Flowers meet the Dalai Lama

Posted on October 4th, 2008 by Jim

Location: Dharamshala, India amongst the Tibetan settlements and the residence of Noble Laureate, His Holiness the Dalai Lama since 1959. He is at his temple – I am staying 15 minutes walk away at the Clouds End Villa.

Altitude: Between 1,250 and 3,000 metres.

Attitude: Open minded.

Temperature: Maximum 38 degree C in June; minimum 0 degree C in January.

Annual Rainfall: Varies between 290 and 380cm. Monsoon season is July to September so it’s dry now and great for treking.

Mission : To find Mona Lisa impersonators & to learn more about the Dalia Lama (I’ll refer to him as H.H in the rest of this article as he often is) , China & Tibet. It’s OK – the Tibetan people here encourage a sense of humour :-) My timing here is more luck than judgement as it happens with H.H giving bi-annual teachings and an open mic Q&A session in front of a public audience. I strolled up to his Main Tibetan temple

armed with a cushion, an FM radio for Tibetan – English translation and a bottle of water I wedged myself in between a few Tibetan elders in a place where I was likely to see H.H himself. Security checks were tight as locals, Tibetan exiles, Israeli’s, Brazillians, Koreans, Tawainese, Mexicans and Europeans gathered in nervous anticipation for his arrival.

Those with teaching passes were allowed into the temple itself whilst the next best thing to ringside seats was sat in front of a 48″ Sony flat screen.

My best and only chance of understanding what was occurring for the next 2 hours of Q&A was to make a plan. As soon as H.H and his entourage had passed and entered his temple I’d have to move quickly without ruining the moment and muscle in to a reasonable spot to catch the rest on telly.

Why did I feel like an assassin in the making – this? Were security looking at ME or was I imagining it?

The only other way to meet H.H was to head up to the Tibetan Welfare Office and submit a written request for a private audience to the Private Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his residence. These are rarely granted and required advance planning with just cause so I settled for this chance ‘audience with the H.H.D.L’. Not even Tony Soprano could have worked through that red tape although junior, maybe.

This was the scene as H.H approached so imagine him walking a few more steps (I swear he looked at me – so did everyone else) and taking a left towards the Nelson Mandela lookalike in the orange shirt.

I can only describe his presence as powerful yet modest, unifying and silencing – you could just feel it.

I’ve only felt similar when Princess Di’s coffin was wheeled past me around Hyde Park on the day of her funeral as waves of silence ensued.

Maybe it was the build up? Like than when your football team runs out onto the field on a Saturday, bride and groom finally make it down the aisle or you get served that beer after a long wait at the bar? Whatever the arm-folding take on this is I felt something. My pivot around to the T.V after the entourage had passed was effortless, bond like and ahead of the game. With earplugs in, cushion leaning against a column for back support I was good to GO!

The Q&A session kicked off but I have to admit it despite the magical setting it was confusing. The English translation only kicked in as a summary 10-12 minutes after each question was fired in and H.H answered. I picked up it was relating to peace, China, the Olympics.

As the Tibetan exiles listened in ahead of us, sometimes laughing, a occasional tear and even looks of reassurance as their H.H waxed lyrical. I felt 3 steps behind and honestly spend more time people watching than glued to the T.V waiting for translation.

Like any football game that was a let down I left early. He would be leaving another way and as any self respecting realist would ‘leave early to avoid the rush at the end, Son.’

This may come across as ludicrous with the once in a lifetime opportunity but for me this served as a catalyst for me digging deeper in understanding what H.H was all about, how he was the chosen one and to try and unearth a balanced view on the China & Tibet situation.

For me to try and capture the essence of the Q&A session, offer a piecemeal translation, open to and probably communicated without a full grasp would be crass. It would be cheap journalism open to misunderstandings potentially bordering a case of Chinese whispers (Ahem) – so I won’t.

From the Q&A som 30 minutes later H.H shuffled out of the auditorium to start his 3 day teaching on Je Tsongkhapa’s Song of the Stages of the Pathlto Enlightenment. On this occasion he was giving it primarily to Chinese Buddhists mainly from Taiwan - something I hadn’t expected on the agenda or even understood the reasons why.

Hands up – I was confused and as I ambled down the hill form the temple bought a book on the insiders story on how he is believed to be the current incarnation of a long line of Tulkus, or Buddhist Masters, who have become exempt from the wheel of death and rebirth. These ascended masters have chosen of their own free will to be reborn to this place in order to teach humanity. I’ve just started reading it – a future post for sure.

