What the Dalai Lama Taught Me About Relationships
Do you know who your “sacred friends” are? They’re probably not who you think.
One day, many years ago, I asked myself: If I could talk to anybody on the planet, and ask them any question I wanted, who would I want to talk to, and what question would I ask? After a few moments of considering this, I realized the person I most wanted to speak with was His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
I’d heard him speak before in a stadium, filled with thousands of people willing to sit in the nosebleed seats to hear him speak, and I was very moved by his message. I knew that for more than 40 years, the Chinese government had been actively working to destroy Tibetan culture. As the Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama fled his homeland at 14, and he went on to tirelessly travel the world for decades promoting peace, eventually earning him the Nobel Peace Prize.
Even though the Dalai Lama lost his land, many of his people had also been tortured and imprisoned for years. Tibetan temples that had been there for thousands of years were destroyed. But I could hear no bitterness or anger in his voice as he spoke to the audience in the stadium.
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How do you do that? I thought. How do you go through what he has gone through, and not have any bitterness or resentment in you?
How do you do that? I thought. How do you go through what he has gone through, and not have any bitterness or resentment in you? I dreamt of being able to sit with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and ask him that one question.
Several years went by before I received a call from the offices of Tibet. They offered me an opportunity to go to Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama’s home-in-exile, to meet with His Holiness. Naturally, I said yes! I finally had the opportunity to ask him my question.
First, though, I had to be interviewed to see whether the group I represented would have the opportunity to facilitate three weeklong meetings with the Dalai Lama and other world leaders to discuss how to solve the world’s most pressing problems. I flew to India and sat with the Dalai Lama for the interview, and to my joy, he selected our group. I would have the privilege of working with him over the course of seven years.
Once the interview was over, I said to him, “May I ask you a question?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“I’ve heard you speak in large stadiums; I’ve read your books and I know that you, your people and your culture have been through a very tough time. For 40 years this has been going on, and yet I can’t find any resentment in anything you share. How do you not have any resentment in you, considering what you’ve been through?”
His answer revealed a profound truth, and a life-changing spiritual practice. The Dalai Lama looked at me and said:
Everyone has friends; we all have friends. Friends easy love, easy forgive. But we have our sacred friends. Sacred friends very, very difficult. Chinese government, my sacred friend. Not Chinese people, Chinese government. Chinese people don’t do this; this is Chinese government that does this. The Chinese government is my sacred friend because without the Chinese government doing what they’ve done, I would never have had to evolve my heart to be bigger than the pain they bring.”
He also revealed that there is a particular practice he uses that helps him generate love in him that’s bigger than any of the pain that comes his way.
As you look back over the landscape of your life, you’ll notice that when you think about certain people, circumstances or situations, there are thoughts, such as, That wasn’t fair or I wish it happened differently. A feeling of constriction comes over you.
What if the gift of this opportunity in my life is the gift of generating a larger love than the pain caused from the incident?
At these times, I invite you to shift your perception for just a moment and say, What if the gift of this opportunity in my life is the gift of generating a larger love than the pain caused from the incident?
One of the things you can do is say, I wish this hadn’t happened, and frankly I never want it to happen again, but what possible learning can I take from this experience? What possible good could there have been in this experience?
For His Holiness, of course, the possible good is that he works vigorously for the freedom of Tibet, but he walks in freedom from resentment and bitterness; he walks in love.
Every single one of us has sacred friends from our past, and you might even have an active sacred friend in your life right now.
The power of what the Dalai Lama taught me was that no matter what face the sacred friend wears, their presence in your life is actually a means by which you can grow in love and become better instead of bitter.
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