I was honored to be invited to be on a panel with the Dalai Lama this week in Chicago. This is the third time I’ve been invited to be on a panel with him, and by now he recognizes me. His first words when we embraced yesterday were: “Last time your kippah was red, now it’s white — but very nice!” He was referring to the head covering that religious Jews wear on our heads, also known as “yalmekah” or skullcap. He had his usual twinkle in his eye and smile on his face. This great spiritual leader is renowned for his impish qualities, his humility, and his smarts, and all were in full view both Sunday, July 17th, when he addressed some 8,000 people in a huge auditorium in Chicago, and on Monday when we sat together on a panel in a smaller venue of 1,500 seats, every seat filled, and discussed interfaith connections.
Unlike Sunday, when the sound system was imperfect and it was sometimes hard to make out what he was saying, on Monday July 19th, it was impossible to not be astounded by the Dalai Lama’s combination of cleverness and spiritual depth. His themes are well known, and he returned them over and over again: the need for compassion, the importance of recognizing that all religions are pointing to the same realities, the centrality of non-violence in changing the world, and the need to work on one’s own spiritual life simultaneously with any work in changing the world.