Politics and frowns aside I noticed a T-shirt hanging up in a window of a shop that had the following words of H.H entitled The Paradox of our age :

We have bigger houses but smaller families;

More conveniences, but less time;

We have more degrees, but less sense;

More knowledge, but less judgment;

More experts, but more problems;

More medicines, but less healthiness;

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,

but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.

We build more computers to hold more information to

produce more copies than ever but have less communication.

We have become long on quantity,

but short on quality.

These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;

Tall man but short character;

Steep profits but shallow relationships.

It’s a time when there is much in the window,

but nothing in the room.

Food for thought as I checked out the Tibetan museum that gave a mind blowing yet potted history of the China / Tibet saga so far. I was and still am ignorant to the situation, the loss of life and the reasoning behind it. Maybe a few episodes of season 3 of the Soprano’s may help? For a sample of the typical Q&A sessions held head on over to the website of H.H Maybe he’ll start a blog and we can award him a flower smelling badge?

Question to H.H : How do you view yourself?

Answer: I always consider myself as a simple Buddhist monk.

I feel that is the real me.

I feel that the Dalai Lama as a temporal ruler is a man-made institution. As long as the people accept the Dalai Lama, they will accept me. But being a monk is something which belongs to me. No one can change that. Deep down inside, I always consider myself a monk, even in my dreams. So naturally I feel myself as more of a religious person.

Even in my daily life, I can say that I spend 80% of my time on spiritual activities and 20% on Tibet as a whole. The spiritual or religious life is something I know and have great interest in. I have some kind of confidence in it, and thus I want to study it more. Regarding politics, I have no modern education except for a little experience. It is a big responsibility for someone not so well equipped.

This is not voluntary work but something that I feel I must pursue because of the hope and trust that the Tibetan people place on me.

I’d hoped my Dalai Lama post could be more inspiring, compelling and enlightening but I’d rather write it from my own experience as it happened rather than craft something that wasn’t. All comments welcomed – any insights or thoughts on my article and H.H.D.L are appreciated and given the chance what ONE QUESTION would you ask the Dalai Lama? Do tell and thanks for reading!

39 Responses to “Flowers meet the Dalai Lama”

  1. “Given the ‘paradox of our age’ and all that is declining what recommendations do you have for an individual to make changes in this area regardless of their spiritual beliefs?”

  2. Lib says:

    Where do you get your robes from?

    And do you have to wash them seperately from whites?

    I don’t know what I’d ask him actually, probably say something really rubbish like ‘Hi, I’m Lib, a massive fan’ which I normally do when meeting anyone remotely famous.

  3. Urban Pagan says:

    I would ask him this

    ‘if you are truly divine why did your god give you crap eyesight you big four eyed speccy tiddly wink’

    • RYK says:


      • Urban Pagan says:

        sticks and stones and all that

        and it was a question,

        oh and its ‘weirdo’ not wierdo. Please show some respect for the English language.

        I don’t believe he is a god at all. If you choose to then please explain why for one so divine he has to have glasses. Oh just noticed your a ‘specky’ as well with your double cool Roy Orbison glasses. Are they considered ‘cool’? Hahaha. Only in India eh?

        • RYK says:

          ooh, can’t handle it, can you weirdo? but names seem to stick easy on you.

          BTW, he never said he was a god/divine/etc, brush up on your reading and tv. Or was it a deliberate slur? Unlike you who probably doesn’t have 2 people who can say respect you, he has zillions. And he doesn’t order them into respect, they do it on their own.

        • Urban Pagan says:

          Ahhh diddumms

          How old are you seriously? I mean in real life and also mentally? Laughable. How would you know if anyone respects me? Why would you care? Freak.

          Does he really have ‘zillions’? how many is that exactly? Or are you making it up? I think we both know the answer. Feel free to have a pop. Its hilarious that you can get so wound up over the internet. You do know your glasses make you look like someones aged embarrassment of an uncle trying to look cool for the kids. Only it never works. It never did work did it? Poor RYK.

          Now go on you lapdog go and follow another guru. You clearly need someone to defer to. If its not osho its the short sighted divine one. Were you bullied at school?

        • RYK says:

          incoherent mumbo jumbo in this comment says that you have nothing to say and are resorting to gibberish just to be able to score a “reply”

          BTW nice pic, coward

        • Urban Pagan says:


          you weird weird man

          go out and get your badly dressed self laid or something. I am sure you can pick one off the street for buttons.

