Spirituality and Spirits

I saw His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak on Halloween. This is the third time I’ve seen him, but the first time I understood anything he said. I was sitting in the nosebleed section of an arena the first time I saw him. I saw him in a much smaller venue the second time: an auditorium at MIT that seats a little more than a thousand people. I waited outside for at least an hour, if not more, and was a popsicle by the time I entered the building. I remember that it didn’t feel much warmer inside. I had a decent seat, but I was so cold and tired that I had trouble concentrating. He has a very thick accent, so concentration is key when listening to him.

Yesterday, I arrived at the same MIT auditorium an hour and a half before the doors opened, expecting to see a line. No line! I was the second person in line. The Dalai Lama had a few speaking arrangements in Boston this time around, so my guess is that most people saw him elsewhere. I had forgotten that I bought a ticket in “the cheap seats” section, so I ended up in the back of the auditorium anyway. It was still a good spot. The event started with a musical performance by the Alash Ensemble from the Republic of Tuva. I really enjoyed the music. The performers are throat singers and played some interesting stringed instruments, flutes, and a drum.

As the performance ended, the Dalai Lama entered with his interpreter and four Harvard and MIT professors. The first part of the talk was about climate change and activism. Each professor gave a brief presentation on the topics. The Dalai Lama didn’t speak much, so I was bummed. But then, the professors left and a few children/teens took their places. They had a list of questions from young people all over the world. His Holiness was having a great time with the kids. I still didn’t understand everything he said, but I find it such a joy just to be in his presence. He is the spiritual leader of millions of people and has lived in exile for decades now. He has seen so much suffering. Yet he is so calm and happy. He cracks himself up, which I love to see. And he is very serious when it comes to talking about the relationships between people and between nations, and how we need to realize our interdependence.

After the event, I walked down the street to see a mandala that some Tibetan monks had made in honor of His Holiness’s visit. It was beautiful.















In the evening, I handed out candy at my doorstep. I wondered how long my 130 pieces of candy would last.

Twenty minutes.

My street is blocked off from traffic on Halloween night, complete with police detail. So when I say mobs of children descend on my street, I mean mobs. Children of all sizes came bounding up to me. There were four types:

Children who politely took one piece

Children who took one, and then another, and then another, until their parents stopped them

Children who grabbed a handful

Children who asked how many pieces they could take (I gave them two pieces since they had the courtesy to ask.)

As I watched the costumed kiddos parade by, I recalled the simple joy of dressing up and receiving a boatload of candy once a year. What a great holiday…


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