Meeting the Dalai Lama
As usual when the Dalai Lama meets Westerners, an English-speaking Tibetan interpreter is present to help clarify words or meanings. The Dalai Lama's English, like his Tibetan, rises and falls in a wide range of expressive tones, highlighted by an infectious sense of humor. His voice is calm and penetrating. Scholars say he speaks with incomparable eloquence in the Tibetan language. He delivers Buddhist teachings in his native tongue but speaks English when conversing generally. Prominent cheekbones meet the fine network of creases at his shining, penetrating eyes, as he listens and nods and smiles encouragingly. His unusually glowing skin accentuates a single, inquisitive, v-shaped line that runs the length of his high forehead. Regardless of the topic, brief words of practical advice and grounded viewpoint are woven into a conversation that begins and ends with your own initiative. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, believed to be an incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, is not interested in gaining converts or becoming embroiled in passionate debate. He is simply there for you, to become engaged in a warm, personal exchange. You notice, fleetingly, that the Dalai Lama's hands are exquisite. His long, slender fingers close gently around each other as he earnestly listens to you. Suddenly his hands open wide, then pull together in a hollow clap as he breaks forth into laughter. It is true that His Holiness does love to laugh. Whether in rippling giggles or a clear open gale, his sense of joy pervades his entire being. While he may roar briefly in response to something you have said, never do you feel ridiculed, for this great monk is laughing beyond irony or personal psychology. And his outburst is generally accompanied by a reassuring comment which clarifies the profound depth of his humor. His is an unaffected, unselfconscious mirth. (Translation into English by Karin Murad)