‘Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.’
14th Dalai Lama – Tenzin Gyatso
I feel I have been extremely privileged and honoured this year, as I’ve actually been in the presence of and heard the Dalai Lama speak. Surprisingly, it was at the Glastonbury festival; it was rumoured to be so and I’m sure there were many who didn’t believe it would happen, but it did and I was lucky enough to be there. I had actually dreamed I would be but I still doubted I’d actually make it and whether it would actually happen, but actually it did. I know I’ve used the word actually a lot but that because this blog is about love, actually, and we’ll get onto that.
I hadn’t bought a ticket for the festival, as they’re expensive and there weren’t any bands I wanted to see this year. I live in Glastonbury town, which many flock to for its history and healing. But, it’s probably most well-known for the festival, which takes its name, although it isn’t in Glastonbury but seven miles up the road in the village of Pilton. As Glastonbury residents, we are entitled to buy tickets for Sunday only. When at last it was confirmed, though not until the Friday of the festival, that his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, would indeed be at Glastonbury festival, I managed to blag myself a Sunday ticket, it’s not what you know but who you know, but shhhh, don’t tell Michael Eavis!
The Sunday morning started with gloomy skies and rain, though not terribly heavy, but the kind that seeps into your bones. Once inside the festival, it’s like being in a bubble of another world; food stalls, clothes stalls, people dressed in whacky clothing, bars crowded before lunchtime and different strains of music wafting over you from the many stages, depending on which way the wind is blowing. It was a little muddy and slippery, which made walking quickly tricky. I had a sense of where the Dalai Lama would be but I had no idea of the time. I just followed my instincts and headed off in the right direction. I had downloaded the Glastonbury app onto my phone. I’m actually a bit of a Luddite; technology is useful (it’s even possible to run a business from the toilet these days) and sometimes it can be very frustrating. But, occasionally, it’s amazing and now was one of those times. A notification flashed up that the Dalai Lama would be speaking in the Kings Meadow, the highest point of the festival (in more ways than one!) in ten minutes’ time. So, I picked the pace up a bit and skidded and slipped across the mud, but at least already heading in the right direction.
There were crowds of people on their way, already there was an air of peace and calm. I was with my soul sister, Emma, and we met my friend Joe by a big sign announcing that the Dalai Lama would be speaking on the occasion of his 80th birthday. So, literally all the signs were pointing to the fact we were in the right place. I wondered where it was all happening as, being only 5’1”, I couldn’t see much over the crowd. I could just make out the top of what looked like a pergola or a pagoda, or even a mixture of the two! Then he started to speak. Absolute quiet and stillness, apart from the occasional peep from a child, descended, which is really rather odd when you’re at a music festival.
He began by saying that the most important thing is to simply be happy; “Live a happy life.” That was it, summed up in those four words. He needn’t have said any more but fortunately he did; he spoke for a whole 45 minutes and the crowd, standing there in the drizzle, were riveted.
We had a camping chair with us and had the idea to stand on it briefly to catch even just a glimpse of his holiness himself. Emma got up first and did a thumbs up that she could see him and then I had a go. Yes! I could see him, in the flesh! Then another short woman asked if she could have a look. “Of course!” we said. We found ourselves with a queue of short women and children, waiting to climb on the chair and catch themselves a look at the great man. You need to see to believe that it’s real, don’t you? Just at the moment he spoke of the real rub being that we live lives that are too materialistic, we joked that we were charging £5 a look…. There to me was the real essence of his speech: that we bring our children up to be materialistic. The main emphasis of schools is that children get qualifications to get a good job etc etc… Rather than teaching children that it’s important to be happy. Do something that makes you happy. It made me happy helping all those people see the Dalai Lama. That meant as much to me as anything. And I’m sure the shoulder that had been giving me gyp was healed by the love in those hands that were leaning on me for support….
He went on to say that it’s the age group of late teenagers that are important now. For years this emphasis on materialism has created our culture of flash cars and fast lives. But, this isn’t good for us and it’s not good for the planet. To save the world we teach the generation that are about to have children, to bring them up with love and compassion in order to be happy. It is this that will save us and save the planet. It was in that moment that I realised why the Dalai Lama had come to the festival, not just to have a rockin’ good 80th birthday, but to speak to the age group that counted.
‘In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to a new level of consciousness. To reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.’
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross said “There are only two emotions: love and fear.” All the other emotions can be reduced down to this: either coming from a place of love or a place of fear. Which makes sense really. These materialistic needs that fuel the majority of the Western world can be brought back to being in a place of fear. Insecurity is the main culprit; the fear of loss, whether emotionally or materially, both are temporarily assuaged by materialism. It’s this that drives us to carry on with mundane jobs we don’t particularly enjoy, to pay the bills and keep the rooves over our heads. The more we think we need, it seems, the more we want; this then pushes prices up and it costs more to live and so it goes on, the monetarists’ game.
Of course, there are those doing jobs they love. The most fulfilling jobs often involve helping others and require love and compassion. Unfortunately these are usually the poorest paid. But, to prove the Dalai Lama’s point, the reward is often happiness earned through that sense of fulfilment.
‘Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who come alive.’
Artists too are usually poor (unless they come from a privileged background), until they make it big. Which, in the case of painters, doesn’t usually happen until you’re dead! Monet apparently won the lottery, which allowed him to paint freely and not be in fear. So, a lot of artists need another job to fund their lives, but at least they have something they love doing and so they ‘live a happy life’.
To live a life doing what you love also takes faith. Trust that your heart is telling you the truth, that your needs will be met. I have to admit I’m a worrier when it comes to money, always have been. Consequently, I’ve never felt myself to be materially wealthy. There are two ways I have turned this around (though I do still have my moments….) Firstly, adopting an attitude of gratitude.
‘I was lying in my bed one night, worrying about this and that when I stopped myself and thought “Marianne, most people in the world don’t even have a bed!”’
Being grateful for what you already have; appreciating, whether materially or emotionally, noticing how far you’ve come and, even if you have ended up feeling destitute at times, you still survived and it probably made you stronger.
Secondly, cancel out any worries or thoughts with a positive mantra. I breathe them away and say “I am happy, healthy and abundant and all my needs are met abundantly in all ways.” It was my sankalpa I used in Yoga Nidra but, for the past year, I’ve been saying it at least once a day, three times each time. And, touch wood, it seems to be working. Again, I’ve had the occasional blip but then I go back to stage one and be grateful for all the times it has worked.
I also remind myself of my favourite chapter in my ‘bible’, ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramahansa Yogananda: Two Penniless Boys in Brindaban. The young Yogananda, then named Mukunda, was challenged by his brother to go to Brindaban with a friend, to eat plentifully and return home by train before midnight, only being given their train fare there and not being able to tell anyone of their plight. So, they had to achieve this with faith and trust in God alone, which they did most successfully. But, if all emotions can be reduced to love and fear, then faith and trust can be translated into love.
1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
So, love really is all you need. Whether it be love of yourself, others or life that’s important, live your life in love.
‘Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion is starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there; fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.
When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge, they were all messages of love.
If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find love actually is all around.’
David – Prime Minister from Love Actually (played by Hugh Grant) by Richard Curtis
The painting of the Dalai Lama is ‘The Inner Light’ – oil on canvas by Julie Lovelock