Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Mirthful Monk - Philosopher of Modern Epoch

The following article appeared in the online publication South Asia Post, Issue 115 Vol V, July 15, 2010

THE last week of May 2002: It had been less than a week since I presented my credentials as High Commissioner of India to New Zealand to Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright. I was still getting accustomed to feasting my eyes on the breathtakingly beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean from my office, located on the tenth floor of the 14 storey building, 182 Molesworth Street, Wellington. At that moment on that particular day, I was, perhaps, a bit lost in thinking that I should send a message of felicitations to Sir Edmund Hillary on the 49th anniversary of the First Ascent of Everest, falling the next day, 29th of May.

I was suddenly informed by my Private Secretary, Gopal Wadhwa, that His Holiness Dalai Lama's Secretary had just telephoned from James Cook Hotel to inform that His Holiness had arrived in Wellington from Sydney and that he would be pleased to receive me. I felt as if a dream had become a reality from nowhere. A career diplomat, I had experienced the privileged duty of meeting many a high dignitaries of the home and foreign governments. Dalai Lama, the quintessential spiritualist yet steeped in all the high 'treason' of politics since the age of two when he was identified as the reincarnation of the Thirteenth Dalai, belonged to a category of his own. My own childhood images Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama in the news papers were the two of them looking dressed up in a sort of child entertainers, flashed before my eyes. I wondered that the Destiny had taken me also along an unimagined path since birth in an obscure village!

I, accompanied by my wife, was extra punctual in reaching the hotel to have 'Darshan'-holy sight- of the Spiritualist who, unlike many other spiritual personalities, has been known to be at ease in receiving female visitors and devotees. After an initial exchange of greetings and courtesies, Dalai Lama, in his famously familiar informality, surprised by us saying that he had been experiencing some pain in the stomach caused by, perhaps, an apple eaten during the flight from Sydney to Wellington. He asked us about our previous postings, saying that he liked our names - Anand and Aradhana, and even asked the names of our children. He observed that we had been posted to interesting countries adding that among those countries, he had been only to Spain (our other postings being to Iran, Maldives, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Panama ,Armenia). He wished us well during our stay in New Zealand,' a beautiful country with wonderful people.'

He presented both of us with traditional Tibetan scarf-Katag, putting them around our necks said laughingly that we could feel welcome into Buddhism, the faith given by India to the world! While we were taking leave of him, His Holiness again mentioned about the troubling pain in his stomach, blaming it on the apple which looked so beautiful. I was simply overwhelmed by 'abundant humanness' and 'simplicity of soul' of this 'spiritual giant' of our epoch. I was left wondering and reflecting all over again about the deeper symbolism of 'Physical Pain' and 'Beautiful Appearance' in the wider world around us!

The Dalai Lama the 14th in the line of the succession of incarnations of the Chenrezig or Bodhisattva of compassion of Tibet , has loomed large on the spiritual - and political - horizons of the world since his dramatic escape from the 'roof of the world' in March 17-31 ,1959 in the wake of the rebellion against Communist Chinese forces. During more than five decades of his life as a 'refugee extraordinaire', he has been assiduously leading pacifist resistance of his people against 'usurping Chinese Communist Imperialists' With the protocol privileges and courtesies extended by the government of India to him as 'Head of the Government–in-Exile' of Tibet', with its Headquarter in Dharamshala-literally the abode of religion- Dalai Lama has blossomed into an indefatigable scholar and rationalist interpretor of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism. He is a tireless traveler as a spokesman for the 'genuine autonomy of Tibetan people in their home land.' He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1989. The honorary doctorates and other distinctions have been conferred on him in dozens by the prestigious institutions of the West /USA. The government of China has been working overtime, in scuttling his activities by brandishing trade and economic muscle at his host countries.

The 75th birth day of Dalai Lama on 6th of July occasioned many high profile events including live media interviews with frank and uncomfortable Q's and his equally honest and forth right A's. The harshest reality would seem to pertain to his own life-he is not getting any younger and the Chinese are reputed to be the most patient in playing the game of Time! Many perspicacious Sinologists have drawn vivid scenarios of Chinese game plans when the 14th Dalai Lama would cease to be. Dalai Lama, however, assured his viewers on the NDTV interview on his birth day that reliable 'Tibetan Futurologist' have predicted a longer life for him-113 years to be precise! He observed that since the 'Tianamen Square', there has been a growing understanding and support among the Chinese people for the unique nature of Tibetan culture'. He is optimistic that,'perhaps a new generation of leaders will give the Tibetans the autonomy they want'. He steadfastly refused to play any blame game when asked about President Obama's initial refusal to receive him. He admitted that some sections of Tibetans are getting impatient and angry. To many a hard Q's, his impulsive laughter, as if, being half the answer!

I feel convinced that Dalai Lama has assured himself a place in the history of humanity. He has been never tired of being at pains to explain that, 'he, after all, is an ordinary, simple, just like all of us – a human being.' It is amazing that even his sworn political adversaries have not attributed any worldly scandal to him. He has been daringly candid to proclaim, "My views on morality differ from Buddhist religious practice ... morality and ethics must be secular and universal ... Buddhism is against homosexuality but I am not ... if there is love, compassion and consent, then it is alright ... He (Osama Bin Laden) is opposed to Saudi Royal family which is backed by the US. So his anti-Americanism is not based on religion but on political considerations..."

The observers of India-Sino-Tibetan relations had their antennas up last week when Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao flew to Dharamshala on 10th July for, "closed door talks for 90 minutes with the Dalai Lama, in which high ranking official's government-in-exile including Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche participated." They speculated on the timing of the meeting – within days of National Security Advisor SS Menon's visiting China. Is this a part of some diplomatic shadow boxing ... way of some signaling to Beijing? China has indeed arrived, inspiring awe with biggest economic boom; the world also seems to await China's arrival in the range of freedom and democracy for her people - and the resultant moderation and responsibility in the conduct her international relations.

Addressing various forums in India, Dalai Lama has been fond of describing Indo-Tibetan spiritual relations with metaphor of Guru-Chela i.e. the Master and the Disciple. Replying to my question, during a recent lecture function at the Viveka Nand Centre for Strategic Studies, on the curse of caste system continuing to blight the destiny of India, he said that so many Shankracharyas and Gurus must come forward earnestly against the deep rooted evil.

Happy Birth Day to You, the 14th Reincarnated One! The world is keenly watching your Global Journey - with the hope that you will have the last laugh!!

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