And so the Dalai Lama wept.
That’s really all you need to know about the depth of his compassion for the Tibetan people who are currently suffering under the oppressive hand of the Chinese.
So as the world looked on, the Dalai Lama wept.
Why are we so moved by this image?
His Holiness is generally considered to be an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, or Chenrezig, as he is known in Tibetan. Avalokitesvara had a long history in the Indian pantheon before he was absorbed as one of the major deities in Tibetan Buddhism and became the presiding spirit for the Dalai Lamas. Chenrezig represents compassion, the unbridled altruism that will continue to inform the universe until all sentient beings are delivered from suffering. That the current Dalai Lama so fully embodies this spirit has been the singular characteristic of his long and storied life.
But Tibetan legend has it that when Chenrezig realized the magnitude of human suffering, and when he understood the difficulty of his appointed task, he wept. And from those tears, two lakes were formed, out of which arose Green and White Tara. They vowed to help him as he went about his business of eradicating the pervasive suffering that he saw around him.
When I saw this picture of His Holiness, weeping over the dire plight of his people, I realized I’d never seen an image of him crying. I also realized that I was witnessing Chenrezig's tears.
I saw as well that His Holiness's tears, like the tears of Chenrezig, were the preliminary stage to decisive and salvaging action.
And I knew that this man, when he weeps, renovates hearts and minds around the world. As Chenrezig does.
Few are capable of such deep and instant communication—I understood that too—and fewer still are incapable of recognizing those tears for what they are: the tears of radical compassion.