photo: Christopher Michel on flickr

photo: Christopher Michel on flickr

What’s your favorite thing about the Dalai Lama?

His cute little smile? His snappy outfits? His unrelenting efforts in the areas of human rights and world peace?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for world peace. But I just discovered something about the Dalai Lama that’s more amazing than that.

Check it out:

Back when I was in Holmes Institute, I took a class in Ethics. One of the books we read was Ethics for the New Milliennium, by – you guessed it – His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In the book, His Holiness leads us through a wide array of ethical issues, including the individual’s quest for happiness as it intersects with the needs and desires of others.

And while that was all well and good, what really got my attention was a passage early in the book.

His Holiness recounts one of his early trips to the West, when he was staying with an extremely wealthy family. He noticed how relaxed and confident they were. He watched as servants catered to their every need.

photo: tiarescott

photo: tiarescott

Perhaps the rich really are happier than other people, he thought. Perhaps money really can buy happiness.

That is, until he saw their medicine cabinet full of sleeping pills and tranquilizers. It was then he realized he had been deceived by outward appearances.

Since that day, His Holiness has discovered that people living in materially-developed countries are often less happy than those who live in more modest circumstances.

When we put material wealth above our basic connection with others, suffering is the result.

This story stuck in my head. It reminded me of a Gallup poll that rated the world’s happiest countries. The places that scored the highest were not bastions of material wealth. They were places – like El Salvador and Venezuela – that put a high premium on family and community.

photo: epSos.de on flickr

photo: epSos.de on flickr

I was impressed by the way the Dalai Lama took a simple observation and expanded it into a powerful prescription for happiness and goodwill.

And then it hit me. Months after I read the story, I realized I had neglected to notice an important detail:

The Dalai Lama peeked into their medicine cabinet!

In his retelling of the story, he notes that the cabinet was “slightly open.” We all know that one, right?

The door was slightly ajar, so I peeked into the room. The cookie jar was slightly open, so I helped myself to a few cookies.

photo: slgckgc

photo: slgckgc

In other words, the Dalai Lama committed a completely human act. Driven by curiosity, he checked out the prescription drugs of the people he was staying with.

His Holiness also admits, in the same book, that although vegetarianism is a healthy and valuable practice, he is not a vegetarian.

These are more than simple statements of human imperfection. They are powerful reminders of what it means to be on a spiritual path.

The Dalai Lama is human. He’s a human being with foibles and imperfections. Not only that, he freely admits it.

His Holiness brings gentleness and compassion to everything he does, including those things that others might deem “unacceptable.”

I think I was initially unable to recognize his slightly naughty behavior because of his spiritual stature. Like, someone really spiritual like the Dalai Lama is incapable of anything but 100% enlightened activity. Right?

photo: greg walters on flickr

photo: greg walters on flickr

But that’s not what the spiritual path is about. It’s about love. It’s about bringing love to everyone and everything.

Everyone and everything.

Think of a part of yourself you don’t like. Bring love to that part.

Think of someone you don’t like. Bring love to them.

Think of a group of people you don’t like. Bring love to them.

If it’s difficult, ask the Divine for help. And if you can’t bring love at first, ask for the willingness to bring a little love in the future. Or the willingness to be willing.

Being human. Doing our best. Bringing as much love as we can to every situation and circumstance.

If the Dalai Lama can do it, so can we.

photo: Christopher Michel on flickr

photo: Christopher Michel on flickr

How do you love your human self? How do you forgive yourself when you stray?

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