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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Blessing seen as a chance to be placed into a state of grace

July 20, 2008

Followers flock to the Dalai Lama hoping for a transmission of his
'positive vibe'

By GARY SOULSMAN
The News Journal
July 19, 2008

When the Dalai Lama blessed a small community of Kalmyk Buddhists in
north Philadelphia on Wednesday, many of the 200 people of Mongolian
heritage pressed forward to touch him.

They were hoping for a transmission of energy and goodness, a common
practice across religious traditions. You see it when believers bow at
the feet of a Hindu holy man or reach for the hand of Pope Benedict XVI.

Who knows when a teacher might spark new energy and insight?

"A blessing is an act of holiness offering an opportunity to be in a
state of grace," said Tim Massie, an adjunct professor of religious
studies at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

He's experienced a blessing while celebrating Mass in the private chapel
of Pope John Paul II in Rome. He also felt blessed when his college
hosted a 60th birthday party for the Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan leader bowed, shook hands and draped prayer shawls around
each person. For Massie, it was a tender gesture that evoked peace and
happiness.

Contact with such an authentic teacher often gives students a taste for
new spiritual perspectives, said Mick Quinn, author of "The Uncommon Path."

"It can refresh you, give you confidence and propel you forward," said
Quinn, who recently heard the Dalai Lama speak in Barcelona, Spain.

Filmmaker Nicholas Cambata of Washington, D.C., saw an example of this
when he followed eight Tulane University students to Dharamsala, India,
for his film "Karma Walkers." The students' classes brought them to the
Dalai Lama's residence for several days of lectures.

"None of the students were Buddhists, but they were mesmerized and
uplifted by listening to him," said Cambata.

"He made them realize that social work is more than helping people --
that it starts with compassion and a love for everyone else."

"Karma Walkers" is a 90-minute documentary which Cambata is negotiating
to air on one of the networks. He hopes it will give a sense of the
Dalai Lama's charisma.

"The positive vibe he brings into a room can change everything," he said.

Buddhist scholar Guy Newland has seen this, too. Earlier this month, he
spent a week at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., listening to the
Dalai Lama lecture on a Buddhist text known as "The Stages of the Path
to Enlightenment."

Each day the Dalai Lama spoke for several hours, a task that would tire
many 73-year-olds. But that was hardly the end of things.

After the talks, people came close to bask in his presence.

"He's like a mega-celebrity, and it just keeps getting bigger," said
Newland, professor of philosophy and religion at Central Michigan
University.

"But instead of all these demands making him cranky, it seems to make
him lighter and clearer. My impression of him has grown."

The Dalai Lama is a humble monk, who projects graciousness and an
eagerness to laugh, said Newland.

In general, he promotes universal human rights; passes on Tibetan ideas;
works with scientists, writers and people of other faiths; and seeks
freedom for the Tibetan people.

It's as exiled leader of the Tibetan government that he bears the weight
of a people who lost their autonomy to the Chinese 50 years ago, said
Newland. And since winning the Nobel Peace Prize almost two decades ago,
he's drawn both empathy and criticism.

This situation evokes enormous feeling in Americans who understand how
much the Dalai Lama has suffered, said Newland.

"I saw the president of Lehigh University [Alice Gast] brought to tears
when she introduced him," he said.

And with his nation's tragedy, he's an example of how to live with a crisis.

"He's got all these qualities of heart and intellect going so fully that
people can feel them," Newland said. "It's what we would call charisma,
and it has a powerful effect on people when they're in his presence."

It literally pulls people closer. The effect could be felt at the Kalmyk
temple as Tibetan Buddhists started to gather at 6 a.m. to await his
arrival at 9:10 a.m.

Many regard him as a Bodhisattva, or an enlightened person who has
reincarnated to help everyone, said Naran Cucukov, a member of the
temple. (The name Dalai Lama means ocean of wisdom.)

During the Dalai Lama's movement through the temple, Cucukov stood guard
at the entrance to the social hall to help with the flow of people. He
saw many reach out to touch the Dalai Lama, since touching a Bodhisattva
can be a blessing.

They thought that perhaps his touch will relieve the negative effects of
karma and or be so enlightening it will lead to a higher birth the next
time around, Cucukov said.

Even with only 200 Kalmyks in attendance (they are Mongolians who first
emigrated to the steppes of Russia 400 years ago), not everyone could
get close.

Then he left. And some Kalmyks stood in line at a throne where the Dalai
Lama had sat for a few minutes. People touched the throne to be blessed
by any of his energy left on the gold and red fabric, Cucukov said.

The longing to touch the Dalai Lama has its humorous side, too.

Quinn recalled watching the Dalai Lama in a large arena in Barcelona, as
people reached out for him.

Later on stage, the Dalai Lama laughed and waved his little finger. He
said so many pull on it, hoping for healing, that the finger is sore.

Maybe, he joked, it's the Dalai Lama who needs healing -- for his finger.
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