Dalai Lama visits Madison

Tara McGovern

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, presented a series of lectures on Tibetan Buddhism in Madison, Wis. May 2-4. Forty Buddhist monks in their saffron and maroon robes sat at either side of the colorfully adorned stage in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison.
A commotion erupted from the peaceful center of the coliseum as the monks all stood, flipping their robes over their left shoulders and bowing to the slow-moving elder monks who entered to take their place at the front of the group.
Then, the entire stadium stood in reverence as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, dressed in the same attire and walking in the same slow fashion as the other elder monks, entered the stage with a warm smile and compassionate greetings.
The 71-year-old Buddhist monk and Tibetan refugee was invited by the monks and nuns of the Deer Park Buddhist Center in Madison to talk about Buddhist teachings and texts and to honor the public with his talk “Compassion: The Source of Happiness,” a subject which many of his popular books focus on.
To the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama – a title which means ocean of wisdom – is a manifestation of the living Buddha, who chooses to be continually reincarnated to serve the Tibetan people and mankind. The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, embodies compassion, wisdom, love and peace, and is a respected and celebrated leader all over the world.
Sitting cross-legged at the center of the stage on a large pedestal decorated in fine cloth and gold, the Dalai Lama rocked back and forth and side to side as he spoke in Tibetan about religion and Buddhist philosophy.
It was rare for 10 minutes to pass without hearing a great deal of laughter, breaking his Tibetan with the universal language of happiness. Underneath his maroon visor and large square glasses, His Holiness’ eyes danced as he spoke and emphasized the importance of wisdom, compassion, forgiveness and kindness.
Speaking to questions on religion and spirituality, His Holiness recognized that spirituality doesn’t fill the stomach of the hungry, nor does it cure illness and prevent economic gaps. For these physical, material, and monetary problems there are many solutions, but there is also the mental world and its problems that must be addressed.
He did not deny that one’s physical experiences and mental experiences are intrinsically connected, but emphasized the point that one can be materially well provided for, and at the mental level be unhappy and anxious.
The internal processes of the mind, the Dalai Lama pointed out, are where spirituality is needed to maintain calmness and peace of mind.
When Chinese Communist troops began their occupation of Tibet in 1951, the peace of mind, fundamental human rights, and democratic freedoms of the Tibetan people were taken away from them.
Now His Holiness the Dalai Lama is actively searching for a way to bring over 120,000 Tibetan refugees home and restore their peaceful way of life.
The Dalai Lama’s sixth trip to Madison was surely a memorable occasion for all those who celebrated his presence. His Holiness is known for saying, “I am just a simple Buddhist monk – no more, nor less,” but for those who can attest to his compassionate, lighthearted spirit and admirable peace in the face of violence and tremendous struggle, he is a distinguished leader.