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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Dalai Lama's Visit 2010: Happiness is ...

Sunday is a beautiful day on campus. As I walk to the gym I see police, men in fatigues, and many people already lining up around the outside of the Woodruff PE Center track. I approach the nearest volunteer to find out where I need to enter. Turns out it was back at the entrance near Dobbs Hall (my freshman dorm).

I am early, as recommended, so there is not much of a line. Being a sponsor has some perks and this is one of them. After I pass through security, I realize the main doors are blacked out and I do not know where to go. I follow a yellow power cord. I follow it down a back hallway, alone. I open the door, and the hallway is transformed. Turns out I missed a lunch, so I get some water and sit down for a second to collect myself.

OK, time to find my seats. Once I leave this area it is full of people and there is a long line--for the women’s bathroom. There is no line for the souvenir booths, so I shop a little bit. I venture into the gym to find my seat. The gym has been completely transformed. You would not know if was the same place except for some permanent banners near the ceiling. The room is fairly dark. There are rows of white folding chairs with little stick-on lights on the legs of the chairs on the isles. Helpful volunteers lead me and everyone else to our correct seats. I am in section 2; row L, which is pretty nice.

The stage background is set up to mimic Emory's front gate. It is breathtaking.

This session is called “Interfaith Summit on Happiness”. It includes representatives from the Christian faith, Katharine Jefferts Schori (Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church); Jewish faith, Lord Jonathan Sacks (Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the Commonwealth); Muslim faith, Seyyed Hossein Nasr (University Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University), and His Holiness to represent Buddhism. Krista Tippett
moderates the talk.

A cool thing is that stage right is someone signing for the hearing impaired. I wish I knew sign language. To the left in the audience area is a raised platform where mostly monks and a few others sit on meditation cushions instead of chairs.

I could write volumes about the session, but I know there are probably podcasts of the whole thing. If so, it would be worth listening to.

The Dalai Lama begins the program and says that happiness is deep satisfaction. You have to listen closely because his English is sometimes hard to understand. I love when he laughs. He has the best laugh and it makes me feel good just hearing it. Another thing I like is that he says the religion is not for misery but to give us hope.

After he speaks, the others talk about happiness in their faith. Then, the moderator poses some questions. The best part is toward the end when they discuss sensitive issues of hate and how many people hate Muslims in America post-9/11. Much hate for the actions of a few. The Dalai Lama asks the definition of Jihad.

The response is to combat negative forces within you. So His Holiness laughs and says then Buddhism is Jihad. The moderator asks His Holiness how he always seems to radiate happiness even though he and his people have suffered.

He responds via the translator: the first when I see some problem or tragedy I try to see the positive thing from that event. It is sad that they have lost their country but living in his host country has brought new opportunities. He does get sad sometimes and has anger due to irritations. But later he comments that the purpose of life is happiness, the purpose of existence is happiness and the hope of something better despite today’s differences.

“ Hope for better, hope for happiness. Happiness not come from the sky but to be created within ourselves.”

--Kathleen E. Hedrick 89B, past-president, Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter of Emory Alumni

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