I cover my head with a towel to get some small relief from the scorching sun. Cameras strung around my neck and lenses stuffed in pockets, I jockey for position at the front rail in an area that has been set aside for members of the media covering the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra for World Peace event in Washington, DC. Today will be His Holiness’ only public appearance and the crowds have arrived early, filling the west lawn of the Capitol building to capacity. No bags are searched and no metal detectors have been set up and the lack of security is somewhat alarming, considering that the media has been subject to an hour-long security screening including metal detectors, bag searches and bomb-sniffing dogs on each of the previous days of the event before being allowed into the Verizon Center. I wondered how members of the press could pose more of a threat to the Dalai Lama than thousands of people arriving with backpacks and suitcases.
Our nation’s capital is a strange choice for a conference on world peace. In one restaurant, I grabbed the only available seat at a table where diners were comparing generals who insist on salutes and ‘sirs’ to those who are more casual. Snatches of political conversations fade in and out as I walk the streets. One whole afternoon was wasted trying to gain entrance to a press conference where the Dalai Lama explained his decision to step down as the political leader of Tibet to Nancy Pelosi and Speaker John Boehner.
In between, I take refuge in the Verizon Center, attending prayers and the elaborate Earth Ritual Dance, where Tibetan monks in exquisitely ornamented silk robes consecrate the venue and prepare the platform upon which the Kalachakra mandala will be painted in sand. The stadium overflows with love and compassion. I want to carry this inner peace with me but within minutes of leaving I am thrust back into the real world, once again dealing with traffic, crowds, angry people, unhappy people, power struggles. Monks have it easy, I think.
Contention arises even on the Capitol lawn. The media enclosure is about a hundred feet from the stage, in a roped-off area on the lawn with no platform or backdrop, and hundreds of people have massed directly behind us. We need to be standing to get our shot but the crowd is unhappy about their blocked view and begin angrily yelling for us to sit down. To keep the peace we comply; my resultant video footage of the musical performance is filled with people crossing in front of me and is virtually unusable. Finally, the Dalai Lama speech begins. He insists that it is possible to maintain inner peace, despite tremendous difficulties. When he speaks of the trials he has endured, I am ashamed that I cannot maintain inner peace in the face of my petty difficulties. I must find a way to do better.
One piece of advice that he offers strikes me: “We have one unique thing – our smile. Genuine human smile can only come from warm-heartedness.” After the event I trek back to the hostel to deposit my camera equipment, which is allowed in the Verizon Center only during official photo-ops, then return to the venue for the first day of Kalachakra teachings. The audio quality in the press box is horrible and we can hear only about half of what His Holiness is saying. My smile fades and I wonder if I will ever get this right.
10 thoughts on “Inner Peace Conundrum”
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The smile lesson is so simple yet so powerful.
It really is, Mark. Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and decide I’m going
to smile and say hello to everyone I meet during the entire day. I get some
strange reactions – even suspicious looks sometimes – but the great
reactions far outweigh the bad ones. Now if I could just do that all the
Our species, like each individual, is a work in progress. I am optimistic about both, though without struggle it’s difficult to appreciate reward; a conundrum in itself.
Surprised at the lack of security though they might have actually been using security practices that actually work (unlike airports, don’t get me started!) Much less visible; hopefully that was the case.
I spoke to one of the security agents at Verizon yesterday about the whole
thing. They work for the State Department, while the security for the public
speech was handled by Capitol Police. He said their techniqes are much
different but very good. Very interesting.
Isn’t it strange how it’s focused on inner peace and yet the crowd gets angry if someone gets in the way of their view? That’s not peace. Ironic. I guess they are work in progress. 🙂
Hi Dream Travel: I think we’re all a work in progress. I know I am. 🙂 My
inner peace definitely deserted me the day I couldn’t hear the audio for the
Dalai Lama’s teachings.
Crowd situations can be amazingly intense and difficult to deal with. I know it sounds simplistic (but it works!) — try to create a loving ‘shield’ or bubble around yourself that deflects the negative and angry energy and keeps you safe inside. Sending you lots of loving energy, Barbara. I can feel your stress and hope that things smooth out for you.
Deborah. your advice is right on. Unfortunately I have always been terrible
at shielding. I’m just accepting that this is the lesson I am supposed to
learn on this trip. Today the audio problem was fixed and they seemed really
appreciative that I’d reported the problem; the sound man for the Verizon
Center even came up to talk to me and make sure it was now OK. As for the
teaching, much of it it way beyond my level of knowledge. Though I’ve been a
Buddhist for 10 or 11 years, I am fairly new to Tibetan Buddhism and it is
considerably different. But I’ll get it, a bit at a time. Thanks so much for
We’re there to encourage one another — and I like it that way! (grin!) Glad to read that things were better for you today. Blessings to you, sweetie — and keep on enjoying your conference and absorbing it as well as you can. You may find that weeks or months later you’ll have a light bulb moment when something that you are hearing now suddenly gains greater relevance at that later time period. Float, flow, have fun!