With an impressive entourage of Tibetan monks, a Nobel Peace Prize, and the respect of millions around the world, it’s strange to remember that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was once just a kid at his mother’s side. But in his May 8 address “Peace through Inner Peace” at the University of Minnesota—which happened to coincide with Mother’s Day—he fondly invoked her memory. His Holiness shared stories of riding on his mother’s shoulders and mischievously “steering” by tugging her hair to the right or left, pouting if she didn’t obey.
He also gave her credit for shaping his compassionate nature. “My warm-heartedness originally came from my mother,” he said, an easy grin bringing the thousands of attendees in close. His Holiness went on to speculate that those who receive maximum affection from their mothers as children have much greater inner peace in their adult lives. (If it was Father’s Day, I like to think he would have included you, too, dads.)
According the Dalai Lama’s website, he was just two years old when he was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, partly because he was able to indentify the personal belongings of the previous Dalai Lama, exclaiming “It’s mine! It’s mine!” when presented with each. He began his monastic education and study of revelatory inner peace at the age of six.
Over the past week, I’ve been talking about peace with my own young children. Since the death of Osama bin Laden, we’ve driven past flocks of protestors holding up signs promoting nonviolence. Through my elementary explanations, four-year-old Abe has learned that peace means being gentle friends, and little brother Asher has learned that holding up two fingers in a “V” gets cheers from protest sign–holders. It’s a start.
In his Mother’s Day speech, the Dalai Lama taught listeners that respect, compassion, and nonviolence are key starting points for achieving peace. “Mentally, physically, emotionally, we are the same,” he said, no matter your religious background. He also advised that we should focus on secularism when discussing moral issues. “Secular doesn’t mean disrespect for religion,” he explained, “but respect for all religions—including non-believers.”
His Holiness took a few questions after his talk, and one came from a nine-year-old who asked, “If you could completely solve one problem, what would it be?” The Dalai Lama, with his amused, trademark chuckle, had a simple answer: “I don’t know.” What he knew without a doubt was that solving the world’s problems and achieving peace requires the cooperation of us all.