My buddy the Dalai Lama


The self-publishing guru Dan Poynter has been a close friend of mine almost forever, at least from the time when to set type you had to lift each letter and place it. Think Ben Franklin.

We were sharing some old stories by email this morning, and I thought you might enjoy one that I had forgotten about until Dan asked me to tell him again how I had met the Dalai Lama. Let me also share it with both of my devoted blog readers.

It was some years ago and I was in Santa Cruz, California, where my daughter Kim was living. I was speaking those evenings at Cabrillo College and I often read or wrote in the library, which at midday was quiet and comforting.

By chance, the librarian knew who I was because several of my books were on the shelves there and once when I went to the desk to ask a question she recognized the name and made the connection. I would say hello to her every few months when I was in the library.

One of those days she came up and asked, “Mr. Burgett, may I ask a favor? The Dalai Lama is coming to speak at the Auditorium (almost across the street) in 30 minutes and a man from the city (I forget his name or position) has to introduce him and we don’t know the proper form of introduction. What do you suggest?”

Can you imagine? Who knows that stuff? She might as well have asked me who was King Tut’s third cousin. (Was it Tut-Tut?)

I suggested that the person might just ask him.

And that I remember years ago seeing a list of proper introductions in The Lincoln Library.

If those failed, they might just try “Oh, hello Dalai!” She didn’t know I was kidding. She hurried away, pleased and grateful.

She had piqued my curiosity so I went across the street to see what was really going on. About five minutes later up pulled a caravan of a four or five identical yellow limousines–they looked like Pontiacs. They parked neatly behind the auditorium, and out piled a cadre of monks. I was watching this through a fence that surrounded the auditorium. A cop came up behind me and told me and the rest of the gawking rabble to move back across the street. I said to him, “I’m a reporter!” He was a bit dumbfounded but he let me stay where I was. Then the Dalai Lama passed right in front of me, so I said, in a flash of brilliance, “Welcome to Santa Cruz!” He stopped, came up to the fence, looked right at me, and said, “Thank you. I am pleased to be here.” Then he smiled, put his hands together, bowed, and went to the auditorium.

That’s how I met my buddy the Dalai Lama. Naturally, like all good reporters a few years from the press, I had no camera, pencil, or notepad. But being bowed to by His Holiness was enough novelty, so I went back to the library. I have no idea how he was introduced.

I’ve actually seen him once since, at a distance, through a car window as his yellow cavalcade zipped down a freeway. So the term “buddy” may be a bit strong. Sadly, we no longer chat or bow.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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