Sunday, September 21, 2008

What would Buddha Do?

Many have seen or at least heard the slogan WWJD (what would Jesus do?) in response to any action that you may take. I propose WWBD (what would Buddha do?). But we may have an answer to this new question as opposed to the Jesus one with the very much alive Dalai Lama. In Perry Garfinkel’s Buddha or Bust, Garfinkel lands an interview with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to round out his spiritual journey into the world of Buddhism. At the beginning of this journey Garfinkel was at the end of his rope, at the end he is still in the same predicament physically, but mentally he has transformed himself into a better human being. His feelings shine through with his dealings with the Dalai Lama.

To start off Garfinkel travels to the land of the 14th Dalai Lama’s birth, a small village in Tibet called Taktser, he intends to use this as an ice breaker in his interview, but I don’t think he really knew what he was going to see. He describes “it was as humble a village as I had seen in China, or in many other parts of the world. No town center. No storefronts. No cars. Very little color except brown.” (pp 268) But this was the place of the birth of one of the most influential people alive today, “the man who billions of people think of as the most spiritual man in the world today.” (268) The Dalai Lama has traversed the globe spreading the teachings of the Buddha for all those who wish to hear them.

But who is this man who so many revere, and many consider a God. When asked if he is a God the Dalai Lama replies with a giggle and says no in the ABC Barbara Walters interview. Humbly the Dalai Lama says that he is a teacher. But to many in this world and especially in the Buddhist faith he is much more. He goes on later in the interview to state that he himself has not attained enlightenment. As evidence of the fact he is the 14th reincarnation.

Gafinkel, as many before him to interview theDalai Lama is in awe of the man. At his first meeting of “the Dalai Lama – the 14th reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, winner of the Nobel Prize in peace, revered as an enlightened being – took my hand and shook it robustly.” (pp 227) The interview progressed through what Garfinkel describes as “Buddha-babble” (pp 280), and “categories” (pp 280). However for the most part the interview “went by like a blur.” (pp 285) But in the end Garfinkel “came away believing His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a man of science, a man of intellect, a man of reason, a man of ethics, who himself is part of the reason Buddhism has grown in popularity.” (pp 286)

All in all the Dalai Lama is a good human being. His works and deeds speak for them selves. “Had he not become the 14th Dalai Lama,” Garfinkel thinks “he would have still become a valued citizen of the planet.” (pp 286) I tend to agree with Garfinkel’s assessment, the Dalai Lama is a great man, but on the same token he is just a man and not a God in the classic, Judeo-Christian, sense, but maybe he is in the Buddhist sense. This world is a better place for having the Dalai Lama born into it. I just wish that more people were like him.

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