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Lions Roar : September 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2006 70 descent. Now I was sitting with a man of similar humble background who may someday be rec- ognized as his nation’s emancipator. Of course, I did not forget the major difference between the two: Lincoln was elected by the American people and the Dalai Lama was elected thousands of life- times ago and happened to take his incarnation at the time Tibet was overrun by China. “We believe we have not one but many lives,” he continued, “So we can explain something as very certain or coincidence...Of course generally speaking, all human beings have same potential, each individual, no matter where that person or little boy was born. I don’t know if it’s facility or opportunity or circumstance. From Buddhist viewpoint, we have limitless past lives. So then during last, say, hundred or several thousand years or lifetimes we make different karmas, or links, so that eventually creates different destina- tions... Something like that.” Something like what? It sounded like Buddha- babble to me. I tried to interpolate it to some- thing I could understand: “So maybe humans start out headed for one destination but then, like Ping-Pong balls, they are hit and move in other directions? Something like that?” “That’s right,” he confirmed. “Also, from Buddhism viewpoint, from those thousand life- times or years certain shapes eventually develop, but until last moment other factors are possible and can make changes. Many factors. Like from a seed growing into a flower, until the last mo- ment anything is possible.” “Like the wind takes it in another direction and you could be a farmer in Taktser?” I asked. “Ohhh, that’s right,” His Holiness laughed. “Though somehow I don’t think you’d still be a farmer in that village,” I put in. He laughed more loudly. “Well, I’m glad to bring you these things from Taktser.” “Thank you, thank you,” he said. Now I was ready to launch into the questions I had prepared. But, as his front men had predicted, he took so long to answer the first question I bare- ly got to the rest. The Dalai Lama is a systematic thinker. I had recalled that among his hobbies was taking apart and putting together watches. It was evident in the way he organized his answers. When I asked why he thought Buddhism was growing in popularity in the West, the sixty-four- thousand dollar question I’d been asking around the world, he began creating “categories,” as he called them. They came fast and furious. “In the West, people have a view that Tibet is a mysterious land. And then also I think there is a generation who enter the establishment now, so they want something new. During the happies...” Here Lhakdur corrected him, “That’s hippies.” We all laughed. “I like your pronunciation,” I said. “‘Happies’ is better than hippies.” STEVEMCCURRY/MAGNUMPHOTOS The Dalai Lama visiting Tashi Lhunpo monastery in southern India.