Simplicity and Illusion

image Wolfgang H. Wögerer, Vienna, Austria

Image: Wolfgang H. Wögerer, Vienna, Austria

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dalai Lama, is known throughout the western world. He knows simplicity and recognizes illusion.

Perhaps if soldiers from the Chinese Republic had not occupied his homeland we would never have heard of him, yet for many Buddhists, and some agnostic sympathizers, the Venerable Lama is held in similar regard to how Roman Catholics think of their Pope.

How is this possible? What is his secret? Is there some divine power charting his destiny and spinning his words out across all the nations of the world? He is, after all, considered to be the Buddha of Compassion.

The answer is far more simple. The Dalai Lama is a winner, not in the way that David Beckham is a footballer, or Serena Williams a tennis star. They compete with others in order to score points and win cups.

The Dalai Lama seems to be a winner because when the culture of his country was suppressed he did not abandon his people and walk away, but instead stayed for nine long years under occupation struggling to maintain Tibetan customs and culture against the forces of occupation. He did this on his own terms, always rooted in ethical convictions, using heart and mind to assert his people’s case. The Chinese government has sometimes regarded him as a terrorist yet he has never fired a gun, nor thrown a bomb. Nor does he lead an army, at least not one comprised of soldiers.

You may think that because he is the Dalai Lama, he has political clout. Whatever influence he possesses today has come from simple compassion he has found for friends and enemies alike. He runs a government in exile, to be sure, but it’s located in India in a location that’s pretty much off the beaten track even for many Indians.

The Dalai Lama’s power is personal, but it’s also spiritual. He sees beyond this everyday world yet is able to identify himself within it. He cuts to the heart of matters most of us find complex with remarkable dexterity, yet his sentences are as simple as they are direct.

There is something of Jerzy Kosinski’s character Chauncey Gardiner about Tenzin Gyatso. Gardiner, real name ‘Chance‘ is a fictitious middle-aged man who lives in the townhouse of a wealthy man in Washington D.C. He seems simple-minded and has lived there his whole life, tending the garden. His knowledge is derived entirely from what he sees on television. When his benefactor dies, Chance is forced to leave and discovers the outside world for the first time.

A series of accidents bring him into the home of Ben Rand, who is dying. Rand is a wealthy businessman and adviser to the U.S. President. When asked his name Chauncey replies: ‘Chance, the Gardener’, which is misheard as the aristocratic sounding Chauncey Gardiner. Chance’s seemingly naive simplicity appeals to Rand who sponsors Chance through a variety of press conferences and media appearances, he even gets to meet the U.S. President who thinks Chance is advising him about the economy.

It’s a far-fetched story but like the truer one of the Dalai Lama it does have a message for us. When we learn to accept the world phenomenologically the mond and emotions reduce to fundamental simplicity giving rise to happiness. This doesn’t require genius.

The Dalai Lama knows that experiencing life and acting directly, and with an open heart helps you better understand your wonderful beingness.

This post won’t appeal to many readers here who are seeking guidance about how to make better photographs, or make money through their photography. Some will pass over it as irrelevant. Yet those who look deeper and take the message to heart will see that great enterprises are invariably built by strong transparent characters projecting simple messages.

Let’s not complicate things by attempting to see beyond the obvious.

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