Dalai Lama: Find Meaning

By Shlomo Maital


    The Dalai Lama is the 14th such Dalai Lama.  And he may be the last, according to his own words.  Dalai Lamas are important monks of the Gelug school, the newest school of Tibetan Buddhism. He was born on July 6, 1935 and despite his age, 81, he travels the world with his message of peace and harmony.   His full name: Lhamo Dondrub, but it is rarely used. He now lives in McLeod Ganj, India, near Tibet, because Chinese authorities do not permit him to return to Tibet, from which he fled at an early age.

     I once heard the Dalai Lama speak in person, to 5,000 persons in Tel Aviv. His presence is spellbinding and radiates the serenity that he preaches.

     In the International New York Times, Nov 5-6, there is an unusual Op-Ed piece written by the Dalai Lama together with Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative pro-free market think tank based in Washington. In it, the authors ask, if things are so good all over the world, why do people feel so bad?

         Good??? All over the world? “Fewer among us are poor, fewer are hungry, fewer children are dying and more men and women can read than ever before”, they note. How strange, they note, then to see anger and discontent in the world’s richest nations.

         So why is there such tremendous angst, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, social unrest and violence in so many parts of the world? They note research that shows that senior citizens (that old euphemism for old people) who did not feel useful to others were three times as likely to die prematurely, as those who did feel useful.   Apparently, to stay alive, you need a reason, and helping others is the primary one.

       People are unhappy, says the Dalai Lama, because they do not have meaning in their lives. Remedy? “We should start each day by conciously asking ourselves, ‘What can I do today to appreciate the gifts that others offer me?”   We need personal commitments “that we mindfully put into practice”.

         I love this message. I try to practice it. But I don’t accept the premise. People are unhappy, because they struggle every day to provide food, shelter and clothing for themselves and their families, and have a very very hard time doing it, including those in wealthy countries. The odds are stacked against them.   The old “trickle down” fallacy has been refuted ages ago, but politicians still preach it. Wealth does not trickle down, it trickles up…to the ever-richer 1 per cent or 0.1 per cent.

         Arthur Brooks and the American Enterprise Institute are among those who espouse trickle down, and provide grist for the Republican Party. (“Trump will lose, but Americans will make a fatal error if they do not recognize what Trump got right”, says the AEI website. Hmmm what DID Trump get right?).    I regret that a person as wonderful as the Dalai Lama seems to have thrown in with an ideology that is so flawed.