Meeting His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

Reflections on our conversation

Dani Quinn
His Holiness with Mount Madonna hat

We spent the morning preparing for our interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Part way into our preparation we received a phone call informing us that the Dalai Lama was at a public prayer session and we could go to it if we wanted to. We quickly put our things away and rushed to the Kirti Jeypa Monastery. Once there, we learned that the prayers were for two Tibetans killed on April 22, 2011 by Chinese soldiers. The two men had been trying to protect Tibetan monks at the Kirti Monastery in Ngaba, Tibet. After the prayers, there were several speeches and then one hundred monks began a protest march to New Delhi. Afterwards, we returned to the hotel to finalize our interview questions and get ready.

Monks leaving on their march to Delhi

A short time later, we returned to the Kirti Jeypa Monastery for our interview with the Dalai Lama. Sitting in the room waiting for His Holiness, I started to feel the excitement that I had been waiting for all of Senior year. When he walked in I wished I had volunteered for one of our first five questions. Once he was seated, Lily introduced our group and asked if he had any opening remarks. He spoke to us for a short time and then we asked the questions we had prepared.

When asked a question about love and compassion being essential to the survival of humanity, the Dalai Lama spoke about the necessity of being happy and having a healthy body, family, community and mind. I found myself carried away by thoughts about this and began to cry. It touched me in a way I never expected and I was startled by my reaction.

Michaela Schuessler

The Dalai Lama is the most compassionate and genuine person I have ever met. I was blown away by how clear his thoughts were. When he laughed it lit up the room and I could not help but smile.

When asked about how we can counteract the sense of entitlement so pervasive in American culture, he responded by speaking about ambition. He said that compassionate ambition is fine but that selfish ambition is harmful. I never thought of ambition as having different aspects and his comments made me look at it in a different way.

Susie Bryan
Susie Bryan
Conversation with His Holiness

In his opening remarks to us the Dalai Lama spoke about how ethics are crucial to human happiness. He said that the only universally possible way to integrate ethics is through education. What struck me most was his comment that education is the reduction of the gap between appearance and reality. I thought that this was an amazing and accurate way to think about learning. The closer our perception of the world and ourselves comes to the actual truth, the greater our ability to make wise decisions and act ethically. Even with the language barrier, His Holiness was able to articulate the most truthful and accurate description of the world I have ever heard.

James Clifton

I had been waiting for the chance to interview the Dalai Lama since I saw him speak in San Jose last Fall. Two things he said really stood out for me. The first was when he said, “Even your enemy was created by God.” Though I am not religious, this comment struck me and left me with the understanding that both friend and enemy deserve respect. The second thing was the idea of unbiased compassion. This is probably the most enlightened idea and difficult concept he spoke about.

PK Hattis

The beauty of our interview with His Holiness was that he brought no sense of inflated self-worth or boastful attitude, but rather the complete absence of ego. The clarity and thoughtfulness of his words was impressive. We were able to connect with Dalai Lama on a level that is very rare. The feelings behind his words allowed me to follow even the deepest of topics with curiosity. At no point did I ever feel like we were being spoken down to.

Lily Connor

The Dalai Lama spoke about the importance of clearing the mind of too much emotion. He said too much emotion hinders your ability to see the goodness in life and that a clear mind allows you to see a wholistic view of the world. It was important for me to hear this because I think I carry too much emotion and as a result, at times I can’t think realistically. The way he spoke was precise and I felt the presence of a calm and pure mind.

Lindsey Colton

Our interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama was incredible. He seems like one of those rare people that actually embody what they stand for. I felt moved and honored to be in his presence. When he blessed me and looked in my eyes I felt like we were the only people in the room.

Emma Fladeboe

His Holiness made a point of saying more than once that there is too much stress, anxiety and fear in the world. He said that there is too much foolish selfishness as opposed to wise selfishness. He said that selfishness is a natural human quality, but there is a difference between selfishness for self progress and selfishness that begins to negatively effect others. The answer, he asserted, lies in a compassionate attitude. This leads to an open mind and a wider perspective.

His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama and Mount Madonna School students

10 thoughts on “Meeting His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama”

  1. Dear All,
    Congratulations on your amazing trip thus far. Every day I wait with great anticipation to hear your thoughts and stories. You are doing an excellent job of describing your experiences and reflecting on why it matters. Suddenly, all those literature questions on the human condition seem relevant and useful… I am very proud of you.
    And so happy you had such a wonderful meeting with His Holiness. Kevin, Maya, Soma, we haven’t heard from you in awhile, how’s it going? Ben, Noah and Chelsea, I loved your writings from Delhi and beyond, and Susie, I loved your description of driving into Dharamsala with the sensory details of the air. Emma P. I felt the poignancy of leaving the orphanage in your piece and Dani, James, Michaela, Lindsey, Lily, Emma F, PK and Susie again, I felt the profundity of talking with the Dalai Lama and the elation in your reflections. It appears you are all taking advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. I can’t wait to hear more stories when you return.
    Thank you SN,Shannon, Lisa, and Kranti for leading and guiding this adventure, as well as for posting, editing, and organizing. Also big thanks to Schmuel for the photos and to Devin.
    May you continue to have a blessed and exciting journey. My thoughts are with you.
    Lots of love,

  2. I have been following your trip every day and I am touched by the descriptions, reflections and insights being posted. I believe the students are being deeply affected by their experiences and their thoughts and horizons are broadening. I am grateful for all the effort that has been put forth to make this journey a reality and to share it with others.

  3. Thank you all for sharing your experience, for I am living vicariously through it! I have been constantly checking the blog every day since you left and am blown away at the clarity and articulation of your writing. The way in which you have all encapsulated your thoughts and feelings into words has allowed me to share the experience that you are having and that is a gift. Thank you to everyone on the trip, students, teachers and faculty included. I am so incredibly happy for you all.
    With love,


  4. Compassionate ambition. What a wonderful concept. Collaboration, cooperation, mutual respect… and a lot of fun. Let us continue to close the gap between between appearance and reality. Thank you seniors for sharing.

  5. I, too, want to congratulate you all on your (and what vicariously became our) vision quest. From afar, we back here appreciate the profundity of the adventure. As the experiences perhaps internally sift from intriguing, to emotionally stirring, to even foundation shaking, we await your arrival back with open arms.

  6. When we are willing to listen from the heart to what the world is saying, through its people, its environment, and its spirit, we begin to resonate with our own purpose. You have each touched me with your willingness to be vulnerable, honest, and open on your adventures. My heart flies with you. May your explorations not end with your plane ride home!

  7. Dear SN, Shannon, Lisa and seniors-

    Through your eyes, ears and hearts, through your perspective and your soul searching, I have grown in my understanding of the world. I am inspired to be part of “the return”, to witness and share the fruits of your experiences.

    With love-

  8. It is wonderful how each of you describe a different point that touched you from your meeting with the Dalai Lama. Thank you for sharing so honestly and may you carry the powerful lessons of this journey with you always!

  9. I think the Dalai Lama would be very pleased to read the responses you have had in meeting him. Perhaps sending him a letter with your responses to being in his presence would be enjoyed and appreciated.

    I am so glad you were all able to have this wonderful experience!

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