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Lions Roar : July 2019
OBODY HOLDS ONE as the Dalai Lama does. He can hold you inwardly, as when a six-year-old boy comes up to His Holiness in a crowded hotel lobby, white scarf extended, and the leader of the Tibetans brings all his attention and presence—not just full-bodied, but whole-hearted—to the child. He can hold you verbally, because even in English, in a 50,000 -seat auditorium, the Dalai Lama rises to a passion and intensity—when he’s speaking about his concern for the environment, the gap between rich and poor, the need for harmony between religions—that refuses to let you go. He can hold you in memory too. Even the most jaded journalists I know recall how shaking his hand, or seeing him at their high school, somehow reoriented their lives. And literally. Whenever His Holiness puts his arms around me, I feel held, protected—blessed—as by nobody else I’ve met. WHEN I THINK BACK ON THE FORTY-FIVE years I’ve known His Holiness, I see him waving un-self-consciously to a friend in a tiny room in Manhattan where he’s holding a press conference in 1984, at a time when few Westerners knew what N The Best of Who We Are How did an obscure Buddhist monk become perhaps the most admired moral leader in the world? Reflecting on his forty-five years of friendship with the Dalai Lama, PICO IYER concludes that it’s because the man and his message show us the best of who we are as people. a Dalai Lama was. I see him roaring with laughter and pulling the arm of his heart’s companion, Arch- bishop Desmond Tutu, as they talk together about how to transform society by never assuming any outcome is final. I see him finding the potential in a group of long- haired, heavy-metal musicians in a conference room high above a busy city. And when a woman strides forward and shouts abuse at him, outside an intimate Tibetan temple near Hiroshima, I see him not turn away from her, as most of us would, but walk right up to her and look deep into her eyes, before cradling her face in his hands and holding her. Heads of state are trained to be aloof and watchful, and to this day His Holiness’ bodyguards can be put out by the squadrons of burly Mongolians who all but overwhelm their Tibetan hero in their eagerness to lay hands on him. In the age of celebrity, and of glo- balism, everyone wants a piece of a being as ecumeni- cal and open as the Dalai Lama. But when I travel across Japan with His Holiness, as I’ve done almost every November since 2005, I watch him fondly rub- bing the elbow of the elevator operator in a Yokohama shopping mall where he’s gone to buy a new pair of glasses. When we stop for tea at a roadside 7-Eleven, the Dalai Lama stands at the door and extends a hand to every surprised truck driver who enters. He’s PHOTOBYEDWINREMSBERG/ALAMYSTOCKPHOTO LION’S ROAR | JULY 2019 41