          I don’t put a photo up because I can’t be bothered. why do you put one up? to warn kids who to stay away from? your constant snipes are just strange. but keep going.

          can I ask you however- is everyone who doesn’t put their own photo up a coward? you sad helmet? so according to you all except 3 founders are cowards?? your a laughable no-mark. or are you trying to get laid on here? if so get a new head. and lost the mumbai market clothes

        • Urban Pagan says:

          erm a quick piece for the flower shop man- Mr RYK aka Dev Allorahan from Coronation Street-

          would you care to respond……..

          December 11, 2006

          Here’s the scene: I’m in my local health food store when my eyes are drawn to the cover of the latest issue of New York Yoga magazine. Smiling at me is none other than the Dalai Lama. Inside, “His Holiness” spouts boilerplate platitudes like, “If we do love our enemies, we shall cease to have enemies, and wouldn’t the world be a much happier place if we could all be friends?” Let’s be honest here, the same exact line, if spoken by a ten-year-old child, might elicit a patronizing smile.

          Also in this article, the Tibetan leader was asked how he was able to “deal with the Chinese who had taken so much from his people.” His response was pure Dalai: “We may be different on the outside; but on the inside, we are all the same. We all seek happiness and an end to suffering.”

          Here’s what I’m wondering: Who, exactly, designated the Dalai Lama as a conduit of wisdom… and why? And while we’re at it, let’s put to rest the myth that the Dalai Lama is an innocent bystander and his fellow Tibetans are all pacifists.

          We can start by going way back to a January 25, 1997 piece in the Chicago Tribune entitled “The CIA’s secret war in Tibet.” This uncommon bit of corporate media candor declared: “Little about the CIA’s skullduggery in the Himalayas is a real secret anymore except maybe to the U.S. taxpayers who bankrolled it.” Make that: U.S. taxpayers and the entertainment world’s financial elite who are suckered in by the Dalai Lama’s little boy grin, esoteric lectures, and pacific persona.

          (Side note: We can also put to the rest the myth that the public would wake up if the corporate media published the truth. It’s been nearly a decade since the Tribune article and Mr. Lama is more popular than ever.)

          Obscured by the predominantly superficial media coverage is the reality that, before the Chinese invasion, “His Holiness” ruled over a harsh feudal serfdom with the proverbial iron fist. As reported by Gary Wilson in Workers World, “While most of the population lived in extreme poverty, the Dalai Lama lived richly in the 1000-room, 14-story Potala Palace.” Even the omnipresent holy man himself admits to owning slaves during his reign.

          In 1959, when the Dalai Lama packed up his riches and escaped into neighboring India, the CIA set up and trained an army of Tibetan contras. Potential recruits were asked only one, rather un-Zen-like question by Air Force pilots working with the Agency: “Do you want to kill Chinese?” The guerrillas were actually trained on US soil and then airdropped into Tibet by what the Tribune calls, “American pilots who would later carry out operations in Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War.”

          Yeah, those guys.

          So, how did His Holiness and His Posse manage such paradoxical behavior? Lend an ear to what Jamyang Norbu, a prominent Tibetan intellectual, informed the Tribune: “For years, the only way Tibetans could get a hearing in the world’s capitals was to emphasize our spirituality and helplessness. Tibetans who pick up rifles don’t fit into the romantic image we’ve built up in the Westerner’s heads.”

          And it works. If you don’t believe me, ask R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe. He believes the Tibetans have “done it peacefully, without raising swords. No matter what hardship these people were under, they would not raise a hand against the enemy.”

          Wilson’s characterization in Workers World presents a slightly different perspective: “The prevalence of anti-communism as a near religion in the United States has made it easy to sell slave masters as humanitarians. The Dalai Lama is not much different from the former slave owners of the Confederate South.”

          While the Chicago Tribune claimed that the U. S. government’s support for Tibet’s spiritual contras ended in the 1970s, former CIA agent Ralph McGehee told Workers World that the Agency was “a prime mover behind the . . . 1990s campaign promoting the cause of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence.” McGehee cites the Dalai Lama’s eldest brother, a businessman named Gyalo Thondup, as the key player in this operation.

          “Violence is unpredictable,” the Dalai Lama announced last year, before adding: “In the case of Afghanistan, perhaps there’s something positive. In Iraq, it’s too early to tell.” He confessed to having conflicted feelings over the U.S. invasion of Iraq, before declaring, “history would decide.”

          Uh . . . hello Dalai, but most of us have already decided.


        • RYK says:

          I’ll read that when I have time!

