The celebration of the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday offers us an opportunity to reflect upon His growing international relevance at this very difficult moment in human history.
His Holiness once called himself “the unluckiest Dalai Lama” for having spent more time as a refugee outside His country than inside Tibet. But his greatest achievement, in my view, has been to transform His exile into a gift for humanity.
At a time when the world is so divided, especially my own country that I know He loves dearly, He has raised His resonant voice on behalf of what he calls human oneness. He has turned His own suffering into a rich fountainhead overflowing with compassion and human wisdom. He has offered a vision of nonviolence to a world wracked by hatred. And He has found a way, through his own simple goodness and sparkling spirit, and also his immense international stature, to give joy and hope to his own people, who are suffering so terribly.
He has said that he is “half Buddhist Monk, half scientist,” meaning that he has tried to understand the human mind in order to awaken our capacity for social, emotional, and ethical learning. By transforming exile and suffering into hope and love, he has demonstrated for the world the benefit of this method of learning.
The Dalai Lama is the youngest 85-year old in the world, and I have no doubt whatsoever that He will not only continue to teach and inspire for another 20 years, as He has said He will, but for a good deal longer than that. May He, like Moses, live for 120 years, and may He give the world joy and hope even thereafter for many years more. Happy Birthday!