I've always been drawn to the Dalai Lama. I love his endearing persona and his wide, beaming smile.
I have the utmost respect for His Holiness as a spiritual teacher — I used to revere him as an enlightened deity that resided in a realm well beyond my reach, as if he were God-like. But when I stumbled across his autobiography The Path to Freedom, I've had some revelations about His Holiness, that surprised, amused and even inspired me.
The Dalai Lama is not the perfect superhuman entity I had imagined. As it turns out, he is human and possesses the same human limitations we all have.
Here are five gentle reminders that The Dalai Lama is not perfect, and is indeed just like you and me:
1. He has experienced anxiety, fear, embarrassment and irritation.
This may only be true of his younger years, although I haven't quite finished the book yet. But having this in mind is encouraging — we all have had our fair share of negative emotions! We can be reassured by the humility of His Holiness, that just because we experience negativity in some form doesn't mean we are hopeless in our quest for a more spiritual life.
2. He doesn't have an infallible memory.
The Dalai Lama used to experience anxiety when he delivered lengthy passages from memory during large spiritual gatherings. He and his tutors dreaded one festival in Tibet in particular, because he had to sit on a high throne throughout the ceremony and no one would be able to prompt him from there if he forgot a line and got stuck.
3. He gets bored in long speeches.
The autobiography also references an instance when the Dalai Lama had to listen to a seven hour speech by a Chinese official, and what an ordeal it was to have to sit through. Sound familiar? While you may not ever be subjected to anything quite that lengthy, we can all relate to that same feeling of boredom when things tend to drag on.
4. He needs to plan for the call of nature.
This really tickled me. His Holiness described so matter-of-factly, the precautions he would take to ensure his bladder would not interrupt him during an elaborate spiritual ceremony: "I decided against breakfast as I did not want to be distracted by any calls of nature."
He goes on to share how this happened during his enthronement ceremony, leaving him with no option but to request that the ceremony be hurried along.
5. He doesn't know all the answers.
Throughout the book the Dalai Lama shares that there have been many times he had to make important decisions based on what felt right in the moment, because he didn't know the answer.
I'm impressed by his candor and humility — that he's allowed us a glimpse of the real person behind the air of His Holiness. He's certainly made me feel a whole lot better about myself!