          You name calling HH publicly is not on. The guy has done nothing to you, he has not approached you, said anything about you, sold anything to you, solicited you, dealt with you, not said anything against your family or your country or your religion, etc. So what gives you the right to swear at him?

          You appear to be pretty quick to run people down based on ______ (fill in the blank – because its baffling)

        • Urban Pagan says:

          ironic post

          you chastise me for saying he has ‘crap eyesight’

          now unless I am wrong either he wears his glasses because he has poor eyesight or for vanity. I believe it is because his ‘holiness’ (hahaha) has bad eyesight. Why am I not allowed to comment on that?

          The irony is I did nothing against you personally but you chose to start name calling. So why not apply your own holier than thou philosophy to yourself.

          By the way just because you believe someone is holy does not mean I have to agree or pay him any respect at all. Unless you are saying that your view must be held above all others. Sorry but I don’t know you or who you are. Nor do I care. So why should I give you any credence? I shouldn’t.

          I didn’t see you raise objections when I took the mickey out of christians.

          And again the irony of you- the first one to have a go and get personal – calling people out.

          Please explain how I am a coward? Are you going to call everyone else on here who doesn’t have a photo of themselves a coward. Strange that?

          I will post what I want when I want about who I want how I want. As I am sure you do.

          And this ‘HH’ stuff- he’s not holy to me at all. He’s just another leader of a money making, controlling religion. Unless that is what makes him holy- his ability to make dough and control people. Is that the fascination Dev?

        • RYK says:

          UP, it’s not on to call people names publicly, especially those held in reverence by a community and so senior in stature; just because your sphere of influence is so meager it does not warrant anyone to challenge your right to “post what I want when I want about who I want how I want”. However, given what you have said above, I think you will find yourself a lot poorer and a lot less free if someone did challenge you.

          Completely separately, I read your long post above. Your POV does not fit two important facts:

          1. The man is a monk and celibate. What use does he have of all the riches you mention? No women, no children, etc.

          2. The Dalai Lama and and all Dalai Lama’s before and after are not inherited positions. The outgoing Dalai Lama is laid to rest, a team picks out a kid from their people to succeed him. The current Dalai Lama came from a modest farming family where he was the 5th of 16 children and was selected at the age of 2, hardly an age at which he could hatch a conspiracy or maintain an ambition. Further, don’t you think that if they were money hungry types, they would have created some kind of dynasty ? Here’s more,_14th_Dalai_Lama

        • Urban Pagan says:

          ‘my sphere of influence is so meagre’

          are you this arrogant in the flesh?

          who are you? a flower seller. thats it.

          oh to be that influential.

          you avoid answering any of the points directly interesting. do you walk round with your head up your arse? jst because something matters to you doesn’t mean it matters to me. at all.

          now- aquestion if I may- as you seem to avoid it

          Is everyone a coward unless they have a cheesy photo of themselves on here. If thats the case I think there ae only 3 non-cowards on here- possible 4 or 5. so you – the ‘man’ who gets so wound up about me querying your celibate monks (hold on eyesight problem and single- I wonder) fel free to insult 99% of the people who post on here.

          I think we can all see who the coward is here. He’s the one with the fake raybans.

          Feel free to actually answer the question directly- it would make a welcome change. Come on ‘big winner’ whenever you are ready

        • RYK says:

          I have a question? Are you unemployed? You must be because you have a lot of time on your hands. Go and do something meaningful for a change instead of patrolling blogs to have the final say. A reply to this PROVES you’re a waste

        • Urban Pagan says:


          another cop-out

          so in short

          you won’t answer a question. again.

          haven’t you got some flowers to arrange? badly.

        • Urban Pagan says:

          oh and yet another 6 year old insult

          you really aren’t very good at this are you mr cheap shades.

          was it your bad eyesight tha drew you to HH

          or your inability to think for yourself?

          again as ever you’ll avoid the question. again. go and play with the kids your out of your limited intellect mind

        • RYK says:

          waste waste. go get a job

        • Urban Pagan says:

          a proper job? or shall I mince round a flower shop in bad shades trying to cop off with grieving widows who have come in to get a wreath for their hubby. I can see it now

          in pops dev’

          ‘heyyyyyyyy baby he hasn’t really died. he has reincarnated. here put your hand in my pocket- can you feel him. thats it.’

          I see you still avoided the response to the coward comment Dev? Is that because you are in fact a coward. I think it is. Oh and if your hairline gets any further back you will be combing your arse. I bet you wear ‘look taller’ heals too don’t you?

          Now come on – those crysanths won’t arrange themselves now will they.


