I quietly left my desk today, hopped on the Metro, and went to the Capital to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak, shortly after being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal "in recognition of his enduring and outstanding contribution to peace, non-violence, human rights, and religious understanding."
It was shocking. It was enlightening. It was alarming.
Let me begin with the shocking part. A group passed out postcards that explained that there is a Chinese law preventing the Dalai Lama or other Tibetan Buddhist teachers from being reincarnated unless approved by the government. According to The Economist, this is actually the case. Bonus, there's a registry for "Living Buddhas" in Tibet.
Okay, so let me get this straight. Tibetan Buddhists believe in a cycle of reincarnation, and many of them believe that they elect to return to this world for another life to help those less enlightened come to enlightenment. And the Chinese government has legislated the activity of these people's souls after death? Honestly, it makes the mind boggle just to think of it. The sheer thought that anyone could legislate the soul's migration after death left me dazed and bewildered.
The alarming part had to do with the juxtaposition of violence and non-violence so present in the venue. Here we are awarding a man for his support of peace and non-violent resolution of conflict. The President of the United States has just received him -- the message seems overwhelmingly that we as a nation value non-violence and peaceful choices. And yet when I got home, the news reported the ever-increasing saber-rattling about the need to engage our military with Iran, preventively. Bonus -- the Capital and the Dalai Lama were being protected by guards with high-powered rifles. It was enough to make what was left of my brain after the reincarnation thing explode.
The inspiring part requires a little more time to discuss; I'll get to it in the next few days.