I recently heard about a HBO show with John Oliver and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. My first reaction to hearing this news was, 'Yeah Right', I'm sure the Dalai Lama has better things to do with his time. But I was intrigued, so I pulled up the HBO episode anyway and sure enough it was true. I don't know much about John Oliver, but I assume he attempts to make a career in comedy. Therefore, I endured his 'comedic' intro when random New Yorkers were asked if they've heard of the Dalai Lama (mainly tweets) and if they had any idea what His Holiness was all about. I am well aware of the fact that in general, few US citizens have much religious faith (yet some deceive quite well) and even fewer have the mental capacity or perseverance to follow Tibetan Buddhism. Therefore, I was not at all shocked to hear most New Yorkers respond ignorantly to the detailed questions they were asked regarding the Dalai Lama and his beliefs.
To Oliver's credit, he did bring up China's overt persecution of the Dalai Lama and Tibet, but then he immediately made light of these facts with a Richard Gere clip and some pathetic jokes. Oliver finally got in front of the Dalai Lama himself for an 'interview' within India... He went straight into his 'skit' with a comment that "Chinese government officials call you a wolf wrapped in Monk's robes" (this is your opening line dude?). His Holiness the Dalai Lama took Oliver's ridiculous onslaught in stride by simply commenting "I have no negative feelings, I just Feel Love... I practice taking others anger, suspicion, and disgust... and give them patience, tolerance, and compassion".
The quote above is a prime example of the supreme wisdom, beauty, compassion, and open-mindedness of the Dalai Lama which I will discuss momentarily. But at this point in the interview, things get more serious when Oliver brings up Self-immolation by the Tibetan people. I have witnessed this myself and nothing can ever prepare you for the shock of such an intense, almost irreverent appreciation of life. I do not judge anyone whom has taken this path because I have not felt their pain in life before such acts. I think the Dalai Lama feels the same way by claiming that he does not condone such acts, but he is sensitive to its victims and their families... therefore, he remains silent on the issue (in respect).
Oliver then has the audacity to continue with the issue of 'Death' by asking whom will be the next Dalai Lama (when he dies)? In 1995, the Dalai Lama named a six-year-old boy as the reincarnation of the second most important leader in Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama. But he was hidden away by the Chinese authorities and replaced by a boy of their choosing. Yes, that's right, the Chinese government put the kibosh on that one rather quickly (unfortunately) and nobody has heard from the boy since.
In 2011, the Dalai Lama gave this brief statement on the subject:
When I am about ninety I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. On that basis we will take a decision. If it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama's Gaden Phodrang Trust.
Continuing with Oliver's interview, the Dalai Lama even goes so far as to say that he 'may' be the Last Dalai Lama and that even if the Chinese were to appoint their 'own', it would a "foolish act" and short-sighted. His Holiness goes on to say that the Chinese are perhaps "missing part of their brains" and not thinking properly in relation to Buddhism. You gotta love his candor.
Finally, during the conclusion of the interview things do actually take a comedic turn (by the Dalai Lama) when he (jokingly?) incarnates Oliver with the same 'Demon' stigma that China has given the Dalai Lama himself... Oliver freaks out a bit after realizing he's just been cast as a demon by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Not Good). I was laughing hysterically at this point because Oliver was genuinely scared shitless (and rightfully so). The Dalai Lama has always had an amazing sense of humor which is a quality that very few people are aware of and I witnessed myself while hearing him speak in Santa Barbara years ago. His Holiness Loves to Laugh... and I'm laughing right there with him.
Do I think that he will be the Last Dalai Lama??? Well, only time will tell, but I do know one thing... if the 14th Dalai Lama publicly states that he may be the last Dalai Lama and HE is 'cool' with this... then I'm cool with it too. I think the Dalai Lama is Enlightened enough to understand that his beliefs have gone far beyond the Tibetan borders at this point in time and expanded globally thanks to his relentless touring/teachings throughout his life. The Dalai Lama and his teachings may now perhaps live on digitally within a new virtual consciousness forever (BuddhistGeeks.com?). Constantly seeking to empower the Buddha within myself, I understand that Buddhism is far beyond any one human being. It is a powerful force ingrained within life itself, we simply must follow inward...