His Holiness the Dalai Lama was in such good health and spirits during the Kalachakra. He is in the prime of his life, brimming with good natured self-confidence and humor. In a sports arena packed with 14,000 people, he was able to perform the most profound tantric rituals, and generate himself into the deity Kalachakra, while still making jokes and not taking himself too seriously.
At one point during the empowerment ceremony when everyone was visualizing the mandala, he stopped and said with a laugh, “Now guru ji has to take his medicine”. He opened a bottle of Western medicine and popped some pills in his mouth and washed them down with some tea and biscuits while the monks continued chanting. Yet there was no question that His Holiness was manifesting as the powerful deity Kalachakra. The energy on the stage pulsated.
During the course of the ten days, His Holiness repeatedly emphasized the need for 21st century Buddhists to understand the Dharma and the meaning of tantric rituals. No more repeating mantras or doing hand mudras without understanding the significance. Great compassion and wisdom are like two wings of a bird – both are necessary to soar to Enlightenment. This message was apparently lost on the people who fought over the kusha grass and other ritual items that the volunteers tried to distribute during the empowerment.
I found myself wishing that His Holiness would never leave and that his teachings would continue. I started becoming attached to my house guests – a group of wonderful monks. Then I quickly realized that this kind of clingy attachment is one of the three poisons that the Buddha taught us to watch out for and to avoid. As His Holiness commented, when viewed from the perspective of emptiness that penetrates the hallucinations of ordinary appearances, that type of attachment simply disappears – and what a relief indeed!
There’s no question in my mind that His Holiness is an enlightened being. When I tiptoed past the throne to look at the mandala on stage, he was smiling and radiating rays of love and compassion – it was palpable. What will happen to Tibetan Buddhism once he and the remaining Tibetan masters pass away over the next 10 to 20 years? Will we be able to preserve the lineages and keep Buddhism alive and relevant to contemporary society the way His Holiness has? What can we as individuals do to help?
On the last day of the empowerment, a man walked in front of the stage wearing a bright red top hat with stars. His Holiness saw the hat and immediately asked for it. To the delight of the audience, he put it on and smiled for the cameras before returning it. What a lesson in lightening up and enjoying life.
On Saturday in his closing remarks, His Holiness spoke of the spiritual ties that we have forged with him and how we had created the positive imprints to continue our relationship in the future. No matter how far apart we are from His Holiness, he is always within us. It is our choice and our responsibility to lead our lives to the fullest potential imbued with equanimity, love and compassion for all sentient beings.
Please feel free to share your reflections about the 2011 Kalachakra.