitious way, fearing some sort of backlash a la sacrilege & blasphemy. It's taking some time for me to really, really believe God isn't petty and caring of the foolish, little traditions men have created. So I squirm and I do it but I'm with you in spirit.

So cool that Candy has you on her links. Way glad to converse with you. Looking forward to more. Thank you.

Take good care of yourself, TreeHugger... = ]

Candy Rant said...

How bizarre. I put a big old comment on here today and it's gone.

Candy Rant said...

HERE is the COMMENT that I forgot to actually post. DUH.

You are both rotten heathens. :)

I got totally screwed by my religious upbringing too, in ways I won't go into here. But they definitely made me want to retch over church, God, blah blah.

I've gone a different way than the 2 of you, and came back to Christianity. I never really left, but it was certainly dormant now and then in my life.

The only way I can think about God is with a capital G.

I get uncomfortable, very, when Christians say that all who are not Christians are going to hell. I've never been able to go there mentally. God seems much more creative than that to me.

Today has been's like I've been riding my bike around the neighborhood and just as I get to a new place I see Citlali on her bike, turning a corner and taking off. Ha. The internet is an ant farm.

Citlali said...

Candy -- Rotten heathen, eh?? LOL. Wow. Well, it may still change. There's a lot of time. Somehow it doesn't feel like church is in my future -- but how knows... Never say never, right? ugh. Like saying that I'll NEVER move back to Oregon -- I won't say it 'cause it would be a jinx, ya know?

It's fascinating to see how different people react to the same experiences. Well, almost the same. The way our character and circumstances shape the road we travel.

Speaking of traveling. Yeah, I finally decided after all this time to explore Candy's links list and it was great, just as expected. As in Flickr or anything else, usually when you find one cool, talented person it can lead to others. I'm very glad to have found this one in particular.

See you both around!! = ]

Domhan said...

Citlali and Candy,

Yeah, the religion thing actually fascinates me, too. I LOVE the conspiracy theories (like the Knights Templar stuff) in the way some people watch the Springer show, I guess. I have collected countless books on the subject, and I've been reading about the Jesus and Mary Magdalene theories LONG before Dan Brown hacked his way through them.

But in addition, I'm fascinated with Judaism, Buddism, Taoism, and Hinduism. I haven't had time to read as much as I'd like on them. What I love about Buddism is the recognition of other religions. Yes, Candy, I too cringe when some Christians claim that all others will go to hell. It's that kind of exclusiveness that pushes me away, and I have to admit that the exclusiveness of the few is part of what pushes me away from the entire notion of Christianity.

I have an old high school friend who describes herself as a "progressive Christian." She refuses to get the new "In God We Trust" option license plates that are issued (for free) in our state. Her family can't understand why on earth she would NOT want one plastered on the back of her car. She has never judged me on how I feel about churches, yet we nearly always are on common ground on world issues, morals, and beliefs. Anyway, she has always been the kind of Christian I admired. She asked me to go to church with her when we wer young, and I went a few times. But even when I was in high school, I was already so jaded on the notion of organized religion that I couldn't handle all of the ritual and worship. The words that everyone spoke in church seemed spoken by habit rather than through any meaning. It all seemed so empty to me.

Sheesh. I sound like Holden Caulfield.

Yeah, I tried reading some of the other blog links on Candy's blog, and I was sucked into the fun, creative, and interesting corner of the internet. Before I knew it, I had spent three hours wandering around--not lost, just meandering! I had to come up for air and actually get some work done!

Candy Rant said...

I don't REALLY think you're heathens. Or "of the debbul" of any of that.

Domhan and I have almost always been on the same page with stuff. I'm guessing I'd be pretty close with you on that stuff too, Citlali.

Someday I hope Domhan writes about her church camp/barfing experience on here.

Citlali said...

Church camping and barfing all in one??!! Yeah -- bring it!!

WAY cool. No doubt that a lot of people have been burnt on the extreme action of some. That empty feeling is familiar. Looking back on the "time" I did in that scene the most bitter note was always the glaring hypocricy. Not cool.

The whole study of religion is great fun, eh? Yeah. I recently got a book called Mephistopheles about the history of the devil in modern times. There's four books in the series -- this one being the last one, I think. It's quite dense, thought, not easy to get through but very, very interesting. Also on the fiction side, with a lot of good research and alternative views of creation and heaven thrown in, is Anne Rice's Memnoch the Devil. It's my absolute favorite of hers (I've read it twice). It helps to know the character Lestat but not absolutelly necessary.

OMG -- I'm so slow. I just got the "of the debbul" thing. lol. lol. = ]

Domhan said...

OH, Candy! Don't get me started on that "church barfing" story! You know how I get!

Ok, someday. When I don't have 18 composition student research proposals to grade and nine grad student classroom observation reports to type and submit. Then I'll get to that wonderful barfing story.

And Citlali, you hit on it big-time with the "glaring hypocrisy." Yep. That was the thing with the church camp/barfing incident.

Must go home and make chili. It's FREEZING here! (Oh, the changin' o' the seasons!)

Candy Rant said...

I hate you for having seasons, Domhan.

Citlali, I've only read half of one Anne Rice book: The Witching Hour. Honestly, it creeped me out to badly and I had to stop. I was reading it alone late at night.

I read her latest: Christ the Lord Out of Egypt. She's gone back to her Catholic roots now and took on Christ as a character instead of vampire-y things. She is a fantastic writer. I plan to go back to the Witching Hour sometime soon.

Citlali said...

Wow, that's really good to know, Candy -- I haven't read that book (Christ the Lord Out of Egypt), don't know why. Will check it out. Thank you.

Domhan & Candy: both y'all have a GREAT weekend!! = ]