Thursday, October 1, 2009

I saw a man today.

I have often heard people talk about encountering someone who made such an impression on them that the experience stayed with them for a long time. I had not ever had such an encounter, until recently. I often wondered what kind of person it would be. My mind drifted off to visions of billionaires, rock stars or famous actors. Men and women who were known globally and admired (or perhaps, more accurately, idolized) by the public at large. My recent encounter was with none of those.

I walked into a room of about 1200 people, all of whom were waiting patiently for one man to arrive. I took my place in the crowd, about 50 feet from the stage on which this man would be seated. It felt as though the whole group held its collective breath as a small man made his way slowly up the stairs to his chair. He sat, arranged his clothing, and began to speak. The room remained silent but for the sound of his voice. He spoke of education, and the need for thoughtful contemplation in all things. He encouraged us to choose our pursuits carefully, and to be ready to endure suffering and obstacles in the name of those pursuits. He urged us to focus on our goals and to consider all sides and angles before acting. His messages were simple, but so profound. He was funny and endearing. He was so matter-of-fact.

In all this, he was the epitome of the ordinary human being, and yet the most extraordinary human being I have ever encountered. I hope never to forget how grounded I felt just listening to his words.

He is the 14th Dalai Lama.