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Lions Roar : July 2019
ALIAS GROUCHO MARX MY FRIEND SID ONCE STRATEGICALLY PLACED Groucho glasses—complete with nose, bushy eye- brows—in a hotel room where the Dalai Lama would be staying during a visit to Cornell University. In a way, it was a gesture of friendliness, because His Holiness had once told Sid that always having to be the Dalai Lama didn’t give him much freedom. Sid, being a compassionate man, wanted to help. A disguise—humorous and absurd—he thought, would be just the thing. As one of the organizers for His Holiness’s visit to the campus, Sid was in charge of making sure that the spiritual leader’s suite was suitably equipped. Thoughtfully he placed an antique Buddhist statue next to the bed and Groucho on the bathroom counter. Imagine this: a cascade of university bureaucrats arrayed in the Dalai Lama’s suite, waiting to meet the great man. They’re keyed up by the barricade of media flacks and state department security men sur- rounding the hotel. And they, like all humans, harbor the deep longing to be knocked back, up, and out by an influx of spirit and greatness. Minutes pass and then a door flings open. Unac- countably, Groucho Marx—wearing maroon robes and serious lace-up shoes—emerges, chuckling loudly. Laughing so hard that tears come to his bespec- tacled eyes. Would most politicians or religious leaders meet foreign dignitaries wearing something that suggests that really, when it comes down to it, we’re all a bit of a joke? Not likely. But Buddhism’s bottom line is to be free of the dom- ination of the ego—the need to affirm it, plump it up with collagen. It’s to be unconcerned about whether or not you’re seen as a hot-shot Dalai Lama or a hot-shot worker or even a half-way decent anything. Back then, in the suite, the Dalai Lama didn’t care about positioning his Dalai Lama image. He saw a chance for fun, for deflating others’ expectations, and he took it. And he just somehow knew whom to thank. Wagging his finger at Sid, he took off the mask, still laughing. CHRISTI COX is an author and former editor at Snow Lion Publications. • to do our best to be kind (and if not kind, then at least not harmful); • to recognize, through reasoning, that we are all basically the same, because we each seek to have happiness and avoid suffering; • and to take responsibility for each other, regardless of outward differences, and for this planet we all share. The Dalai Lama’s message of openness and nonharm is, of course, compelling—but built into it are several equally com- pelling components. PEACE AND NONVIOLENCE In verse 183, the Dhammapada says: Do no harm. Practice what is good. Discipline the mind. This is the teaching of all the Buddhas. In every conceivable way, the Dalai Lama exemplifies these teachings. Some thirty years into his life in exile, in 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It honored his efforts in “the struggle of the liberation of Tibet and the efforts for a peaceful resolution instead of using violence.” He had never referred to the Chinese as enemies; instead, he calls them his “ brothers and sisters.” Adopting a term favored by Gandhi, one of his early pro- posals called for Tibet to become a “Zone of Ahimsa,” a sanc- tuary of peace, nonviolence, and respect for life. Throughout the years, his main teaching has been that only peace can lead to peace. TRUE HAPPINESS One of His Holiness’ favorite Buddhist texts is undoubtedly Shantideva’s eighth-century verse treatise, The Way of the Bod- hisattva (Bodhicaryavatara), which he quotes frequently. As Shantideva writes: All the joy the world contains Has come through wishing happiness for others. While all the misery the world contains Has come through wanting happiness for oneself alone. A profoundly deep and boundless joy comes from cultivat- ing compassion and from the conviction that one is doing one’s best to help alleviate the suffering of others. Our choice is simple, His Holiness comments: “If one wishes others to LION’S ROAR | JULY 2019 49