The Dalai Llama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu shared a stage in Seattle recently at the wonderful Seeds of Compassion event, and seemed to enjoy each second of each other’s company. These men are not light- weights in the realm of injustice and travail and have seen more than their share of suffering. Desmond Tutu stared down the guns of Afrikaners (white South Africans) in his own cathedral in Johannesburg during the struggle against apartheid in the 70’s and 80’s, put his life on the line more than once, and proclaimed the Gospel and the love of God joyfully during very dark times. The Dalai Llama, chosen as a child to be the spiritual and political leader of Tibetan Buddhism, saw his country invaded and occupied by the Chinese in the 1950’s; he sought refuge and political asylum in India as a teen-ager and has never been able to return. His followers are persecuted in their own country and their religion is reviled. Still he has spent his life teaching open-hearted compassion while living in exile.
The two of them are hilarious together. Really. They laugh like mischievous boys who are pulling off a big one on the adults of the world. Though it’s not always easy to understand the Dalai Llama (Desmond Tutu: “It is a wonderful thing that Seattle filled up a 60,000 seat arena for His Holiness, especially since, let’s face it, his English is not that good!), the aura of fun and holiness that surrounds them is as palpable as a halo. Fun and holiness as a twin set; who knew? As they preached forgiveness and love, they high- fived and played like puppies from the same litter.
Desmond Tutu explained it like this: “The Dalai Llama is here to teach compassion, and yet when he saw me he said "‘Desmond, I see you are putting on some weight'. Me, weight! I ask you, is this a man who is practicing compassion?”
From seeing these two great men on stage together my take-away message is that joy and holiness comes from seeking what matters in life: intimacy with ourselves, with others and with God. No wealth or power or second homes can substitute for the sacred center of our lives.
This gets us back to environmental stewardship. Changing light bulbs, walking rather than driving, and calking windows aren’t necessarily a laugh riot, but they are life-giving and save money. Shopping at farmer’s markets, getting to know your neighbors by carpooling to church and volunteering at local restoration events are delightful, rewarding, vibrant and vigorous activities. Holy discipleship of Creation Care is actually a good time.
At one point, after laughing uproariously together on stage, Archbishop Tutu turned to His Holiness and said “The cameras are rolling; try to act like a holy man!”
You, too. Recycle! Buy less! Walk more! Try to act like a holy person!