Millions of people turn to the Dalai Lama for inspiration, but to whom does he turn? He and his people have struggled all their lives with the audacity of hopelessness. Oppression and exile are their daily bread. Yet the Dalai Lama, 72, remains calm in the face of cruelty. What does he think of the human race? "We are the superior species on Earth but also the biggest troublemakers," he once told me.
China's rulers aren't like the British masters of colonial India, and the Dalai Lama's Gandhiesque nonviolent struggle won't give them twinges of conscience, leading to Tibet's freedom. If anything, Beijing has grown more ruthless in suppressing Tibetan aspirations, as we've seen this Olympic year. And yet he has found a way to think kindly of those who oppress his people and vilify his name. I found him unwilling to show any harshness. He said to me, "I don't dislike the Chinese, only their actions."
To me, the most mystical thing about him is also the most ordinary: the Dalai Lama is happy. He's happy in the midst of chaos and turmoil. The most inspiring thing he ever told me was to ignore all organized faiths and keep to the road of higher consciousness. "Without relying on religion, we look to common sense, common experience and the findings of science for understanding," he said. I do the same thing, but I still marvel at this model of calm and compassion. I'm sure neuroscientists would love to know what's going on inside that brain.
To whom, then, does the Dalai Lama turn for inspiration? It's not a person but a placebeyond I and thou, beyond self and nonself. The wonder isn't that such a place can be found. The wonder is that one man makes it look so easy.
Chopra, author of more than 50 books on spirituality and medicine, has met the Dalai Lama several times
Next Vladimir Putin