The last time I wrote, I was about to head off to Oregon for four days to photograph lectures and teachings given by the man my Tibetan friends refer to as “His Holiness,” the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet.
Though it has always been my preference to visually document the lives of the average Joe or Josephine -- farmers, factory workers, grade school teachers, and kids on Little League teams -- editors nevertheless occasionally assigned me to make pictures of individuals you and I tend to think of as being “famous,” or “idols.” Sometimes it was my job to get up close and fairly personal to make images of heads of state, artists, rock bands, and world-class athletes.
As we all know -- but too often seem to forget -- fame is a surface kind of thing. A political leader might look and sound good when up on a podium addressing a crowd; and a professional baseball player might have the freakish ability to throw a hardball, on one hop, from deep right field to third base. But neither of those individuals, when it comes to personal conduct, is necessarily someone you'd want your kid to adopt as a hero.
The Dalai Lama, though...well, I’m pretty sure he is the Real Deal.
A frail Tibetan nun can approach the Dalai Lama, ask for a blessing, and the comforting compassion he offers is palpable.
The Dalai Lama enters a room and Tibetans offer him white, ceremonial scarves, which he accepts, then gives back -- a gesture of humility. "I am just a simple monk," he says.
And at the end of every speech the Dalai Lama gives, an organizer steps to the microphone and tells the crowd how much money was collected through ticket sales and says that, per instructions from the Office of the Dalai Lama, all money will go to charity.
“My religion is kindness,” the Dalai Lama said to one of the crowds in Oregon, adding: “Try to do good for others, and, if you cannot do good, at least do no harm.”