Emus and Tigers and Dalais, Oh My!

I didn’t have any plans for the 4th this year and then the Universe provided a unique, and memorable solution: meeting the Dalai Lama! Well, not face-to-face… but pretty close.

He did a speech as part of his 80th birthday celebration at a ranch in Orange County… and I snagged a ticket just before (I’m assuming) they sold out. There were maybe 300 people, so I guess it would be best described as an “intimate affair”. There was catering beforehand with fancy organic foods and drinks, which I didn’t expect, and they had a small animal sanctuary with zebras, parrots, llamas, emus, and a Siberian white tiger (!). I pointed at the llamas and asked someone: “So… which one is Dolly?” Heh.

Forest Whitaker did a strong introduction and led us in singing Happy Birthday to the Dalai, which was a nice touch. Then the ol’ Dalai stepped up and knocked it out of the park himself for a good hour, followed with a Q&A session:

He discouraged the superficiality of Western culture, which was priceless since almost everyone there was dressed in their fanciest fancy pants this side of Fancy Pant City. Almost nauseating, actually. I was proud to have stuck to shorts and a t-shirt when he said that, though I can’t take too much credit since I really had no idea beforehand that it would be so formal.

Someone asked him how he handles being a spiritual leader for billions and he addressed in broken English why he’d prefer to still be considered just a regular guy: “Seven billion people… one Dalai Lama. Very lonely. One of seven billion? Many friends.” Smart man.

He surprised a few people by dismissing religion as the path to peace because it wasn’t inclusive to atheists, stressing that we need believers and non-believers to come together and agree on one simple concept: love. Only then will things truly change. I’m not used to feeling welcomed to the table by anything even remotely resembling religion due to being an atheist, so I was very pleased with that part. He led us in a short five-minute meditation which he encouraged us to do daily, citing the mind and body are linked but that the body follows the mind’s lead. Preaching to the choir! 🙂


It was odd to hear a religious-esque leader say absolutely nothing that I could argue with. Can’t say I felt compelled to actually join Buddhism, but I certainly liked the vibes and philosophy and appreciated the reverence for intelligence. The Dahli even brought up quantum physics (among other sciences) which I’ve been fascinated with the past couple of years. For some reason I expected him to be wise, not smart. I was wrong!

Anyway, it was definitely the most memorable 4th of July that I’ve experienced in as long as I can remember… and believe me, I tried!

Oh, and one last thing… You know that 11:11 number, the so called “Awakening Code”? The file name for the photo at the top, the only pic of the Dahli Lama that came out clearly, was auto-assigned “IMG_1111.jpg”.



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