"So," said the Dalai Lama as he cocked his head from side to side, "So, perhaps something from Buddhism can help you. In Buddhism we believe that the Buddha is within every being, always, whether you can see he is there or not. So you can look into the eyes of your torturer, even as he is torturing you, and see the Buddha. Similarly, no matter how badly you feel, or what you have done, the Buddha is always with you -- and you can find him, or re-find him, whenever you want."
The occasion was a semi-public speech His Holiness the Dalai Lama made in 1994 in NYC to a group of lawyers for human rights. I had wanted desperately to see him and had a friend on the committee who let me in for free -- waving the $500 fee. That was miracle #1.
Then as I sat there listening to him -- as he was surrounded by acolytes, body guards, corporate leaders and celebrities, I heard him speak so simply and from the heart about compassion.
Compassion, he said in answer to a question, was the most important thing in the world -- and the most important attribute for the American family to cultivate. That was miracle #2.
Because I was in the midst of personal turmoil -- surrounded by lots of single-minded, and quite often mean, folks who neither conducted their business nor lived their lives in a manner I thought to be honorable. They were devoid of compassion -- and in self-defense, I felt that I was becoming that way, too.
So, as I was listening to His Holiness, a question sprung full-blown to my mind: "Can, and if so, how, can those who have lost their compassion, or never had it to begin with, regain it? An existential question, no doubt, but one that seemed of utmost the urgency and relevance.
I needed, needed to have the question answered by His Holiness, just about more than anything in the world. And so, I got up to stand in line to ask, but was cut off, as they stopped taking questions right as it was my turn.
I thought about just not sitting down... but, well, that did not seem right in the circumstances, so I sat down, burning with my unasked question on my lips. There was a reception that followed, and though His Holiness was supposed to be whisked off to a very private dinner, it seems he was hungry. (I could see him far away, munching on what appeared to be Doritos. He is most assuredly holy, but also real, and unpretentiously natural.)
Then as I was standing there, roiling with my unanswered question, came miracle #3.
I looked up and saw His Holiness walking straight toward me. It seemed as if the waters literally parted in front of him, and he walked right up to me, took my hands -- which were tented in front of me -- cocked his head, as said, "So? So?"
As we stood there, him holding my hands, I blurted out my question, sobbing at the honor of it all: "Can, and if so how can, someone who has lost their compassion or never had it to begin with, find it or regain it?" He nodded vigorously and said, "Can, can."
And as he stared deeply into my eyes for what seemed like an eternity, he gave me his answer. The Buddha is always within each of us, available for us to re-find, reclaim, refresh, at any time we are ready.
And of course, if one finds or re-finds the Buddha, one finds compassion. Miracle #4.
Of course, I was asking about redemption. And it is possible -- the Dalai Lama told me -- and my life has been forever changed.
I extricated myself from the situations that were most problematic, and started my own firm, in order to work with clients and employees at the highest levels, and in ways that could add value not only to them and their organizations, but to the world. Shared value -- on a global basis.
Today, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is being awarded the Templeton Prize in London, at St. Paul's. And I am honored to say that I was part of the very small group (five of us, four Swarthmore College alumni) who nominated him for that prize! I shared this story -- in far more depth -- with the Committee, and it supported the fact that this man of holiness has touched so very many people. His message that started in Tibet's Potala Palace, has radiated out around the world to touch so many of us, to change our worlds, and the world, for the better.
His is such a powerful message. And the almost $2 million dollars that the prize awards (it is the richest prize there is, awarding more money than even the Nobel Prize) will be used for such good purposes...to save lives, and to spread an already viral message even further.
Today, I would like to honor His Holiness the Dalai Lama for being awarded The Templeton Prize. And, I would like to commend the Committee on their inspired choice.
I found, that day in New York City 18 years ago, that miracles can indeed happen. And the Dalai Lama told me so.
Because compassion for others and for oneself is the antidote - to despair, to stress, to cruelty, to evil. No matter what your religion, your spirituality, your point of view, that is a singular truth.
And that is the last miracle -- please do pass it on.
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