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.