Day Eleven

Photo by Shmuel Thaler

Spiritual Euphoria

I am coming down off of a spiritual high. We just left the room where, only moments before, we had sat in conversation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I’m on the verge of tears, my mind feels light, and my spirit feels lifted. I remember the way his eyes looked, soft and gentle, the way his voice sounded, booming and powerful. I have been placed in a state of spiritual euphoria, better than anything you could get from any drug. I remember a moment, at the end of the interview, when we were getting our scarves blessed, that I looked into his eyes. People say his laugh is contagious, I found that his laugh was beyond any words that could be used to describe it. When I looked at him he smiled, his mouth split, and the beautiful sound of his laughter entered my ears. There was nothing that I could do to stop myself from laughing along with him. It wouldn’t have mattered if I was in the worst mood of my life because at that moment, I was truly helpless to not be happy.

My favorite part of our audience with His Holiness was when we asked him what brings him lasting happiness. Up until this point, this has been the question that has formed the backbone of Project Happiness. We have asked everyone we have interviewed the question, “What brings you lasting happiness?” Everyone has given different answers, all in some form of profundity. But when we finally reached our climax, our audience with His Holiness, and asked him the question of what brings him lasting happiness, he paused, thought for a moment and then answered with a smile, “I don’t know.” I thought that this was exactly the answer we needed to hear. There is such a simple lesson to be learned from this wisdom. We cannot be given the answer to what brings lasting happiness. In a way, His Holiness was telling us that in the end, we just have to find out the answer for ourselves. In this way, whatever comes along in our life that gives us lasting happiness, we will be in the moment, living it for ourselves.

Photo by Shmuel ThalerI still am waiting for my heart rate to return to normal and for the amazement of what I have experienced bring me back to Earth. But as I return to my body, my soul coming back to rest, I deeply want to remember how I feel in this moment. I want to carry with me some aspect of my experience, so that wherever I am, I can always come back to this moment and remember what it meant to me. However in this moment, the moment I am experiencing in the present, I am living in a state of spiritual euphoria, feeling truly happy.

-John-Nuri Vissell

Spiritually Recharged

Photo by Shmuel ThalerI couldn’t believe it was happening until I saw him in the flesh. It didn’t matter how many security checkpoints we went through, it just seemed too good to be true. Everything moved along at a good pace, and before I knew it we were assembled in the beautiful room awaiting His Holiness. The air was tense, and we all let out an audible sigh of excitement and apprehension when he finally walked in to the room. He came in with all smiles, and drew our respectful attention as tight as a vice. He started talking in his methodically insightful way, throwing in comedy as well as philosophy. One of my favorite moments were when he declared himself a Christian, and then quickly corrected his verbal blunder, much to our hilarity. It was a wonderfully light-hearted moment, and added to a very deep and varied interview. He was able to say with confidence that he didn’t have an answer to some of our questions, something that simultaneously established his humanity and how truly he respected our questions.

Being able to present His Holiness with a gift of a Mount Madonna School embroidered hat meant a lot to me. He slapped it on his head, grabbed my hand while looking in to my eyes, and thanked me. I left feeling empowered and happy, still recounting the events of the interview in my head. The photo we took on the steps of his abode will immortalize our time with him, and I am just staggered every time I think about how lucky I am.

-Mark Hansen


Photo by Shmuel ThalerMeeting His Holiness was like a dream. All the people who had met His Holiness told us that we would feel something special when he walks in. I didn’t take that comment seriously.

Naomi, Maddy, and I woke up and were freaking out that we were actually going to meet His Holiness. I was in a very bad and grumpy mood. I was mad at everything, so when we got to His Holiness’s residence, which is five minutes away from our hotel, I sat in the very back. I did not want to be there. The residence was very simple, which was the opposite of what I had thought. When His Holiness entered the room, the first thing I said was “Oh my god!” I couldn’t believe he was there, and that I was there too. I started crying and basically cried throughout the whole interview. All my life’s problems seemed to dilute in the air and he made me smile at the most random things. His smile was the most adorable thing and I wanted to capture it and make it a Kodak moment. I kept imagining his Holiness hugging me and kissing my forehead, which was so touching that I cried every time that thought came to me.

