The following response was submitted to the La Cañada Valley Sun, Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader for publication during the week of February 22nd. The question was: Do you think there is any danger in the Dali Lama appearing with a rock star (Sheryl Crow)? Could his appearance, in some ways, commercialize or, perhaps, even diminish his message?
Those who might think his message diminished through association with politicians and rock stars don’t understand the message!
The Dalai Lama’s message, while out of necessity focused for a long time on the plight of the Tibetan people under the rule of China, has always been a universal one: love, compassion, peace, moderation.
Historically, that message has been slow to sink in. It requires that we give up attachment to our individual desires and preferences; that we give up the domination and abuse of other sentient beings; that we commit our lives to the protection of life in all its forms.
I seem to recall stories of another religious leader, named Jesus, attempting to get that message across as well. In order to do so, he didn’t speak only to other religious leaders. He brought it to the “common people”: to tax collectors and prostitutes. (It’s not far-fetched to imagine that he dallied also with musicians.)
Two thousand years later that tactic is lauded, even by those who don’t live by his words or deeds, as “brilliant marketing”.
The Dali Lama is part of a religious tradition that often uses surprising methods to get folks to “wake up” to reality. While at the White House he, an “internationally respected religious leader”, threw a snowball at reporters in order to get their attention – to get them to take seriously their ability to inform and influence public opinion by presenting him with truly meaningful questions.
It remains to be seen whether his association with Sheryl Crow inspires a mass awakening to the reality of our underlying unity, and to the urgent need for a flowering of love and compassion in our hearts.
But I, for one, am so grateful that he is among us. (And wonder if he and Ms. Crow would be interested in paying a visit to La Crescenta sometime in the near future?)
The Rev. Stefanie Etzbach-Dale
Unitarian Universalist Church of Verdugo Hills, La Crescenta, CA