Recently, I attended the dedication of the Chamtse Ling Temple at the Tibetan Cultural Center in Bloomington, IN. It is a temple dedicated to world peace. There I sat less than a couple dozen feet from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace. I had traveled to Dharamsala, India to interview him but without success. Now, finally, I am sitting right in front of him.
Four years before, I had interviewed Dr. Norbu, the Dalai Lama's elder brother. I was planning a long awaited trip to Tibet and South Asia and wanted to talk to Dr. Norbu about all things Tibetan-the country, Buddhism, and the oppression of the Chinese since they invaded Tibet in the early 50s. (http://www.wolverton-mountain.com/interviews/people/norbu.htm) My wife and were so taken by Dr. Norbu that we have become very good friends over the years since that interview. In fact, when we got married, we chose the Tibetan Cultural Center for the wedding. Ironically, we were celebrating our third wedding anniversary that very week of the dedication.
The dedication of the Chamtse Ling Temple consisted of a morning and afternoon program. Many of the various speakers recalled the half century of commitment of the Dalai Lama and Dr. Norbu have made for peace and freedom for all peoples especially for the people of Tibet.
Since my interview with Dr. Norbu, he has had some serious health problems. I was glad that he lived to see his dream realized with the dedication of the Chamtse Ling Temple. Finally, his time and temple had come to fruition. He had labored long to create the center for Tibetan refugees, monks, and those working for world peace there in the woods and hills of southern Indiana.
My happiness was tempered by the realization that Dr. Norbu would have preferred to be at Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. But alas, it wasn't to be. When I went to Tibet, he had given me a golden kata (a silk prayer scarf) to present it to the Shakyamuni Buddha at Jokhang. I asked him what he wanted me to bring back from Tibet. He asked me to bring back a small stone from the street in front of Jokhang which I did. The kata is still there at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa and the stone is still with Dr. Norbu in Bloomington, IN.
While listening to the various dignitaries, I watched the Dalai Lama. I wondered what he thought sitting there. The home for all Dalai Lamas is Lhasa, Tibet, but his home in exile is Dharamsala, India. Having spent time in both places, I assure you that he longs for Lhasa. However, it seems that he is destined to be spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people from afar. That is a profoundly tragic reality for both him and his people. Nearly his entire life has been spent far away from Lhasa and the mountain peaks of the Himalayas. What must his life have been like to see death and destruction rein down upon his people and land? The Chinese are still trying to eradiate the culture of this peaceful and gentle Tibetan people who cared little for the things of this world-except for enlightenment.
I thought of what could have been but wasn't. He could have been the leader of the Tibetans in the nation at the top of the world far away from the modern world. Had the Chinese not wanted to exploit the land and the people of Tibet, His Holiness could have quietly gone about the parochial concerns of the Tibetan Buddhist far from the eyes of the rest of the world.
However, the reality of His Holiness' life is that of an exiled leader who has a dual focus for his life. He still is the leader of the Tibetans, but he also serves a broader people-those who need his insights throughout the world. He carries his message of nonviolence to an increasingly violent world. Not only does he work for the freedom and safety of his people but all oppressed people throughout the world. It is a strange irony that this man who can't directly care for his people is now caring for all those that suffer because of foreign or national oppression of people. The Dalai Lama's personal suffering is redemptive. Perhaps, we gain enlightenment when we come to this understanding.
This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 11/26/03.