The Dalai Lama

by Maureen Fiedler

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The Dalai Lama is in Washington for 10 days, July 6-16, to conduct what Tibetan Buddhists call a “Kalachakra for World Peace.” The Kalachakra is a series of talks, rituals, visualizations, mantras, and yoga designed to transform the minds of participants and to mature their innate wisdom and sense of compassion. Ultimately, it is designed to promote the universal Buddhist goal of “enlightenment.”

The Kalachakra is considered one of the most complex rituals in all of Buddhism. And many observers here in the Washington area find it significant that the Dalai Lama chose the U.S. capital, the global center of world politics, for this event. Some people hope that the spirit of this Kalachakra, which seeks to help participants bridge their differences, will emanate out to the political leaders who are dealing with issues like the national debt, wars, the environment and terrorism. We can only hope!

I had a long talk with a Buddhist woman recently, pressing her to compare the Kalachakra to something analogous in Christianity. The best we could come up with was a 10-day retreat, with rituals, talks and contemplation. But for Buddhists, this is not a time of total silence; it brings adherents of many Buddhist schools of thought together and there are lively conversations.

It also features exquisite sand painting by Buddhist monks… called a “sand mandala.” At the end of the 10 days, that mandala is destroyed as a sign of the impermanence of created things.

According to the Washington Post, the “Dalai Lama has transformed the Kalachakra from an arcane ritual into a huge peace festival. That is typical of the way he has popularized Buddhism in the West.” And, with his 76th birthday coming on the ceremony’s first day, many wonder who will ultimately fill his shoes.

I heard the Dalai Lama give a talk in Washington many years ago. And one thing always struck me: he has a great sense of humor, and he’s able to laugh at himself – easily. That, in my book, is a leading sign of holiness.

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