Here's a riddle for you:
Q: What do Radio City Music Hall and organizational transparency have in common?
A: The Dalai Lama.
Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, was in New York again this past weekend for a three-day teaching, the third such protracted event like this that my hubby and I have attended. In 1981, we were two of 150 people who spent a week in a small lecture hall at Harvard University on the Dalai Lama's first visit there. Last year, we spent three days with our daughter and 3000 others at his lecture sponsored by Tibet House (co-founded by Professor Robert Thurman, the first American ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk, and, famously, father of Uma). Tonight, we're fresh from his latest New York appearance with our daughter again and at least 5000 others, another three-day event, this time sponsored by Healing the Divide (the non-profit started by Richard Gere, a long-time follower of Tibetan Buddhism) and The Tibet Center.
It would not be accurate to say we are Tibetan Buddhists. In truth, which is largely what the Dalai Lama's teachings are about, my hubby might pass, as he has read scadzillions of books on the subject, but, as is my wont, I'm a perpetual neophyte, interested primarily in the Dalai Lama's profound (too shallow a word, really) insight into human nature.
The Dalai Lama's psychology (the principal focus of last year's teaching) causes us to hold up a mirror to our most naked selves; his spirituality so inclusive that he encourages everyone to practice their own beliefs; and, in this teaching, his dissertation on Tibetan Buddhist logic is as close to quantum physics as "religion" could possibly be.
I'll say again here what I've said to many friends: If you haven't had the chance to hear him, make the time. Unless you're a baby, in which case you aren't reading this--at least not now--there will never be another mature Dalai Lama in your lifetime. This man is 72 and, with any luck, he'll be around for many more years. There will be no 15th Dalai Lama until this one passes away. And, then it will be some time before his successor is identified; many years will turn before that person is teaching.
Trained for his position from the time he was a tiny boy, the Dalai Lama probably never imagined back in the Potola, his residence in Lhasa, Tibet, that he would someday end up sitting on the stage that the Rockettes made famous, surrounded by 100 monks and nuns, wearing a crimson visor to block the klieg lights, with a headset hooked behind his ear, and talking for hours to thousands of Americans about non-duality and emptiness.
Without taking on a very serious piece of writing, I cannot summarize the past three days.
But I do want to share this, relevant to the themes of this blog. At the very end, after the Dalai Lama had made some very poignant suggestions about how to be a better human being, how to be more compassionate, more selfless, Richard Gere, who'd spent three days sitting in lotus position with the monks and nuns, took the microphone and said the usual wonderful things one would expect--how inspiring, meaningful, and touching the teaching was. And then he said something unexpected: that the Dalai Lama believes in transparency and in that spirit, a monk came forward to share the financials of the event.
According to Buddhism, no one should be paid for teaching. Thus, the monk read the line item expenses, totaling $1.396 million (it's not cheap to rent Radio City, i.e. $650,000); income was $1.394 million. "We are pleased to report," the monk said, "a loss of $3800."
May all sentient organizations be so transparent.