After the interview I stood in line to be blessed. It was very touching to see him bless the Tibetan kids because they all have been in exile and His Holiness is their father figure. He hugged them patted their cheeks which just made me cry even more. When it was my turn to be blessed, the first thing he said to me was “Indian?”, and just patted me on my cheeks. I was crying and he kept saying it was OK. I walked out of the room soaked in tears.

His Holiness has made me a stronger and more compassionate person. I have loved this day and will always remember it. I love love love love love the Dalai Lama.

-Prabha Sharan

An Audience to Remember

Photo by Shmuel ThalerAwe, charge, contentment. These are the three impressions that the Dalai Lama left on me in succession. When he entered the room, I felt a sense of awe at the power of his presence. This sense of awe stuck with me throughout most of the interview, but when it came time to ask my question, I found that I wasn’t nervous. His answer however, did set me back, for the question I was asking, dubbed “the Happiness Question,” is one that we’ve asked everyone that we’ve interviewed and is usually something along the lines of “What is it that brings you lasting happiness?” Of all the people we’ve interviewed, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama was the first to tell us that he didn’t know. At first this answer was a let down for me, but upon further inspection, I’ve found that this is consistent with the Buddhist principle of living in the moment.

My wonder at the incredible presence of this man lasted until he departed. Then I was left with the residue of the room, which amounted to a sort of electrical charge, which lasted until I sat down to eat lunch back at the hotel. The final state was contentment. I was simply very happy to just sit and reflect on the amazing opportunity that I’d just experienced. I don’t have any regrets about the audience and I feel like it really was a climax to our trip.

-Daniel Nanas


Photo by Shmuel ThalerThe audience with His Holiness is over, but the feeling of surreality is still there. While for others the impact of the interview has been immediate and obvious, I am left thinking, “Wait… oh! Snap! I just met the Dalai Lama!”

The interview itself is little more than a blur in my memory. Star-struck to the point of reeling like a drunkard, I was too enraptured by His Holiness to actually remember exact quotations of anything that was spoken.

Still echoing through my head and heart, however, is his dangerously contagious laugh. Contagious because its childlike mirth and authenticity is infectious, dangerous because it wreaks havoc upon your jaw muscles. Indeed, by the end of the interview we were all massaging our cheeks, which were rosy and sore from so much laughter and smiling.

His laugh I remember perfectly, as well as his presence. What presence! The sound of his footsteps alone was enough to make the room erupt with wide smiles and eager whispers. Everything about His Holiness added to this presence: His grey-black hair, his wide, thick glasses, and his insatiable eyes. When he unleashed his gaze you could feel it searching your being. The intensity and profundity of His Holiness’s eyes can be too much to handle, and many of us had to bashfully avert our own. But it was through this purging gaze that he made you feel important. His Holiness sees your identity in its barest state, and this nakedness can leave a person feeling extremely uncomfortable. But it also has the ability to open the individual up to the world through the exposure of their true self.

The surreality remains with me, but the clear memory of His Holiness’s laughter and presence will stay with me forever.

-Jonji Barber


Photo by Shmuel ThalerLying in my bed at our hotel, I let my face rest on the katta scarf, blessed just an hour ago by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Waking up after a short nap, I can feel the soft threads of the katta bring me back into reality. I am in a state of euphoria, glowing, from what just was. When he first walked into the room, my heart stopped. I couldn’t breathe, and yet I was pouring with tears. I felt so blessed, so honored to be in the presence of this holy man. But my true feeling of honor came at the end of the interview when His Holiness individually blessed the katta scarves and draped them over our shoulders. Watching the Tibetan children blessed before me, I was overcome with emotion. He hugged them each and held them as they cried on his shoulder. Over the past few days I have grown close to many of them. I listened to their stories, and I could see in their eyes at that moment what it meant for them to be there. To be with their leader, their father in exile, and a reincarnation of Buddha was so visibly powerful for each of them. I was already crying once it was my turn to present His Holiness with my katta to be blessed. My hands were shaking. I bowed to him, felt my hands in his, and melted…as though I was being touched by a part of God. He touched my face and smiled at me.

Hung in my room when I get home will be a picture of his Holiness smiling, that same smile, with the katta hung above it so that I will never forget the blessings of this day.

