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Lions Roar : September 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2013 35 He was already leading me to the door when a thought struck him. He steered me to another display case full of glorious objects. “Aha!” he exclaimed in delight. He carefully took some- thing out and handed it to me: a small mahogany carving of a wrinkled old man with a waist-length beard. It was a quintessen- tial rendition of a Chinese sage. At that moment, Paljor la, the Dalai Lama’s personal monk attendant, quietly entered the room. He handed over a small red envelope that the Dalai Lama passed to me. “A little red packet for you, a lai si, according to Chinese cus- tom. See you soon,” the Dalai Lama said with obvious warmth. Inside the envelope was a wad of American dollar bills. I felt a flush spreading across my face. I was mortified. Unexpectedly, the Dalai Lama had given me presents, perhaps even valuable things with significant provenance. And knowing that I had lim- ited means, he had also given me a gift of money. As I walked out of the meditation room, I was struck by how pleased the Dalai Lama looked at that moment. His face was radiant. It was as if giving me things brought him a great deal of satisfaction. It manifested noticeably in his face. Some of the deep vertical lines along the sides of his cheeks had filled out; his brow appeared less furrowed, and the pouches under his eyes were a lighter shade. There was a palpable aura of well-being about him. Lina and Kira, you know a bit about the benefits of giving from personal experience. Our family spent a year in India when you were seven and nine. You might remember how difficult those first couple of weeks were. You had a bad dose of culture shock when you were confronted with abject poverty and overpower- ing misery. You felt terrible. Then you discovered the street pup- pies in Dharamsala, and you took pleasure in caring for them. I vividly remember the two of you crawling into the filthy gutters to bring food and water to the small animals. When they started to die because of a spreading virus, you threw yourselves into fundraising, trying to buy enough vaccine to save them. This act of caring, putting others’ welfare before your own, buoyed your spirits dramatically. As Shantideva, a ninth-century Indian sage whose teach- ings influenced the Dalai Lama profoundly, wrote: “All the joy By my calculation, he has devoted well over 100,000 hours of his life to meditation. And without a doubt, he is the happiest person I’ve ever known.