love. week twenty three.
city. new york city
I finished reading the Dalai Lama’s autobiography last night. I actually ended up spending the whole day reading it.
Like any good New Yorker, after I finished reading, I began to think about how many copies of the book he’d sold, and how much money he’d pulled in. And what exactly did he do with all of the money?
The obvious answer to me was that the money had been recycled back into providing for the needs of Tibetan refugees around the world. Quite possibly, rather than an afterthought, the original idea for the book was perhaps a ploy to raise money for the Tibetan cause (in addition to raising awareness).
Why is this so obvious to me? Is it because the Dalai Lama is a religious leader? Nah, I’ve seen far too many religious leaders line their own pockets with the sincere donations of their followers. Is it because I’ve visited the Dalai Lama’s home, and saw that it was in fact humble? Nope, he openly admits in his book that he loves watches, particularly expensive Swiss ones. I’m sure he’d be more than happy to use his earnings to pick up a second or third Patek Phillipe.
The reason that I’m sure the Dalai Lama donated his royalties to the Tibetan community is because that’s the most selfish thing he could have done.
Over and above his own personal (spiritual/creative) development, the Dalai Lama has dedicated his entire life to the Tibetan people. Quite literally, the health and safety of the Tibetan people are the Dalai Lama’s life. So, to take care of himself, and to take care of what he values most, the only rational thing for him to do would be to use his wealth in service of his community.
Imagine a father bringing home a large bonus from work, while his family is being threatened with eviction. What do you expect him to do with it? Is it even imaginable that he would use it for anything else but rent? It’s unimaginable, because helping his family is synonymous with helping himself. For a family man, the overall health and happiness of his family is the overarching project of his life. Why not use your unexpected windfall to improve the single most important project in your life?
You already know where this is going. The Dalai Lama and the ‘family man’ never decided to devote themselves to their respective ‘families’. They felt devoted from day one. It was the obvious decision. On the contrary, to abandon their family in their time of need would have been the difficult, ‘unnatural’ option.
Love is not opposed to self-interest. Love is an expansion of self-interest.
But what about those non-lovers, like yours truly? What about those who don’t find themselves in an already devoted community? What hopes do we have for consciously creating one from scratch?
In earlier posts, I have explored these possibilities. I’ve tried to do it in more ways than one. But, time and again, the heart always has a way of knowing the truth. The love that was truly effortless, truly natural, flowed with calmness and joy; the love that was being artificially erected (when I gave money to homeless people, cleaned up after my roommate, or dated ‘the right’ women), rapidly revealed itself to be, in the words of Jesus, “a stumbling block to Jews.”
Nonetheless, while the path remains obscured by a swirling mist, I think that the destination is finally resolving itself, poking through, far above the clouds. To find
and to dedicate myself to them, dedicating myself to myself, dedicating them to myself, one to another, and another to one. Letting the trickling streams of my life and the lives of others join together into a vast and vibrant river.
"For as long as space endures,
And, or, as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world."
- Dalai Lama, Shantideva's Guide