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Lions Roar : May 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2011 47 in talking about the fighting and the horrors they’d seen, these tibetans rarely mentioned themselves. they didn’t dwell on what the uprising had cost them personally. some seemed puz- zled when i asked that typical american question: when you saw an abbot shot down, or your dead sister, how did that make you feel? they’d so given themselves over to protecting the dharma that they couldn’t understand the question. i wondered, how many Christians would so lose themselves to the moment? it was then, for the first time, that i understood the concept of detachment from inessential things. one oF my last stoPs in lhasa was the Potala Palace. the tiny rooms and hallways are beautifully illustrated with murals, the ones that his holiness used to gaze at for hours on after- noons when he was left alone. i could almost feel the claustro- phobia he must have felt in his early years, locked up in these dark rooms for one afternoon after another, separated from his family and from children his own age. before the escape, his holiness lived a life of less-than-splen- did isolation. in his two palaces, one for summer and one for winter, his every moment was scripted and formalized. how he talked, how he walked, how he held his body was determined by tradition. his followers were not allowed to look at him, and the language they spoke was so formalized that it was really just another ceremony, not a real conversation. during these endless ritual talks, the dalai lama gazed above the speaker’s head. it was sacrilege for him to meet their eyes. he was barely allowed to think or speak for himself. his holiness’ only access to the larger world was a telescope he would gaze through for hours, unnerving the prisoners who were held at the foot of his winter palace. and some old issues of Life magazine and, later, a few films. that was it. the dalai lama clutched at these artifacts of a different world. some would say he was only curious; “insatiably curious” is one of those clichés that are passed around about the dalai lama as a boy. but i think he was reacting to the narrowness of his world. Tibetan mother and child meeting His Holiness at an audience at his home in India. Photosbyalisonwright