It was a beautiful fall Friday in 2003 when the phone rang and a friend called and invited me to go with her to see the Dalai Lama on Sunday in Bloomington, Indiana. His visit was specifically to dedicate the Tibetan Cultural Center at Indiana University where his eldest brother, the late Takster Rinpoche, was a professor of Tibetan studies. My friend had two tickets and the person who was scheduled to go with her was not able to make the two-hour trip. I accepted her gracious invitation and looked forward to seeing the Dalai Lama again.
This was not the first time that I had met the Dalai Lama. In the 1970s while we were living in Los Angeles and, my husband and I were asked to attend the Dalai Lama's presentation and to meet him personally on behalf of our employer. She had been invited to his special event for spiritual leaders in the Los Angeles area but was unable to attend. While I don't remember the specifics of what the Dalai Lama said on either of these occasions, I clearly remember my impression of him.
I am inclined to describe him as "simple." Not simple in the sense that we usually think of that term when describing someone, because obviously he is very intelligent and highly educated. But rather "simple" as in uncomplicated--a clear and non-conflicted person. He naturally puts those around him at ease because he is at peace within himself. He calmly exudes joy and happiness, those two coveted qualities that some search for an entire lifetime. And in his presence, I cannot help but think of Gautama Buddha's teaching of emptiness--being void of the human ego, or self, that obstructs the flow of the divine reality through the human vessel. It is from this clear and unobstructed platform that the Dalai Lama shares his wisdom and the teachings of the Buddhas.
Two other things stood out to me that day in Indiana. The late prize-fighter, Muhammad Ali, was also a guest who attended the ceremony to show support for the temple's mission of promoting world peace and for the people of Tibet. It was his first time to meet the Dalai Lama. He sat next to the Dalai Lama while he spoke, giving full support to his causes. Most people are aware that Ali developed Parkinson's disease after he retired from boxing. So there he sat, hands and body shaking, looking frail and weak, barely able to express himself, and quite a contrast to his demeanor at the height of his career.
What was particularly memorable about this scene?
Here was a man who was nicknamed "The Greatest" during his spectacular career. He also had a strong momentum on flaunting his physical prowess and good looks. At the time, many viewed him as vain and narcissistic. Nevertheless, there he sat in his humbled state, not hiding from public view as many celebrities are inclined to do once their famous and powerful persona ceases to exist. But rather, he was publicly promoting the humanitarian causes to which he had dedicated himself both before and after his illness.
So whatever you may or may not think of Muhammad Ali, that day I witnessed a compassionate and loving man that did not shrink from his heart's calling because his physical body no longer reflected the worldly image of success and power.
It was a touching moment and ceremony for the small, intimate group that attended.
Following the ceremony, which took place under a canvas canopy in a small, unpretentious outdoor setting full of lush greenery and beautiful flowers, I meandered over to the book tables where all of the Dalai Lama's books as well as other books were tastefully displayed.
As I leafed through several of the books, one in particular caught my eye. It was Buddhism for Beginners by Thubten Chodron. Chodron has authored at least 10 books and is the founder and Abbess of Sravasti Abbey, a Buddhist monastery near Newport, Washington. She states that she wrote Buddhism for Beginners because she wanted to answer the questions that people new to Buddhism, or exploring Buddhism, would ask.
I leafed through the pages, reading sections and imagining how I could use that same format in some of my writing. I found it easy to follow, clear and informative while still retaining the spirit of the message. As I placed the book back on the table, just at the moment of contact, I received a terse message that arrived as if over a beam of light to my mind from the mind of the master: Write a book like this.
I immediately recognized the message from the master El Morya and was not surprised at the terseness of the message because this was often how he gave directions--short and sweet and without much detail. The student then needs to meditate and draw down from their own higher mind and God-Presence how the project will be fulfilled.
The mystical teachings that have been brought forth in the last hundred-odd years from the ascended masters through their various messengers encompass the truths of all the major world religions, which at their heart converge in many ways, and are also being corroborated by quantum physics’ understanding of how the universe works. More on these subjects later.