'I Am a Professional Laugher'
In an excerpt from his new memoir, the Dalai Lama reveals why he laughs often and how he preserves a sense of inner peace.
I have been confronted with many difficult circumstances throughout the course of my life, and my country is going through a critical period. But I laugh often, and my laughter is contagious. When people ask me how I find the strength to laugh now, I reply that I am a professional laugher. Laughing is a characteristic of the Tibetans, who are different in this from the Japanese or the Indians. They are very cheerful, like the Italians, rather than a little reserved, like the Germans or the English.
My cheerfulness also comes from my family. I come from a small village, not a big city, and our way of life is more jovial. We are always amusing ourselves, teasing each other, joking. It’s our habit.
To that is added, as I often say, the responsibility of being realistic. Of course problems are there. But thinking only of the negative aspect doesn’t help to find solutions, and it destroys peace of mind. Everything, though, is relative. You can see the positive side of even the worst of tragedies if you adopt a holistic perspective. If you take the negative as absolute and definitive, however, you increase your worries and anxiety, whereas by broadening the way you look at a problem, you understand what is bad about it, but you accept it. This attitude comes to me, I think, from my practice and from Buddhist philosophy, which help me enormously.
Take the loss of our country, for example. We are a stateless people, and we must confront adversity along with many painful circumstances in Tibet itself. Nevertheless, such experiences also bring many benefits.
As for me, I have been homeless for half a century. But I have found a large number of new homes throughout the vast world. If I had remained at the Potala, I don’t think I would have had the chance to meet so many personalities, so many heads of state in Asia, Taiwan, the United States, and Europe, popes as well as many famous scientists and economists.
The life of exile is an unfortunate life, but I have always tried to cultivate a happy state of mind, appreciating the opportunities this existence without a settled home, far from all protocol, has offered me. This way I have been able to preserve my inner peace.
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