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Lions Roar : March 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 37 volunteer, do something useful. When you see the difficulties there, you will see that your own situation is much better, more fortunate. Also, doing something, then you find the purpose of your life. You can think, ‘I have made some contribution. I have done some service.’ Then you feel some kind of fulfillment.” Indeed, the interaction between the two—a materially prosperous but sometimes spiritually starving society, and a radiant monk who has lost his own physical country and has now become a citizen and teacher of the globe—seemed to speak at times for something archetypal in His Holiness’ travels. Japan, like the Western nations he often visits, has more stuff, more choices, more freedom of movement and worship than it knows what to do with, and yet something in it seems to cry out for direction, a sense of self. At an invisible level, a romantic foreigner finds Buddhism everywhere in the way people think of others before themselves in Japan, savor transience, even participate fully in the selves and worlds they know at some level to be illusions. But in terms of the philo- sophical texts and rigorous ideas that, the Dalai Lama stresses, are the intellectual core of Buddhism—its heart (or at least its mind)—Japan seems a long way from home. It could almost seem a parable, in fact, for what many of us risk doing, as we leave our pasts behind without quite finding anything to replace them; as (in Japan’s case) we take on the surfaces of another culture, but not the assumptions that give them mean- ing, and end up becoming an imperfect copy of somewhere else instead of a confident model of ourselves. Japan, to longtime visitors like myself, has a sense of discipline, of community, even of instinctive egolessness, that makes it seem at times a kind of Bud- dhist teacher. But rising crime (by low local standards), increasing looseness, a hunger for a larger sense of purpose that has many of the most intelligent joining groups like Aum Shinrikyo, which planted sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system, suggest that, in taking on the forms of the American West, Japan may be taking on its problems, too. Therefore, as soon as he met my longtime Japanese companion, Hiroko, and me for our first private talk on the trip—the sunlight flooding through the windows of his hotel room and a newspaper half open on the table—the Dalai Lama asked us, the way a doctor might, how things were going in Japan and (implicitly) what the country needed, or what was the source of its current suffering. When Hiroko began talking about mothers not passing on a sense of values and consideration as they used to, instantly, in his characteristic way, His Holiness came up with suggestions—those schools that are attached to temples might be able to offer something—and specifically cited a couple of instances he knew. It reminded me of the time when Hiroko had told him about her estranged brother and, quick as a prescribing physician, he’d turned to PHOTOBYKAZUHIRONOGI/AFP/GETTYIMAGES The Dalai Lama with fellow Nobel laureates Desmond Tutu and Betty Elizabeth Williams at an international peace conference in Hiroshima. For more teachings and events go to www.kagyu.org 335 Meads Mt. Rd., Woodstock, NY 12498 845.679.5906 x 10 off