Just as it’s impossible to hate a little baby smiling up at you in all of his or her innocence, it’s hard to find anything bad to say about the Dalai Lama.
The 75-year-old spiritual leader is the epitome of humility and decency.
While other religious and political leaders often put their feet in their mouths, Tenzin Gyatso (the 14th Dalai Lama) appears to always know just what to say in his quest to promote peace and encourage people to take care of one another.
For instance, just recently, he was welcomed by President Barack Obama in a low-key, off-camera reception in Washington (in order not to cause offence to China).
Did the Dalai Lama get angry or express disappointment about the quasi snub?
No, he didn’t.
“I don’t care,” he explained. “The important (part of the event) is (the) face-to-face (meeting with Obama).”
The Dalai Lama is both a skilled diplomat and a pragmatist.
Tibet’s exiled leader obviously recognizes that a person has to choose one’s battles carefully and that lashing out at one’s opponents — China, in this case — usually accomplishes nothing.
For years, he has quietly promoted the rights of Tibetans, and according to China, even pushed for separatism, but he always treats his political opponents with respect.
He often speaks of the value of forgiveness, urging audiences to hate actions, not people.
Although China has never been his friend, the Dalai Lama insists upon compassionate treatment for the Chinese — even though he disagrees with their treatment of his own people.
While many people urged the Dalai Lama to endorse violent protests during the Olympics in Beijing, in order to draw attention to Tibet’s troubles, he refused to do so. He condoned peaceful public expression, but not violence, and even discouraged peaceful protests when it became clear that they would disrupt the Summer Games.
The Tibetan Buddhist teacher serves as an international educator in the field of ethics by providing an example for all of us.
Although there are many other revered holy men in the world, he is someone who both religious people and atheists can admire as a straight shooter. He speaks out not just for Tibetans, but also on behalf of all sorts of humanitarian causes.
When he was in Washington, for instance, he did his best to call attention to Whole Child International, an organization that advocates better care for orphans worldwide.
The Buddhist monk is an intelligent individual, but accomplished as he is, he’s far from all knowing.
Asked by a reporter what advice he would give to Tiger Woods, given the athlete’s much-publicized marriage problems, the spiritual leader had to admit that he didn’t even know who the world’s greatest golfer is.
That’s kind of refreshing, in a way.
Woods, who has recently expressed an interest in getting back to his Buddhist roots, is an extraordinary individual. His accomplishments on the links will be remembered for decades.
That said, Tiger can’t hold a candle to the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan monk exerts influence where it really matters — in the world of ordinary human behaviour.
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.