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Lions Roar : September 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2013 33 I was working on the manuscript for The Wis- dom of Forgiveness, which I coauthored with His Holiness, when he invited me to spend a morning with him at his home in Dharamsala, India. I had traveled with him to four continents and interviewed him many times, but I had never been in the inner sanctum of his residence. For once, I didn’t mind get- ting up in what was, for me, the middle of the night. At 3:45 a.m. I was sitting on a small piece of carpet on the floor of the Dalai Lama’s medita- tion room. The space was serene and gorgeous, its elegance understated. There was room for a desk, a meditation alcove, and a small sitting and din- ing area. Display cases made of precious wood held bronzes of different sizes, ritual implements, and stacks of ancient loose-leaf Tibetan scriptures. Heavy drapes were drawn back to expose a floor- to-ceiling window, and in the predawn light I could just make out the silhouette of the Himalayas. At a time when only the street dogs were up, the Dalai Lama began his prostrations. From a standing position he knelt, then stretched his body full-length down on the floor, only a thin cushion insulating his torso from the parquet. His arms were fully extended beyond his head; his palms, each resting on a square piece of fabric, were cocked at an acute angle with fingers pointing to the ceiling. Then, with a practiced motion he slid his hands backward toward his thighs for support, folded his body into a kneeling position, and stood up straight again. He placed his palmed hands on the crown of his head, lowered them smoothly to his chest, and went down full-length on the floor again. Then he repeated the sequence. I lost count after a while, but I figured he must have done about three dozen full prostrations. The Dalai Lama has practiced prostrations nearly every day of his life, and if someone were counting, I’m sure the total would come to well over one million repetitions over his seven decades. PHOTOBYDONFARBERPHOTOSBYJAMESNACHTWAY (Top to bottom) The Dalai Lama begins each day with prostrations to the Buddha; lighting the incense on his shrine; reading in his study.