What does His Holiness the Dalai Lama mean to you?
By: Tenzin Tselha Phunstok
If I had to currently list people in my life that I would consider influential, my list would most definitely consist of people I hold dear to my heart, such as my parents or my teachers, however one person that I have only met thrice in my life yet I feel such a close connection to would be His Holiness the Dalai Lama. You may question as to why I would feel such a close bond to a man that lives across oceans from me, but this man has taught me more life values and lessons than any random author or lecturer could ever teach me. Through the words of his wisdom in formats of interesting books such as the book of joy and admirable talks, at the young age of 15, I have experienced the life stories of a man that has seen both the horrors and beauty of life. From escaping Tibet in 1959 and leaving behind his beloved ones and the place he calls home, to building establishments in India where those can go to experience the joys of freedom and not have to live their lives in constant fear.
Having parents who have had to face death himself through escaping the place they knew as home and which they cherished they had nowhere to go, so they were brought up in a community full of loving Tibetans which His Holiness the Dalai Lama had created in Dharamshala. This not only teaches me to be grateful for the life I have been blessed with, but it also tells me more about the expectations I have for myself as a first-generation immigrant, born in the UK. It makes me strive to be the best I can be at school but also morally, so I can carry on the legacy that Tibetans carry in the community which the Dalai Lama has created. I think His Holiness the Dalai Lama has created a symbol of hope for all Tibetans, so we can unite together as a community and fight for the freedom of Tibet. Not only was a symbol of hope was born on the 6th July 1935 but a representation of what love should look like. Love for all your brothers and sisters who are not just Tibetan, but any race, sexuality or gender. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama said himself, “compassion is the radicalism of our time”, especially in the current political climate, where violence is prevalent in society wherever we go. From the discrimination of black people in America to the mass genocide of Uighur Muslims, hate is seen everywhere and as the famous Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind”.
As someone who has faced discrimination purely based on my race at first whenever I experience such things the first thought that comes to my mind is anger and distaste for people such as these. However, thinking of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings, I instead opt to feel sorry for them. Such thinking helps me rationalise my thoughts and see things from a different perspective. In a society where people often think of “I” before “we”, a thick fog of ignorant will cloud many people’s judgements and let hate get to them. By learning more about the world through the eyes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama we can see that all dilemmas such as such are not clear as day. That there is a complexity to the human soul and mind and that the person who offended me is not thinking with his mind clearly but in a fit of anger. This is why education is such an important quality to have in a person, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama promotes it very well.
Once I went to a talk in Dharamshala in my TCV summer camp trip and meeting His Holiness up close was an experience I will never forget. The ambience in the room was serene, the sound of cows and traffic outside seemed to deafen as the presence of His Holiness joined us. The first thing I recognised was the massive grin on a friendly face and a warm feeling of belongingness. As His Holiness started the talk, I eagerly paid as much attention I could because I knew this was a rare moment that I may not go through in life again. The talk was focused on education and more specifically, learning more about our culture and speaking our language. Now, this is something I have commonly heard from my parents, “speak Tibetan or you’ll forget!” or “ practice writing Tibetan or what will your nationality be?” but this wasn’t in a sense of order like it was from my parents, but rather a request from someone who sounded in need. His Holiness proceeded to explain why our culture was so important to appreciate and learning Tibetan is a dire situation to be addressed. It’s not a matter of speaking Tibetan just because we have to do so, but rather because we have the privilege to preserve our culture whereas our brothers and sisters in Tibet are oppressed with no human rights and constantly dehumanized. Over the years, I’ve learnt more about what it means to be Tibetan and the pride that should come with announcing it. Being Tibetan means striving to do what you do best, whether it is in the art department or science department. Being Tibetan means having the feeling that other Tibetans will always support you and make you feel like you’re family. Being Tibetan means demonstrating your moral compass and help those who are in need, rather than shun them away from society. These things are what I have been taught growing up in a Tibetan household and reinforced by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and I will continue to better myself as such.
Growing up as someone who has not been the most confident or loud child, I’ve often questioned to as why some people are so extroverted, whereas I was often the child in school who preferred to work alone. I was researching quotes to use for my English GCSE speech which we had to perform in front of the class and I chose my topic to be about the lack of freedom in Tibet. Then I came across the quote “the more you are motivated by love, the more fearless and free your action will be” and I was oddly moved by this. I pondered about why I felt so nervous performing a speech I clearly felt so passionate about. I was speaking for those whose voices have been silenced and yet I felt despair as I walked up to the stage. I then thought about the quote I had read and realised that what I was doing was motivated by love. The love of my family currently in Tibet and my love of fighting for those who have been wronged. I took a deep breath and before I knew it my speech was over. Those wise words of wisdom had guided me through what had been an anxiety-ridden moment and for that, I will be forever grateful. All in all, I think my life has had so many positive influences scattered throughout it but one that will always stay close in my heart would be His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the wise words that come from him.