It seems “enlightenment” is a laughing matter. The Dalai Lama lands in LaLa land and entertains the locals with his message of compassion—and everyone from Naomi Watts and Eva Longoria to Jeremy Renner and Jim Carrey are moved to tears, titters and tweets.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama laughs A LOT. At length. Every six to eight minutes. Like he’s at the best table at the best party in the best place in the world. And that may not be far from the truth. Literally seated under the wings of the Space Shuttle Endeavor at the California Science Center, flanked by longtime BFF Sharon Stone and moderator Ann Curry, yet somehow still holding hands with Larry King, he’s magnetized an audience that included the luminous Lupita Nyong’o, Amber Heard, Malin Akerman, Amber Valletta, Rosario Dawson, politicians, philanthropists and astronauts into a group sing-a-long of “What The World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love.” The giggling is not a guise, but a gateway to what connects us all. Kathy Bates, looking uncharacteristically awestruck, says, “I’m pinching myself. I don’t know how I got here. Or why. But I’m very happy.”
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner is here at the invitation of the Lourdes Foundation, a charitable organization for troubled youth that generously funded the event, to answer questions submitted on the subject of social responsibility and compassion. He does so, with solemn import, good jokes and an unexpected and hilarious “What’s in your handbag?” segment.
After his appearance at The Forum, where he addressed a larger audience, his message was much the same at this well-heeled Hollywood luncheon. First up: practicing compassion and finding inner peace in the absence of organized religion. “Believer or nonbeliever must practice personal ethics. ME ME ME is outdated! That’s my view—any argument?” At that moment, Jim Carrey stood, doffed his jacket to fake-spar and rebutted with a good-natured, “I know a guy!” Throwing his head back and chuckling, His Holiness responded, “I love an argument! Argument always necessary!” He went on to explain that Buddhist teachings are founded on debate, not devotion. And that if someone has a better idea, the scientists who built the shuttle, for example, they must come forth. Every nut, bolt and widget included.
At age 78, would he like to go to the moon? “Yes, but not as an experiment. Once it’s established, I’d like to go—with Sharon [Stone].” On the subject of the future and its potential perils, he goes on: “Human beings have a gentle nature. Child trusts mother. Mother will sacrifice all for child. This is not religion or law…this is a new time for women to come forward and take a more active role in promoting human compassion.” Could there ever be a female Dalai Lama? “Of course!”
On human rights, he speaks not of his homeland, but to Curry’s interview with Desmond Tutu, in which the bishop said, “Gay rights is the new apartheid.”
“Yes, I know his view. This is right. When both sides agree, there is no problem,” then adding, “Wonderful person. We both call each other mischievous!”
And what of our culture’s obsession with money and materialism? Perhaps his view is best summed up with this anecdote: “I wrote Pope Francis a letter after he dismissed a German bishop with too much luxuries. This impress me!”
His Holiness strongly emphasizes the importance of teaching ethics and compassion in schools from kindergarten forward. Then comes the moment that makes every woman in the room with a designer handbag squirm just a little. Eyeing his simple cloth satchel, Curry asks what’s in it. “Ah! Now I demonstrate.” Reaching in, he pulls out chocolate. “I want to share!” he smiles, breaking off bits of Toblerone “from United Airlines” for Sharon and Ann. “Eyeglasses, a toothbrush…But this I want to keep!” he says of a small 11th century clay Buddha statue. “My tutor who gave me ordination blessed it in 1959, as I escaped [Tibet to India].” A serious moment. “And this!” The mischief maker is back, pulling out the last item, a little thermometer he promptly puts under his armpit, and the room dissolves in laughter, left to take their own collective temperature on all they’ve seen and heard in this magic hour. “I think when I get to my car I’m going to burst into tears,” says “House of Cards” and “Entourage” star Constance Zimmer, “It was just so GOOD.”
Edited By Jenny Murray.
Written By Brian D. Leitch.