It was sad news – we were told the Dalai Lama could not make this year’s Parliament of World Religions after all, due to serious health concerns. Sad because we would miss hearing him speak, certainly, but upsetting because of his illness.
This reminded me of a conversation I had with my daughters years ago.
The Dalai Lama had done something – spoken somewhere, responded to a serious concern, or something else – it doesn’t matter what he had done but it gave me an excuse for me to tell my daughters I thought he was wonderful.
“Why is he so special?” one of my daughters asked.
“Do you know anything about the Dalai Lama?” I asked. The answer was, “Well, he sure smiles a lot.”
“The Dalai Lama is amazing because, unlike us, he keeps coming back after he dies so he can keep helping other people.”
“That’s reincarnation. We don’t believe that,” another daughter said.
“Doesn’t matter,” I said. “He does. He was so good that he had a chance to go to heaven, and he chose instead to keep being reborn so he could keep helping other people.”
“But we don’t believe in reincarnation,” she insisted.
“No, we don’t. But the Dalai Lama does. And each time he comes back his followers find him, help him remember who he is, and then he spends the whole rest of his life doing everything he can to help us – all of us – be better people. He doesn’t need us to agree with his beliefs, he’s super nice anyway.”
My daughters’ eyes grew really big. “That’s so cool!”
The Dalai Lama continues to be among the greatest and gentlest of men, whose strength flows from a place of heartfelt compassion for all. As Christians we may not believe in reincarnation, but the point is the Dalai Lama does; he wears out each life caring for others, and keeps returning to do it again.
I love the Dalai Lama, and now my children do, too.