Laughing With the Dalai Lama













If I had to pick two men who are guaranteed to make me laugh, I would say one is the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, and another is John Oliver, the host of late night political satire show, Last Week Tonight.  So how great for me that this past Sunday, they appeared on the show together!

I’ve written before how much the Dalai Lama inspires me.  His vitality at 81, his serenity despite decades of persecution by the Chinese government, and his abiding wisdom and compassion are amazing.  But I love how playful he is.  Just because he is the head of a religion with millions of followers, he isn’t too “spiritual” to enjoy pop culture, to laugh hardily at a joke, even at his own expense….or to appear on a slightly ribald late night TV show.

John Oliver, on the other hand, I think is one of the most intelligent, and one of the most hilarious, of current political satirists.  His language is a little coarse, but he embodies the spirit of satire, which really is not just about making people laugh, but on shining light on things that need to be changed.  So he is passionate about his stories, and works to reveal issues in hopes that we all can come to our senses and do better than we are doing right now.  He not only covers all the political news that all the late night shows do, but he gets into less popular, but no less important, issues as well.  For example, last year he did a piece on how much of current news really comes from investigative reporting by newspapers, yet how much newspapers are struggling because people are reading them online for free instead of buying subscriptions.  So he challenged his viewers: if they appreciated having reporters keep our government officials in check through their investigations, then they should support them financially.  I recognized that I was totally guilty of what he was talking about, and signed up immediately for a subscription to my local newspaper and my old hometown newspaper, The Washington Post.  And actually, it is really empowering when something happens like last week, when the Post was the first to report that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had actually met twice with the Russian Ambassador after denying that at his confirmation hearings, to think, “My money helped make that happen.”  So I recommend that you support your favorite newspaper with your money along with your readership.

Anyway, I think only John Oliver would do a report on the Chinese suppression of the millions of ethnically- and culturally-different people in Tibet and travel to India to discuss the situation with the Dalai Lama.  And while I consider myself relatively informed about Tibet and the Dalai Lama, at least among Americans, I was shocked to hear about a Chinese government ploy that threatens the future of Tibetan Buddhism that I heard about for the first time on this show.

But despite the grim news, I couldn’t be more charmed by the Dalai Lama’s appearance in this interview.  I love the man’s laugh–and he laughs a lot in the video.  He is tough on the Chinese, but also talks about sending them tolerance and compassion.  But mostly, he can talk about the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism coming to an end, and still laugh.  It gives me such a great perspective on my own concerns, which are NOTHING compared to a global issue like that, but that I allow myself to get all worked up about.  The Dalai Lama is a great example that sometimes we learn more by what people do than what they say.

Watch the video below, and see if your burdens aren’t lightened, even as you become more aware of the political issues around Buddhism.  However, be prepared for some NSFW language and subjects.

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