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Exemplars of bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

The Dalai Lama

The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is considered to have been reincarnated over generations and historically has been venerated as an embodiment of Avalokiteshvara. He is well known for his promotion of world peace and his nonviolent work against the Chinese oppression of the Tibetans, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. As spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and political leader of the Tibetans in exile, the Dalai Lama has been remarkable for his determination not only to speak out for Tibet but also not to demonize the Chinese people. He speaks of them sympathetically as fellow beings who will be impacted by their government's brutality against the Tibetan people and the ecological devastation of the Tibetan landscape.

In his lectures and teaching around the world, the Dalai Lama appears not as a leader but simply as a humble monk. His gentleness, humor, and ready kindness are apparent. When listening to the Dalai Lama speak, his sound, tone, and presence are as notable as the content of what is said. This reflects the archetypal aspect of Avalokiteshvara's relationship to sound.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.

We can see Avalokiteshvara's attention to skillful means in the Dalai Lama's interest and study of modern science. He has said that Buddhism should revise its ancient cosmological teachings to accord with modern knowledge. His concern with tools and instruments, reminiscent of the implements of Avalokiteshvara, is evident in his love of taking apart and fixing motors.

Like Avalokiteshvara observantly hearing the sounds of the world's beings, the Dalai Lama listens very attentively to people. He has carried out open dialogues with diverse peoples about their attitudes and traditional spiritualities. After participating in a cross-cultural dialogue between the Dalai Lama and a group of Jewish scholars and rabbis, Rabbi Zalman Schachter said of His Holiness, "There were times I was close to tears just from the intensity of his listening."

The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.

The Dalai Lama speaks of the power of truth to ultimately gain world support and change the situation, and the importance of the Tibetans' setting a successful example of nonviolence to create resolution. He finds his source of hope in the fundamental gentleness of human nature. He points out that in our time more and more people are aware and sincerely concerned about the situations and suffering of peoples around the world, partly thanks to global communications media.