-Naomi Magid

The Dalai Lama

Photo by Shmuel ThalerToday we had an interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and it was everything that I could have hoped for, and then some. We started off the day with anticipation of the interview taking over our usually lively personalities. People wandered around like the walking dead because no one was able to get any sleep the night before. Personally, I kept trying not to think about the next couple of hours because I was afraid that something bad would happen, and what I had spent so much time planning and waiting for would be gone. I blinked, and we were at our first checkpoint at the gates of His Holiness’ residence being patted down by very “friendly” security guards and being ushered to one waiting room after another. Before entering each one I would think, “ok this is it”, and then more couches and SN saying, “ok if you have to go to the bathroom go now!” Of course when I decided to actually get up to use the restroom it was time to go to “the room”.

Right before entering the interview room at one of our “reality checkpoints”, a woman who was working with the Nigerian students said, “Are you ready kids? This is the dénouement.” For reasons unknown to myself, I frantically scanned the room looking for Melissa’s face, which would have undoubtedly been lit up while nodding with her smile saying, “I taught you that.” Once I realized that she wasn’t there, and neither were any other parents, I had a sudden feeling of longing. Even though this was my time to seize the moment that I had been working for, I missed my family, and more than anything wanted them there with me. To fight my feelings of homesickness I started thinking more and realized that even though my parents helped me to get here, it was me who worked to open another locked door in my life. This door happened to have His Holiness on the other side.

The Dalai Lama, of course, came fashionably late, and I didn’t let myself believe that we were actually going to see him until I saw him walking in the doorway. I knew then that it was safe to get my hopes up. His Holiness had a charmingly genuine tone throughout the interview, and approached each question as if he was making sure that we would learn a new truth once he finished giving an answer. That’s not to say that there weren’t questions to which he didn’t have answers, and one of those was Jonji’s. He asked His Holiness if he had any questions that he was still searching for an answer to, and to that his holiness replied, “What the weather will be tomorrow”; and when Daniel asked what brings His Holiness lasting happiness, he beat around the bush for a while and then said “I don’t know, next question.” (This was all with an addicting laugh by the way).

Photo by Shmuel ThalerI kept my composure until the end, when I realized that the Dalai Lama would be leaving soon and that would be the end. Before he left, all the students circled around His Holiness and presented him with our Katas to be blessed, hoping that he would remember to touch our mala beads as well. Then it was my turn, and throughout the entire interview I wanted so badly to reach out and touch him so that I would know for sure that he was there. When I presented His Holiness with my Kata, he stopped and looked at me for a while then said, “Your ancestors are they from” and then proceeded to point towards the Himalayas, and I said quickly “Mexico”. It may not sound like such a monumental moment as I took it to be, but if it was the only thing that could get the Dalai Lama to notice me, then so be it. Apparently, he didn’t believe me after I told him that I wasn’t Tibetan, and went to ask the Tibetan student’s teacher Yeshi if I was one of her students. When it was time to pose for pictures I was ecstatic, because His Holiness was still under the impression that I was Tibetan and held my hand while posing for pictures, and every time I squeezed his hand he would squeeze mine back. Meeting the Dalai Lama is definitely an experience that I will never forget, and one day I know that I will come back. Hopefully he will stay around until then.

-Nina Castañon

From the TCV Students

Today was a moment that I lived in fully with my heart and my soul. I felt ultimate happiness within myself. A priceless moment of my life that I could have never have imagined to live in. The laughs I shared. The talks we had. The peace we felt. The sense of happiness. It was all I can ever ask for. Happy! Happy!


This is the most precious reward and unforgettable moment in my life. I don’t know how it happened and end with such cute smiling of His Holiness. It was also an unexpected thing for me, and during the audience my mind wandered and I thought “Is it real or am I dreaming?” So, I will really cherish this moment in my life and try to implement what he has told us. Lastly, I really want to thank all the members of the Dalai Lama Foundation for giving me such a wonderful opportunity.

-Ngawang Paljor

The very short moment I heard His Holiness talking to me is a dash to the seventh heaven. It took me back to a past, twelve years ago, when I first saw His Holiness. I was only six then, and I was with my father. It was the day when I made up my mind to leave my parents behind. My heart beat when I felt his touch and it lasted. It’s a moment with lots of unexplainable emotions.