        • Urban Pagan says:

          And Dev

          how obsessed are you

          7 posts

          all aimed at trying to put me down. All failing. Keep trying eh? Do you think the dalai lama isn’t celibate but is merely a gay man who is unable to come to terms with his sexuality? is this the appeal?

        • Gareth in Thailand says:

          Do you guys want to call yourselves by new names, maybe ‘Abundant Angler’ and ‘Productive Piscine’ as a suggestion?
          I think you love each other really, given the right circumstances…..

        • Urban Pagan says:

          how about

          ‘the intellectual superior’


          ‘the gay florist with double bad jarg shades a receding hairline and a man love thing with a short sighted cult leader’

          its got a certain ‘ring’ (ahem) to it.

          Anyway RYK has gone offline Windsor Davies and ‘Gloria’ are waiting to perform their next show and he’s got to stand their shaking his head a lot.

        • RYK says:

          UP, may I suggest and, many positions available.

        • amrito says:

          wow he called me “freak” too, a “child” and told me to find another Guru! Urban, you need to get more creative!!

  4. aussiecynic says:

    nice article Jim…..

    Jealousy ensueing…
    The paradox is so very true for our times… as should tell us alot about our society as a whole…

    You truly are on a journey, and it appears your change in times is serving you well… where next dare I ask…

    If I could ask HHDL any one question what would it be… this is a daunting thought…
    there are several which I could ask, many which would make the papers if he answered them… but the one I myself would like to ask is:
    “On your last day on earth in this incarnation, when you look back on your life, what is the one thing you would hope you have accomplished above all others?”

    hmmm Yes thats the one!

    • Jim says:

      For me back to Dubai A/C – needs must and all that….

      Interesting question for the 14th carnate – theoretically his last day never comes, even more so than James Bond, just keeps on going with new ‘actors’ from time to time.

      I’m halfway through this book on how they ‘ knew’ he was the 14th Dalai Lama….

  5. Svasti says:

    Hey Jim,

    Cool post. I’m glad you got to be around HH. He definitely has a presence. Oh yeah, I forgot to say before that when he was in Sydney he did speak in English for a bit, but after that reverted to a translator as he feels more comfortable speaking in his own tongue.

    HH has said several times he thinks Westerners are probably better suited to the religions of their own people instead of Asian religions. Not sure why he says that when there’s so many Westerners who are clearly not interested in Christianity/Catholicism etc. But he continues to, even as he has Western students of his own.

    Did you know – that HH is Richard Gere’s Guru? Fact, not fiction.

    What would I ask HH? Hmmm. If he ever plans to retire, and be “just a monk” or if he’ll fight til his death for Tibetan rights.

  6. Urban Pagan says:

    Ask him if he is truly holy why can’t he speak all the langugages on the planet.

    to te untrained eye I reckon he’s a fraud.

    just a short sighted monk who got lucky. Life of Brian stlye

  7. *shakes head*

    That’s a tough question. Really tough.

    I would ask him for a hug. I don’t have any questions. But he looks very huggable.

  8. Lil'thoughts says:

    I’m glad you wrote like you did. I think that’s what the Dalai Lama would have you experience. To look within ourselves, see what changes we would like to make of ourselves because as we know we can only change ourselves. Through our changes, experiences, and example we can show love for others. Seeing that helps others to change, thus making the world a better place. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  9. Arvind says:

    This is a true anecdotal story about the Dalai Lama:-

    He was speaking in London a few years ago and a friend was running late in getting to the auditorium. She thought his talk had started already and so decided to visit the ladies first. As she was rushing out, she walked straight into the Dalai Lama, who was emerging from the gents.

    My friend stepped on his feet and he screamed – “Oh s–t!

    So this proves a number of things.

    1. He knows the most important and relevant English phrases.

    2. He suffers pain just like all of us

    3. He too need to use the loo like us mortals

    He is just a normal chap underneath it all, but who through his birth and training has acquired immense wisdom and status.

    If I met him, I would ask him where he gets his funky clothes from. And also if he ever he wishes he could give up being celibate :-)

    • Jim says:

      The locals here do have a massive respect for him and the human side that you mention…he is known to have killed a mosquito once after being bitten by it, ignoring at first, saying ‘ even mosquitoes don’t get a second chance’.


      • Urban Pagan says:

        so all life is sacred unless it bites him. hahaha! as orwell wrote ‘we are all born equal but some are more equal than others.

  10. Emma says:

    I have heard so many times that his presence is awesome, so I guess I would have to ask, how do you have presence? how do you have the presences you want? and how can you control it, if at all?

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